Saturday, March 10, 2007

Prime Real Estate...

James has now finished trimming the 90 fruit trees in the park. He could be seen up a ladder with a saw until black dark every night for weeks. It was cold, windy and often wet. Have to admire his cheerfulness. I'd have been snapping the heads off baby bunnies, but he was his usual cheeky, jovial self, even when he was so tired he could hardly put one foot in front of the other.

What he ended up with was several huge piles of branches, from twigs to hulking big branches. Two of these piles are in the empty spot adjacent to the Tinpalace and we have been having a ball watching the birdlife that has sprung up in and around them. The one pictured is 12 -14 feet long and four feet high.

Hawks and owls are the major predators of small birds here, and these threats come from overhead. So any cover is obviously coveted real-estate with the "snack-sized" bird crowd. These brush-piles are the equivalent of a Malibu penthouse with a view of Niagara Falls to the local featherites.

The quail dash beneath the pile and peer out like anxious old ladies. The sparrows and finches perch on top, or inside. They flow to the other side of the pile as you walk past, but don't take flight unless you get too close. (I now understand where the term "flighty" comes from.)

The piles are close enough to us for the birds to make a quick raid on the feeder, grab a seed or peanut, and retreat to enjoy their meal in peace. They are also a great spot to fight, court and (ahem) make a little bird whoopee. Male sparrows are always contentious, right now they are downright belligerent! Spring is obviously just around the corner.

But what's most fun to watch is the sparrows taking baths in the sandy soil next to the pile. At first they left little brush marks on the sand, but day by day bathing "holes" have grown, eroded by the vigorous flapping and rolling that sand bathing entails.

The holes are now so deep that the sparrow jumps in and totally disappears. You see wing tips blurring at the top of the hole. Sand flies. The sparrow jumps out, fresh and sandy clean, and the next guy in line jumps in. (Yes, they actually line up to have a turn!)

It's supposed to rain later today so I ran out and took a couple of photos of the bath holes. Yesterday they looked like the top section of a snow angel, today the wings are less apparent, and the holes are more oval in shape.

This is way better than the movies.

1 comment:

Gary said...

I've never seen a sparrow hole before. That's pretty interesting.