Tuesday, July 13, 2010

NUTHATCH RICH

I am rich with nuthatches!
Flush! Loaded! Wealthy! A veritable nuthatch Midas!
While others may tout their net worth in terms of dollars in the bank, landholdings and real estate, or blue-chip investment portfolios, I measure my personal value by the things I treasure…and I absolutely delight in this summer's abundance of nuthatches.
An hour ago I was sitting on the deck sipping a banana-orange smoothie and idly watching the nearby river hurrying along. A series of thunderstorms passed through my corner of Buckeyeland night-before-last. It was cloudy all morning, remains overcast, and additional rain is expected this afternoon. The stream is up and slightly discolored. But at least we're now in the low-70s instead of the sweltering 90s, though the humidity remains high. Everywhere you look the vegetation is vibrant green and lush to the point of appearing jungly; I'm thinking of buying a machete for yard work.
A half-dozen feet from my rocking chair, hanging from a limb of the big box elder near the front door, is a wire feeder I try and keep filled with black oil sunflower seeds. I say try because—though the mesh cylinder holds more than a gallon of seeds at a time—the aforementioned bumper crop of nuthatches have apparently made it their collective life's work to empty said feeder at a pace that is nothing less than astonishing when you consider their one-seed-at-a-time handicap. Aided and abetted by chickadees, titmice, and the occasional goldfinch, cardinal, and downy woodpecker, the nuthatches lead the daily charge on the seeds, to the point where I swear I can watch the level in the feeder being reduced by the hour. I have to refill the cylinder every other morning.
That isn't a complaint, by the way. I'll happily haul in 50-pound bags of sunflower seeds for the pleasure of being entertained by the deckside antics of all those furred and feathered creatures who drop by to dine—from chipmunks to nuthatches. Especially nuthatches! Which are coming in droves this year.
How may nuthatches does it take to constitute a drove? Well, in my book, any number above, say, three on the same feeder at the same time is getting to be a bit on the crowded side; four on that feeder or a nearby limb is a bunch; five a throng; and six a multitude. I counted seven earlier today—either on the feeder or within a yard or two of it, on a branch or the box elder's trunk—which I claim can rightly be termed a drove. In fact, there might have been several additional birds clambering about, but as anyone who's ever tried counting these herky-jerky dynamos can attest, seven is about the maximum achievable count limit for anyone not wishing to risk onsetting a temporary case of Tourette's syndrome, or who failed to lace their smoothie with a heavy dose of vodka.
If you don't agree, next time you try counting 'em!
Anyway…I was sitting comfortably on my deck watching this veritable nuthatch horde busy itself depleting my stores of sunflower seeds, feeling much the same proprietary pleasure as a Texas cattle baron might feel kicked back on his ranch house veranda, while vast herds of longhorns grazed contentedly over acres of rolling grassland prairie. And as I watched those dapper nuthatches—in formal dress of black and gray and white—the nuthatches just as unabashedly watched me.
That's one of the reason's I like nuthatches—they're not afraid to make eye contact. In fact, they make a point of giving you a good honest and open look with their sharp black eyes before partaking of your handout. And they're not shy about coming close, either, or bothered in the least if you stare back. I like that in a bird; it shows integrity and trust. Nuthatches are birds of good character.
They're also real characters—stuttering along on the overhead branches, right-side-up, upside-down, ambling head-first down the trunk of the tree. Gravity doesn't have much say when it comes to nuthatch maneuverings. Plus they're noisy—keeping up a steady stream of low nasal yammering—sounds which always makes me amusedly wonder whether they're constantly suffering from head colds, or else might have somehow picked up a Brooklyn accent. The voice certainly fits the stocky little birds.
According to most of the literature regarding white-breasted nuthatches which I've read recently, my flock of nuthatches are unusually gregarious. Oh, they have their minor squabbles—but there's plenty to go around and room for all at the table. So no one goes away hungry and all are welcome.
As a nuthatch tycoon, it's the least I can do.
———————

20 comments:

Tramp said...

Oh, to watch for a while what you truly treasure!
A wonderful sunset here this evening on our walk...Tramp & Lady

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tramp…

A small and simple pleasure…yet so delightful. Riches await us all in the everyday.

I trust you and Lady enjoyed your sunset.

Wanda..... said...

Sometimes the Nuthatches and I almost collide when I'm feeling the feeders with sunflower seeds. Years ago my middle granddaughter Katie, whose 17 now, used to identify them as the 'ugly little upside down bird with no neck', I believe she said it just to tease me! Her nickname for a while then became Little Nuthatch!

Bernie said...

Well I had told you that gloaming was a new word to me and since then my sister used it and informs me I have heard it several times (I honestly don't remember/, but then I watched a movie starring Glen Close last night and it was called "The Gloaming"....couldn't believe it, a word I hadn't thought I heard came into my life 3 times in a few days so I hesitate to say I don't know the word Nuthatch ...... but I will say say it does sound relaxing and wonderful and I love how you appreciate all things Nature provides you......:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

You're right—nuthatches are pretty casual when it comes to someone they know being around "their" feeders, especially during the winter. Chickadees, too, of course. They'll allow me to within 5 or 6 feet most of the time.

I've never thought nuthatches were ugly, but I think they could be accurately described as fireplugs with feathers. And hey, you did the right thing, turning the tables on the granddaughter with the name. She'll remember that all her life. Ha! Love it.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

See, told you gloaming was an old word. And BTW, you've just encountered that cosmic law that says whenever you, as an adult, learn a brand new word which everyone else knows and can't believe you don't—you'll promptly hear it several times in the next few days and begin to wonder how you could have missed a word so common for so long. Happens to all of us.

Can't believe you never heard the word nuthatch either, but never fear—it's quite common, both bird and word, and you'll probably hear it a dozen times before July ends.

Wow! Two new words in a week! I say Riverdaze is educational! Never know what turns up on the riverbank, huh? :-)

The Weaver of Grass said...

Being rich with nuthatches is just about the best riches I can think of Jim. Lovely post, lovely photograph and lovely thought.

Jayne said...

And a very wealthy man you are! I love the Nuthatches too, though I have a plethora of the Brown-headed variety which sound exactly like the squeaker in a dog toy when they chatter.

sallysmom said...

We have brown headed nuthatches and they sound like one of those squeaky toys that you get for a baby to play with. They also don't mind coming to the feeder pole and watch while I am trying to pour seed in.

George said...

You are a wealthy man, indeed, Grizz, not only because of the droves of nuthatches that frequent your property, but also because you understand the truth nature of wealth, or shall I say the true wealth of nature. Unfortunately, I haven't seen your name appear thus far on Forbes' annual list of the wealthiest people in the world, but you undoubtedly belong there. They just need to get their metrics straightened out. I suggest getting rid of financial measurements such as stocks, bonds, and real estate holdings, and, instead, judge a person's wealth by the number of hours spent in gratitude with nature each year. I find that birdsongs and heron sitings go up in value each year, even as the stock and bond markets decline.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

True wealth should move the heart rather than inflate the ego…don't you agree? My nuthatches make me feel good; my bank account is just a number.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Yeah, you lucky southerners have that extra nuthatch—the brown headed—which we never see. Here it's only the white-breasted and the red-breasted—and these last ones mostly during the winter.

But, hey, I'm not complaining…I'm practically awash in nuthatches this summer, and that's blessing aplenty.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Sallysmon…

You obviously live in the South. I've only seen brown-headed nuthatches when I've been on various fishing trips in the Carolinas, Florida, and Georgia—but they're neat little birds (as are all nuthatches) and I love their squeaker-toy voices.

Nuthatches everywhere seem to share similar attitudes of boldness and curiosity—willing to come close for a better look, or at least tolerate a person nearby.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

George…

Thank you very much for such kind words. I've often thought I'd make a lousy multi-millionaire, as money is pretty meaningless to me. Oh, I like some of the things it can buy—don't get me wrong. But you know, that list grows shorter each year. A new camera, a couple of longer lenses, a new computer, a fair list of books—maybe an additional dozen or so similar items…and that would be about it for personal expenditures; I'd do some work on the cottage, too.

Otherwise, I'd just like to hit the road—throw a small tent and camping gear in the pickup, load up Myladylove and Moon the dog, and spend about 85 percent of my remaining days set up at the smallest, most undeveloped campsites (or just places where no one cares if you overnight in this field or that woods) leading the gypsy life. I really, really would do that. So I'd need a few bucks for that.

And the rest of the money…I'd figure out ways to share it, give it away, use it for something good and beneficial. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have the unimaginable wealth of Bill Gates, and to come to the end of your days with only enough remaining to take care of your final needs? To have given it away for good rather than built some sort of monument to your ego? Not by setting up foundations and the like, but buy shelling it out and seeing it used, put to work; seeing the difference it could make in a life or a place? Man, what a legacy!

You're right about the increasing value of birdsongs and wildflowers, of fiery sunsets and golden dawns, of nuthatches and badgers and bullfrogs croaking in the night, of just-caught brook trout fried over an open fire, and coffee stirred with a hickory stick; of the smell of balsam pine in the fall and prairie bluestem in the hot sun…and a thousand other treasures you can't buy online, but only find freely given by being there. And then there's love and friendship, and faith, none of which can be bought, either, but is free to an open heart.

Life is a gift; the riches are there. Wealth is a matter of perspective.

Anonymous said...

wow 5 responses to George-you have to either clear up that echo or did you think that was a very important point to make?:)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Anonymous…

Thank you, nameless one, for pointing this out. It certainly wasn't an important enough response to be repeated four additional times—though I had no idea I'd done such a silly thing. I've been having some problems with Blogger lately, and when I tried to send my comment, it kept taking me to an error screen which said "Comment failed." and then, "Try reposting?" which I did…and did again…and again…then on the fifth try, it said "Comment posted" so I logged off without checking. Oops.

Anyway, thank you for pointing this out.

Scott said...

I've noticed a surfeit of nuthatches at my Mid-Atlantic feeder this summer, too, Grizz. I thought it was just mine, but there must be a bumper crop across eastern North America. A fine post, all around.

And, by the way, yesterday I observed six--count 'em--Great Blue Herons in the 1-acre wetland in my local natural area. I get excited when I see one there, yet yesterday brought a half dozen. Except in a rookery, I've never seen such a concentration. I have no idea what drew them there, but it was a special treat.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Scott…

First, sorry to be so slow getting this up…Myladylove and I have been out running errands, going to a doctor appointment, and picking out more plants for the yard—which has somehow taken all day. (We're now getting our new plants in the ground as it's hot here.)

Second, it's interesting to hear there's something of a widespread nuthatch boom going on. I know there are sure a lot of 'em around the cottage. Maybe they're taking over?

Finally, that's a lot of GB herons in such a small area—at least in the summer. It must surely mean the fishing there is good at the moment, or really lousy everywhere else. In the winter here along the river, I can often count that many and more scattered along the upstream and downstream stretches I can see from the deck. Sometimes there are three or four in a single riffle, or around the edge of a pool. They'll also space themselves along the edge of the ice shelf—maybe as many as dozen in the several-hundred-yard stretch. But in mid-summer, I don't recall ever seeing more than three. So from what I know of summer heron behavior, what you saw counts as really unusual.

Joy K. said...

I thought of this entry today when I was out on the porch reading, and heard the hoarse little "haaa" of a nuthatch. I felt like offering it a slug of Nyquil and a hanky.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Joy K…

Ha! Love that, "I felt like offering it a slug of Nyquil and a hanky." A perfect line! Which is what I'll remember the next time I hear a nuthatch.

(Dang! Wish I'd written that'n…)