Sunday, October 26, 2014

Bird of the Day: Northern Flicker at Chaw'se Grinding Rock State Park

Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) at Chaw'se

I've had four of the last five weekends taken up with field trip commitments. I would never complain about a job that sends me on the road with students, but it felt a bit hectic. So what did I do with my first free weekend in more than a month? I hit the road of course!

There was a difference this time. Mrs. Geotripper and I took a couple of folding chairs and set them up in the middle of the meadow at Chaw'se, the Indian Grinding Rock State Park in the Sierra Nevada above the Gold Rush town of Jackson. And we sat for two hours. We were at the park last week as one of the stops on our study of the geology of the Mother Lode, but the stop was short. This time we just wanted to sit and listen and watch for birds and whatever else might wander by.

I was rewarded with two new species, and a lot of other sightings. New species isn't much of a surprise, as I haven't been at this for long, but it's always fun, even if the bird is relatively common. I just haven't seen them for myself yet.

Today's bird is the Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), a member of the woodpecker family that wasn't spending much time pecking at wood. It was foraging on the ground, looking for ants or beetles. The colors and patterns of the bird are striking and unmistakable!
I had seen the bird once before, fleetingly and fuzzy in the picture, in my neighborhood. This was the first opportunity I've had to actually frame and try to focus on the bird. I'm not quite satisfied yet, as it stayed in the shadows and at the extreme distance and high zoom it was hard to get the feather patterns as well as I wanted. And that will be my perfectly good excuse for heading up there again as soon as possible!
Chaw'se, the Indian Grinding Stones State Park, was featured last week in this blog. There will be a few more birds featured here from today's expedition in future posts, I'm pretty sure.

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