Posted by: atowhee | December 3, 2020


The smallest accipiter in America came into our garden today. The Sharp-shinned was loudly outed by two scrub-jays and a flicker. The woodpecker would fly attack sorties at the sharpie high in a bare birch. The sharpie would retaliate and try to catch the flicker, and fail each time. At least once the flicker gave his bubbly call, which to all ears sounded like an avian guffaw. The sharpie soon retreated to find a less inhospitable hunting perch. His passing threat lingered in the air, apparently keeping the visible number of siskins low all day.

Covid is just one strong reminder that much of this planet is under the control of very small things–virus, plankton, fungal spores, bacteria, molecules, daphnia, ants, particles. Today the little things were active and acting around our house. I now feel like a large piece of almost immobile furniture, living, as I do, among a throng of small finches. There were both Lesser and American Goldfinches in small numbers, amidst the coming and fluttering and going of dozens of siskins. I am never sure how many there are. Even when they startle up into the trees they scatter in all directions and then continue to relocate. Give me a pond full of swans any day if you need a really good beak count.

The siskins now take me for granted. I could be a rose bush or a fence for all they care. I can refill a feeder and they don’t even fly off but stay perched. Sadly I found a siskin corpse on our lawn today. The bird had not been killed by a predator but had died of disease, cold or window crash. (We have decals, hanging chains of beads, etc. The window crashes have been reduced.) He weighed about as much as a small grape. Then later I saw a young siskin fly into our garage and head straight for the bright window. He couldn’t get through the glass. Daunted, the bird perched on a muntin. I slowly reached out and gently enclosed him in my hand. At the door I tossed him upwards. His wings instantly began to beat and he rose high into a bare birch. Not even a quick buzz of thanks. One siskin lost, one saved. A taste of what covid caregivers face every hour. Still later I walked along one line of shrubs and was scolded by a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, eyeing me and telling me to self-deport. His nervous, motion-driven little body is only slightly bigger than the Bushtit’s.

Together all the birds I saw today would not weigh as much as our 18 pound cat.

First a Chestnut-backed Chickadee in bare shrub. They are irregular visitors to our garden, not seen daily. The in the next shot, the bully Black-capped who drove away his littler cousin, just a few frames after I got the first image.

Here’s Mrs. Flicker having a satisfying breakfast before the sharpie showed up and she showed him who’s boss around here.

Bewick’s Wren. Then Nora watches me trying to figure out why I cared about a bush with no cat beneath it. She is never impressed by a kinglet, or any other small bird.

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