Friday, February 12, 2010

Nuthatch ... not so common

I tend to place too much emphasis on the flashier birds, those which are larger, brighter or more colorful. And I do that at the detriment of the common and plainer birds that frequent our feeders.
Today, while waiting for a Carolina Wren which has commanded my attention these past few days, I stood at the window and was adjusting my camera when a common Nuthatch landed on the suet. I was taken aback a little, even startled by his uncommon beauty up close.

Actually this is a White-breasted Nuthatch and in the "dime a dozen" category for bird-watchers. And yet I marveled as the simple beauty of this sparrow-sized bird. Such a blend of winter-white and smoky charcoals.
The bird is not particularly easy to photograph as he is never still. Not for one moment! Every position he finds himself in leads to a jerk and a new pose. It is like taking a picture of a squirrel. After several miserable failures, I thought of anticipating his next move. And indeed there was a pattern. Pose one, two, three ... wait ... four! I snapped the picture in advance.
And this time I got him in the classic Nuthatch pose (usually upside down) and always wary of his surroundings.

Up close, he has as delicate a face as his tiny body demands. He is looking at me directly through the kitchen window as I shoot. Am I safe being that close? Yes, so I'll have another nibble. No, so I'd better fly away as fast as I can!
Even when I am working outside shoveling snow on these winter days, I hear the Nuthatch at every hour of the day. It is a chuckle-sound, a tiny short laugh and not the "yank-yank" that bird book suggests. "Yuck-yuck" maybe. The sound reminds me of something I heard as child on a Three Stooges movie.
Truly the name is accurate - NUThatch - even if that is not the reason.
So I will watch for the brighter birds, the uncommon ones and I will lay in wait for the Carolina Wren which seems to be living in our woodpile, but I will also appreciate the common birds that frequent our suet.
In the end, there is nothing common about any of them.