I don’t know exactly why, but I tend to think of the cheeky little red-breasted Nuthatch as the tiniest of the woodpecker clan.
I know they aren’t any such thing, but the way they cling, often upside down, to the suet bar on my deck … peck, peck, pecking away with their sharp little beaks, just strikes me as woodpeckery.
Nuthatches are one of my favorite bird-feeder visitors partly due to their sheer tenacity. Such small but bossy tyrants; they zoom in while I’m filling the feeders, scolding as they supervise, wings whirring – impatient for me to be out of their way.
More than once, I’ve had a nuthatch briefly land on my arm or head, cheep imperiously and dart off, only to return to circle the deck again. Obviously, I am way too slow at refilling those feeders! Nuthatches eat their share of seeds, of course, but suet is their candy. Woe unto me if the suet bar runs low.
The chickadees like suet too, but they approach it in a normal, finch-like manner, landing quickly, nibbling and flitting away.
Actually, the chickadees are much more interested in the BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds), only occasionally bothering with the suet. That attitude will change as winter sets in and the suet holds more nutritional value.
The black-capped chickadees, like the nuthatches, are year-round residents in our area. I see little of them on the deck during the summer when fresh food is plentiful, but they return to the feeders with alacrity as soon as temps plummet. These plump, black and white feather-balls are daily visitors from September through April.
Fortunately, these two little bird species co-exist happily side by side at the feeders, something that can’t be said for our single resident red squirrel.
Our squirrel is a bit of a bully, and while I don’t mind feeding him, I don’t like it when he actively chases the birds off the feeders.
I guess that’s partly why I not only allow, but encourage and enable Rhonda in her daily bouts of squirrel hunting. 🐿 It’s not likely she’ll ever catch this particular furry prey, since the squirrel is fast and Ronni is limited by a 6’ leash, but she has come close enough times to keep the game entertaining – and it keeps the squirrel on its toes.
I figure as long as the squirrel is busy keeping an eye on the dog, he has less time to harass the birds whose seeds he is sharing. Win-win.
I would, by the way, happily allow Ronni free reign on the deck for squirrel chasing purposes, but she’s already proven capable of weaseling under the deck railing. Visions of her recklessly flying off the second-story deck in pursuit of a squirrel has me coming down on the side of caution. Thus the leash.
Other notable upper deck denizens who’ve already made their first appearances this season are the brightly garbed Hairy Woodpecker and it’s equally pretty, if much smaller cousin, the Downy Woodpecker.
I’ve been watching for the appearance of one of the Hairy woodpeckers today, but the loud rat-a-tat-tat of his hard beak against some nearby trees tells me he’s still finding plenty of bugs at this point.
The most recent new arrivals on the deck have been a pair of Dark-Eyed Juncos who arrived just the other day. These mousey little birds are marginally larger than the chickadees, but much quieter in manner and markings. Their large, dark eyes seem always to be watching for danger. It may be they are just passing through on their way to more familiar surroundings.
I believe it’s the male Junco who is more of a soft, slate gray with a slightly darker head, while its mate (I’m presuming) is a mouse-gray/brown color, also with a slightly darker head. They haven’t actually gone to the feeders, but rather peck around the deck floor, finding seeds that have fallen there.
The only other visitor so far, and a one-off, I’m pretty sure, was a lone (quite large!) Canada Jay, who stopped by a couple of weeks ago for a snack … probably on its way back to Canada?
I truly enjoy and appreciate my fall/winter deck denizens. They bring such cheerful life and movement to my little bedroom fiber studio during the quieter, chillier winter months, asking in return for only a simple buffet of seeds and suet. Yes … even the dastardly squirrel.
One thought on “Denizens of the Deck”
Winter birds are entertaining, for sure. (Loved the bird seed meme as well!) Ha!