Four Birds

Last fall we stopped buying bird seed when we took down the bird houses, and for the same reason. Just as the houses were no longer housing birds, the seed was no longer feeding birds.

Rats Sept 21

Rat May 17

I haven’t seen rats in the yard this winter, but I also haven’t seen many birds. Hopefully our winter flocks are finding plenty of alternate food sources.

Warbler Feb 3

Yesterday I watched through the kitchen window for nearly an hour and saw a total of four birds. The little yellow-rumped warbler in the above photo was foraging for insects along the fence, while a robin and a mockingbird basked in the pear tree, sleepily soaking up sunshine.

Robin Feb 3

Mockingbird Feb 3

The most interesting activity took place in the wax myrtles, where a young yellow-bellied sapsucker was tending its sap wells.

Woodpecker Feb 3

(I decided this was a juvenile sapsucker after consulting Cornell’s All About Birds website. Please comment if you can confirm or correct my identification!)

Woodpecker Feb 3

I couldn’t help wondering about the origin of the sapsucker’s behavior, which strikes me as fairly advanced problem solving. This young bird likely learned to make sap wells by observing its parents, but how did its earliest ancestors learn their craft? Did the behavior surface gradually, a slow convergence of experience and appetite? Or was the shift a more sudden spark? Is there a sap well gene?

Woodpecker Feb 3

Some part of me wants to argue against a purely genetic origin for the sapsucker’s wells. My objections are all based on wistful incredulity, on a deep-seated longing for connection beyond mere knowledge. My objections are, in other words, illogical. But they are also persistent. No matter how many books I read, no matter how much science I embrace, some part of me still wants life to mean more.