Saturday, January 29, 2011

Beechdrops, Heartleaf, and Tufted Titmice

If you sit long enough and are very quiet, you get to see special things in nature. Today, for example, I finally settled against an oak tree to finish the sketch of the Beechdrops (above). It was about 60 degrees, warm for January, and a soft breeze blew through the treetops, Daisy slept beside me. As I sketched - scritch-scratch-scritch-scratch - I heard birds about, some closer than others. But they got closer and closer, and louder, until I realized that a mixed flock of birds had come to Meetinghouse Creek to bathe. My friend Susan and I have experienced this before and have read about this common practice of birds... but every time it happens it's amazing. Today Robins, Tufted Titmice, Yellow-rumped warblers, Chickadees, as well as Goldfinch, and a Downy Woodpecker perched above and around me, flying down to the water in the shallow pool behind a fallen log in the slow-moving creek to splash and wash, then fly back to a branch to dry. They're very vocal during this - I imagine them telling each other, MY TURN! MY TURN!

I went back to my drawing but kept my binoculars in my lap and used them to watch the Downy Woodpecker work on a dead branch. After a few minutes I found myself watching two Tufted Titmice in a Beech tree. They would land in the crotch of the big tree, and I could have sworn they disappeared, but I was looking into the sun, so the little birds were nothing but silhouettes when they landed. I turned the page of my journal and grabbed a pencil to make a quick sketch of the tree they were in. Something was going on up there, at least 30 feet up in that tree (maybe more) and I had to know what it was. I packed everything up and hiked to the other side of the creek and UP the steep bluff to a point where I was even with the spot (the crotch of the tree) where I might see the birds from the opposite side. It was no surprise (and yet I was so pleased!) to see a small hole in the scarred crotch of the tree. (see sketch below) I didn't stay long enough to see birds land...the sun was setting and by this time the birds were gone anyway... but as soon as I got home I looked up "nesting habits of Tufted Titmice."

"Titmice will build nests in various types of trees including elms, maples, oaks, pines, and beech. A cavity nester, the Titmouse builds its nest in tree holes using a variety of materials that include dead leaves, moss, bark strips, grass, hair, fur, feathers, string, cloth, and snakeskin. Tufted Titmice want their nests mounted up high, like 32 to 36 feet above the ground."
This is information I will never forget because I learned from experiencing it. What a thrill!


Betsy Grimes said...

Loved this. Wish I had been out there with you to see the birds. I especially love tufted titmice and we have many over here. Now I will know where to look for their nests!

Folk Heart said...

So many questions answered here, and you are quite right about the learing experience being a thrill.

Anonymous said...

What a cool observation! Beautiful sketches, too!

rebecca said...

What a lovely thing to be there at the right time to see those bird behaviors. And your journal is beautiful, the sort of thing I can only dream of producing.