Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Flicker Wave

Northern Flickers are common enough year round here on the east coast of Vancouver Island, that it is easy to forget that they are actually migratory in much of this province, as well as Alaska and the Yukon. If one pays attention though, migratory waves of this species do occur, especially in Autumn, as the snow begins to fall in the far north.

In Moorecroft Regional Park, Northern Flickers do nest, but in low numbers. As far as I have been able to determine, there are only two breeding pairs occupying the 34 hectares within the park boundaries. Thus, except for the period right after fledging, or during a migratory wave, one rarely encounters more than a couple of Northern Flickers on a walk in the park.

On the morning of September 9, 2014 I was doing my morning walk around the park, and stopped in at Skipsey Pond to see if any migrants had flown in overnight. Checking the thickets of red-osier dogwood around the pond, I found a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-throated gray Warblers, Warbling Vireos, and my first Ruby-crowned Kinglets of the fall. I also heard a lot of woodpecker activity in the snags that surround the pond. It took no time at all to spot a few of each of the five common woodpecker species here. And everywhere I looked, there were Northern Flickers. In the end I counted 17 of them around the small pond. A very impressive number for such a small area. Several hours later when I had finished my park rounds, the number had grown to 54 Northern Flickers, the highest count I have ever had in this park.

Returning home for breakfast and switching on the radio, reports of snow across the Yukon, northern BC, and even as far south as Calgary, made me wonder; Was it simply the time to head south, or were the large number of migrants all of a sudden triggered by the first snows of the season? Only the Flicker knows.    

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