Clarks Nutcracker

A regular and constant companion on forest hikes is the Clarks’s Nutcracker. This day instead of foraging for pine nuts this nutcracker was busy feasting on crickets on a late fall afternoon. We watched as she swooped down from a tree landed in a field and quickly picked up a cricket. We were quite surprised as it had been quite cold and well below freezing yet there were insects to be found.

Clark’s are fascinating birds that each year bury tens of thousands of pine nuts. They remember the location of a large majority of the seeds which they consume during the winter. The seeds they forget then may become new trees and thus the Clarks it integral to the growth of new forests.

On the Mullen

A female Downey Head Woodpecker found the Mullen plant to her liking this morning as she spent quite a bit of time hunting and then pecking away for a meal.

She inspected the plant then with target in sight and eyes closed tight she pecked away like only a woodpecker can peck.

Then back again for another round on the beautiful Mullen plant.

Under her wing

Upon first glance there was something a bit odd, a bit unusual about this female Ruffed Grouse. She just seemed a bit bigger, a bit puffed out compared to other females we have seen. It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on as you can only keep a clutch of fidgety Ruffed Grouse chicks still and under wraps for so long.

At first these little guys were just peeking out from under Mom’s wing a little cautious but ever so curious.

Yet within a minute or two they began to emerge from under cover.

Then in the blink of an eye they were darting out and into the tall grasses in search of a meal and quickly disappearing from sight.

We counted six little grouse emerge from under mom’s wings that morning. Each darting off into the cover of the grasses and the whole gang disappearing just as quick as they appeared.

More birds and berries

The Chokecherries were the big hit on the menu this week. Just like the Western Tanager family a group of American Robins found them to their liking as well.

In fact they were head twistingly irresistible.

It’s amazing to watch them slurp them down in a single gulp and man the seeds in chokecherries are large.

Just like the Tanager family we watched earlier in the week the adults took time demonstrating where and how to eat this fall treat.

Parting ways

Late summer is always a bit of a down time for birders living in the more northern reaches. A time when the forest goes eerily silent and a feeling of loss seems to enter your heart. Thus it was a wonderful surprise to see this Warbling Vireo hop into plain sight a few days ago. While they look a bit low keyed they are prolific singers who had graced our forests with their songs most of June and early July. Then silence.

Birds and berries

Just a week or so ago we noticed a flurry of activity in the serviceberry and chokecherry bushes nearby as family of Western Tanagers moved back and forth between the two. It appeared that on this day the fledglings were being taught an invaluable lesson and getting a good meal as the result. While the male seemed to fly in and out of the bushes quickly picking a berry and flying up into a Douglas Fir tree to consume his meal mom gathered the two young ones and showed them how it was done.

A fledgling taking stock of the work ahead.

While the fruit was abundant the picking was not always easy and at times a bit of aerial acrobatics was required as mom show the kids how it was done.

As much of the natural landscape disappears it is evident that we need to consider other species in how we landscape our yards and what better way than by planting some berry producing shrubs and trees for the birds. This article contains just a few suggestions that might help.