Mountain Chickadees

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org


Mountain Chickadee at feeder 1.28.21

Spirited, social, active, acrobatic, gregarious, friendly. Maybe I should add ‘compassionate’- see the story below! Watching these little birds as they bounce along on the airwaves on their way to the bird feeder in the morning is mood-lifting. Always on the alert, head switching back and forth, they sound the first alarm when something of concern approaches.

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Tree Creepers

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Certhia americana (Brown Creeper) on Larch tree 2.01.21

Certhia americana is the only North American member of the Certhiidae (Treecreeper) family. Thanks to its long, thin tail, it measures 5.25 inches, but it appears to be about the same size as a Pygmy nuthatch, with which it could be confused. “A prisoner of the forest, the creeper seems unable to escape the gravitational pull of the tree trunk on which it creeps, ever upward” writes Bryan Pfeiffer. They live in mature coniferous forests, not wandering far afield.

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Bark Acrobats: Nuthatches

by Pat Jaquith

pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

White-breasted Nuthatch browsing the bark headfirst 4.27.16

We hit the jackpot on Nuthatch species– well, almost! Three of the four Nuthatch species in the US live here! We have Red-breasted, White-breasted, and Pygmy Nuthatches. While each has a favored tree species, our mixed forests are great places to see all of them. Nuthatches grab a seed, wedge it into a bark crevice and hammer it open as if using a hatchet – thus, their curious name! They are well-equipped for gleaning insects and seeds from all directions. Their clawed feet hook into bark providing sure traction as they cruise up, down, and around looking for food. While our environment provides everything they need, they are frequent visitors to bird feeders, gardens, and water holes, making even more opportunities to observe their acrobatic talents.

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Pileated Woodpecker

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Pileated woodpeckers are the largest woodpeckers in North America. (The ivory-billed woodpecker of the southeastern US swamps and marshes is larger, but it is considered “definitely or probably” extinct.) While pileated woodpeckers are not exactly rare in the valley–I’ve encountered them year ’round in the Happy Valley State Trust Lands and the Pig Farm State Trust Lands (see Locations)–they are infrequent visitors to areas of the valley with fewer trees and more houses. That’s why it’s such a rare treat to see one in the back yard.

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Corvid Intelligence

by Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

(Update: It’s now Dec 23 2020 and they’re still daily visitors to the seed, suet, and peanut butter feeders.)

The corvidae family of birds includes ravens, crows, magpies, jays, nutcrackers, and several other species known to be highly intelligent and capable of learning. This article suggests that ravens have the capacity for abstract thought, and this one demonstrates evidence of the same kinds of intelligence in crows. And anyone who has had the experience of having food stolen from their hands by a gray jay who has waited patiently for the perfect time to strike knows how intelligent those birds are.

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Nomadic Winter Birds

by Pat Jaquith
pat@westvalleynaturalists.org

Bohemian Waxwings in freezing fog 1.17.2018

Many birds migrate from a winter home to take advantage of an abundance of insects, longer periods of daylight for scavenging, and increased success in raising a brood in the north. As winter arrives and insects become scarce their survival depends on their returning to a warm climate where insects are available.
Birds that depend on non-insect food sources and move from place to place in response to the availability of food sources, independent of season, are referred to as nomads. They often travel in flocks of the same species, searching out food, and moving on.

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Invasion of the Nutcrackers

By Skip Via
skip@westvalleynaturalists.org

Clark’s Nutcrackers are year-round residents of the high country of the Rocky Mountains, often seen above treeline. But for some reason—either because their alpine food sources are scarce or because they found an abundance of pine seeds here in the valley, a flock of more than a dozen decided to briefly invade my yard this morning.

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