Northern

A female northern flicker searches for breakfast in a meadow on a rainy winter morning at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

A female northern flicker searches for breakfast in a meadow on a rainy winter morning at Ridgefield in 2012. Given its widespread distribution across my country I wrongly assumed this would be the flicker I’d see most often in Arizona, but so far I’ve only seen the gilded flicker. To be fair I’ve only hiked in the desert, perhaps we’ll be reunited when I visit the forests. The two flickers are quite similar both in appearance and call, so in a way it feels like we were never separated.

Whiteout

A juvenile red-tailed hawk sits in a meadow in heavy fog at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington

A juvenile red-tailed hawk sits in a meadow in heavy fog at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington. The telephoto lens is exaggerating the whiteout effect as it is picking up all the fog between my car and the distant hawk but it illustrates the point: for an animal that might normally hunt by soaring high above the meadow and looking for voles below, a thick fog changes the dynamic between predator and prey.

An American bittern stands on a shoreline in heavy fog at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington

The fog didn’t have such an impact on an American bittern stalking the shoreline that winter morning as it looked and listened for small creatures both on the land and in the water. Sometimes it hunted by slowly walking up and down the shoreline, sometimes by standing still, but in either case the thick fog would not obscure the prey such a short distance away.

An American bittern looking into the marsh in heavy fog at Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington

And Who Might You Be?

A lesser sandhill crane stands in a meadow near the Beaver Ponds Loop Trail in Yellowstone National Park

I wasn’t sure what I was looking at when I came across this crane in Yellowstone National Park in 2004. I was only aware of two species of crane in my country, the sandhill crane and the whooping crane. It looked like a sandhill apart from the brown coloring on its body, so I wondered if it might be a juvenile. Later research showed this to be a subspecies of sandhill, the lesser sandhill crane.

We’re moving to Arizona soon (we’re in Arizona at the moment, we found a house yesterday we’d like to rent), so I’m going to have a lot to learn as I explore my desert home. No matter how long I live here I’ll still come across identification puzzles, I still do even after being in Oregon for 21 years, a combination of my lack of skills and nature not always being so easily pinned down.