It has been a long cold hard winter along the Front Range of Colorado. We have gotten enough snow in February to wipe out the incipient drought we were headed into, which is a good thing. But it came at the cost of a snowstorm every couple of days. That was hard.
We’re not out of winter yet — March and April are typically our snowiest months in Colorado.
But as the dogs and I went for our morning walk, we also found the first signs that spring is on the way.
As we walked, we heard the “eh-eh-eh-eh-eh” call of a male Northern Flicker trying out his mating call.
Further on, we found a Spotted Towhee by his “cha-cha-chaaa” call. Like the flicker, his calls right now are just warm-ups. He quickly dropped down to the snow to hunt for seeds.
Hearing these guys practice their mating calls cheered me up. And as we walked home through the cold, the sun broke through the clouds, promising a sunny day.
The gregarious band of little bushtits took off in a burst of feathers and cheeping alarm calls.
I looked up just in time to see a Northern flicker shoot out of the top of a tree, with a sharp-shinned hawk in hot pursuit. Luckily for the flicker, the hawk had made its move too soon, and given the flicker a head start the predator couldn’t overcome.
Northern flickers spend all year in the wooded areas of the Front Range of Colorado. They are in the woodpecker family, but they spend as much time on the ground as they do in trees, stabbing their big sharp beaks into the soil in search of insects.
Sharp-shinned hawks are woodland predators. They, too, live year-round in Colorado woodlands, and in fact they cover most of North America. Most of their diet comes from birds that they surprise and chase through the trees — exactly what I saw today, except that the flicker got away.