Ever since I saw my first Screech Owl hunkered down in the saddle of an oak, I’ve given extra scrutiny to tree hollows in the woodlands, looking for a bird face peeking out.
Our friend in darn-near-the-middle-of-nowhere California found such a face — in a cavity nest in her backyard — a yard that literally butts up against national forest. She’s got cattle dogs who wear vivid collars to protect them from mistaken identity in the line of coyote fire. These same dogs alert her to the chatter of spring birds in unexpected locations, and nest sculptures that surpass Alexander Calder in execution.
The dogs knew about this chickadee family that made a home outside the guest room window. I thought at first this was a Black-capped Chickadee, but then noticed the faintest of eyebrows which could indicate Mountain Chickadee, a more obvious choice in the area where we were.
These chickadees will use an existing hole in a tree, or carve out their own in softer, rotting wood. I shot these images through the glass as both parents brought beetle goods to the baby, living in a room with a view. (I’m not sure if I was seeing a rotating series of babies or just the one. The clutch size is usually several eggs.)
I love the yellow gape and expressive eyes of this little one. He alternated between recluse and voyeur during our stay. The sound barrier of a window kept my camera shutter from scaring him back into seclusion when I snapped these photos.