Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Edge Of Flight: Part 2

When we last left the Nuthatch Family, a scrub jay has flown off to a tree, possibly with a nuthatchlet. I can't quite tell if the jay had anything--it was all too quick--but it does Not Look Good. I'm utterly bereft. I want to call the authorities. I want to call the President. It had taken a whole month to make this little dude, and also I'd just videoed him, up close and personal. I was invested. After a while Dave (the nuthatch) is back in the tree again. I wonder if there are any more babies in the nest. Then he goes into the box empty-beaked and comes out with stuff. And again. And again. It's like he's tidying up after a party, picking up the Solo cups and paper plates. There are clearly no more babies. I don't know how many there were; I don't know if I missed any earlier ones. Within an hour Dave is continuing to clean up and sitting on branches acting fluffy and flappy and flirtatious. Was he planning a new brood?

During commercial break I looked it up and it seems it's unlikely. Usually they have just the one nestful. I guess he's just a neatnik. I do see another nuthatch fly straight through the tree and away, and I don't get a good enough look to be sure, but it was slow, more prop plane than jet, so I think it's the first baby I saw. Good.

Then the Missus comes back. She flies into the nest box with Dave (the nuthatch) already in there, and then she turns around to fly out. But she's stuck. She's STUCK! HOLY FUCK! Her foot is all tangled in some nesting material/pine-resin glop and she's flapping like mad, but she can't go anywhere. Dave looks out and now they're snapping at each other, like he wants to get out but she won't let him, and she's snapping back I'm fucking stuck you idiot, take this shit off my foot, but he doesn't get it, and then he flies out anyway when she ducks.

She's picking at the stuff her foot is stuck to, but getting nowhere. I'm growing desperately upset. I don't want to freak her out by opening the window and working on her foot, and I don't know how I'd go about it, anyway. Dave (the man I married) looks out the window and says "Uh-oh."

"What 'uh-oh?'"

"Scrub jay on the fence. He's hopping closer. He's looking up. He sees her!"

Amazing how fast I can lose that hesitation. I fling open the window, put my hand out to cup her back and wings with one hand and free her foot with the other, and she takes one look at me and blasts out of there. She lands in the tree. Dave (the man) and I stare. Yes, she still has a foot attached. Yes, it's still working. She flies away.


And for the rest of the day, for hours, for hours, Dave (the nuthatch) sits on a twig and beeps. He beeps loud, he beeps long, he beeps fast and he beeps slow. He goes to the nest box to look in. He comes back out and beeps. The next day he's still at it. And the next. Beeping and beeping. Checking and checking. He's beeping himself hoarse. He keeps going in and out of the nest box to make sure. We don't see any babies. We don't see the Missus. They're all gone.


Perspective is a theme for me. I like to think of things from different perspectives. This little drama has many. There is the perspective of the insect being nabbed out of the air in the prime of its three-day life and jammed into a beak. There is the perspective of a nest of baby scrub jays, waiting for dinner. There is the perspective that this kind of drama is playing out all the time, everywhere, and we just aren't paying attention. There is the perspective from outer space, where all these scenes, and ours too, are revealed to be trivial. I should be able to accommodate all these points of view at once; I have that habit.

But I can't. This time I have my own perspective. And it's a lot like Dave's (the nuthatch's). And on this, the fourth day since his entire family went away, he's breaking my beepin' heart.

30 comments:

  1. We know this sort of thing goes on all the time, but when we know the individuals, they become like family to us. I felt this as I watched the Hanover PA eagle cam. The nestling died on the second day. The second egg never hatched, but dad never gave up. He brooded it for well over a month. (Mom is older and more experienced. She obviously knew it was unviable.) Finally, he accidentally cracked it. I could see the shocked look on his face as he looked at the egg for the longest time... lightly beaked at it... and then slowly flew off. As it turned out, it was a good thing they didn't have fledgelings: their nest collapsed a few days ago, and they would have died. And that's just the drama from one eagle cam.

    Then there's the cardinal nest outside my dining room window. A storm is coming through tonight, and you know I'll be restless, worrying about her and her chick's survival.

    It's not easy when you take the blinders off and are no longer oblivious to the natural world.

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    1. Please report back on your cardinal. As I recall, you can see through their nests.

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    2. Okay... we din't get the Big Storm last night. It held off until tonight. AND it wasn't as bad as they had initially predicted. (Originally, they said thunder, lightning, heavy rain, high winds, hail, maybe tornadoes. We got the "wall of water" and high winds, but fortunately nothing else.)

      As to the cardinals: yesterday, the youngster looked like the baby in Zick's book on Baby Birds on day nine: kind of like a bobblehead, with tufts of fluff sticking off to the sides. Sort of like an eccentric accountant. I notice that on day ten, her cardinal fledged. Well, this morning, mine was a bobblehead, and this afternoon, he was not in the nest, nor nowhere to be seen. Since I was home all day, and did not hear any brouhaha going on (and this mother cardinal was on the ball; if there was anyone around that she didn't trust, she put up a ruckus, attracting her mate, who joined in.), I am assuming that he fledged, hopefully landing somewhere above flood level. I heard the mother cardinal occasionally in the side yard a few feet away from the nest, but it seems the nest is done. I hope they are alright, but watching wildlife up close is rather like reading a work in progress. Sometimes the author loses interest or whatever, and you are left dangling for what happened in the final couple chapters. I'm hoping that the baby made it to a place that he could stay fairly dry during the torrential rains that we had. I'm whistling past the cemetery here. My home, which I call Manderly, has a lot of life. But where there is much life, there is much death. I try to forget that part of it.

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    3. Sheesh! And yeah--we're all trying to forget that part of it. Which reminds me, I could use a beer right about now.

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  2. Never thought I'd say this about one of your posts, but you've made me cry. Poor Dave Nuthatch. All that love and care and suddenly they're gone and he's bereft. That's so sad.

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    1. I don't average more than about one crying post a year. So Be Not Afraid.

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  3. This reminds me, much to my disappointment, that I am not the center of the universe. When I look around me at the forest and fields and know that hundreds of dramas play out daily I am humbled. I hope Dave's (the nuthatch) heartache is short-lived.

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    1. I'm always relieved to find out I'm not at the center of things. I'm always at the edges scoping out the onion dip.

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  4. Mimimanderly had it right in her last line - it's hard when you see this stuff up close and personal. I may be a bad person but I intentionally look away now when I see a dead critter by the side of the road, because I just can't handle the emotions. It's less exhausting this way. But there are still times when nature sneaks up and smacks me good. Kudos to you for saving Mrs Dave.

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    1. If by "saving Mrs. Dave" you mean frightening her right out of her predicament. We both reacted the same way: I couldn't intervene until we saw the real danger, and she couldn't pull away until she figured she absolutely had to.

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    2. Ah, I read it wrong - now I understand. But still ... you knew what you were going to do; she just beat you to it. And if she'd stayed there a moment or two longer it probably would have been the death of her. So you scared her to life. So to speak.

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  5. It happens. It has to happen. It is right that it happens. But it hurts my heart and my wimpy self can't watch.
    And Dave beeping for his lost family is going to haunt me.

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    1. He went away for about a week, but today he was back. Beeping and looking.

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  6. I went through that when my eastern bluebirds in Maine lost their babies. It had been cold and rainy and I detected a very sad undertone to their calls. I opened the box and three were dead, with hideous blowfly larvae in the nest. The last baby was too far gone to save, though I tried. I know how you feel. My sympathies.

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    1. I wish we'd constructed this box so that a person could open it up and take a little peek. Just to check in. And intervene!

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  7. Oh Murrebaby. Murrebaby. So much I could say, and I've been through this anguish--and don't minimize it, it's real, and yes, it's not Darfur or Beirut but it's yours and very real. I, too, have been a blubbering basket case over a nest of nuthatches, and mine looks like it's going to end better. But first. You absolutely did the right thing by freeing the Missus. She will not hold it against you. She likely understood. Second: Freakin' scrub-jay. Damn it, damn it, damn it. If it's not a jay it's a snake it's a hawk. Third: I believe Dave is beeping to his Mrs. He wants to get started again. She'll come around, I know it. She may be busy feeding whomever is left of the brood. And I sense there are some left. Fourth: What is it with the resin? Why would you put something on your box that YOU and your family could get stuck in? Clearly, this is dumb design. Intervention needed. You're just the gal to do it. I love you so. xoxo jz

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    1. I didn't know you had a nuthatch nest going! Would this be species #18? Oh: I didn't free the Missus; she just got a little extra oomph when I opened the window and stuck my hand out. So I remote-freed her. The resin thing is standard red-breasted nuthatch decor, as I am led to believe. The literature says it "might" be to deter other birds from entering. I get the idea they really don't know. SEE NEXT POST for an update.

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    2. Lawsy, I feel faint. Part 3!! What will happen next???

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    3. That resin... I hope that you can find some way to scrape it off before someone else tries to nest in there. It seems rather like digging a crocodile-filled moat, then falling into it in a drunken stupor.

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    4. Dave got it off with rubbing alcohol. What a mess! And The Windowsons are making a go of it.

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    5. Oh! And way back in April did I NOT SAY: " if these little guys don't get a really good jump, they're going to end up glued to the side of the house." Yes I did. Didn't think mama would get glued to the side of the house, though.

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    6. Yay for the Windowsons! I hope to hear more about them! Funny... most people gossip about celebrities or acquaintances, and here we all are gossiping about nuthatches, chickadees, and cardinals. But you know, I find them a good deal more interesting than people.

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    7. Da Windowsons is IN DA HOUSE.

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  8. So sad to lose a bird you've invested in.

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    1. I had a feeling when he came out squawkier that he wasn't quite the little beeper his sibling was.

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