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.
This has been an interesting week. Now that we’re on the verge of summer, there are a ton of things happening and things to observe. We’ve moved the trail cam and have started to pick up more activity, so reports from the trail cam should resume soon. I’m also now just going to list the phenology by week of the year. I’ve been going back and adding them in to my Project Life album as 6×12 layouts.
Deer & Predators
As I write this, three does are just outside the dog yard, working their way down the hill, or perhaps they’ll cross the road. One is obviously still very pregnant. We haven’t really seen them for a couple of weeks, but they came back around here mid week. That’s about the time a neighbor a couple of roads over reported seeing a mountain lion in their driveway one morning. Then another neighbor close to them said they saw it as well. And one of them also said they saw it at about 10:00 in the morning the next day (the photo above). Over by them they have a person who regularly feeds the deer (not something I personally condone for many reasons), and one of the unintended effects with that practice is that you bring in predators who may decide move in for a good while. It interrupts the natural movement of the animals.
The deer and predators shift around in what seems like a long, slow dance. When the deer disappear, we know a mountain lion or bear (or both) are probably around and have moved them along. In spring, this dance always seems to take on a slightly quicker pace. In a similar fashion, we have waves of smaller animals – the squirrels, chipmunks, ground squirrels and rabbits have increased in numbers the past couple of years, so we know they will bring in their predators – fox, bobcats, racoons, coyotes, etc. They’ll knock down the populations and the cycle will begin again. On the trail cam, we caught a young fox – so they’re out of their dens now and learning the ways of the fox world.
A couple of neighbors closer to us reported seeing a couple of different bears. One smaller one and the big guy. The big guy surprised one neighbor who looked out to see him on his deck, checking things out. This guy is so big that on all fours, he completely covered the view of his grill. I imagine this is our dumpster tipper. Instead of climbing into a dumpster, he simply tips them over and walks in. This is a big, and very people savvy bear. A few years back he tipped our dumpster when a neighbor who shares it with us brought his trash at before daylight on trash day. He came and found the dumpster on its back (basically empty – nothing had been put in other than non-food/smelly items), righted it and put his trash in. 2o minutes later, we found it on its back again and the neighbor’s trash taken out. We put it back in and righted it – it took two of us. So the bear was there watching and waiting, but hidden from view. Needless to say, we now only put the smelly stuff in after daylight.
This week brought in more summer residents. I heard a Cordilleran Flycatcher for the first time – when we first moved into this house, a pair of them nested under the deck for nearly 12 years here having nested 3 year before we moved in – building a new layer on the nest they reused year after year. The last year they were here, one of them actually flew into the house, and I wondered if that would be the last year for them. It was. The ‘chir-up’ call signaled the beginning of summer for me – so when I heard it again this week, it made me smile. The same day I heard this, I also saw a swallow – but couldn’t tell if it was a Tree Swallow or Violet-Green Swallow. Both types have nested here on our property in the past successfully.
Also on that same day, a group of 6 or 7 Turkey Vultures flew low over the house, but going around to continue watching them they disappeared – so I assume they came in to roost somewhere nearby – probably no more than 1/2 mile away. We need to sit out and enjoy the evening sometime soon to see if we can find out where they’re roosting at night – since they often use the same spot each night.
The White Breasted Nuthatch babies are getting louder and louder – but still in the bird box. I thought for sure they’d fledge this last week, but the adults are feeding them on an average of about every 4 minutes or so. Yesterday I saw one of the adults start to hold an insect in the hole, then come out with it – and hold it barely inside so the babies could see it, then repeat and finally went in and fed them. The result is that the babies are now looking out the hole on occasion – so the fledging is just around the corner.
A pair of Brown Headed Cow Birds came in one morning to see if the White Breasted Nuthatch nest might be one where they could deposit an egg. They kept making an almost clucking noise as they watched intently. But upon seeing the feeding of the babies, they must have realized this they were too late to use these good parents to raise one of their young for them.
The Wild Iris started to bloom throughout the area this week. I saw the first ones mid week on a trip to town, and many quickly followed. Also, opening this week were the Showy Locoweed. The Leafy Cinque Foil is in bloom as are the small Asters, and Wall Flowers. I’m hoping we’ll have time this weekend to take a short drive to a wetter location that I keep an eye on to see what’s blooming there.
We’ve started to sneeze more – and a quick check shows that the Ponderosa Pine Trees are starting to send out their pollen. Not much yellow on things yet, but for the next few weeks I’ll have to increase my cleaning to keep it at a dull roar in the house as we don’t have air conditioning and usually need the windows open. Also the Aspen Trees did develop seeds this year – in abundance – and the cotton from them is starting to fly. The aspen leaves are deepening in color and are almost to full size and the tent worms/caterpillars are seen in branches throughout the area, though I haven’t seen any yet this year on our property.
The Lilac bush next to our home is in full bloom and I wasn’t surprised to see the first Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly as well as a few I’m not able to identify yet.
What’s happening in your neck of the woods? If you’ve made a post on your blog, please share the link in the comments. If not, I’d love to hear anything you’ve noticed.
We headed to Yellowstone last week which is why there wasn’t a Friday Phenology report. So there’s lots to talk about this week…
White Breasted Nuthatches: On the day we left last week, the baby White Breasted Nuthatches sounded stronger almost on an hourly basis. It seemed possible that we would return to find an empty nest, but they’re still there, obviously growing like crazy. The adults bring as many moths as fast as they possibly can. I need to watch to see if there are still three adults around or if it’s down to the breeding pair now. I wouldn’t be surprised if they fledge this weekend. I’ve seen a few heads poking out to look at the world beyond the box, but I still have yet to hear the beating of wings inside there.
Hummingbirds: We mainly have Broad Tailed Hummingbirds up here – and they’re increasing in numbers on almost a daily basis now.
Downy Woodpeckers: They are deep into courtship now. The morning we left, two of them were flirting, checking out various trees and giving their “Queeka Queeka Queeka” call. Mike observed another pair in another part of the county the day before while he was out doing some field work. The books I have say they’ll usually nest successfully if they can agree on a tree in which to excavate a nest. So now is the time to get out and start looking for wood chips around the base of trees.
Mountain Chickadees: A few days before we left, we saw the pairs flirting like crazy and chasing each other through the trees. While taking photos of the tiny insects on the new aspen leaves, I watched a pair scour the leaves, obviously eating these tiny things. They would land on the thin branches and pick away at the leaves, move to the end of another branch and dine almost upside down. In the past, I’ve watched them build their nest using bits of moss from the garden, but I’ve yet to see them with any nest material. We brought back a couple more bird houses from my parents – they were hoping for bluebirds, but only get tree swallows, so gave us a couple of the boxes to add to the trees around here.
Immature Bald Eagles: While driving through North Park – around the Walden area – we saw more immature bald eagles hanging out near the road. That sparked a question for us. Are we seeing all these immature baldies near the roads because there are so many successful nests in that area, or do the immature ones hang out for easier meals – looking for roadkill? We haven’t seen an adult yet this spring in that area. Maybe it’s also just a coincidence.
Redwing Blackbirds: They were thick in North Park – pairing up and groups of them harassing ravens who came too close to their territory.
Sandhill Cranes: We saw, and heard, Sandhill Cranes flying over the Upper Geyser Basin while we were in Yellowstone, and also saw a pair that seem to be nesting farther south at the Sweetwater Ice Slough in Wyoming.
The trail cam still just seems to pick up house cats for the most part – and it looks like we may have a new teenager around. But one set of shots show a very pregnant doe walking by. Last year, when we could finally see that the deer were obviously pregnant, the fawns dropped no more than a week later.
The trail cam also picked up rabbits hopping about. I’m still surprised that we haven’t seen a fox or other critter that might thin that population out a bit.
A neighbor called us to let us know he saw the BIG black bear on his deck while we were gone – we had mentioned the ‘dumpster tipper’ to him before, and told him it was a big bear, but he was still amazed at the size. This is likely the same bear who – a few years back – would wait early on trash day for people to put the trash in the dumpster and rather than climb in, he simply pushed the dumpster over and walked in. The neighbor said that while on all four feet, he was taller than his grill. He also said he saw a smaller one moving through his property.
The Showy Locoweed is starting to bloom here – and is lining the roads in places. Also, the Leafy Cinquefoil is starting to bloom, as are the small Asters – that still need to be identified. I picked up a small sketchbook that I need to get out and use to get these plants sketched out for future reference – so I hope to have sketches to share soon. It’s ever so much easier to have a sketch and possibly photos to use in the evenings to identify exactly which varieties are blooming. I hope to also get out and get a good list of “What’s Blooming” on a more regular basis this year.
The various pine trees are getting ready to pollinate and turn the decks – and everything else – yellow. We’re both allergic to it here – and are grateful for the rain that knocks it down to the ground rather quickly. One of my jobs this week is to head out and check the various types of trees here on the property to see which ones are at what stage – it’s not something I’ve tracked before, but would like to add to the yearly checklist.
What’s happening in your neck of the woods? Leave a comment and feel free to link to a blog post you might have. I love hearing what’s happening in other corners of the country/world as well.
Ok, well, yes – it is Saturday. Life just got in the way yesterday, but without further adieu, here’s the phenology seen this last week:
The White-Breasted Nuthatches are still feeding the babies and still competing with me to be the first to get to the moths in the morning. The pace of feeding has picked up considerably this week. I can hear at least one baby in there, and possibly more.
We had snow again this week – bringing wonderful moisture and greening things up at a rapid pace. The spring snows melt at a pace the ground can usually soak up, making them welcome pauses in the speeding up to summer. The power did go out for a few hours – likely a tree or branch fell on the lines somewhere. At least it’s not the days like it used to be when we moved out here in the late 1980s. The aspen leaves continue to open during warm days and pause when it’s cold. The snow hasn’t damaged them at all. In fact, the temperatures hover right around freezing or slightly above. The hummingbirds – mainly male broad tailed hummingbirds – have enjoyed the warm (not hot) fresh food I put out for them on the colder mornings. Their numbers have increased, but not dramatically yet.
We know the Clark’s Nutcrackers (AKA Camp Robbers) successfully nested this year as they brought two fledgelings around that we and the neighbors have chuckled at. The youngsters don’t yet have white rings around their eyes and are comical to say the least – acting helpless when adults are around, begging to be fed and squawking up a storm, yet managing fine on their own when the adults fly off. On Thursday, one of them sat on the deck railing opposite the window I look out while at the computer – just watching me for quite some time. A juvenile squirrel does the same when zooming along the top rail toward the feeder. In both cases, we regard each other for a bit, then get on to the business at hand.
On the warm nights, the frogs can be heard even louder than they were before, and combine with the crickets to make the most delicious white noise to drift off to sleep by. One ridge over is about the perfect distance.
Mike saw a group of four bull elk on the way to work one day this week. He said they were all in velvet, but one had brow tines already almost a foot long and the main antler stems still growing out sideways almost two feet with no sign of being ready to curve upward yet – that’s a big boy! Mike said it’s one of the largest ones he’s seen in this area excluding the herd on the Fossil Beds. One of the other three was also a nice size, with antlers going out about as wide, but his were already starting to curve upward. The other two were quite a bit smaller. Unfortunately, he didn’t have a camera with him at the time. With the deer, nobody in the neighborhood has seen any fawns yet, but all of them look pretty ragged as they shed their winter fur.
Driving up Ute Pass the other day, I noticed the lilacs and chokecherry bushes were all in bloom as high up as Cascade. That’s nice to know that they both bloom around the same time – at least this year – I’ll have to pay attention to that in coming years to see if that combination continues to happen. It’s nice to know when to start scouting for chokecherry bushes to note for harvest later on in the summer. It makes the best jelly!
The Douglas Fir trees are in bloom, sporting either magenta or chartreuse blooms. And the Ponderosa trees have the blooms starting to form – they are the ones that make my hayfever so miserable, but that’s still a few weeks away.
Have a great weekend! No formal link share this week – but do share your observations (and links to any posts you might have made) on what’s happening in your neck of the woods.
Happy Friday! Time for a Friday Phenology report for the Pikes Peak Region:
The White Breasted Nuthatches are definitely on eggs, and there are definitely three of them working on that. The largest of the three, I’m assuming an older male – he’s actually quite a bit larger than the others generally takes up his post on top of the bird box, often dozing there. The other afternoon when Mike drove in the driveway, it caught him napping and he generally acted like someone saying, “I’m awake! I’m awake…where am I? What’s going on?” I’ve also had to rush out in the morning to check what landed overnight under the shop light because he’s out there already. So far this year, not a whole lot of variety of moths, and they all look like the same variety. Some mornings there are one or two, others seven to ten. The nuthatches are also finding some moths in the bark on the trunk of a tree next to that mercury vapor light, but no matter how hard I look, I’m not seeing them. Whatever they find, though, they share with one on the nest.
The insects are increasing in number, so the amount of food consumed at the bird feeder has dropped rather significantly. I’m down to the last of the birdseed and likely will let it be the last bag as the neighbor mentioned one of her dogs reacted the other night with the “I’m going to eat you!” bark she saves for bears. Normally it’s not a big deal for them when she does this in the middle of the night (other than waking them up), but over the winter she’s learned how to open the sliding glass door with her mouth (she’s a BIG dog) and this time they were racing her to the door.
I have put up the hummingbird feeder, but have yet to hear any. I even checked eBird this morning and there hasn’t been one report in Colorado yet. It does seem like the rush to spring this year has slowed its pace a bit. The earliest my phenology records for the first hummingbird heard was last year, on April 21. Next earliest is on April 25 for both 1993 and 2003. First in 2007 was on April 27 and in 2000 the first was heard on April 28. So, we’re definitely in the first part of the window of opportunity to hear the first scouts coming in.
Last weekend we had a good wet, spring snow. On the deck we had about 7″ total, but the ground had less since it’s already warmed up so much. That snow melted through the week working it’s magic like a color wash – as it melts, it leaves behind a slightly deeper green tint to the fields. The moisture has numerous pasque flowers showing up as well as a ton of candy tuft and a couple of flowers I’ve yet to identify – one so very tiny I’m going to have to sketch as a macro shot with the camera won’t show it clearly, though I’ll give it a try. Dandelions opened up all over this week and almost every one had a fly or insect on it. Looking closer, I did find an open bloom of Kinnikinnik as well.
The deer around here are starting to lose their winter coats, not heavily, but they definitely have a rough quality to them with hair starting to stick out at odd angles. But I guess that’s part of the waking up for summer look they have. I’ve also not seen one with antlers this week, but we mainly have a small group of does that hang out here right now. There are some bucks that hang out a few roads over – I’ll have to head over there sometime this week to see if they’ve shed their antlers.
So what’s happening in your neck of the woods? Link to a blog post or leave a comment!
(This post also shared on the Rural Thursday Blog Hop)
I think they’re on eggs.
On Thursday I saw them bringing the top nest material into the bird box – bits of soft rabbit fur and feathers. On Friday, I didn’t really see any activity. Saturday, though, one stayed in the bird box while the other two stood watch and brought seeds to the one inside.
That got me looking through my photos for timing of things last year. Here was the one and only time I checked the nest to try and get an idea of the timing of the behavior I saw. Obviously they had recently hatched. That gave me a good timeline for their nesting behavior.
That was on May 15, 2011. Working backwards based on the 12 days of incubation according to Peterson’s Western Birds’ Nests, would mean the first week of April the eggs were laid. If they are laying eggs this week, which I strongly suspect they are, that’s two weeks earlier.
Also, last year I managed to catch the last of the fledgelings just coming out of the bird box for the first time on June 14, 2011. So, we’ll have a month and a half to wait to see that again.
It’s been another dry week, sunny and downright hot week this week. My husband had a meeting over in Buena Vista and said the Front Range is almost bare of snow. Pikes Peak is looking a bit thin on snow as well. And with that, Fire Season has started – thanks to the Forest Service (not at all pleased with their mismanagement, but I won’t go on a rant here, though at least one example will be coming). But if you’re in the Fort Collins area – Beaver Meadows is having one last weekend with the snow tubing hill – it may be warm, but that makes the sliding fast!
The Mountain Bluebirds are back. Saw my first one on Monday while heading to town. They really do match the color of the sky (photo taken in Yellowstone a year or two back). All of this warmth has the birds pairing up like crazy! The White-Breasted Nuthatches are feverishly working at cleaning out the bird box. They bring tufts of felted fur balls out and beat them on the side of the box (going to try to get a video of that), and other tufts, they’re jamming into cracks in the bark where they’ll come back to re-felt them. I chuckle at their housekeeping – such tidy birds. A pair of Mountain Chickadees were seen in the garden, pulling at and carrying away bits of moss which they use for the base of their nests. Other definite pairs have been seen at the feeder: Black Capped Chickadees, Pygmy Nuthatches, Cassin’s Finches and Pine Siskens.
Not only have the Red Crossbills already successfully nested, but it seems a pair of Downy Woodpeckers have as well. On Wednesday, I finally saw the juvenile Downy Woodpeckers. A neighbor mentioned seeing them at her feeder awhile back and asked if there was a woodpecker smaller than a Downy – one was about 4″ long (as compared to the 5″ suet feeder) and the other 4.5″ with the tiniest bills. They seem larger than what the neighbor described, but they’ve had a couple of weeks to continue growing. I deliberately over exposed this photo to make sure I could see the markings. I only saw one adult with them, but the other very well could have also been close.
I found the first Pasque Flower this week! It’s growing near the house and is often the first one I see – either that one or the ones that grow in the center of the driveway. The Aspen Trees have their catkins coming out and same for the Pussy Willows. The Candy Tuft is also farther along. On Tuesday, I noticed the tiny little balls in the Kinnikinnik – the start of their blooms.
It seems insanely early, but I’ll probably dig out the hummingbird feeder soon. Last year the first one seen was on April 21 with a definite increase in numbers almost a month later on May 26. In 2008 we were still getting the normal spring snows and one little scout was so cold. I heard him and while I don’t normally put the red food coloring in, for this first batch, I did so he’d be sure to see it. He did and each morning when I took it in to refill it with warm (not hot) food, he’d wait right next to where it hung and wouldn’t budge as I put it back, but after a few sips, he’d chip and cheep pretty happily.
The insects are also coming out. I’ve seen hover flies and house flies and this morning two of the White Breasted Nuthatches were scouring up and down and all around the Ponderosa Tree that sits close to the shop light where the moths end up. Not many on the shop wall, but obviously there were some tucked in the bark of the tree.
A female tree squirrel caught my attention because she kept laying completely flat against various surfaces. I was confused until she reached up for a higher branch and I could see her nipples were definitely in use. And that reminds me, I also haven’t heard or seen sign of the fox lately. Is she in her den? Timing seems about right. The chipmunks and ground squirrels are also out and active – so the house cats have shown up regularly again on the trail cam.
I’ve been finding such interesting blogs through various ‘blog hops’ – and it’s great to link arms with other bloggers out there, so starting this week, I’ll be hosting Friday Phenology – a blog hop/link sharing. Here’s how it works…
About a week ago, this feather was added to the branches on the pine tree where the White Breasted Nuthatches are fiercely defending the bird box from any possible squatters. There’s a group of Mountain Chickadees who have expressed an interest in the box, and the Black-Capped Chickadees have cautiously taken a peek. All of them are chased off – afterall, this is the third year the White Breasted Nuthatches have camped in this bird box year round. It’s theirs, and they let any intruder know it.
The other day I spent a bit of time just watching and recording the small drama of everyday life. Two White Breasted Nuthatches hung out in the trees nearby and tutted as the intruders came in. I expected them to fly in and drive off the chickadees, but they didn’t. They sat relatively still – just watching. One chickadee flew in the box and immediately flew off in a flurry. Another poked it’s head in the hole only to fly off rather startled.
Once they were gone, one of the White Breasted Nuthatches made a few loud tuts and flew to the bird box tree and landed above the box. Then the tuts turned soft and gentle – almost coos. That’s the sound they make when approaching the box to feed babies inside. It tapped the tree a few times, then landed on the bird box and gently tapped a few times and continued the cooing type tutting sounds. It approached the entrance and VERY briefly and quickly poked it’s head inside and then moved back to the tree trunk.
In a few seconds, the largest of the three White Breasted Nuthatches emerged – the one who obviously defended the home from within and was shaking off the defensive mode.
With as warm as it’s been lately, I’m expecting to see more activity happening at the bird box in preparation for this year’s brood. I’ve noticed feathers on occasion throughout the winter hanging basically in this same spot and can only conclude that this is yet another housekeeping skill of the W.B. Nuthatches. Not a bad idea to air out the bedding and let the elements clean anything to be brought back into the bird box. I imagine it won’t be long before I see them removing the main part of the bedding – and felting it back into balls by stuffing it into the cracks in the bark and working it from there before adding it back inside.
We’ve added and moved other bird boxes around to try and mimic this one that seems so popular (the others have remained empty over the years) – looking for trees that get morning and late afternoon sun, but shade during the day – and added bird boxes to them facing the same southerly direction at about the same 7′ height off the ground.
FIELD JOURNALING HOW-TO TIP
The journaling above will eventually make it in as a field journal entry – I’m working to pull together all of the information I have on the White Breasted Nuthatches and gathering those entries together into one spot. Traditionally, field notes and field journals not only keep daily entries, but species accounts – like this entry – together in one section of their journal. If your ‘field’ is more of your own personal life, it’s easy to adapt this idea by keeping a journal or section of a journal (or a separate scrapbook) for individual family members, locations you regularly visit, etc.
This last week could be summed up in one word: windy. We’ve had wind watches and warnings fairly regularly as the powerful jet stream moved over. One night when I got up to move an empty trash can so it wouldn’t blow around on the deck (we use it to haul in wood for the woodstove), I opened the door and while the wind wasn’t strong at the moment on the deck, it sounded like the ocean out there. Waves of wind were crashing onto hillsides of trees. I couldn’t see a thing, but it sounded oh so immense.
That wind has been warm at times, a chinook devouring the snowpack at a rather alarmingly quick rate. And bitterly cold at other times. We’ve had a bit of a cold snap this January, but I hope to have at least one more – and a longer one – to kill off many of the beetles that attack the trees.
Since capturing the bobcat on the trail cam, the rabbit population is decidedly less around here. I’ve seen a few bobcat tracks around the woodpile, but nothing of late, and very little on the trail cam. A fresh snowfall would be helpful in seeing how many new rabbit tracks there are.
Yesterday morning, I noticed one of the squirrels that frequents the bird feeder had a chunk of fur missing from a section near the tip of his/her tail. It also spent more time watching the area than feeding. The deer moved through and a fox was on the trail cam about the time the squirrel was watching so intently. But who knows what it was – something got a mouthful of fur.
I think the first few signs of spring are beginning to show in the birds at the feeder.
Sign #1: Evening Grosbeaks
A post on one of the birding email lists I follow over at Birding on the Net mentioned seeing a flock of Evening Grosbeaks, but most of them were males. I started thinking about this because I’ve noticed mostly males at our feeders as well. I think it’s still a bit early for nesting for them, but not by much – they nested in February or March in a tree on a neighbor’s property last year. But maybe they are on nests. I’ll have to pay closer attention when they are here at the feeder and see if I can find the females. And watch for any signs they might be building nests.
Sign #2: Pine Siskens
We now see Pine Siskens at the feeders almost daily. Usually they’re a fairly chatty group – and are the only ones the grosbeaks will tolerate to share the feeder with them – I suspect not because they want to, but because the Pine Siskens stand their ground unlike the nuthatches and even Stellers Jays who back down to the grosbeaks almost immediately. Yesterday, though, was the first time I heard their ‘up the scale’ trilling song this year. Common in the summer, I don’t recall hearing it at all during this winter since they’ve come back. But the past week – full of wind as it was – had some very warm days that might have them practicing their summer song.
Sign #3: The Red Breasted Nuthatch
Now it’s the Red-breasted Nuthatches. He has a possible mate that showed up on Sunday. I had woken from a nap and was watching the birds when I could have sworn I saw two at once. Further observing showed that yes, there’s a female here now – she wears a slightly lighter color than the male that arrived last November. She would come to the feeder, grab a seed, and start to dash off when he’d notice she’d moved to the feeder. Rather than continuing to head to the feeder, he followed her. He also would grab a seed and rather than heading to the nearest tree to eat it as has been the norm, he flew out of sight with it – perhaps to woo the newcomer on the block?
Sign #4: The White Breasted Nuthatch
Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time in the afternoon watching one start a bit of spring cleaning. Mouthful by mouthful, it would take mainly grass and fly to a nearby tree (or farther up the Ponderosa the bird box sits on) and stuff what it could into the cracks in the bark – either on the trunk or on the branches. Occasionally, it seemed to stuff it between the pine needles as well. But I never saw any fur balls or big tufts of fur come out.
This is the third year I’ve watched this. Last year, they cleaned out the entire box – I opened it to find a neat row of bits of pine bark around the bottom of the box, the rest looked like it had been swept clean. After that came the grass and other dried foliage and occasional bits of fur. On top of that came the felted fur balls. Last year, I realized they were actually felting bits of fur they found into balls by stuffing it into the cracks on the trees and pulling it out and stuffing it back in repeatedly. When it was ‘right’ (whatever size or density, I’m not fully sure), into the nest it would go. On the very top of the nest when I checked it right before the eggs were laid, was a pile of rabbit fur and feathers of all kinds. We’ll see how things progress this year.
The other day I posted about checking on the White-Breasted Nuthatch nest after watching them deliberately felt hair and other bits of material into small balls. I’ve watched them for two years doing this – likely the same pair. When emptying out the old nest(s) in the box, they save bits they like by storing them in the bark of a couple of trees. I understood that. But then I’d watch them take the bits saved from the bark, and then stuff them back into the same spot or another one. I watched them add in a bit more to the saved bits and take it out and stuff it back in. Then I saw them with small balls of fur – and eventually I connected the two. By restuffing the hair, they essentially felt the hair together into balls. You can see the beginnings of this ball making process in this photo.
I finally registered this batch of photos with the copyright office, so can now share what I saw when I lifted the lid on the bird box. There, on the left, is one of the balls of fur I made by grabbing a wad of fur off of Taylor, our Samoyed who is blowing coat right now, and rubbing it together between my hands. I added this and some loose fur between the bird box and the tree. They took the ball of fur immediately upon discovery, but dropped the loose fur to the ground.
You can also see some rabbit fur in there loose – maybe the Sammy fur is too long? I didn’t bring the mirror with me, but will do so the next time I check the nest using Nest Watch‘s Code of Conduct. The pocket in the middle of the box seemed quite deep, in fact, deeper than I could see in.
Today should be warmer, so maybe this afternoon I’ll get a chance to check.