Watching a bird incubate is not very exciting.
Lady Baltimore spends most of her time in the nest. So, I spend most of mine watching her sit. Or rather, watching her tail, which is mostly all that I see. By my calculations, it’s about time for her babies to start hatching, one per day for four or five days. And a cowbird, too, if the interloper I caught scoping out the nest managed to lay an egg inside.
So, I’m watching that unexciting nest closely, looking for any movement that might suggest hatchlings within.
Continue reading Watching and Wondering
The Baltimore Oriole poked and pulled on her growing web of thread.
I was fascinated by her nest-building technique. Her work seemed somewhat random, yet over just a few days, the tangled thread evolved from loose and flat to a tightly woven, multi-layered pouch. Her construction project took about eleven days to complete. I marveled at how a bird’s instinct could guide such intricate weaving.
But Lady Baltimore’s work was not without drama.
Continue reading Hanging by a Thread
The male Baltimore Oriole hopped onto the nest-in-process.
I was watching the early days of oriole nest construction. The male stopped by periodically, but not to weave, because the female does all the work. He would hop in, poke his beak at a few strings, and hop out. Cornell’s Birds of the World explains that when the male visits the nest, it’s usually to inspect his mate’s handiwork. And based on what I saw, he often messed it up, yanking out stitches as he fumbled in the tangled web of string.
But one day—the third day of construction—I watched in horror as the male, dubbed Lord Baltimore, didn’t just tug on the stringy nest material.
He got himself stuck.
Continue reading In a Terrible Tangle
Curious, I thought.
A female grosbeak went inside a Baltimore Oriole nest. At least, that’s what I thought I saw. But after I posted a video on Facebook and Twitter, several friends corrected my error. The interloper was a Brown-headed Cowbird.
And that’s not good news for the orioles.
Continue reading High Crimes
Image Credits: Kurt Bauschardt.
Baltimore Orioles are building a nest outside my window.
Thinking they deserve better than he, she, or it, I asked Facebook friends for names. I reminded everyone that five years ago, we named some nesting Pileated Woodpeckers Lucy and Ricky, inspired by their blazing red crests. For my new bird neighbors, friends suggested Fred and Wilma, Bogey and Bacall, Cal and Ripken, and Earl and Weaver, among others. But my favorite names were (sorry, baseball fans) Lord and Lady. I’m sure Cecilius Calvert and Anne Arundel, the Second Lord Baltimore and his Lady, wouldn’t mind.
Continue reading Milady Makes a Nest
The persistent pounding caught my eye.
A woodpecker appeared to be pecking for prey. Red-bellied woodpeckers have a varied diet. Cornell’s Birds of the World says their main fare consists of fruits, nuts, insects, lizards, tree frogs, and the eggs and nestlings of small birds. But a woodpecker could take those foods in a single snatch. It seemed odd that the bird was taking so long to snag his prey.
Looking at my camera’s tiny screen, I couldn’t identify the woodpecker’s quarry. The bird flew off after some two minutes of work, and I stopped filming. I didn’t give him another thought. That is, until later when I downloaded the video.
My full-screen view revealed a horrifyingly fascinating sight.
Continue reading A Red-bellied Predator
Tufted Titmice are fearless little critters.
I’ve seen them squabble with much larger birds. They don’t hesitate to steal leaves from occupied squirrel dens. Yesterday, I watched one Tufted Titmouse gather nest material. Her method doubled my respect for these birds’ pluck.
People sometimes toss hair outside, hoping birds will use it in their nests. Some birds forage fur from roadkill. But the Tufted Titmouse has another source for nest material. She harvests hair from sleeping animals. Dogs, squirrels, and raccoons are common targets.
Yesterday, I saw this seemingly reckless bird behavior with my own eyes.
Continue reading One Plucky Bird
Five years ago, Pileated Woodpeckers friended me.
Okay… strictly speaking, it’s been a one-way friendship: Me admiring some magnificent birds.
It began in April 2015. I was home every day, all day, recovering from surgery. I felt confined, not unlike today’s stay-put virus isolation. My sanity-saver was our expanse of sliding glass doors. They overlook a steep, wooded bluff that brings some trees’ crowns near eye-level, just yards away.
When I first noticed two woodpeckers pounding persistently, I assumed they were foraging. The tree they were pecking wore fungus on its trunk. There had to be insects under the bark.
A week later, I realized my error.
Continue reading An Avian Friendversary
I’m witnessing larceny… in the treetops.
It’s happening right now, just outside my window. We have many snags—dead and declining trees—that are riddled with cavities. Squirrels bunk inside for winter warmth, and in spring, they fill their dens with kits.
Since mid-February, I’ve watched three squirrels carry leaves into cavities, presumably for insulation. Recently, they’ve stepped up the pace, which may mean they’ve had their litters. Each squirrel makes five or six daily leaf runs—or at least, those are the ones I notice.
And then, there’s the thief.
Continue reading Stop, Thief!
You’ve probably seen birds fluff their feathers in winter.
The fluffy feathers form little puff pockets of air warmed by the birds’ bodies. But… have you ever seen a bird with feathered feet?
In the past few weeks, I’ve watched geese stand immobile for thirty minutes or more on ice and in shallow, frigid water. They seem unconcerned about freezing their feet. Turkey vultures poop on their feet to cool them off in summer. Is it possible, I wondered, that the geese are dropping little toe warmers, and I never noticed?
I reviewed hours of video featuring geese on ice. Nope. Nary a plop.
Continue reading Fluffy Feathers and Frigid Feet