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There are strange and bizarre creatures roaming on Long  Island. Yellow creatures. With feathers. Here’s proof:

I found one of these feathers in 2010 and  one in 2011. I couldn’t imagine what kind of critter could have molted these unusual plumes right in my backyard but it never worried me. I’m used to living in  oblivion. I don’t know the first thing about any of the grand mysteries of life — what is time? Is death final? Why am I here? –  so a few strange looking feathers floating around in my backyard hardly give me pause.

And then: 12 days after our freak October snowstorm, we had a day of glorious Indian summer here on Long Island this past week. It was sunny, clear, and 70 degrees. That morning I sat  outside on my patio with a cup of tea, forcing myself to absorb every mote of this moment as the last time I’ll be able to tolerate the early morning air for, oh, about seven months.

And then I began to get the feeling that I was being watched.

I looked up and saw  this: Well, not thisexactly. I got this photo from the internet. But I saw what looked to be a polka-dotted bird looking straight at me. We stared at each other for a wile, the he lifted himself off his perch and flapped to another tree, hanging onto the side of the trunk as if he were a woodpecker. And that’s when I saw the yellow flight feathers:

So now I had another mystery on my hands. What kind of woodpecker has a ridiculous polka-dotted front, yellow under his wings, and (I saw it so clearly when  he turned his head) an incredibly bright red cap on his head?

And, oh yeah: this bird was HUGE. About the size of an eagle. Enormous.

It looked as  if this bird could easily prey on my cats. Swoop down and pick off a daschund, easily.

This bird was the biggest bird I’ve ever  seen in  my backyard. The biggest bird I’ve ever seen with polka dots.

When the big guy grew bored with me staring at him with open-mouthed awe, he  disappeared into the woods. I ran into the house and grabbed my bird book.

Turns out that this fellow is a woodpecker called a Flicker.

And  he’s not all  that dangerous. Or huge. BUT HE’S GORGEOUS. It’s like Ma Nature decided to make a bird the same way my grandmother makes a quilt, with little swatches of her favorite patterns and colors.  And I saw him, right in my backyard. I’m in love with this Flicker.

So here’s some more amazing stuff I’ve seen lately, backyard-adjacent:

Here’s this same amazing cloud with a jet taking off from nearby JFK airport:

This cloud was HUGE.

The story about this amazing  cloud is that I found it up in the sky as I came out of my office at 5PM.

And THE VERY NEXT WEEK we turned the clocks back to Standard Time and this is what I see now when I leave the office at 5PM:

But again, getting back to that amazing cloud I found when it was still Daylight Saving Time: I happened to have still been out on the road a mere 40 minutes later, having made a gin and champagne run at the liquor store dropped off teddy bears for the kids at the local orphanage and a HUGE thunderstorm had rolled in all of a sudden. WHAT A SKY!

And because Long Island is full of moron drivers who panic at a few drops of rain and drive like my grandmother (who always hit the brakes at every intersection and inched past green lights because you could never be sure that a red light wasn’t going to blind you in any second), traffic was snarled on the exit ramp off the Northern State Parkway onto the LIE (Long Island Expressway). So even as I sat in my car, stewing over this waste of precious cocktail hour momentum calling upon my inner Zen Master for calm and joy, I had to admit that it was a beautiful sight:

If I had to do it over again, my life that is, which is a mystery to me, I would become a painter of parking lots and traffic jams. These are the facts of 21st century life as we know it  (as much as we can know anything about life, that is) and the art world is too busy scribbling about sex and violence. Boy. Have they missed the boat.

And thanks to you dear readers, my life is marginally less mysterious these days. I now know that the Fiction stacks at the library are hiding the fact that there are a slew of irrelevant Dewy Decimals (fiction 813, and 683.4 which we should just get rid of) . And that a creamery is not a dairy — fancy that! And if I want to annoy the IT guy, tell him that I have a question about a sofftware program. And that Chrysais is more than just the name of the most awesome record lable of the 1970s. And that they have to update the words to that great old Ben E. King  song to: There is a rose in North Carnegie Hill/a  red rose up in North Carnegie Hill…

Thank you for joining me in this special edition of Late-For-Friday blog. And please join me back here on Wednesday, November 16 for a special announcement about a chance to win an original commissioned painting from me in time for the holiday season (I’m guessing it has something to do with Pet Portraits). And there might be something about the annual holiday card you might be interested in, too.lIn the  meantime, are there any more life mysteries, grand or petite, that you’d care to clear up for me?

6 comments to Here be dragons.

  • Carol

    The yellow flicker is quite pretty. They are orange here in MT, I don’t recall any yellow ones. They are so noisy this time of year and they get on the roof and peck away to eat the pine seeds that have come to rest there.

    Aren’t the day light savings time changes so much fun-ha.

  • Deborah

    I love flickers, too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the yellow-shafted ones, though. Just red-shafted (which are really salmon pink, according to my field guide).

    I have a flicker story. Several years ago, when I lived in Flint, a neighbor was visiting me in my backyard, and she was very upset by the fact that there were ants between the flagstones of my patio. She told me I should spray to kill them, but I shrugged and asked why. They were outside, and I generally don’t kill things unless they’re on my person or in my home. A couple of weeks later I happened to look out the window just as a flicker landed on the patio and proceeded to slurp up all the ants. Good karma.

  • Nadine

    Now that I know from these posts that flickers are kind of common birds, I’m going to have to figure out a way to lure one to my yard so I can ogle. I get a kick out of seeing male cardinals, so a flicker would be, like, awesome. That is one fine looking budgie.

  • Northern Flickers ARE woodpeckers. There are 3 subspecies: Red Shafted, Yellow Shafted and Gilded. Yellow Shafteds used to be called Yellow Hammers, most commonly seen in the mid-west/east. Here in the west we have the Red-shafted variety and the lovely Gilded Flicker, occasionally we have the Yellow-shafted…on one branded in memory birding day I was fortunate to see all three subspecies in the same tree.

    They commonly feed on ants…called “anting” The first one I saw was doing just that in my back yard…I thought it was one of the most stunning birds I’d ever seen…I commonly have them in my yard…a wonderful sight.

  • Wow I do not miss traffic. My town doesn’t even have a stoplight. I used to sit in traffic for almost 2 hours every day. I can’t imagine the trauma if I ever have to go back to it.

  • Jeannie

    Aren’t Flickers fun birds to watch. We have the Red shafted ones here. Everyone in a while I am gifted a feather – a gold star day! They will sit in the tree in front of my desk and eat peanut butter suet. One eye on me, the other on the suet. They are my signal that winter is approaching and I love to hear their call. I moved to the sticks from Seattle. I used to drive 50 miles everyday to work in about 45 minutes. Today that same commute in Seattle would be 1 hour 45 minutes and I would be a nervous wreck. Once you are away from traffic congestion, you really forget how to maintain calm. Have a beautiful week!

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