Monday, May 02, 2016

Caught in the act

Wood thrush

My birding-and-botanizing buddy came out to keep me company during the latest stage in Waiting for the Phone Man, and even though we had to stay close to the house in case the service technician showed up, we found plenty to wonder over: wood ducks flying above the creek, a Louisiana waterthrush singing its heart out along the bank, yellow warblers singing invisibly in the trees, a rose-breasted grosbeak in the tulip poplar just overhead. We traced the bell-like call of a wood thrush in the back yard for quite a while before catching a fleeting glimpse of the elusive bird, and we thought we'd hit the jackpot. 

Then we saw the blue-gray gnatcatcher.

Well, we heard it first, a whispery little whistle easily overlooked, but it took a while to find the tiny puff of gray and white on a tree branch at the edge of the lower meadow. A week from now that tree will have thoroughly leafed out, but today it was bare enough to allow easy observation of a pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers building a nest. 

Blue-gray gnatcatcher on the nest
It doesn't look like a nest--just a bulge on a branch with some stuff stuck to it. But we watched as the two birds flew up carrying bits of spiderweb and lichen in their beaks and glued it down around the nest's exterior, and we even observed courting behavior when one bird would offer the other a bit of grub.

I've memorized the spot and noted the best place to stand to watch the nest so I acn locate it again and follow their progress. I don't know if that tree is sturdy enough to climb, so maybe a ladder would help--or a periscope. Anyone have a surplus periscope gathering dust in the attic? 

People ask me sometime why I choose to live so far out in the boonies, and today I have an answer: where else can you observe such wonders just outside the door? 


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