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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Have you met Psaltriparus minimus?

I'm not always ready for unexpected company, but today it was perfect timing. This afternoon I returned from my walk with Bella, our greyhound, basking in the warmth, jacket over my arm. What a beautiful day! I decided to fling open several windows and give the house a good airing, from one end to the other. An unusual feature of our home is the large window in the master bedroom, looking out onto terraced gardens that rise in layers of texture and color above the lawn. At the left edge of this view is a mature blue spruce, inching ever closer to the house. I love this tree but barely glanced at it as slid the glass away in a rush of fresh air, and turned to go.

Then I heard them. It was just a little twitter, a quiet conversation among themselves, not for my ears. I had to look closer to notice the quick movements of tiny gray-brown bodies, so busy among the branches. Then I smiled with delight. I had company, the bushtits, Psaltriparus minimus!

If it were possible to choose a favorite bird I would give the honor to these little visitors, probably no more than three inches long, with the delightful appeal of all things miniature, bringing on my fantasy of holding one in the palm of my hand. Years ago, at another house, for unknown reasons they chose to build one of their intricately woven and delicate nests in a thorny rose bush, at the height of only three feet off the ground. It hung there like a forgotten silk purse, caught in the intersection of three rose canes. A mating pair had chosen this unlikely spot and worked for days to build a home for their babies, but my own maternal instincts were on alert. Too dangerous! There were cats around. My husband and I found an old roll of wire fencing and surrounded the rose bush, afraid we might be disturbing them, but having the best of intentions.

Then we saw the bushtits no more. They had abandoned the nest. I watched it for many days but all activity had stopped. Had we run them off? I felt guilty. Finally it was clear that they were really gone. The nest was so perfect I had to save it. I sacrificed the sections of the rose canes the nest was suspended from, and carefully cut it free, feeling like a thief as I held this work of art in my hands, in awe. Then I went to place it in a shoe box, and out rolled several tiny bluish eggs, no bigger than the smallest jelly beans.

I'm so glad the bushtits chose my tree for their industrious food gathering this afternoon. I thank them for reminding me of all the "other" worlds and societies and individuals that coexist with ours, and how fragile and precious they are. And I thank them for reminding me, on a day when I had been just as busy and industrious as they were, that it is a good thing to stop for a minute and appreciate the gift of unexpected visitors.


April is the month for the Tahoma Audubon Society's annual BIRDATHON fundraiser. This important event takes place April 25-May 31. How can you help? Find sponsors who will make a pledge to TAS based on the results of your birdwatching, either the number of species counted or just a donation of their choice. For more information call Thelma at 253-564-8210 or check on

1 comment:

susan said...

Nice to read your blog and I'm looking forward to more!