White Breasted Nuthatch Update
Well, this isn’t the ending for the white-breasted nuthatches that I thought I’d write, but recording nature doesn’t always bring happy endings.
On Saturday, the sun was warm on my shoulders as I sat at a comfortable distance from the bird box the White Breasted Nuthatches had defended for two full years now and where they had successfully raised three broods – one each year for the past three years. Twice I’ve watched them help the babies fledge – usually teasing them with a tasty morsel to encourage them to peek out of the nest and into the wide world. Attentive parents, they continually offered encouraging tut tuts to the young.
At about 10:00 on Saturday, we noticed a face in the hole – a baby face. Maybe it was time for them to fledge. I heard the adults in a tree not far away. Both of us had noticed the lack of feeding that morning – in fact, I hadn’t noticed them feeding the babies at all. But with the face in the hole, I decided to just watch what transpired.
The first baby was out by 10:20 and on the ground – and slowly made its way over to a nearby Douglas Fir tree that had branches close to the ground. It made it there and kept calling to the parents. But no parents came. Odd.
The second baby was a the hole in the bird box. And a parent came, but was silent and quickly flew off. The second one flapped to the ground and soon began to hop over to the first one – answer its calls. Getting near, they both begged for food from each other. When nothing came, they began to peck at the trunk and one obviously found some type of nourishment.
The third chick showed up and also came out of the bird box, but stayed on it for a short bit – actually trying to go back inside, but then also fell to the ground at the base of the Ponderosa Tree, looking up at toward the nest. Eventually all three babies gathered on the ground. But still no parents.
A part of me just wanted to scoop them up and care for them, but I know that often that’s not needed as the parents are usually close by. I knew they were around, but they weren’t coming to care for these babies. And the babies seemed to have an awful lot of down showing compared to the others I remembered – they seemed too young. I had a feeling I knew how this would end. I debated again just scooping them up and caring for them, but I also knew it had been a long time since I had seen the parents feeding them. At least 18 hours if not more – we were busy the day before and not around much to watch. Even if I did try to save them, they were already starving and the chances of saving them was slim. The parents were abandoning them for some reason.
The heat of the day quickly built thunderstorms around us. The babies were taking naps under the cover of our old army trailer. I kept hearing the adults occasionally, so either they would come and get them or they wouldn’t. Before the rain moved in, the first baby died. After the first rains moved through, we found the second also dead, but the third one we never did find. Perhaps the parents came to get that one – it was noticeably farther along than the others.
Upon opening the bird box, we found two more tiny bodies. So, that’s why they abandoned the nest – two had died in there. On Thursday evening or Friday, Mike had watched a young gray squirrel around the nest – and the adults doing their best to attack him. He kept trying to get inside – and perhaps he did – and did the damage.
I’ve cleaned out the bird box and placed back in its place – and have added a couple more bird houses around the property. At least two of the three adults who cared for the babies are around still. Time will tell if they will try again, or move to a new location, or not.
On another note, the Violet-Green Swallows are back and house hunting – and seem to be settling on a bird house that’s on our house itself. So, another nest to watch. Plus, a Pine Sisken was seen under the deck gathering guard hairs from our Samoyed that are under there. It flew off to the north, so I’ll have to keep an eye and ear out to see if I can locate where it’s headed with a mouthful of fur.