An hour past sunrise and the sky is brightening. A red-bellied woodpecker makes anxious chirps, prompting a flicker to respond. A tree drops a dead limb into last year’s leaves.
Sun in the treetops. A Carolina wren keeps answering a flicker, as if trying to master its call. Tree crickets. A train horn.
Cold and still. The mid-morning sun is a faint smudge in the treetops. A flicker flutters into a barberry bush and begins to gorge.
A warmer morning, and all the birds are calling: Carolina wren, robin, crows, a flicker. Squirrels chase back and forth across the snow.
Sunny and warm. A red-bellied woodpecker chases a flicker out of the woods. The first spring azure butterfly blows past like a leaf.
Cloudless and still. A pair of flickers inspect the old flicker den in the dead elm where a rat snake once swallowed all the hatchlings.
Clear and dead still. A flicker lands on the elm snag and pokes into the old den hole. Her wings, when she flies, glow yellow in the sun.
A sharp-shinned hawk keeps chasing flickers in the yard; they yell at the effrontery and circle right back each time. A wren chatters alarm.
Ground fog in the corner of the meadow glowing faintly pink in the sunrise. A flicker flies out of the old den in the dead elm tree.
Have the flickers fledged? Their den hole gapes, silent. Is absence of evidence evidence of absence? A pileated woodpecker’s wild laughter.
Just audible over the tractor: a tanager’s hoarse song. The male flicker flies out of its nest hole carrying an offspring’s white fecal sac.
A half-hour after sunrise, the flickers arrive at the elm from different directions, copulate twice, and go back to work on the nest hole.
The hole in the dead elm is emitting puffs of dust: a flicker cleans house. Just beyond: scarlet tanager! Then the cardinal’s humdrum red.
Two male flickers fighting over the dead elm and its den-hole joust in the garden, jabbing and feinting with their long bills.