White-breasted nuthatch

Yesterday there was a white-breasted nuthatch perched in one of our backyard trees, motionless and fluffed against the cold. I was unloading bags of ice melt I’d bought in advance of our latest storm, and the nuthatch was clearly watching me: not moving, just softly tooting as if talking to himself.

Nuthatch closeup

I got my camera out of my purse to take a picture, and the nuthatch didn’t move. I took a few zoomed-in pictures, and the nuthatch didn’t move, so I stepped in closer and took more photos–and still, the nuthatch didn’t move. I eventually returned to unpacking the car, and the nuthatch eventually flew away, off to do his birdy business. But for a few expectant moments, that nuthatch and I shared a face-to-face encounter: Hello, whatcha doing?

Northern flicker - June 6 / Day 157

This morning while I was taking out the trash, I happened to look up at the very moment a Northern flicker was flying from one pine to another, the yellow undersides of his wings flashing in the morning light. We’ve seen flickers in our backyard before: although flickers are woodpeckers, they love to forage on the ground for ants, so suburban yards and parks with mowed lawns provide ideal habitat. While larger woodpeckers prefer deep woods, flickers don’t mind living on the woodsy edge of suburbia, where ants and other insects abound.

Flicker in foreground; flying sparrow in background

After this morning’s flicker disappeared into the trees, he squealed then cackled. Flicker squeals (a call often transliterated as “kyeer”) sound similar to the calls of red-bellied woodpeckers, and their high pitched cackles sound similar to those of pileated woodpeckers. Whenever I hear a flicker, in other words, I automatically think of the other woodpeckers it could be, with “flicker” being (unfortunately) the least exciting alternative.

Flicker in foreground; mourning doves in background

Compared to seeing a red-bellied or pileated woodpecker, seeing a flicker isn’t hugely exciting: these are, after all, birds that don’t mind frequenting yards and parks. But on a day when all you’re doing is taking out the trash, just happening to look up at the very moment something other than a sparrow or grackle flies by feels fortuitous: a flash of fortune on an otherwise normal morning.


After sweltering temperatures this past weekend, the weather has settled (at least for the moment) into a comfortable stride, with sunny, mild days that are perfect for working outside. When I say “working outside,” I don’t mean gardening or other outdoor chores; I mean sitting on our screened back porch with my laptop, doing outside the work I’d normally do inside.

Beginning to bloom

Both yesterday and today, I checked my online classes then wrote my hour outside while watching our backyard rabbits, squirrels, and chipmunks tend to their business of nibbling, sniffing, and scurrying after one another. When the weather is cooperative, there’s something simultaneously calming and inspiring about working outside, the chirps and twitters of backyard birds keeping you awake if not entirely on-task.


It’s been a month since J and I had our first taste of sparkling pink lemonade, a treat we’d bought from a curbside lemonade stand during a leisurely weekend stroll around the neighborhood, and since then, I’ve made a point to keep a few bottles on hand: a simple, refreshing treat. So today while the birds chirped, the rabbits hopped, and I tapped and clicked on my laptop, I sipped a cool glass of summer sweetness without having to leave the comfort of my own backyard.