Invisible Birds in the Mist

Posted on April 24, 2014


We have had some welcome warmer days recently. The ice is melting on the Bay and on the lakes and sliding off the roof. It rains a little each night, the mornings are misty. The birds are invisible.

Somewhere out there

Miss Sadie, the Cowboy and I were on our favorite woods trail when I heard a barking dog. Oddly, my own dogs ignored it. This was worrisome. (Am I beginning to hear things? Are my dogs going deaf?) Then from up on the ridge I heard the unmistakable hooting of a barred owl. I looked and looked in the misty woods and finally spotted it. No camera. But you can hear the call for yourself at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Macauley Library bird call guide.

I might nab its picture yet. Neighbor Bruce (the maple syrup magnate) tells me that he has seen “a large owl” in a tree right by my house. It figures. I’m rather hoping it’s a Great Horned Owl, as they will eat skunks and porcupines.

Invisible woodpecker

Early Tuesday morning I woke to loud hammering. I opened one eye and then another. Eased out from under the covers and shuffled around for my slippers. Bang-bang-bang. As my brain kicked into gear I identified the sound. Woodpecker. By the sound of it, big woodpecker, a hairy, maybe, not as big as a pileated. I crept down the stairs to get the camera. Bang, bang, bang. Crept out on the deck to the corner of the house. Bang, bang, bang. Eased my head around the corner with all the stealth of an Antrim County stillhunter. Perfect silence. No woodpecker. Or rather, the woodpecker was around somewhere, and probably laughing at me, but silently. My slippers were wet. I squished back inside. Bang, bang, bang. I have a picture of the very visible hole the invisible bird was working on.

Visible woodpecker damage

Just before lunchtime I was working away at my desk when I glanced out the window and saw a bird in the mist, perched on a nest, bobbing up and down as if it might be feeding young. By the time I found the camera the bird had flown, but I had hopes of the nest, perhaps little birdie beaks poking up at the edge. Bad light, mist, far away . . . but still.

Nest of invisible bird?

Zooming in I realized that the “nest” was the tattered remains of a wasp nest. What on earth? I wondered.

Do invisible birds colonize wasp nests?

Do birds recycle wasp nests? Do they build new homes on a foundation of abandoned wasp nest? Do they salvage wasp nest paper to furnish a birdly cottage on the bluff? (A thieving chickadee once made off with the insulation from my shoe.)

This particular invisible bobbing bird was shaped and sized like an American Robin, nowhere near as big as a crow, and it moved like a robin, but in my experience robins weave untidy nests of long grasses on top of the floodlights on my garage. I will be glad of any insights about bird recycling efforts.

(Note to self: I will take my camera with me every time I step outdoors. I will find the owl and capture its image. As for the woodpecker . . .)

Invisible birds beyond the next ridge