Destinations Magazine

Northern Flicker Hunts for Grubs at Oxtongue Lake

By Frame To Frame - Bob And Jean @frametoframebJ

northern flicker - sits atop tree stump - oxtongue lake - ontario

For my mom and dad, seeing a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus auratus) is a fairly common occurrence.  The birds frequent their backyard and beach property because both locations have sandy soil with a good supply of ants.  When Bob and I visited in mid-May, I was lucky enough to see a female flicker industriously trying to find some grubs in an old tree stump.

oxtongue lake - early morning in spring - ontario

Oxtongue Lake Community is situated on the shores of a pretty lake sharing the same name, and it offers lots of opportunities for wildlife sightings and outdoor experiences.

northern flicker - gives me a look - oxtongue lake - ontario

I first spotted the flicker at the top of a poplar tree, it flew down into the grass and then settled at the side of an old stump that is well on its way to rotting.  I knew the flicker was a female because she lacked the masculine “black moustache” on either side of her face.

northern flicker - hunts for grubs on stump - oxtongue lake - ontario

The beach property was still very saturated from the earlier spring flooding, and so perhaps that is why the flicker opted for a drier spot on the dead tree rather than in the grass where ants would be hard to come by given the present conditions.  The flicker worked hard for something to eat…

northern flicker hunts for bugs in stump - oxtongue lake - ontario

and eventually moved to the top of the tree stump.

northern flicker - looks into hole in stump - oxtongue lake - ontario

This is a Yellow-shafted Flicker, recognizable by the yellow feathers on the underside of the tail.  The flicker’s soft gray cap and creamy beige face are offset by the red bar at the nape of the neck.  The black speckled plumage is so showy!

northern flicker - on the hunt for grubs - oxtongue lake - ontario

While I watched, the woodpecker put a lot of effort into looking for insects and dug deep into the softer tissues of the wood there in the center of the stump.

northern flicker - digs deep in stump for a grub - oxtongue lake - ontario

A flicker’s tongue can dart out 2 inches beyond the end of the bill to snare insects, so whatever was making its home there in the rotting wood didn’t stand a chance.

northern flicker - hunts for a grub in tree stump - oxtongue lake - ontario

I was ill-prepared for the wet conditions there on the beach, having run down there on the spur of the moment, so as I clicked my camera, water soaked through my light shoes.  The odd blackfly was pestering me, but the temperature was almost balmy even given the early hour of the day.  I persisted in order to see the flicker rewarded for her efforts.

northern flicker - holds a grub in beak - oxtongue lake - ontario

Finally, the flicker came up with some tiny morsel and then quickly flew away.  I was satisfied with my experience despite having wet feet!  Next time, maybe I’ll get to see the male flicker.

Checkout our other Woodpecker sightings

northern flicker - takes a good look right - thicksons woods - whitby - ontario

Northern Flickers Sighted In Thickson’s Woods – Whitby

A Black-backed Woodpecker (Picoides arcticus) holds on tight to a tree in Algonquin Provincial Park - Ontario

Black-backed Woodpecker sighted in Algonquin Provincial Park

Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) looks left on side of tree - Lynde Shores - Whitby - Ontario

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Sighting – Whitby – Ontario

Frame To Frame – Bob & Jean

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