It's a mild, almost spring-like day here along the river. The temperature is already 60˚F with a possibility of reaching the mid-60s˚ by late-afternoon. Quite amazing for the final day of January—though I've given up being surprised by this strange and unseasonable winter.
I've spent my day so far fiddling about with a couple of writing chores in my workroom. Whenever I've glanced out the window, there's usually been a pair of yellow-shafted flickers taking turns on a nearby suet block feeder. Again and again I've paused to pick up the binoculars and spend a few minutes just looking closely at one of the birds.
Flickers are, to my mind, far more lovely than generally credited. Gray head, reddish-beige face, a black moustachial stripe at the base of the beak; there's a black bandanna under the chin, the breast is reddish-beige-fading-to-pale-tan with black spots spattered throughout and into the underbelly; the back is a light olive-brown patterned with black crescents, the tail is dark on top fading lighter underneath, with a white rump that's conspicuous in flight. The namesake feathers, on both tail and wings and best seen from underneath, are a brilliant mustard yellow. I'm always amazed by the varied colors these woodpeckers sport. Just incredible!
Southern hill-country folks often refer to the flicker as a Yallerhammer. Under the slightly edited title, Yellowhammer, it is designated the state bird of Alabama. One of the most famous trout flies indigenous to the Appalachian Mountains, a pattern used throughout the brook trout streams of the Southern Highlands for nearly a century, is also called a Yellerhammer, because the tying recipe incorporates yellow flicker feathers in the lure's construction.
Whatever you call them—Yellerhammers, flickers, or one of their more than 100 other common names—they are always worth watching.