Saturday, January 12, 2008

Battle of the Suet

All Photographs: D. Browne

It warmed up today. And still not a bird in the yard. I had housebound work to do therefore I wasn't able to track hawks. At 3:30 I'd completely had it with another birdless day. So I called Marian, the country hawk watching driver, and asked to come over to her place and check out the birds. She said fine, "Come on over! But you'd better hurry it will be dark soon." I grabbed my coat and fled the house.

And who was first up on the suet? A beautiful Red-bellied Woodpecker.

She was calling as she ate, then looked over and gave me a look at her beautiful face.

BAM! Red-belly is gone. White-breasted Nuthatch is now in control of the suet and dare I say it with a rather smug look on his face.

BAM! That look was wiped right off Nuthatch's face by Mrs. Downy. She gave me a look and must have decided I was safe enough.

She takes a bite.

And while chewing, she pointedly looks left. Though come to think of it, Woodpecker looks do tend to give the impression of pointedness.

Now she looks at me, yes, pointedly. See?

Once again, she looks at whatever the focus is left.

BAM! It's Mr. Downy. Look at how solid and firm his feet are upon landing while his body is still moving with the impact.

Does he take a bite right off? No, he does not. There is a Battle of the Suet going on and one must be vigilant. He peers first around the holder, snags a quick bite and looks again.

Then goes for another bite.

Then once again he looks to right. There is definitely somebody over there.

He starts for a third bite...

AND BAM! Guess who? White-breasted Nuthatch is back. But not for long...

BAM! Mrs. Downy is here for revenge and gets a quickie snack before suddenly all the birds take to the air and head for cover.
And this is where they go. Though Marian lives on a main street, behind her house the city has a piece of property where run-off water collects in a small pond, most likely a kettle. An "untended" wood surrounds the tiny body of water and the wildlife population far exceeds what one might expect for such a small piece of land. It isn't only the small body of water, part of the reason is the "untended" part. Dead trees are left to stand or fall naturally. It is a spot rampant with cavities for nesting and dead fall for dens. I've seen Red Fox loping across the fire house parking lot heading for this spot.
The Black-capped Chickadees which had been working the feeders while the bigger birds trounced each other over the suet, now true to their cheeky natures, come for their share. Seemingly ignoring whatever caused the other birds to disperse.
Another waits in line.
Then decides a sunflower seed will do very nicely.
And another smaller bird, the Red-breasted Nuthatch gets a share.
A third species of small bird, a Dark-eyed Junco, sees his chance and comes out of the brush to ground feed under the seed feeder.
Chickadee goes for another seed, then vacates the spot...
and eats it in a less exposed perch in a bush. Then a squirrel begins to whine in the neighbor's yard.

And a small flock of little birds head for the treetops. A raptor is hunting near by and it's time to find refuges for the night.
Donegal Browne

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