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Flickers and Falling Stars


Someone recently asked me what might be digging small holes in their yard.  The holes are about the size of a dime and taper down at an angle for about an inch or so with bits of soil scattered around them.  I managed to actually see the culprit in action in our yard.   They are the work of the northern flicker, or what some of you may have learned as the yellow shafted flicker or perhaps the red shafted flicker, both now considered two subspecies of the northern flicker.  

If you are not familiar with flickers, they are one of our larger woodpeckers, maybe up to a foot long.  Look for a prominent white rump, black bib, spotted bellow, with conspicuously yellow (or red) shafts on the tail and wings.      

Unlike other woodpeckers, flickers prefer feeding on the ground.  Ants are among their favorites, but I am guessing these excavations are from the birds feeding on white grubs.  White grubs are the larvae of June beetles, and are often found in Kentucky bluegrass sod.  Those grubs are apparently plump, tasty, and nutritious little treats.  

If you enjoy falling stars, you could be in for a treat soon.  The Draconids Meteor Shower will run from October 6-10 with the peak viewing period on the evening of the 7th.  This is not one of the bigger shows, but unlike many other meteor showers, the best viewing is the evening.  And this year the moon will be in the second quarter during the peak viewing period, so if the sky is clear, viewing could be quite good.  Astronomers are expecting maybe around 10 meteors per hour.  However, the Draconids are known for their unpredictability.  They have been known to produce some amazing displays, with meteors numbering in the hundreds or higher per hour.  So if you do go out to view them, it might be good to plan on doing some stargazing as well.

Please note that the Orionids Meteor Shower has also begun.  It runs from October 2-November 7 with the peak viewing period coming on the night of October 21 with perhaps 20 meteors per hour.  

So be on the lookout for little holes in your yard.  And if you see a rather slim, large brownish woodpecker with a distinctive white rump and yellow wing and tail feathers (or perhaps red), that is the flicker.   Then if you are up for a celestial show, watch for the Draconids Meteor Shower.  

-Chuck Lura

Prairie Public Broadcasting provides quality radio, television, and public media services that educate, involve, and inspire the people of the prairie region.
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