Leaves are gone, so too the birds that hatched here. An odd little nest, hung not straight up and down but inclined on an angle, its backside to the west wind.
Grass blades, a few plant stems, some thistle down, strands of hair and a single piece of blue baling twine for colour — home tweet home.
Cast off in sudden flight
Amid the push of wings
And rush of air
A single feather
Upon the pond
CBTs are aptly named. Their bills are definitely curved and they really do thrash about on the ground
They flip over small rocks, scatter leaf litter, toss sticks out of the way, even pound their bills into the dirt like jack hammers — all in search of food. Insects, spiders, seeds and fruits are fair game and few escape the sharp eyes and even sharper beaks.
One morning early this spring I heard the most beautiful music in a thick patch of desert brush. I discovered the sweet melody coming from a curve-billed thrasher. Quite at odds with the feeding frenzies I’ve witnessed. 🙂
Curve-billed thrasher Toxostoma curvirostre
Saguaro Carnegiea gigantea
Ironwood Olneya tesota
Okay, say that title 5 times without tripping over your tongue.
Sapsuckers do, indeed, suck sap. It’s their main food source, though they also dine on insects, especially ones attracted to sap.
Sap wells are the holes that yellow-bellied sapsuckers drill into live trees. Once you’ve seen sap wells, you can’t mistake the lines of organized holes for anything else.
In the spring sapsuckers drill deep round holes (into the tree’s xylem for the botanically inclined) to catch the sap rising from the roots up to the branches.
Later, after the tree has leafed out, they drill shallow, rectangular holes (into the phloem) to catch the sap being sent down the tree to be stored in the roots.
Yellow-bellied sapsuckers are frequent visitors to our yard. For years they have dined on the sap from lilac, saskatoon and mountain ash.
Even from a distance it’s possible to spot a sap-stained tree trunk.
The lilac still blooms each year, despite the havoc heaped on some of its trunks.
The saskatoon bush has also seen lots of sapsucker activity.
Recent holes on the mountain ash (the yellowy orange ones) along with the work of years past.
This year, for the first time, I caught a sapsucker family feeding on a large aspen.
This year’s young
Male, with red head and red throat. Females lack the red throat patch.
The long vertical white wing bar is a distinguishing feature of yellow-bellied sapsuckers
Search YouTube if you’d like to see these suckers in action. 🙂
Yellow-bellied sapsucker Sphyrapicus varius
Aspen Populus tremuloides
The other morning I looked out the kitchen window and spotted a great grey owl sitting in the garden. A not uncommon sight but always a rush.
At first glance, he looks huge. However, thick feathered layers hide a deceptively small body weighing only about a kilo — not much more than a couple of pounds of butter.
I watch him as he hunts from his perch. No sound escapes him. Specialized feathers on the broad circular facial disc catch and focus each incoming sound. A raven overhead. A frog in the grass. Water running in the sink.
Despite their skill, they go hungry on occasion. One summer the rain never stopped. Everything was wet and soggy and miserable. A young, bedraggled grey appeared on our rail fence. To our utter amazement he flew down into the garden to eat worms.
Great Grey Owl
Great Grey Owl
Great Grey Owl
While most owls are nocturnal, the great grey prefers hunting at dawn and dusk, its tiny eyes adapted to daylight. On overcast days you might see them any time.
The great grey has a higher tolerance for humans than many wild animals, sometimes to its detriment. Some people use them for target practice, leaving a broken body in the ditch. Just because they can.
Great grey owl Strix nebulosa