“Daily Sightings” A Blog

But wait.

Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

It was a lousy week. The water heater cracked and flooded the basement. Home internet service kept going out. There were doctor appointments. But wait. Aren’t we going to talk about birds here? Is this a gripe column or a birding journal?

Yesterday April turned a corner. Sun warmed every bit of our world with light. A nearby lake looked like green glass. Turtles basked on logs. Canada Geese showed up, that old mix of the annoying and majestic.

But wait. That’s not what this is about. No, while still fretting about water heaters, internet service and doctors…something unexpected happened.

On this bright afternoon a Red-breasted Merganser popped up on that lake. There was its unmistakable elongated shape. Prehistoric beak. And spiky backward-tilting crest. Light and dark coloration with a reddish tinge. All that you know about a Merganser: there.

By some roll of the avian dice, it dropped in for a visit, floated around in odd-duck strangeness, and the odd duck standing on shore completely forgot—for a moment—about water heaters, internet failures and doctors.

A better name.

Saturday, April 6th, 2024

Double-crested Cormorants look like danger. They ride low in the water, unlike other swimming birds.

You see one. Then it submerges, and you lose sight of it. Keep watching. It’ll surface somewhere else.

But, you won’t see much body; just a long, skinny neck.

Like a periscope.

Today, I watched a Double-crested Cormorant on a forest pond, diving for fish.

A fascinating, two-fisted hardass. It reminded me of a comic book cover from another generation.

I’ve written about these comics before.

Their name caught my eye for obvious reasons.

And speaking of names, this diving, hunting bird needs a better one.

Forget the double crests. They’re usually not visible.

And what does “cormorant” mean, anyway?

No, this bird should be called “The Submarine Bird.”


Saturday, March 23rd, 2024

You’re driving on a gray four-lane outside of gray Chicago. There’s wet snow in the air and low clouds. Up ahead floats a living warplane soaring over the road, losing altitude.

It’s a large gull on wide wings. White-gray against the white-gray sky. Next to the road is a tall, narrow pole. Behind it, a strip mall and retention pond of flat gray water.

You notice the bird dip and bank, drop airspeed and calmly alight precisely on the pointed tip of the tall pole. You think: an incredible feat. Then: incredible feet. How did the bird land perfectly on just the pole’s top? There’s nothing much to grip up there.

Now, with folded wings the gull sits. Chest out, head back, calmly above it all. This gray-white flyer which you know is a local Herring Gull. You drive past. Tires swish on that wet street and the odd sighting is quickly history.

But the bird leaves you with a fitting ending. You think: it “dotted the I.”


No new birds.

Saturday, March 2nd, 2024

You get to a point where you’ve seen ‘em all. Just takes being in the game long enough. One afternoon a neighbor phones to tell you there’s a “Bald Eagle on the deck behind your house.” Huh? You look out the kitchen window. Eagle. Eye contact. It flies off with wide wings that make you recall scenes shot on an aircraft carrier.

And it goes on. A Pileated Woodpecker flies alongside your car not far away in place or time. You remember a Groove-billed Ani on a Caribbean Island and a White Wagtail in Scandinavia. The “Doctor Bird” in Jamaica, a storied long-tailed hummer.

“The boys are back…”

So much history. Bobolinks, Meadowlarks, Cuckoos. All the thrushes including routine robins from kid-hood on. Grouse, grebes and egret types. Pheasants and one wobbling Woodcock. Kestrels, falcons, most every kind of warbler, woodpecker and flicker, a passel of passerines! Including the flashy favorite tanagers.

So many checked off and remembered. The wish list became the life list. Your motive to score something new feels honestly extinct. You wonder if the thrill is gone.

Then yesterday you see a feisty Red-winged Blackbird, first one of early spring. Big male, waiting for female companionship to arrive. You take note of this. Why? A common sighting; you’ve seen a million in a life of two-fisted birdwatching. But you smile and hum: “The boys are back in town…” homage to the earthy rock classic by Thin Lizzy from the 1970s. A soundtrack to this moment. Who cares if there are no new birds; you’ve still got the old ones and they’ve got you.

Souvenir on a freezing morning

Saturday, February 24th, 2024

Your early morning dog-walk combined with late winter snow today, and brought you not just into a mundane Midwestern neighborhood, but also into Norway. Norway in your mind.

You’re no world traveler, but years ago circumstances allowed for a trip to this place of fairytales and fjords, far from the beaten paths of Paris, London or Rome.

You were in a Norwegian neighborhood with similar snow and silver sky. You’re mentally back for a visit. Now in two places at once. The place where you and your dog are rooted in reality…and the place where you once felt stupidly amazed at how “They have pine trees just like ours,” and “There’s a cottage with a picket fence, a Norman Rockwell scene, but we’re in freakin’ NORWAY.”

And so, yeah, you’re in the Midwest morning, but also in that other one far away in miles and time. There’s a bird there. Of course. This is a “Daily Sightings” column. It ranges free, but there are usually gonna be birds.

And the bird could be a real one, say a winter Robin on your neighbor’s lawn. But it also could be a memory, the “White Wagtail” you saw perched on that picket fence in front of the Norwegian cottage.

Fun to remember the moment, to see that non-American bird in your mind again. And to surprise yourself again by knowing its name.

You’re there in far-away Norway, on a hilltop street overlooking Oslo, while others in your party visit a nearby museum where they’ll come out marveling at Norse carvings or something.

But you have chosen a neighborhood walk. And you see a White Wagtail. Two things about this are notable. One: you’re there—a place you never thought you’d be on this planet. Two: you know the name of that bird.

How? Why? You’ve never seen one before. Only in “birds-of-the-world” books, probably. Maybe the Hall of Birds in Chicago’s Field Museum? You cannot imagine why you knew the name of that bird. Then, or even now. You just did, and just do. White Wagtail.

On this snowy morning north of Chicago, there it is again, this “memory-bird” joining you and your dog, a souvenir better than anything from a museum in that country of pine trees, Norman Rockwell scenes, friendly folk and birds that somehow—for unfathomable reasons—you know by name.

Back to the woods.

Saturday, February 17th, 2024

“Whose woods these are I think I know…” You do, huh? Okay, Robert Frost, I also know. They’re mine. And by the way, gotta say: you are one hell of a two-fisted poet. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is a favorite around here. Maybe it’s the woodland setting. You’re good at taking us there—avoiding the “road not taken” if you don’t mind an allusion to another of your cool poems.

So, Robert, yesterday I’m in the frost-chilled woods. The “frost” thing has nothing to do with you, everything to do with February weather.

The woods are “mine” for reasons rooted in no legal ownership, other than spending a lifetime in their familiar wilderness that’s deep enough to attract the solitary Pileated Woodpecker. They’re a half-day out of Chicago along a river and broken by swaths of prairie, but mainly they’re old growth Eastern broadleaf forest, dense and lively. Plus, I’ve given names to many locations within them, a kind of “staking of claims,” which we’ll see.

I hadn’t been back for a bit—call it a hiatus—but it was like I’d never left. My woods hadn’t changed if you don’t count a few fallen trees. No, there were things I recognized, and realized with a smile that I’d named privately. You don’t forget something when you give it a name.

I hiked past places I’d dubbed “Dead Deer Fork” and ”Raccoon Vomit Trail.” There was “Fat Beaver Beach.” And one of my favorites, “Coyote-Stare Ridge”“ I won’t bore us with explanations. You can guess the origins of such names, especially if you’re a two-fisted woods walker yourself, with your own private grab bag of funky place names.

We’ll stop, but first, gotta give a quick nod to “Scarlet Tanager Cottonwood” and “Last Meadowlark Creek.” Plus it’s fun to mention “Praying Mantis Rock”…and the “Pileated Police Pullover” at an unforgettable weedy roadside.

Point is, you just can’t help remembering a place when it’s linked to a moment, and that becomes its “name.” After a bit of a hiatus, it was great to get back to the woods and revisit those names, still there in the quiet, dependable wilderness.

How and why to find a Mountain Bluebird

Monday, February 5th, 2024


Picture the Rocky Mountain wilds. If you’re not from around those parts, you’re not likely to have seen a little all-blue bird known as a “Mountain Bluebird.”

 You’ve seen other bluebirds (Eastern) and Jays (Blue) and Indigo Buntings (cool!). But your life list needs a Mountain Bluebird.

So on a trip West you drop out of society and spend a few rugged days wandering Colorado’s high country.

You get your shot of a Mountain Bluebird, but it sucks.

Your photography lacks skill. The subject is too far, and the focus is fuzzy. The little bluebird seems to know this, the way it glowers at you—eyes burning with disapproval. But you saw your Mountain Bluebird. And the photo, though poor, is proof.

Yeah, and while you were out there in the high country, you happened to snap a shot of a full-curl ram. You don’t see those guys back home. This shot—though still somewhat of an amateur effort, commands a bit more attention.

And you never would have gotten it if you hadn’t been roaming around the Rockies looking for a tiny blue bird. As the Two-Fisted Birdwatcher said somewhere, “it ain’t always about birds, but it’s always about watching.”

Cakes of fat

Saturday, January 20th, 2024

It’s freezing, and you’ve been buying cakes of fat.

Personally, you don’t mind the cold. Every breath is rich in oxygen. This makes you feel good. But cakes of fat? Yeah, also known as “suet.” Birds love to eat it.

You put these square cakes in little holders, and hang them outside near a window. Birds are so frozen and hungry, they leave the wild and come close.

For people, congealed fat is believed to be bad news. But for birds it’s money in the bank. So we buy cakes of it, sometimes flavored with seeds and bits of fruit.

It’s surprising how many birds this draws, and how many different kinds.

What’s also surprising is that you might not feel this is real bird watching. Definitely not “Two-Fisted.” Too easy. But at the moment, who cares?

           Fish in a barrel

It’s good to give the birds a hand when it’s freezing. Even if spotting birds at a feeder is kinda like shooting fish in a barrel.

Today there was a big Red-bellied Woodpecker on the other side of the glass. Lured here with fat and seeds.

Also,  American Goldfinches in sparrow-like winter plumage, Dark-eyed Juncos, Cardinals, Black-capped Chickadees, White and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. A forlorn Mourning Dove.

Your yard’s become something like a zoo. (If you see a gorilla in a zoo, you don’t feel like you saw a gorilla. You feel kinda sad.)

You tell yourself that if you want to do some real bird watching, you’ll put on a coat, boots, a stupid-looking hat, and get your freezing butt into the woods.

It won’t be “too easy” to see a Red-bellied Woodpecker there. But if you do, it’ll mean something. And if you don’t, maybe that’s because the bird’s in your backyard, bopping around in front of a kitchen window.

Footnote: The above post was adapted from one that ran in 2012, so if it looks familiar, thanks for having a two-fisted memory. The original  was titled “Too Easy,” a critique about that “fish in a barrel” thing. Somehow, in this era of declining bird populations and on this day of sub-zero wind chills, we’re not as concerned about sightings being “too easy,” and we’re pleased to keep those cakes of fat in the game. 

You’re never the same.

Saturday, January 13th, 2024

When you see an unusual bird, that’s cool in itself. But there’s something more at play. You’re different after. You’re a person who has racked up a notable sighting. Maybe you add it to your “life list.” Maybe you don’t even keep a life list. No matter. Seeing a rare bird makes you a rare bird.

You can’t go back to being somebody who’s never seen it. Say it’s a Bald Eagle, a surprise as it soars in front of you, low and fast over a running river while you’re hanging out near the shore. For a moment you’re all eyes and that massive eagle is all you see.

The unexpected size, the surprising speed, its white head and deadly yellow beak like a spearpoint, a weapon on a weapon…and then that big bird is gone. But no. It’s never really gone.

It soars in your memory, now and whenever you want, that sighting. Sometimes when you’re down in the dumps, depressed, dejected or disappointed for earthbound reasons, you can retrieve that moment.

You can remind yourself, hey, whatever else, at least you’re someone who’s seen a Bald Eagle on the wing. You own that sighting. You own a piece of that power. You’re never the same, you’re better.

When you feed the birds…

Saturday, January 6th, 2024

You figure you’re being a good sport. You put feeders out. Seeds, maybe suet. Sure, you get a kick out of watching. But you feel you’re doing some good, helping birds make it through the winter, nourishing them, fattening them. But wait.

There’s another pair of eyes coldly watching. And agreeing with you about the “fattening” thing. The eyes of a predator. Eyes of hunger. And they’re glaring. Just look at the photo below. Let ‘em bore into you. Get a feel for nature “red in tooth and claw” as Tennyson famously wrote.

The ironic thing is that when you, kind citizen of the natural world, go out of your way to feed the birds you may very likely be feeding the bird—singular. Take a look in the surrounding trees. Don’t be surprised if you see a lone Cooper’s Hawk blending into the foliage, its markings made for camouflage, its beak made for butchery, its eyes made for watching, waiting.

And its preferred diet: small to medium-sized birds! Mostly caught on the wing. Again, just look at those eyes in Dr. Bob’s backyard photo. They say more than words. When you set out to feed the birds, you might indirectly be feeding a lightning-fast, cannibalistic Cooper’s Hawk.

That does NOT mean we should stop feeding our neighborhood birds. It simply means that we should know the score. It’s a hungry world out there. Look in the trees above your yard and see what might be looking back at you.

Thanks to Dr. Bob, photographer extraordinaire—the guy who sent in this shot of his backyard Cooper’s Hawk. He’s also the photographer who shot and wrote about a female Cardinal here in “Guest Essays” on December 10. No telling what we’ll get next from him. His cameras are set up, and he’s a two-fisted birdwatcher.

A Seasonal Moment

Saturday, December 23rd, 2023

After a long winter’s hike, you’re nursing a beer in your favorite restaurant bar. You’d been out all morning looking for a Snowy Owl, but didn’t see one.

You’re no stranger to this bar, or this beer. Both are old friends. But there’s something different today. The place feels nicer. Why is that?

You gotta think about it. But first, you gotta hit the men’s room.

There’s a big guy in there who got stuck watching his kid while his wife shops in the neighborhood. He’s changing the kid’s diaper on the sink.

The atmosphere’s worse than usual in the men’s room. Plus, you can’t get at the sink.

It’s a deciding moment.

You’re pissed off because you didn’t see the Snowy Owl that many people have been talking about on the internet. Now this.

You want to give the guy a dirty look in the mirror, and say something like “cheeez!” Then leave, and slam the door.

Something stops you. Instead, you say, “Ah, the joys of fatherhood.”

You smile at the guy as he struggles. He looks up and says, “Tell me about it.” And smiles back. Now you both feel good instead of bad.

Back at the bar, it hits you. Why the place feels nicer.

It’s the lights. This restaurant bar is lit up with little holiday lights. They’re strung across the ceiling, over the bottles, around doorways.

You hate to say it—it’s not a two-fisted comment—but they’re kind of pretty. They give the place a…glow

Normally, you don’t care about things in a bar being pretty. Except for tall, blond Donna who sometimes sits with you.

No, you don’t care that they’re pretty. But you gotta wonder, why don’t they have these little lights all year ‘round?


This post was first published twelve years ago, and it seems worth posting again. It evokes a feeling that hasn’t changed much in a world that has. Enjoy the season.

An unlikely origin

Wednesday, December 13th, 2023

Say you spend your childhood playing in smoky industrial prairies and wetlands at Chicago’s southeastern edges. How the hell are you going to become a birder. Or—better word—a birdwatcher. (Always had trouble with that popular word, “birder,” but we cover that gripe in another post long ago and not so far away).

How is a kid going to become a birdwatcher when nature is found beneath steel mill smokestacks, a mile from a paint refinery as the crow flies…and neighbors with a municipal dump. Yeah, crows do fly there. Don’t be surprised. Here’s something you might not expect. ALL the birds are there. The whole Chicago-area aviary.

The air doesn’t smell like pristine forest. Still, birds are where you find ‘em, where they have a mind to be, even where the pollution is. Goes against expectations. But birds have little interest in what we expect. Say you’re ten years old and exploring the prairie in the smog of a summer afternoon. You and friends were looking for snakes by lifting a flat rock or chunk of garbage, and pygmy rattlers would wriggle away while you’d jump and whoop, feeling like jungle explorers.

But then you see a Purple Gallinule. Time stops. This is not a backyard bird. It’s an ad for Jurassic Park. It gets you interested in birds. For life. You investigate, learn its name, its origin, its habits. Basically you like its brash coloration and knowing you know stuff about it. You become a two-fisted birdwatcher. Starting in the rank-smelling warm winds blowing across  prairies near factories. An unexpected origin for wildlife and a wild lifelong interest.

“The belly is not red.”

Monday, December 4th, 2023

And…what’s a childish word like “belly” doing in the business of avian taxonomy? This gripe came to mind again while sighting a “Red-Bellied Woodpecker” today. If you mention its name to anybody all they hear is, “belly.” Ornithology screwed up. Or at least English naturalist Mark Catesby did in 1729 when he saddled this bird with its misguided name. Sorry, Mark, the bird’s belly is NOT RED.

People want to say, “Hey, look at that red-headed woodpecker!” But that name’s been taken by another species, and for good reason. No, today’s visitor is stuck with “Red-bellied.” A false and phony handle for this two-fisted bird with its jackhammer beak, black-and-white ladder-back pattern, tan chest, red top and neck.

We knew a guy who drove for Chicago’s Red-Top Cab Company years ago when cabs were not “private cars.” Maybe this woodpecker should be called “red topped.” Oh well, we’re just blowing off steam on a cold morning. But, c’mon, belly?



Wednesday, November 29th, 2023

If I told you I was one happy Belted Kingfisher this morning, would you believe me? Of course not. Maybe you’d think Belted Kingfishers can’t talk. Maybe you’d think Belted Kingfishers can’t write. Maybe you’d think you’re not sure what a Belted Kingfisher is! Some kinda bird, right? Hold on. I’m a KING of birds. The king-fisher! I talk. I squawk. I write. Go with it.

This morning I was perched on a branch overlooking a wild little lake in an old Illinois forest. The sun was shining. The water was that bitchin’ greenish-gray you gotta love. The air smelled like weeds and fish. Great smells! Wait, fish? A great smell? Yeah! Delicious wild fish… mmmm!

And I dove off my branch, fast, (blink and you’d miss that move!) into the lake with a splash. And caught a fish! This is what I do, streaking point-first (my long sharp beak, the point of my story) and zooooming into the water where I speared a silvery fish that caught my eye. Then up and out. Wings working. Taking to the air. Head back, beak open, GULP, fish down the throat. Happy!

Ah, that cold, sleek, sweet, smooth, fleshy, bony, scaly, salty, pure food, a fish! But what really made me happy is that I was watched by a human half-hidden in the trees. Some guy with a shaggy head of hair, almost as wild as my Kingfisher crest! I’m happy to be seen doing my thing, hunting and splashing and fishing, flying and gobbling, looking sleek and cool while scoped out by the human.

Meanwhile, back at the branch…I’m sittin’ in the sun. Buuuuuuuurrrrrrp! Whoa, that was fishy. But almost as good comin’ up as goin’ down. Ah, does life in the wild get any better? Hope you’re still watchin’, shaggy head.


Wednesday, November 22nd, 2023

Today you saw a pied-billed grebe floating in a little body of water and maybe it made you feel good. You think that makes you an odd duck. Most people wouldn’t know a grebe. They wouldn’t know the word. Or the bird. And wouldn’t care.

But you know both things and you do care. Maybe this shy little water bird, drab, brownish gray with an oddly shaped beak simply reminds you that you know what you’re looking at, and there’s some pleasure in that. Plus pied-billed grebes are somewhat rare. When one shows up, it’s usually alone. You like that.

It does its trademark grebe thing: diving under the water, staying for a while, then popping up far from the spot where it ducked under. You think about that word, “ducked.” There’s an old saying, “if it swims like a duck, looks like a duck, walks like a duck…it’s a duck.”

This dubious wisdom originated in the McCarthy era and was not a kindly commentary about nature or man. Your grebe’s no duck.

If you said to somebody today, “Hey, dig that lonesome little guy floating over there,” they’d probably reply, “That duck?” You’d just smile, keeping your grebe knowledge private.

The word grebe is silly sounding. Nobody wants to hear that the duck they just commented about isn’t a duck, but a “grebe,” whatever the hell that means. So you wouldn’t say grebe. But you like writing it.

Grebe. Greeeeeeb.

Picture of a grebe floating on a lake.

“Ain’t what it used to be.”

Thursday, November 16th, 2023

The migration ain’t what it used to be. But then, what is?

Well, let’s try to keep this on track at least for a bit. Migration. Yeah, today on a cold November morning north of Chicago there were geese in the sky. For a moment, it all seemed to make sense.

But then the geese didn’t keep on keep’n on in their southward vee-formation. They nose-dived into a McDonalds parking lot where they seemed to prefer waddling on cold pavement, pecking at hoped-for French fries, who knows?

What we DO know, is that many migratory birds that used to define the seasons are falling down on that job. Geese and some ducks, too, now commonly stay through our modern winters. Yeah, yeah, global warming, climate change, heard it all. We’ve written about it. Right here on this site.

Speaking about that, and about how things “ain’t being what they used to be,” new writing here is also a change in the action. We haven’t put a post on this website for more than eight years. But we’re planning to stop sitting on our hands, stop doing other things, stop the freakin’ “hiatus” and get back to two-fisted birdwatching. And two-fisting writing.

This post is the first of that comeback. Glad you’re reading it!

Stay with us, and we’ll pick up where we left off. You don’t have to have been here all those years ago as a reader. Just having you here today is great! We’re pleased to meet up with you. And hope we’ll connect again soon. Watch for updates on Facebook and Instagram. Things ain’t what they used to be, and we’re trying to catch up. Meanwhile, enjoy the those geese waddling through winter in a birdland that just ain’t what it used to be.

Geese flying in a V-formation in an vivid orange sky with soft gray clouds.

The missing tree.

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

From spring through fall, an old dead tree near a highway has many cormorants in it. It’s been their hangout for generations. People drive by and think they’re seeing crows or maybe vultures. But they’re cormorants.

On this winter day, you drive past that spot and notice the tree’s no longer there. When things warm up and cormorants return, they’re going to look for it.

You continue down the road, away from the blank space where the cormorants’ tree used to be. The gap back there reminds you of a missing tooth.

When the cormorants come they’ll hover over it in confusion for a while. You feel a kind of philosophical shoulder-shrug sorrow for this inevitable truth.

Their world is going to be shaken. They’ll manage, of course. But the fact that such things happen to birds and man is disconcerting, like the ominous appearance of a cormorant itself.

If you’re around next spring, and if you drive past the tree that’s not there and you see that there are no cormorants, you’ll know that your life has been changed a little.

Yeah, your life. Sure, it’s the cormorants that have been affected. But they were your cormorants. And that old dead tree was your old dead tree. A part of your world that got a tooth knocked out.



Storm Robin

Monday, August 17th, 2015

 It’s raining like crazy over a woodland lake the way it does sometimes on an August day that starts sunny.

The sky darkens. Low clouds roll over and unload. The lake’s surface makes you think of machine-gun fire.

Thunderclaps encourage that idea, and lightning. Wind shakes trees. Leaves and branches fly off and spin around.

Somebody’s lawn chair blows into the lake.

Water comes down with sound and fury as Shakespeare said somewhere.

But unlike his sound and fury, this isn’t a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing.

It’s a tale told by a warm front in disagreement with a cold front signifying nothing. Except the uncertainty of August sunshine.

Now a bird flies across the lake through the rain. It’s an American Robin but this bird’s name is not important.

What’s important is its improbable, implacable route. Flying straight through all that wind and rain, in spite of it all.

You wonder: where’s it going? What’s so important there? How can it maintain altitude when the weight of so much water is pushing down on its back? What’s it thinking?

You’ll never know. And it doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that you feel an unexpected moment of admiration for a bird flying unfazed through a storm. This makes your day.

Not “Unseen.” More like “Uncanny.”

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

On May 26, 2012, we published a post titled “Unseen.” It said Northern Flickers hadn’t been noticed much around here recently.

Separately, people who saw a Flicker and weren’t sure what kind of bird it was, went online to search for a picture that could help them identify it. They found our post with its photo, and the bird’s name.

Many sent us a comment to let us know. Seems Flickers weren’t “unseen” everywhere.

It’s normal for a post to get a few comments, but “Unseen” generated an uncanny number. Close to a hundred at last count.

And they still come in. Some in response to that 2012 post, and some to the one you’re reading now.

2. male Northern Flicker - ground feeding woodpecker 30 sep 2014 nama landfil_1 copy

Flickers are out there, even though experts have reported they’re declining.

Well, they’re not declining on this site. Here’s another picture.

Ray and Barbara from North Adams, Massachusetts were nice enough to send it.

Flickers may be scarce in our neck of the woods, but they’re still spotted.


Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Years ago, you’re in an office on the 26th floor of a Chicago skyscraper, doing work profoundly unrelated to nature.

You have the feeling of being watched.

You look over your shoulder.

On the other side of your window there’s a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, clinging to the building, meeting your gaze.


The bird had picked your window. Not the window of some guy who wouldn’t know a sapsucker from his elbow.

You grab a cheap throw-away camera and get a picture.

The shot is poor. Dark and fuzzy. You find it recently, while cleaning out a desk.

Back when you saw the sapsucker, you had the momentary feeling that it sought you out, personally.

Looking at the old picture, you still wonder about that.

But you shake off the thought.

You just chalk it up to the simple truth that sometimes you watch the birds, and sometimes they watch you.