It’s probably spring by now. Birds are picking fights with each other, and some of them are–why, I believe they are wrestling. Dave built a chickadee house and situated it a foot away from my window where I do all my writing in order to facilitate the procrastination process. I was just up there today and no sooner had despaired of seeing our chickadee pair this year than they showed up. Same couple, too. One of them has that high, squeaky voice, and the other has that higher, squeakier voice. Each one took turns checking out the house, and then they sat on a nearby branch and got into a heated exchange, and I didn’t see anyone hauling in any furniture. I think one of them thinks it’s just fine and the other one is saying it’s too ratty-tatty and couldn’t they ever get anything nice for a change. The first one sharpened his or her beak on a branch and the seeds in the suet-cake trembled.
“I wonder if we should have cleaned out that nest box again,” I said to Dave. Oh jeez, there’s that look.
“I asked you if I should clean out the nest box three weeks ago and you said [higher, squeakier voice] ‘oh no, not now, it’s too close to nesting season, and maybe they’ll be put off by your scent or something.'”
I would very much like to refute this, without doing damage to the truth, but I can’t. I did just say that.
“And you always tell me I don’t even have a scent.”
Also true. The man can spend the day shoveling rocks in the sun and not emit a molecule of odor. It’s peculiar. I think he’s perfected flatulence just so people know he’s been around.
“Besides, there’s no reason you should ever have to wonder about such things. Don’t you know, like, a million birders?”
I do. Literally scores of them. They’re good people. I got to know their queen, Julie Zickefoose, through this here blog, and she alerted the whole flock. And then I also know Bill Thompson III, who is so accomplished he can spot invisible birds that don’t even exist–I’ve seen him do it. And I know Susan Kailholz-Williams, who wears hawks and owls like wrist corsages. For a living. I know Jeff Gordon, the president of the American Excuse-Me Birding Association, and can tell you his winter range and what his legs look like. All of them have blogs. The birder blogs differ from mine mainly in the density of facts.
But that doesn’t mean I want to pester them every time I need to know something bird-related. No one wants to get the same questions over and over again. When I was a letter carrier, that happened all the time. “Hey, we can’t really call you the mail-MAN, can we?” “Hey, Uncle Sam, working hard or hardly working?” “Hey, dipshit, where the hell is my check?”
It gets old.
|Update: Furniture going in.|
Teachers always like to say “there is no such thing as a stupid question,” but they don’t really mean it. And if I got started asking my friends questions, it would never stop. Chickadees can’t really tell each other apart, can they? They only figure out which one is the boy and which one is the girl when the egg falls out, right? Is there any reason I can’t put up about twelve birdhouses here outside my window a yard apart, or will the birds start writing nasty letters to the editor about infill? Why do scrub jays go SKREE SKREE SKREE SKREE all the ding-dang day long when everybody heard them just fine the first time? That is wrestling they’re doing, isn’t it? What wine goes good with scrub jay? What has yellow legs, purple wing bars, an orange eyebrow, an argyle vest, a slant-six and tailfins? What do you mean I must be mistaken?
What good are you?
The only birds I ever watched seriously were red-headed double breasted bed thrashers. but I am glad other people watch them. I haven't heard if my sister actually has worn the Nest in Peace T-shirt yet but she did get it and said she liked it.
Me, I am an amateur twitcher (in many ways) but get immense pleasure from watching them. Last spring we had a young and very noisy galah frequenting the yard. And whinging. And whining. And squarking. And starting all over again. I was so so happy when what I assume was a parent reached over and bopped it (hard) on the head with its beak. Silence. Bliss.
I'm exactly like Bill Thompson III, only different. I DON'T see birds which actually ARE there.
Let's all sing like the birdies do, tweet, tweet, tweet,tweet, tweet. Or something like that.
I thank you, and the birdies thank you.
If it's a slant-six, it's gotta be a Chrysler-made bird. Hopefully from after Lee Iacocca took over.
BTW – thank you for introducing me (and all of us, really) to Julie Z. I've been since about a day after I started reading you.reading her
So what is the very perky LBB (little brown bird)that is about the size of my thumb, is built like a checkmark, and runs up and down the appletree as if gravity were not really a law – more like a guideline?
We put up a bluebird box, but a chickadee couple took it over. The two pairs spent a weekend playing Chicken over the box-one attempting to fly into it, the other chasing him off just as he veered away. Then they switched places. Ultimately, the chickadees won. I don't know how since I gave up watching after only a few hours. The babies are hatched and making lots of cute noises. The parents are probably worn out from constant feeding.
"I think he's perfected flatulence just so people know he's been around."
I know a few people like that. Well, it's hard to pick them out of a crowded room but I know they exist.
I LOVE that picture of Bill!
We've had so much rain that the diversion ditch beside my house has become a little brown bird riviera. I'm glad they have something to amuse them since I'm not allowed to feed them on account of the bears in my neighborhood.
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Never mind the chickadee nest. You want a real time-killer, procrastination-enabling bird-related thing….just type "eagle cam" into your search engine. The click on one of the links. There you go, directly into the nest of a pair of bald eagles, sometimes face-to-face with one of them, watching them bring juicy fish to the chicks to feed them; watching the chicks grow and wobble around in the nest and OMG is that one going to fall over the edge??!! and other really cool stuff like that. You'll never work again.
Honey, I am no procrastination slouch. I have no fewer than two eagle-cams bookmarked. I'm amazed I ever get around to wiping.
Shieldmaiden, a sad yet true window into my brain: I was thinking you weren't supposed to feed the birds because it would be easier for the bears to snatch 'em. Took me a while to realize the problem was you would be attracting the bears. I lack lucidity sometimes.
Roxie, does your LBB go "beep beep beep?"
My wife is an ardent birder, she set up feeders outside our family room and a hummingbird feeder outside the kitchen window. She gets SO EXCITED watching the birds come to feed and tells me all about what kind they are in excruciating detail.
I asked her how does she know it's not just the same 12 or 15 birds coming back for seconds? Silence… she apparently can't hear me when she is looking through binoculars.
Oh Murr….you're three shades of hilarious.
I wish I had had a hawk as a corsage when I went to prom. Would have kept my gross date at a farther distance. He smelled like Brut.
I'm torn between hoping my momma hummingbird comes back or tearing down her nest. She built it directly outside my front door so once the babies hatch she dive bombs anyone going in or out. This is a good deterent for sales people but not so good for my older friends.
If you have lots of birders on your Life List, you'll eventually have lots of birds, too, whether you want to or not. Believe me, we *love* to share our sightings! 🙂
Yeah, these little guys say "beep,beep,beep" real fast. Not, "Mmmeep,meeep!" like the roadrunner. Road runners are bigger than my thumb.
Nuthatches! Am I right, birder peeps? Am I right?
Murr, your commenters haven't answered any of your smart italicized questions. I wanted to help with that last ID, but I couldn't even find it in A FIELD GUIDE TO LITTLE-KNOWN & SELDOM-SEEN BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA. It has some pretty obscure feather-fliers, too, like the rest of the yellowlegs, so finally we have a picture of all of them: the greatest, greater, middle, slightly lesser, lesser, least , and very least yellowlegs, not to leave out the four-toed snorkel bill and the warbling cormorant, which I would really like to see and, especially, hear, but maybe not by my writing window.
Since our move to Nebraska, we have become bird watchers. Where we live now we have such a variety of them. Just yesterday we saw our first nuthatch. I never knew it would be such a treat to see all these birds. Congrats on your new tenants in your blue birdhouse. Did you set up a live cam inside?
My parents were birders. It was deemed perfectly natural to have several pairs of binoculars on the dinner table and many a meal was disrupted by one or the other leaping to their feet, sending plates flying, screeching that there was a Feeble-minded Whatnot at the feeder.
I escaped it for years but lately I've found myself standing watching the bird life around our place – with binoculars. I can accurately identify about ten birds. And could die a happy woman if I ever held an owl on my wrist. I think I'm doomed, Murr.
The only birds I watch are crows, because they are sneaky devils and will carry off the patio furniture if I don't keep an eye on them.
I like the picture of Susan with the owl. Owls are quite possibly the coolest creatures on the planet.
what a wonderful post – so glad you found me and now I've found you! I love watching birds and your description of the squabbling couple at the house is a true one. I know it.
A few years ago I had a parula who would not stop attacking my windows thinking there was another male inside. wow he was intense.
Heck, I've been wondering if the other ANIMALS understand the bird chatter. After all, some of it must mean SOMETHING.
@ Roxie: sounds like you've got some sort of little wren (house wren or winter wren) based on your "checkmark" comment; or maybe a brown creeper based on your size/gravity description.
@ Murr: nuthatch was a great guess since they are gravity-defying & do kinda say beep-beep-beep, but I'd say they're more blue-gray than brown…and not very checkmark-y. 😉
p.s.: very funny, as always, Murr. i love your posts and continually annoy my husband by insisting on reading them out loud to him.
Thanks! Happy to be of assistance in husband-annoying. Yeah, I was and still am baffled by the check-mark. Oh. I see. Silhouette. Thanks Carrie, I was afraid no one with any real knowledge was going to step up.
And look at Jan, throwing around that "parula" word like it was nothing.
I love the chickadees here, but the goldfinches that come down from the mountains during winter are even more fun to watch.
A friend just pointed out your blog to me. Our chickadees are of the chestnut-backed variety, and about a week ago I saw a Zone-tailed hawk swoop across my yard, onto my porch awning, walked around up there a bit and then flew back out.
And then I looked up Zone-tailed hawks. They've apparently only been seen in northern California in the last ten years or so, and there it was, all 51" across of it, in my little city yard–it helps that I'm a half mile from San Francisco Bay, I guess.
(And I have solar panels, too. Too funny.)
Fun post, Murr…I believe the bird you refer to in the last paragraph is the Great Lady GaGa Gnatcatcher…
I had a close encounter with a chickadee on Good Friday: http://writerwoman61.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/easter-elmo-and-elise-come-to-hammond-river/
Happy belated Easter!
Some people have chickens? Well, we've got buzzard hawks (called "chimangos" here). Once they get used to you they hang around the yard just like chickens. Of course, we've also got six dogs so they mostly stay up on limbs out of reach (the hawks, not the dogs). But they have all the leisure time in the world and when they have nothing else to do, they love to swoop down, steal a beakful of the dogs' balanced feed and then zip back up onto a beech limb, just out of reach, leaving the dogs standing on their hind legs below barking. If I understand canine correctly, the dogs are saying, "If you had any cojones, you'd come down here and fight like a man!" To which the hawks cackle at the tops of their lungs.
Some other day I'll tell you about the giant Patagonian wooodpeckers, that look just like Woody! Oh, and the great horned owls that I sometimes have to shush at night so I can sleep.
Great blog, as always, Murr.
Brown-headed nuthatches do look like both check marks and LBB's from a slight distance, IMHO. Wrens will invert, but not so readily, eagerly, or fluidly as the nuthatches, I think. So your guess was probably not bad, Murr. And, yep, I'd clean that nest out. Our Carolina Chickadees sometimes have a second brood, even after having the first nest cleaned out. Bluebirds seem to prefer that treatment, too.
I read every comment, waiting for one of the birding greats to respond. Hey, it's a busy time of year for those guys. So you wound up with input from a rank amateur. Please don't tell the big guys; I hate a birder smackdown.
I feel that i should be able to claim birds as a dependent on my income tax as so much of my "disccretionary spending" each winter goes to the birds.
If I can claim a phantom writing business, you should be able to claim real birds.