This is a Northern Flicker nest that was constructed in a dead tree standing in a pond near Whitehorse, Yukon. I believe this nest belongs to the same pair that I photographed mating nearby last May, photographs www.arkive.org/northern-flicker/colaptes-auratus/image-G9... that were chosen to represent this particular species by the London-based ARKive conservation organization, in a project that aims to preserve lasting images of all the world's species, partly the brainchild of David Attenborough.
Seen here is the female about to regurgitate ant eggs into the mouth of her hungry nestlings. The male and female take turns feeding them, one arriving about every 20 minutes with more food. Judging by the size of the chicks and their feather development, it appears they are almost ready to leave the nest. Today, the largest one was sticking its head well out of the nest, making loud adult-sounding flicker calls. More images below:
p.s. I was more than quite concerned to discover a couple of days ago that Paul Nicklen, one of the world's most acclaimed wildlife photographers, had learned about this nest site and strapped a bunch of camera gear and flash devices etc. beside the nest for an upcoming National Geographic story about the Yukon. For me, intruding in that way, was way past my ethical line, and could seriously stress the birds or even put the chicks at risk of being abandoned. Yesterday at the nest, I asked Paul about this, and he explained that he had done his homework and consulted a colleague who had done this with Flickers before and had no ill-effects. Paul explained that he is a biologist by training and being a wildlife conservation activist, was fully aware of the ethical issues. He recognized that the birds could get stressed, but this was a small price to pay if he could get his conservation message out to hundreds of millions of readers through the National Geographic. His article will emphasize the impact of climate change and mining on the fragile Northern ecosystem. Kudos to Paul. He's also a really great guy to talk with and I even learned some very interesting technical information about wildlife photography. Keep your eyes out for images of these flickers in National Geographic next year, as I'm sure they'll be awesome.