Sunday, March 14, 2010
A Brown-headed Nuthatch at Morningside Nature Center
Gainesville is an odd place to bird. We're too far north to get all the famous Florida specialties such as Snail Kites and Anis, and on the southern end of the range for many typical birds of the continental U.S. Typical bird-feeder visitors such Tufted Titmice are rare to nonexistent only a few hours south of us, and everyday backyard birds common just north of here get Gainesville birders strangely excited. One of these is the Brown-headed Nuthatch.
Bird guides list these as common and easy to find, but here in Gainesville, they only occur in one place: Morningside Nature Center, a sprawling park filled with longleaf pines and scrubby palmettos. And even at Morningside, seeing one is not always a sure bet. But the past few weekends, we got lucky: we saw not one, but two, and noticed they were a pair, and were nesting!
While hiking the back trails at Morningside, I saw two more Brown-headed Nuthatches, who took turns pecking violently inside a deep hole on the side of a dead tree, squeaking loudly the whole time. The birds seemed to be traveling together, and it wasn't clear to me if they were feeding at that tree or trying to excavate a nest hole. I actually have no clue if Brown-headed Nuthatches are capable of excavating nest cavities by themselves, but it seemed like an interesting idea to contemplate.
The local Nuthatch Patch is a good place to be right now. Can't wait for the Nuthatch Patch hatch is a few weeks!