Big news in Portland real estate, where rental vacancies are at an all-time low, and landlords can comfortably soak their tenants without compromising their ethics at all, assuming they’re assholes. So it should have been no surprise that the nesting box, the one right outside my writing room window that has been occupied every spring by Marge and Studley Windowson, our chickadees, has fallen victim to the hot market. A pair of nuthatches sensed an opportunity and snapped it up before Marge and Studley ever got their tiny little identical butts in gear. There’s nothing we can do about it. We’re hoping the Windowsons have been able to locate something affordable on the edge of town.

Meanwhile the nuthatches seemed to be dinking around about actually moving in. I decided to hang up some nesting material right nearby. My cat Tater helpfully refused to shed a single strand of fur. I went next door and borrowed a cup of Golden Retriever. Birds loved it, except for the nuthatches.

Holding single strand of golden retriever

I read up. The box was the right size, but nuthatches “rarely” use them. Well, poo. Had they just been toying with us, and holding up the paperwork on the house just long enough that Marge and Studley had to give up? Would we have an empty box through the nesting season?

Finally they began to move in some fluff. It looks like a going concern now, plus we have the benefit of feeling special, since they so rarely go for nesting boxes. I’m looking forward to watching this, not least because I can tell these guys apart. I don’t know if I’m looking at this one, or the other one, but I’m pretty sure they’re not the same.

Which just goes to show how extremely bad I am at really noticing things. I spend a lot of time noticing, but not to the point where I could give you any particulars.

Male, primping

Example. This week Dave and I went on a hike. A few hours in, an old man came by us going the  other direction and we all said Hi. One minute later another old man came by and asked us if we’d seen a woman just ahead of him on the trail. I hesitated. I didn’t want to say an old man had just passed by, in case that was the woman he was talking about. Seemed rude. He clarified that “she is wearing a pink jacket.” Now. I should have remembered if the old man was wearing a pink jacket, shouldn’t I? But at that point I couldn’t swear that the person we just saw was a man or a woman or was wearing pink or not.

Birds, same way. I’m pretty sure our nuthatches are different, but if you asked me, I’d say one looked sort of diffident, and the other one sort of saucy. These are not field marks. Find three field marks, I can hear my friend Bill say, so let’s see: one of them is diffident and pensive with a thousand-mile stare. The other one is saucy, restless, and prone to hyperbole.

I looked them up. According to the guides, the male has a black crown and tends to be somewhat darker in the breast, and the female has a dark gray crown. Well, sure. When you put it that way. I can see it now.

But if one of them had a pink jacket on, I can’t recall.

Here’s a bonus video of the nuthatches protecting their territory. Hold onto your heart; and yes, I promise the nuthatch is okay in the end!