Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Four-winged, two-backed beast

My romantic life has been so barren of late that I have had more luck finding birds in courtship/mating mode than in engaging in such behavior myself.

Friday was a bonanza for observing mating rituals--spring is stirring and I was in prime raptor habitat: the Cle Elum to Thorp area, where coniferous mountains give way to rolling shrub-steppe and flat agricultural land.

I arrived at the Cle Elum River around 7:30. Within minutes, raptor-ish squawking  was overhead: a mature eagle (meaning it sported a fully white head and tail) heading toward the river. Then another.

Female on right; females are typically
larger than males.

They were flying very close together--a mated pair. After zooming over the water, one landed atop a snag and the other soon made purchase on her back. For bird sex, it was long-playing—29 seconds, according to my camera's metadata. Like males of many species, among them homo sapiens, he threw back his head, proclaiming pleasure and conquest, both during and after copulation.

From a distance, their bodies merged, becoming a beast with two backs--plus four wings. Below is the sequence:

The male is now on the right.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cute Butt!

I've never been much of an ass connoisseur (human or otherwise), but this white-breasted nuthatch's butt is the cutest avian posterior I've ever seen.

Nuthatches are perennially peripatetic; they are forever nimbly scrambling around tree trunks in search of food. Like creepers, chickadees and bushtits, they are industrious and seemingly indefatigable. I have never seen one at rest, just doing nothing. Even hummingbirds, certainly the most energetic of birds, take breaks and nap in the sun.

Nuthatches have the ability to scale trees upside down, as shown above, and sideways. Needless to say, it was a workout to follow their movements with my camera.