Saturday, April 18, 2020

Chip And Mitzi Put In An Offer

Mitzi
Well, we certainly did not want to discourage Chip and Mitzi Vinebustle, the bushtits, from building a nest right spang in front of our noses. And we'd only get the one shot. In spite of the fact that it takes a month or more to knit a bushtit nest, they don't reuse them the next year, but choose a different location. The amazing thing is they totally could reuse them. The suckers are sturdy. I'm always seeing bushtit nests from previous years. They look like fluff with intention, but they make it right through the winter, and as you may recall, this is tornado country.

Not really. But it's tornado neighborhood. We had a genuine petite tornado a couple blocks away last year and it took some trees down but I'm betting the bushtit nests made it through. What makes them so durable?

The main ingredient is spider web, a.k.a. God's Own Spandex. Chip and Mitzi are in there tugging on the webbing and pulling it every which direction. Usually these nests dangle from tree branches, which means the construction crew has to hang onto the nest with their feets while they're working on it, but Chip is totally using scaffolding. We have the smartest birds! The wisteria is jangling with old beans on strings and they're hanging their nest right in amongst them.

Mitzi up top with construction-grade fluff
That was job one, for us. The beans are left over from last year's pendulous flowers and some warm evening in March they all detonate. They can take your eye out. You can hear them blow up from a block away. Unfortunately not every one has gone off yet this year. There were still three unpopped beans hanging within a foot of the Vinebustles' nest, so we clipped them off. The explosion would be sure to discourage any prospective fuzzy homeowner and that's if it doesn't blast them into the street.

It's possible that bushtits have enough equanimity to shrug off exploding wisteria beans, though. They don't mind us too much. And they're not real fussy. The Literature states that the location of the nest in a given tree "tends to be from 3 feet to 100 feet" off the ground. Tends? That's like saying your average American tends to live somewhere between sea and shining sea.

The Literature also says that the tits incorporate feathers, fur, and downy plant matter to camouflage the outside of the nest. That way nobody will notice a foot-long fuzzy sock with a bustle of bushtits flying in and out of it all day long. Because once Chip and Mitzi invite the whole family back in, there are going to be lots of bushtits, and they never stop talking, either. It'll be as quiet as a preteen slumber party. Everyone wants a turn. Let ME sit the eggs! No, let ME! MOM! It's MY turn! Pip pip pip! No fair! SCOOT OVER!


Chip on his scaffolding
Camouflage? Please. They might as well go for a snappy argyle.

The extra helper tits are referred to (in The Literature) as "supernumeraries," and yes, that is the same term used for extra nipples on people. It's a little dismissive. The implication is that you really don't need all those bushtits. They're superfluous. But bushtits never find each other superfluous. They all find each other equally swell and they're all super excited about making new ones.

So among the things I'm looking forward to here is the arrival of the Louis Tiffany drapes Mitzi has on order, and the day the sock will bulge and bop with essential birds, cozying up in the feather lining. There won't be a kid jiggling his bag of marbles who will be any happier than me.

27 comments:

  1. Please keep us abreast on your bushtits! I'm unlikely to ever see any, so I'm depending on you. Perhaps they are called supernumeraries, not to be dismissive, but because they are extra bushTITS. I'm sure that even ornithologists like to throw in the odd pun once in a while.

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    1. Did not even occur to me. Because I am pure of heart.

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  2. A good read. I am looking forward to more updates of the Chip and Mitzi show.

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    1. Can we get a description of the inside of this diminutive fortess? Maybe you could hide one of those tiny spy cameras above their little sofa.

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    2. I was sure they were away (because it was quiet) the other day and tried to stick my camera in the hole, and Mitzi shot out like a bullet. I won't be doing that again. I definitely want a tiny spy camera.

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  3. I am smiling broadly. And acknowledging that I would be a woeful bushtit. I don't have their building/designing skills and would totally not invite all those extra nipples in.

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    Replies
    1. I like living in a world in which someone might eventually say "I would be a woeful bushtit."

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  4. Great photos, Murr! Like Elephant's Child, I wouldn't make a good bushtit. Too crowded!

    If you took down the nest at the end of the summer, might the bushtits be motivated to build in the same place next year? Or maybe that would horrify them so much they'd never consider coming back . . .

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  5. WE had a leftover nest in the lilac this year- but alas after much agonizing and house inspection and them even more renovation work the old nest tore itself to shreds in a windstorm- alas

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    1. But was it BUSHTITS? We hardly had any storms this winter. We didn't even rightly have winter.

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  6. Often, Bushtits will harvest bits of the previous year's nest to add to the new one, so leaving the old nest in place may actually help them out. And what could be more satisfying than being helpful to Bushtits?!

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    1. That would make all that spiderweb gathering a lot easier, wouldn't it?

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  7. All those extra crowd of folkery in elaborate costumes tramping across operatic stages around the world, saying/singing now't are also called 'supernumeraries'. They are usually the wives/kids/ brother-in-laws of chorus members, depending on need. Their pay is often just getting *that* close to the performance. Being that close to a gaggle of bushtits is pretty exciting too. Frosty Winderson and his Mrs. seem to have moved North. Haven't seen hide nor feather of them in a couple of weeks. A pair of robins stopped in for a few days to excavate worms from under the tree in our back garden, now they're gone too. You have ALL the fun Murr.

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    1. I'm on a lucky streak for sure. You know, it's easy to tell when someone's just come back, but it's harder to know, for instance, when the last junco left. It's like being stoned. You don't notice when you get stoned; you notice you've been stoned for the last ten minutes. I'm told.

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  8. Chip is one smart bushtit, using the scaffolding nature provided. It really is amazing how they knit all that stuff together and end up with a workable sock dwelling and a shame they don't reuse them.

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    1. Birdgardens, above, says they raid the old nests for material, so that's kind of recycling, innit?

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  9. I had no idea wisteria beans explode! Maybe because I'm always hacking their heads off beore they can make them? God, how do you live with that stuff? I love Chip and Mitzi and their names and the description of their sock in a scaffold. Lotta good natural history info woven into the fun and fluff!

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    1. They mostly do it all at once on one warm evening in March. People cross over to the other side of the street. Veterans hit the dirt. It's a wild time.

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  10. Is that lichen on the outside of the nest?

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