Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Frequent Flyers

 I'm washing the lunch dishes when this White-breasted Nuthatch begins working the suet feeder. He's just one of many of them, who take turns at the combination of seeds and fat within the suspended wire holder. It is an aerial zoo watching them come and depart quickly ... grab a quick morsel ... and push off again.
 This guy, though, has decided to stay a while and he pushes his beak into the suet and when he pulls it out, it's encrusted with seeds and sticky fat. He'd lick his chaps ... if he had any to lick.

 On the ground below the feeder, the usual Red-bellied Woodpecker gleans the same from the winter-dry grass. He's particularly careful, looking up at me behind the reflecting glass while he throws sideway glances about the yard. To be a surviving bird is to be ever vigilant.

 At one time, our neighbor had small chickens that had the exact same feather markings as this bird ... striations of black and white. What pretty garb, almost a prisoner's uniform. In the sun, his head looks like Victorian velvet, something that might have covered a plush sofa in the late 1890's. Why has nature painted his head with such a bright hue? Why have humans called him "red-breasted" when this red is nearly impossible to see, while all the while his head is aflame?
 My suet feeder is busier than the highest traffic airport. Takeoffs and landings are underway nearly constantly. And yet without controllers, they manage these flights in such a restricted space without collisions. Every now and then, I'll hear one crash into the window pane but that is not their mistake. Where in nature has clear air ever turned suddenly solid?