Imagine spending much of your life upside down; I get loopy just thinking about it. Sure, as a kid I hung upside down on the monkey bars, just like everyone else eventually did. I even remember one boy splitting his noggin falling from "way up there!" There are certain people who make a living out of being upside down----but not for very long. Yet, there are a couple of birds in the magical Wind River Canyon that choose to spend much of their lives....upside down.
As the leaves of the Wild Rose turn a beautiful dark red here in the canyon, two little wild birds migrate into one of Wyoming's most spectacular places. These two species of birds are known as nuthatches----the Red-breasted Nuthatch, and the slightly larger White-breasted. They are cute, friendly little birds that can easily fit into a child's hands, but seem to move like lightning from one branch to another juniper in a wink.
Twenty years ago we never saw these birds around here, and ten years ago only seldom. Now we are observing them here in the Wind River Canyon much more frequently; is this the "Final Frontier?" But more importantly, why are they upside down so much?
They forage for seeds and bugs that hide under the bark, but upside down? I've watched and photographed them for hours, and you'd think they'd get dizzy and fall down like spinning children, but they never do. This is why their nickname is the "Upside Down Birds." How do they do this? I don't have a rational explanation, but it's fun to watch them as they feed. This also makes it fun to photograph them.
On a cold October morning a Red-breasted was trying to keep warm, and the fluffed-up image has always been a favorite of mine; the photograph is below. Early in the morning this week, as the sun began to turn the Wind River Canyon's cliffs a wonderful golden color, the first White-breasted Nuthatch arrived. I dropped my coffee and grabbed a camera and shot out the door, and entered into a morning much colder than I realized. No time to waste now, butch-up and take some shots while the opportunity is presenting itself; thank the imaging gods for eight frames-per-second!
The picture below is one that's a bit different for me. It was influenced by "you-know-who" and captures a White-breasted Nuthatch in his native environment as he sits still for a second, and only a second! As it was a cold, fall morning I worked the white-balance a bit cooler, and it brought out wonderful colors. These little birds have their breakfast here along with us every morning, all winter long. Someone already asked me, "why didn't you photograph one upside down?" My answer wasn't really supposed to be funny. "It's hard enough to get a picture of one right side up." So there he is, the "Upside Down Bird Right Side Up."
Maybe that should be this winter's project, to get an image of an upside down bird upside down.....huh?
Thank you for looking at this Wind River Canyon Blog.
My name is Michael John Balog and I photograph and write about the wildlife in the Wind River Canyon ecosystem.