Northern Flicker Nesting Cavity

Northern Flicker male at nestNorthern Flicker male at nest – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/320, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR, natural light

I’ve been missing southwestern Montana and Clark County, Idaho a lot lately but the weather hasn’t been cooperating for a trip up north. I think that I have been missing the birds I usually see there including sapsuckers, nuthatches and woodpeckers busy making new nesting cavities or taking over an old one for their broods this season.

One year and one day ago I photographed my favorite nesting tree in the Targhee National Forest and this Northern Flicker nesting cavity.

Male Northern Flicker on an AspenMale Northern Flicker on an Aspen – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR, natural light

It wasn’t an easy nesting tree to photograph because of the lighting situation, if you were there too early the trees to the east put the nesting tree in the shade and by the time the light did light up the aspen there was only a little while before the sun was high and the light became contrasty and the shadows were too dark.

But even with those conditions it was incredible to observe and photograph the flicker creating the nesting cavity, pushing wood chips out of the opening with its bill, flying too and from and watching it look around at its world.

Male Northern Flicker perched on a coniferMale Northern Flicker perched on a conifer – Nikon D810, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 800, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR, natural light

This Northern Flicker usually called right before it flew in which gave me time to get ready for its appearance.

I didn’t know that when I photographed this Northern Flicker one day and one year ago that it would be the last time I’d see the tree standing or the last time I’d photograph this flicker, the sapsuckers, nuthatches, bluebirds and wrens that made this tree their nurseries. I’m glad I had the opportunity to spend one and a half nesting seasons photographing the birds there.

Life is good.


The nesting tree was chopped down by some one after I took these images. I will always be sad about that.



  1. Mary McAvoy May 5, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Gorgeous photos, sad story.

  2. Patty Chadwick May 5, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    I’m with Ellie Baby on this one…still sad about the tree, still angry, still frustrated that I will never get to catch the mindless morons that destroyed that tree (and all those nests) and have the pleasure of watching the perpetrators boiled in oil!

  3. Elephant's Child May 5, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    I remember the pain of hearing that self important oxygen thieves had destroyed that tree.
    Love the images, but still am sad (and angry) at the follow up.

  4. Jerry Ellison May 5, 2016 at 6:57 am

    GReat photos with a sad twist, I’m becoming too much of a nature lover …Jer

  5. Bob McPherson May 5, 2016 at 6:18 am

    Beautiful photos. Mia.

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