Nature Notes

Vol. VIII April, 1930 No. 4

Birds of the Month


Spring is just around the corner. One needs but to look and listen to become aware of that for the melodius metallic whistle of the Varied Thrush ringing down the long corridors of the forests that clothe our hills is announcing the season's arrival. Nature's moods are full of variety but even so we shall never tire of the Varied Thrush. His song is too typical of the wild freedom of the woods; his appearance to descriptive of the pleasant days that follow his coming. In fact he eclipses his cousin, the Robin, in this respect on "The Mountain". We see many of them at Longmire now. They are easily identified by the bright orange-yellow breast that is possessed of a sharply contrasting black band, and the orange-yellow markings upon the wings and head.

Pine Siskins, whose presence in this vicinity has been noted for several weeks, seem to be more numerous. Watching a large flock of these birds in a Cottonwood grove recently we were reminded, by their nervous movements as they fluttered about from branch to branch, of windblown leaves in the fall for their small size and general streaked brownish color made them appear as such. They seemed to be hardly still for a moment and then they would rise in unison into the air with a whir of wings -- only to return again to their original perch soon after. Then there are the Juncoes. About the size of a Sparrow their black head and throat and white streaks upon the tail (the latter being much in evidence in flight) they are readily recognized.

Pileated woodpecker The most noteworthy visitor, however, during the past month is the Pileated Woodpecker. One of these giants of the woodpecker clan has been keeping such close watch on the trees about the Museum that it would seem to be inadviseable to venture about the building without a hat. Anyone who has seen this bird and watched him in his search for grubs will readily appreciate that statement for he can use that powerful beak of his much like a woodsman does an axe. Striking from side to side he removes large plates of bark and if he finds a grub -- well it will still be a grub but in a different sense. The large size and conspicuous though ungainly appearance readily identifies him. He is about the size of a Crow; jet black except for a bright red crown patch and white markings upon the side of the head and along the neck. He is a dweller of the deep woods and rather scarce although here in the Park we often see them but his wariness -- for he is adept at keeping on the opposite side of a tree trunk -- is not conducive of photos in a characteristic pose.

sketch of bird Early in the winter a feeding board was placed near one of the Museum windows in order that birds might be attracted to that point. At first only Jays and Camp Robbers were regular feeders but soon others became aware of the permanant "handout". The other day, while working upon some Nature Bulletins, to be used on our Nature Trails next summer, the writer noticed -- all within a few minutes -- the following birds; several Camp Robbers, Stellar Jays, a male and female Harris Woodpecker, a Downy Woodpecker (smallest woodpecker in the Park), a dozen or so Chestnut Backed Chickadees, a Junco, three or four Kinglets and a Nuthatch. A Crow and a Raven were seen a short distance away and a Creeper was exploring a nearby tree trunk for grubs. The feeding board has been the source of much material for past issues of these Nature Notes.

Some New Beaver Workings

beaver cuttings on tree But a few years ago Beaver in the Park were scarce. Their numbers were few and their workings were removed from the casual eye. Now, however, they seem to be quite definitly on the increase. Ranger Carl Tice found one new colony on a small tributary of the Nisqually, but a short distance from the highway. Here they have constructed a fairly elaborate system of dams and have been working on -- not only the Cottonwood and Alder as is usually the case -- a but upon Cedar as well. Beaver in this Park rarely build the characteristic lodges. They burrow in the banks of the streams constructing suitable homes in that manner.

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