Sunday, March 17, 2013

Bird Brain

We have a pair of Nuttall's woodpeckers in our garden - I think they must be nesting, for they take care of each other - while one is feeding, the other sits on the eaves or in the big oak tree, just above its mate, keeping watch.  Got your back.  Then they trade places.

They are skittish, swooping off if they catch sight of you, even if you're inside and behind a curtain.  I hung a suet feeder when the winter got bitter cold; the nyjer seed that keeps the finches fed didn't seem enough, and I'd read fat helps birds survive cold nights.  

The woodpeckers love it.  I had expected only finches, for those are the birds I see at the nyjer feeder.  I didn't know about all the other shy fellows I'd meet, birds who didn't go for the thistle feeder but swing on the suet cage.

I've been looking at photos of males and females, and I'm pretty sure our Nuttall's woodpeckers are both male.  Gay marriage is alive and well in our garden.  But that nesting thing...I think they might have to adopt.  Or find a surrogate.

There are Titmice at the feeder too, mousey brownish-grey, with a crest like sticky-up hair.  They look like a little kid who just got out of bed.  On a Sunday morning.

And plump brown and white Chickadees, the Winston Churchills of the bird world.  They are fearless -  I swear I could take the feeder down to refill it and they wouldn't budge.

Skittish little bushtits, always on the move.  Ian's favorite bird...

Years ago my friend went bird watching with some very hoity toity birders in Connecticut.  There was a very rare bird (of course, why else would the hoity toitys bestir themselves?) that had not been seen in the area for over fifty years. They had to walk - to hear Des tell it, it seemed like several days' forced march.  Then they all had to creep along on their hands and knees to the edge of the clearing where this rare bird was supposed to be.

After all this activity she was feeling a bit parched, so she reached very carefully into her backpack and pulled out a Tab (remember Tab?  Before Diet Coke?) and popped the top.  Whoosh - rare birds gone.  The man who was leading the trip, a complete East Coaster who thought you were beneath notice if you were not of Mayflower stock, turned purple and began jumping up and down and yelling.  If there had been any other specimens of this rare bird hanging around, they were gone now.

My friend said "What's the big deal?  It's just a bird - it'll be back."  And probably something along the lines of "Sheesh! Don't get your knickers in a twist!"

Sensible advice.  Not well received.

"Just a bird!"  Followed by some serious sputtering.  "It'll be back?!?"  More sputtering  "Not in my lifetime, you twit!"

I give her great credit for not saying "Well, if you keep carrying on like this you'll probably give yourself a stroke, so no, not in your lifetime.  Unless you calm down."

I don't think she's been bird watching since.  Maybe I can convince her to come for tea, sit in the back yard and see who comes to call.  No sputtering, I promise.   And no Tab. 

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