Little Brown Jobs

House Wren_ManitouLake-CO_LAH_4169Would you like your bedroom to be infested with spiders? I can’t count the nights I’ve spent wide awake in bed. staring at a suspicious black blob on the ceiling (I’m rather nearsighted without my glasses). Was it a spider? Should I turn on the light? It might move if I take my eyes off it to find my glasses. What if it is a spider? Is it going to fall on me in the middle of the night?

You can tell I don’t appreciate spiders in my bedroom. It’s a good thing, then, that I’m not a House Wren.

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Bracelets for the Birds

yellow-warbler_boqueronbirdrefugepr_20100527_lah_5179The sun is starting to color the eastern sky, although it won’t appear over the horizon for almost another hour. Flocks of songbirds that have been flying all night finally give in to the overwhelming need for food and rest before resuming their northward migration.

While most sensible people are still in bed, a team of dedicated volunteers is already hard at work. They’re bird banders. Capturing, measuring, tagging and releasing wild birds provides researchers with unique opportunities for study.

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Pygmy Cuties

pygmy-nuthatch_blkforest-co_lah_0601They’re adorable, with their short stumpy tails, tiny bodies and toddler-round tummies. They’re constantly active, hopping from branch to branch. Can you tell? Pygmy Nuthatches are one of my favorite birds! I love to watch them fly down to the feeder to grab a seed, then bolt back into safety before “hacking” (“nut hack” has become “nuthatch”) the sunflower shell open against a branch. Sure seems like a lot of work, especially compared to the finches who just sit there shelling and swallowing seeds as fast as they can.

Like so many other animals—dolphins and penguins come immediately to mind—Pygmy Nuthatches are dark on top and light underneath. This pattern helps disguise them from potential predators. Seen from above, their dark gray color blends with the ground (or tree trunks), while their white undersides are hard to spot against a brightly lit sky.

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