Sunday, February 16, 2014

Hysteria on the Farm

The recent mild weather and longer periods of daylight have triggered the hysterical calls of northern flickers on our Littleton, Colorado, farm.  These common woodpeckers, which are often observed feeding on the ground, are entering their breeding season and will soon be hammering away on dead limbs and metal roof vents.  Fortunately, I successfully discouraged one of them from drilling a nest hole beneath the eave of our house; flickers generally excavate a new cavity each year, donating their old home to squirrels and cavity-nesting birds such as chickadees, bluebirds and prothonotary warblers.

Joining in the seasonal chorus are a pair of collared doves that have taken up residence on the farm since their species invaded the Front Range over the past decade.  Their distinctive calls, a bit less mellow than those of mourning doves, echo across our property throughout the day but are most prominent in the early morning and late daylight hours.  Though they do not nest on the farm, a pair of red-tailed hawks have been cavorting overhead and their loud cries add to the frenzy of February.

But it is the hysteria of the flickers, building well before the upslope snowstorms of March and April, that offers reassurance that winter is losing its grip on the Temperate Zone of North America.  And it is the fervor of their calls that seems to ignite the explosive tide of spring.