Saturday, June 19, 2010

Just Watching

Yellowstone: April 21, 2010

Mellow late morning at the Yellowstone Picnic Site. A young doe rests in the shade when we arrive.

Yesterday we found where a flicker is excavating a nest hole high in the broken off top of a Douglas fir. We’ve come back to watch. The male does all the excavating. Lots of chiseling, then he pauses and throws out several mouthfuls of sawdust.

After a midday absence by both flicker, the female flies to the hole a taps a few times around the edge and calls. I think she is saying, “Honey, get back to work!” The flicker has done a lot of excavating today. Maybe he isn’t too eager to start pounding away again. Even though they have skulls specially adapted for pounding, it can’t be much fun. But he comes back. First they copulate, and then it is back to work for the male.

Yuck! A mouthful of sawdust isn’t high on my list of things to put in my mouth! But he persists and tosses anywhere from a few mouthfuls to over a dozen into the breeze before continuing his chiseling. It is a much finer sawdust then I’ve seen when a flicker excavates aspen. I suspect this gnarly old Douglas fir has very hard wood.

Meanwhile it has been very interesting getting to know the picnic site raven. This is his turf… and woe on the raven who wants to take advantage of the free goodies. Twice another raven has flown in, only to get chased by this raven. Twigs snapped as he chased the intruder. The raven even broke a tail feather in the process.

No one is supposed to feed wildlife anywhere in the park, but if I pretend not to be looking, virtually every tourist who gets into their food supply can’t resist the raven’s insistent begging. Many tourists don’t care if we see what they are giving the raven – chips, a piece of ham, even two slices of bread. Most of the goodies are gathered up in the raven’s throat until it is obvious the pouch is full. Off he flies to cache it. He actually stacked the two slices of bread into one unit so he could carry both at once.

Usually I get to see where the raven goes. He never goes to the same spot. Generally he caches out in the grassy opening. I watch carefully to see where and walk to the spot. But I can’t find anything.

I watch again, this time never taking my eyes off the goal. I walk a straight line to the spot, about 100 yards away. Nothing. But then I notice a few pieces of broken, dried grass. Sure enough. Underneath are four chunks of fried pork rind. Raven didn’t seem to mind I was inspecting his goodies. I thought he might quick grab them before I got there, or maybe I caught him by surprise. I doubt if many humans take an interest in his goodies.

1 comment:

  1. Your sketches are marvelous but the narrative makes me feel I am right there with you watching all going on.