June 19, 2013
Written by Jack Sanders
Thursday, 27 May 2010 14:29
The picture that accompanies today’s column ranks among the most unusual ever contributed by a reader. It appears to be damning evidence of an avian “murder.”“Some weeks ago I’d noticed beneath the deck, next to the house, a capacious new robin’s nest,” writes Roxane Witke. “Usually, when I went outside, a robin flew off. Yesterday, assuming that the new family had departed, I brought out a stepladder to take a peek.
“As I got close I realized that a three-foot snake had beat me to it — and molted in the process! The snake seems to have bored through side of the nest and consumed either the eggs or the hatchlings.
“In my stunned state, I wondered whether the snake had so gorged on raw matter that he had to wiggle out of his skin before slithering off.”
When I first saw this picture, I wondered whether the robin had placed the skin there. Some birds — such as the Tufted Titmouse or Carolina Wren — will weave pieces of a shed snake’s skin into their nest’s materials, possibly as a technique for scaring off predators. Could this robin have picked up and displayed a shed skin as a deterrent to predators?
Examination of this and other photos Roxane sent suggest that she correctly surmises that snake simply chose the visit to the nest as an appropriate time and place to shed. In fact, all that wiring may have helped it pull the skin off.
Roxane reports the skin disappeared a few days after she photographed it. Maybe another bird — or some other creature — used it for some nest-building material! In nature, little is wasted.
Bruce Beebe of Wilton reports that “during the Weir Preserve spring bird walk on May 9, leader Frank Gallo of the Connecticut Audubon Society came to a sudden stop on the white trail, turned around and shushed the small group of birders who proceeded quietly to a promontory to observe a female Pileated Woodpecker, only 40 feet away, eating with her long tongue in a freshly carved hole.
“She then decided to try another entrance to what was probably an ant nest, and began her carpentry on the other side of her feeding hole. The group stood in rapt silence observing her noisy cutting skills, slices of bark flying to the forest floor. In ten minutes she’d almost cut her way into the ant nest.
“The Pileated is a striking, crow-sized bird, with a magnificent red plume atop its head. Totally focused on the job at hand, she seemed oblivious to her observers.”
Jane Neighbors of Ridgefield read an article in an area newspaper about attracting butterflies and hummingbirds that suggested mixing your own hummingbird feeder nectar by mixing four cups of water and two cups of sugar.
“I have always used a 4-to-1 ratio, not 2-to-1,” Jane said.
Indeed, four to one is correct — for instance, a quarter cup of sugar to a cup of water is the size of the batches I usually mix.
As we have mentioned here many times before, there’s no need to spend a lot of money on commercial hummingbird nectars — often unnecessarily colored red — when just a simple sugar-and-water mixture works fine.
Just remember to change the fluid every two or three days so it doesn’t go bad and possibly offer harmful bacteria to the hummingbird.
Annual Summer Bird Count, a two-day survey to help determine what birds are living and nesting in this area at this time of the year; free for young and old, sign up with Ted at 203-869-5272 x230, by June 11, Audubon Greenwich, 613 Riversville Road, Greenwich.audubon.org.
Bird Observation Hike, with Milan Bull of Connecticut Audubon, Saturday, June 26, 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., Aspetuck Land Trust at Stonebridge Preserve parking lot, Newtown Turnpike, near Stonebridge Rd., Weston (on Wilton line), reserve via David Brant, dbrant @ aspetucklandtrust.org
First Sundays, birding at Greenwich Point with Meredith Sampson of Wild Wings, and other guides, 203-637-9822.
Copyright 2010 by Jack Sanders. Send sightings or comments to: jackfsanders [at sign] yahoo.com, or to Bird Notes, Box 1019, Ridgefield, CT 06877; or call 203-438-1183, extension BIRD (2473), and leave a message with your report, spelling your first and last names and telling us your town. If you need help identifying a bird, try your local nature center. If you find an injured bird, call wildlife rehabilitator Darlene Wimbrow of Redding, 203-438-0618, Wildlife in Crisis of Weston, 203-544-9913, or Wild Wings of Greenwich, 203-637-9822. The columnist’s website is www. sandersbooks. com.
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