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Monday, August 26, 2013

That's it!

I really like Bushtits (Psaltriparus minimus).  I can't quite explain what it is about them, but there's something inside of me that just feels right whenever I hear their twittering call notes or see flocks of these tiny songbirds moving among the trees or shrubs. 

Bushtits are very active and often hidden by vegetation, so it's hard to get a good look at them and even harder to photograph them.

Here's a typical view of one peering out among the needles of a pine.  These photographs were taken along Old Bay Flat Road near the north end of Bodega Harbor on 25 August 2013.

In reading about their behavior, I was struck by the different approaches in the Birds of North America account (2001) and Bent's Life Histories of North American Birds (1942):

From the BNA:  "Individuals in flocks or small groups remain in a cohesive group while moving and foraging, maintaining auditory contact with soft calls."

From Bent:  "The flock is somewhat scattered, and one cannot tell at first how many birds there are in the company, but they keep in touch with one another as they feed, with gentle twittering notes. They seem to be in constant motion as they travel along, hurriedly crossing the open spaces between the bushes, a few at a time, then more and more, all traveling in the same general direction; when 20 or 30 have crossed, and we think that all have gone, there are always a few stragglers hurrying along to catch up with the procession."

Both of these approaches have value.  The BNA account is short and to the point.  But the description in Bent is exactly what I experience with Bushtits in the field, and it's fun when you feel that someone else has described a species really well.  When I read the BNA account I said, "True."  But when I read the Bent account I said, "Yes!  That's it!  That's exactly what Bushtits do!"

Below, one Bushtit paused long enough on a branch for a nice profile.  (That's a strand of spider web silk crossing through the image.)  This picture made me appreciate the long toes of a Bushtit and how important they probably are to these birds that are such a meaningful part of the California landscape.

P.S.   For a little more information about Bushtits, see the post from 3 February 2012.

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