Yesterday I was hiking with a friend from my “quaranteam” near Kendrick Peak. The burned out zones from the Pumpkin Fire provide good habitat for Western Bluebirds, and we got to witness one particularly territorial male. He was driving a chipmunk out of a tree, repeatedly diving at the chipmunk and pecking it. The chipmunk raced up and down the tree trunk and tried to spin around the trunk for cover but to no avail. The bluebird was too quick and agile and drove it down toward the ground where much to the chipmunk’s dismay, the dog we were walking was waiting. Back up the tree the chipmunk raced. Fortunately, the bluebird went to perch on a nearby tree while we continued our hike to give the chipmunk some much needed relief.
I initially thought the bluebird might have a nest in the tree, but I didn’t see any cavities and the tree looked like a poor candidate for a woodpecker to drill into (young healthy ponderosa, less than a foot in diameter at the base, maybe 6” in diameter up high). The other nearby trees were of similar age. The nearest dead snag that looked like suitable cavity habitat was 70-100 yards away.
Of another note, last week I visited Lyman Lake for my first time and camped on the south shore (keeping my distance from other campers). The wind was coming onshore and there were a pair of American Avocets probing along water’s edge, which were then joined by a Long-billed Curlew. I dutifully entered them on my ebird checklist only to discover the curlew had not been recorded there before. I got a kick out of adding a new bit of data and doing my bit for citizen science. And I was rewarded with some nice photos of the curlew yanking a grub out of the ground.