Michael John Balog | My Cute Little Nuthatch Wildlife Story

My Cute Little Nuthatch Wildlife Story

December 09, 2017

     Last week, while writing my Wind River Canyon Blog, there was a small plink off the picture windows near where my old desk resides.  It wasn't a plunk, or a thud, it was definitely just a plink, and a small one at that.  I hopped up and looked out a window, and down there on the dry grass was a small bird in a decidedly spread-eagle position.  

     I knew what the little bird was right away.  But my photographing this species a thousand times didn't help this poor, little guy.  This bird-in-distress was a Red-breasted Nuthatch; a cute little bird species.  Running out the front door and heading down the steps I witnessed something even I had never seen----another Nuthatch flew down and landed close to his injured "friend."  It was just a moment, but the reaction from the other bird is was one that seemed to indicate the advanced trait of empathy....maybe he was just worried.

     Kneeling down, I picked up this little male and gave him the "Woodsman's Once Over" and his beak was perfect, and his eyes undamaged; a birds' eye often times will sustain an injury and will even swell-up shut:  His eyes were clear and fine.  He seemed a little loopy, but his neck was not broken; the usual cause of death from smacking into a window.

     Holding this Red-breasted Nuthatch in my hand was a real treat, but the circumstances surrounding this first meeting could have been a bit better for him.  Nonetheless, I whistled to him and enjoyed our first "talk."  After too short a time I placed him on a nearby boulder and raced into the house for a camera.  

     What surprised me the most from the resulting photo-shoot was how much he hated the click of my Canon.  Most birds and wildlife tend to ignore the sound, or barely take notice, but this male Nuthatch just hated it!  I took my time, and all too soon our time was up; he had to go....and I knew it. Wyoming, Wind River Canyon, Red-breasted NuthatchRed-breasted Nuthatch, Wind River CanyonRed-breasted Nuthatch male in the Wind River Canyon in the state of Wyoming.      The first thing you'll notice are the size of his feet!  Red-breasted Nuthatches spend most of their life running up and down trees....upside down.  They are a quickly moving, acrobatic little bird and rather difficult to image well, so this was a real treat of a shoot.  The darker "red" color is indicative of the male; the blue-grey is not over-saturated.  They eat bugs, seeds, my sunflower seeds, and they just love a suet block (available anywhere birdseed is sold).  

     Speaking of suet blocks, I put mine in a plastic-coated wire cage that are relatively cheap and come with a small chain for hanging them up.  Our Wind River Canyon raccoons took a liking to the suet blocks!  One morning I found ours on the ground and empty!  The small chain had bent from the weight of the fat raccoon, so I reloaded another block and bent the chain back.  I figured everything would be just fine.  The next morning the chain was still attached to the tree....but the new suet block and cage holding it were long gone!  A long search didn't help.

     After buying a new cage for another suet block, I engineered it a little differently.  I mounted it upside down to the tree by screws after removing the soft-metal chain.  Now I could hang on it and the suet cage would stay put!  Several weeks later the suet block cage is still on the old, dead tree where the bird feeder is also hung, and I locked it closed with a small climbing link.  The claw marks from the raccoons on the tree trunk are very funny.  And yes, they have knocked down the bird feeder, too.

     Back to the Nuthatch wildlife story....they were first named in 1766 by Carl Linnaeus, and are small at 4.5 inches from "head to tail."  They weigh just a third of an ounce!  About the size of a very, very, fat hummingbird.  But the real story is the close-up I wanted to capture of the feather structure of his wings.  I worked the digital file like an art project, as I do most everything now.  The result was so cool I uploaded it to my website----www.HogbatsPhotography.com. Wyoming, Wind River Canyon, Detail of Red-breasted Nuthatch Wing!Detail of Red-breasted Nuthatch, Wind River CanyonClose-up detail of the feathers of a Red-breasted Nuthatch, Wind River Canyon in the state of Wyoming.      All too soon it was apparent it was time for him to leave.  I took the camera from my eye, and watched him fly.  I stood there for a moment in thought, then turned and went inside to finish my writing.  

     *Thank you for reading the Wind River Canyon Blog.  All rights to the story and the photographs are protected under international copyright laws and created by Michael John Balog and Hogbats Photography.