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.