For the Birds: Flickers everywhere up north

My destination was the northern part of Maine. I’m talking way north. Get to Baxter State Park and keep going for several more hours.

I drove pretty much through the night to get there. I took a few half-hour breaks to sleep and then continued on my way. I have been to northern New Hampshire dozens of times, and I have been to the middle of Maine many times. I’ve always wanted to see what Aroostook County was all about so I took the opportunity to head up there and finally see for myself.

I settled at the border town of Fort Kent where only the St. John River separates the U.S. from Canada. 

Wildlife, of course, was the driving force behind the decision to drive up there. The boreal forest, to me anyway, is a magical place filled with so many interesting creatures. Moose are my favorite creatures, but things like lynx, loons, eagles, grouse, boreal chickadees, Canada jays, and other specialty species unique through the habitat are also a draw.

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Another of my favorite woodpeckers

I posted last week about seeing a family of pileated woodpeckers looking for insects in my backyard. Also last week, I had a chance encounter with another one of my favorite woodpecker species: the northern flicker.

I was drawn to the backyard as I heard a flicker noisily issuing its alarm call over and over. It turns out, a cat was walking through the yard and several birds were scolding the feline. The flicker, however, was by far the loudest and most agitated. There were most likely young flickers around but I didn’t see them.

Flickers are handsome birds with an interesting assortment of colors and decorations. Note the bib under the neck and spots on the chest and belly. The bird shown in the photographs is a female. Males have a black “mustache.”

The northern flicker is made up of two subspecies: yellow-shafted flicker and red-shafted flicker, which were once considered two separate species. Here in New England, we have the yellow-shafted variety. The name comes from the yellow feathers on the underside of the tail and wings.