Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Endearing Differences

Photo by  Scorpion

Pick, Pick, Pick...” Soft calls attracted my attention. Just beyond the kitchen corner window he hung swaying gently, picking away at his breakfast, also. As I approached the window slowly and quietly he saw me coming, but was intent on his task and not about to leave. So there we were, me with my cup of coffee and him with his soft chirps between bites - less than 3 feet apart. With white body, black and white striped wings and face, and brilliant red patch on the back of his head, the six-inch long Downy Woodpecker is quite a spectacular little creature. He’s well-known for pecking about on trees in search of wood-boring insects, but also eats berries and seeds. He finds suet hard to resist.

Photo by Wolfgang Wander

Before long, the Chestnut-backed Chickadees arrived, also attracted to the hanging suet. Downy held his ground there, so after a couple of tries the chickadees happily took turns snatching sunflower seeds out of the small feeder attached to the glass. These little guys often travel in small bands, as well as in mixed flocks with kinglets, nuthatches and juncos.

Meep, Meep, Meep..” The “volkswagon” of the bird world suddenly appeared in the form of a Red-breasted Nuthatch. He’s small, but sturdy, and also had a hankering for suet that morning, so barged right in. His darting, erratic movements must have disturbed Downy, who finally flew off. The chunky little nuthatches with stubbly tails and legs are one of my favorite birds and amazing in their agility.

All of these birds occupy the same territory and share the role of gleaning insects from trees. But their different styles permit a happy division of the bounty. Some birds prefer one insect type to another, or large insects to small. Woodpeckers brace back on their tails and methodically hop up the tree. Nuthatches run helter-skelter, head-first down the trunk, spotting beetles, insect eggs and larva that the woodpecker might have missed. They will also wedge a larger seed into the bark of  a tree so that they can peck it open. Quite the acrobats, chickadees pick insects from the branches and twigs, as well as hunting for seeds and berries. Their little buddies the juncos will check the ground, while the tiny kinglets flit about inspecting foliage to snatch spiders and flying insects. It is these unique behaviors that make each bird special - we notice and remember.
A man I once knew volunteered at the local Marine Science Center 4 or 5 days a week, 7 hours a day. He cleaned tanks, fed animals, and might or might not talk to others. He admited he was not very social, but he knew all the creatures and noticed if one would not eat. Another elderly man would buy coffee and doughnuts every Friday for everyone and loved to talk, believing that was the best way to start the day. There was the friend who always parted with a “toodle-oo”, the trash collector who looks for me in the front window and waves to me from his truck, my husband who knows that I like coffee in bed, catsup on sausage, and clam dip with chips for breakfast on New Year's Day...
Photo by Kevin Cole
After 35 years, I met an old friend from high school and college days. Deep in conversation, I noticed that she still crosses her leg and bounces her foot up and down while listening. Funny, the things you remember about someone - the things that endear them to you. I, for one, am gateful that we are all so very different.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet photo by Donna Dewhurst
for U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

There are different kinds of gifts,
but the same Spirit.
There are different kinds of service,
but the same Lord.
There are different kinds of working,
but the same God who works all of them in all men.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Downy Woodpecker and Slate-colored Junco picture files
from Wikimedia Commons

 Ruby-crowned Kinglet picture file from: http://www.fws.gov/digitalmedia/index.php

1 comment:

  1. (i LOVE all the bird pic's) yeah, we are all different...have our own ways of seeing things, interpreting...likes and dislikes.
    put a group of people in a room...and, on cue, prob no one will cross their legs the same...or comb their hair the same...stand the same way...and so on. we're all unique...and it's nice to take note of that uniqueness (whether person or animal!)

    as always, nice post...inspiring...