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Archive for June, 2010

When you spend your work days in the woods, it’s nice every once in a while to slow down and -on your own time- walk wherever you want and at your own pace. It lets you notice more. And find nests.

There was a junco in a currant bush giving quiet alarm calls as i walked past, and so i detoured a little to see what he was up to. Juncos are ground nesters, so i was curious about the currant bush… a nest up off the ground? The bird flitted away as i looked into the shrub, with no sign of a nest. But then a couple of steps later, a bird flushed out from beneath my feet. Under a fist-diameter fallen branch was a pretty little grass nest with four eggs cradled. My first junco nest of the year.  And not far from camp, either, so one i can check back on.

Late June seems late for a nest… juncos are known for having more than one brood a season. But then again things are a little slow here in the mountains (over 9600′) and it was a long winter. Snow was still accumulating occasionally into May, and the snowdrifts lingered for a long time. The raptors, though, already have their kids out. I saw a Cooper’s hawk out of a nest three weeks ago, and the spotted owls i’m studying this summer already have fluffy little owlets falling out of trees.

A little further down the path, and another bird jumped up from the ground next to me. This one was a little more interesting… I’d forgotten that Townsend’s solitaires also nest on the ground, and usually on rocky banks like those left beside old forest roads. This one was a little bigger, and the eggs were spotted and quite pretty.

Even more interesting, though, was the behavior of the mother… who lingered in a nearby tree and starting making calls that i’ve never heard from a solitaire. It was a raspy, descending call that almost sounded like a red-tailed hawk imitation. One that i ought to file away in the memory banks, but will probably have forgotten by tomorrow.

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