Saturday, April 9, 2016

Chickadees: If You Have To Ask, You Can't Afford It

Female
Big news in Portland real estate, where rental vacancies are at an all-time low, and landlords can comfortably soak their tenants without compromising their ethics at all, assuming they're assholes. So it should have been no surprise that the nesting box, the one right outside my writing room window that has been occupied every spring by Marge and Studley Windowson, our chickadees, has fallen victim to the hot market. A pair of nuthatches sensed an opportunity and snapped it up before Marge and Studley ever got their tiny little identical butts in gear. There's nothing we can do about it. We're hoping the Windowsons have been able to locate something affordable on the edge of town.

Meanwhile the nuthatches seemed to be dinking around about actually moving in. I decided to hang up some nesting material right nearby. My cat Tater helpfully refused to shed a single strand of fur. I went next door and borrowed a cup of Golden Retriever. Birds loved it, except for the nuthatches.

Holding single strand of golden retriever
I read up. The box was the right size, but nuthatches "rarely" use them. Well, poo. Had they just been toying with us, and holding up the paperwork on the house just long enough that Marge and Studley had to give up? Would we have an empty box through the nesting season?

Finally they began to move in some fluff. It looks like a going concern now, plus we have the benefit of feeling special, since they so rarely go for nesting boxes. I'm looking forward to watching this, not least because I can tell these guys apart. I don't know if I'm looking at this one, or the other one, but I'm pretty sure they're not the same.

Which just goes to show how extremely bad I am at really noticing things. I spend a lot of time noticing, but not to the point where I could give you any particulars.

Male, primping
Example. This week Dave and I went on a hike. A few hours in, an old man came by us going the  other direction and we all said Hi. One minute later another old man came by and asked us if we'd seen a woman just ahead of him on the trail. I hesitated. I didn't want to say an old man had just passed by, in case that was the woman he was talking about. Seemed rude. He clarified that "she is wearing a pink jacket." Now. I should have remembered if the old man was wearing a pink jacket, shouldn't I? But at that point I couldn't swear that the person we just saw was a man or a woman or was wearing pink or not.

Birds, same way. I'm pretty sure our nuthatches are different, but if you asked me, I'd say one looked sort of diffident, and the other one sort of saucy. These are not field marks. Find three field marks, I can hear my friend Bill say, so let's see: one of them is diffident and pensive with a thousand-mile stare. The other one is saucy, restless, and prone to hyperbole.

I looked them up. According to the guides, the male has a black crown and tends to be somewhat darker in the breast, and the female has a dark gray crown. Well, sure. When you put it that way. I can see it now.

But if one of them had a pink jacket on, I can't recall.

Here's a bonus video of the nuthatches protecting their territory. Hold onto your heart; and yes, I promise the nuthatch is okay in the end!


30 comments:

  1. Oof! I'm glad the nuthatch is okay. That woodpecker looked like he was thinking "What the.... Can't a guy enjoy a nice meal without getting roughed up?"

    It's the same story with our computer room nest box: every year there's a squabble between the sparrows and the wrens, and the sparrows win... technically... but they only have time to raise one clutch after the brouhaha is over.

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    1. You can see the nuthatch shook up the cameraman something fierce. (I still haven't recovered.) Have you looked into Wren Guards? It's a thing.

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  2. A pair of nuthatches sensed an opportunity and snapped it up

    For some reason this sentence made me think of Trump and Cruz.

    Would birds really accept cat hair as nesting material? You'd think the scent of moggy would freak them out.

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    1. "For some reason..."

      I was wondering about that cat hair thing, but they do like to use fur, and a lot of fur comes from carnivores. Besides, indoor cat fur smells like lilacs.

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  3. I wasn't at all worried about the Nuthatches - but they were bullying that poor defenseless woodpecker. And then the camera person fainted at the end! Gracious, the drama.

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    1. The camera person still hasn't recovered.

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  4. I love the video! And I love nuthatches for their fighting spirit. Your nesting box is definitely prime real estate.

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    1. Now it's all ooey-gooey with pine pitch. Evidently they do that. I no sooner read about it than they started gooing it up.

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  5. All the nests around here are full of horse hair and even though I hear it several times a day I always cringe at the sound of birds on glass.

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    1. I'm going to have to get around to making that parachute-cord curtain for a few of my windows. You drop parachute cords four inches apart. Highly effective I guess. But it's a project...

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  6. Enjoyed this! except for the thunk on the window at the end, of course. It's amazing that size isn't the only determinant of courage in the animal world. Personality and season can outweigh pint-size.

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    1. I wouldn't even cross a hummingbird. I swear.

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  7. Loved the "Cup of golden retriever"!!

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  8. Ouch on that thunk. We have had a few birds knock themselves out, and one break its neck.
    Isn't it a good thing that the dive-bombers in the avian world have no access to nukes?

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    1. You sure took a dark turn, there, missy!

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  9. Loved your prose and video. The only bird I've found nesting since I've been here - only one full day - is a bald eagle. I think they eagle pairs trade off but I can't tell them apart at the distance I'm seeing them.

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    1. "...the only bird I've found nesting since I've been here..." says she. Only the bald eagle. Well crap.

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  10. All of my boxes are still empty. So sad as I spent the early spring getting them spiffy clean. I also have trouble with field marks. Colors change from shade to sun when black becomes gray or the other way around. Plenty of cardinals, but they nest in trees and not my boxes.

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    1. Cardinals are swell, even where they're abundant, which is everywhere they are. Which is not here.

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  11. Meanwhile...I'm never sure whether they are nut hatches or nuth 'aches.

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  12. Ohhh wow. Oh holy cats. So, like, can you open the box up safely and, um, photograph a baby every day from hatching to almost fledging? Asking for a friend...

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    1. HA HA HA HA HA HA! No. Dave made the box so it only opens up with a screw driver at the end of season. Speaking of friends, Friends, check out Julie's brand new book Baby Birds! I mean it, check it out right now! NO ONE has done this before. No one ever will again.

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  13. That woodpecker sure does move fast. One year we had some birds nesting in our backyard in fir trees, and they would dive bomb my gray cat and rip fur from her till she had a bald bloody spot on her back and head! Had to relegate her to the house for a while for her own safety!

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    1. Most of us who are reading this hope you kept her there! Outdoor cats are way more of a problem for birds than birds usually are for cats. ESPECIALLY during nesting season, people! Tater is proudly indoors. The picture of health, and attitude.

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    2. Oh yea, both are indoors with a catio for their use. It keeps them safe, especially form birds. Kala hides even if she sees a birds shadow! They did not seem to have a hunting instinct.

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    3. I personally feel all warm and fuzzy about cats that are scared of birds.

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  14. Thanks for the reminder. I'll start collecting Angel's sheddings for the birds around here. We don't have any birdhouses, crows and magpies don't seem to need them, but they might like a bit of softness in their nests.

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