Saturday, March 19, 2011

On Territory

As I walked down the trail at Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve this afternoon, I heard the clear song, Drink your tea! in the nearby brush.  Eastern Towhees are some of my favorite birds, but since they like the low dense brush, it's hard to find them at all, let along get a clear photo. This may be my chance, I thought, and stepped off the trail into the leaves.
If I had to depend on my stealth in the forest to find food, I would surely starve to death.  Trying not to snap more sticks than absolutely necessary, I walked toward the sound of the Towhee.  This bird must be on territory, since he sat in one spot singing continuously, for at least 15 minutes while I searched.  When I stepped to one side of the tree, he seemed to be in the opposite direction. When I moved that way, he seemed to be back in the original spot again.  Finally, I looked straight up, and there he was!  He has my vote for stud Towhee of the forest!  All the other males better look somewhere else for their territory this year.
Creasey Mahan has a Bluebird trail with houses donated by the Louisville Audubon Society.  We had birds in some of them last year, and hope more will be occupied this year.  As I drove in, one pair of Bluebirds checked out the box they had nested in last summer.  But of course, Bluebirds aren't the only ones who nest in those boxes.  This Tree Sparrow sat on the utility line above the Nature Center, just where he sat last spring while his mate cared for her eggs in the box.
BUT there is a squatter in his box!  He wasn't too happy about this and flew down a few times to drive the interloper away.  House Sparrows are pretty stubborn though, and I don't think this one plans to leave.  That has to be the most determined face I've ever seen.
Mockingbirds are very territorial, of course, and prefer to perch on the highest spot in their territory.  At home the Mockingbird will chase others away from the feeders with little provocation.

I went back to the Falls of the Ohio for a while, to see how the river is receding.  The Ohio is no longer flooding, but not back in its banks by any means, and debris leaves a clear high water mark along the shore.  This Hairy Woodpecker is the first I've ever been able to photograph.  He must be after some yummy bugs that drowned on this floating log.

I must really like the Internet.  I am webmaster for two different websites, Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve and Beckham Bird Club, plus my own blog.  This week I started a nature blog for the Nature Preserve called KY Natural Inquirer.  Tavia and I will work on it together, focusing on the seasonal changes and natural questions that arise at the Preserve. Hope you will enjoy it too.


Mary said...

Nice post...I so enjoy the sound of the Towhees as well. We have them close by all winter and then they take cover, and all I do hear is their songs.

Ryan Ankeny said...

I would definitely evict that House Sparrow from the box. It may take several attempts but after you remove the nesting material over and over they eventually get the picture. I worked on a research farm in Lexington and the House Sparrows took over the bluebird and swallow nests. We found a Tree Swallow that had been sitting on eggs with its head pecked off and the House Sparrow built its nest around the dead body. We also found two dead House Wrens incorporated into another nest. It is crazy how aggressive they are!