Following the Nuthatch

I recently had a discussion with someone about sitting quietly in nature and just observing your surroundings as a way to relax, increase your observation skills, and just get in tune with a natural place. It reminded me of a project I had heard about several years ago called The Sit Spot. There are various iterations of the idea, but, basically you just go outside some place that is close enough to visit frequently, and you sit. That’s right, sit, for 15 – 30 minutes, or however long you can. It is a place to commune with your surroundings, ideally with no distractions (no phones or cameras, although I do take binoculars). And you observe, listen, think about what you are seeing. When you sit quietly, the world starts to come alive around you. So, Melissa and I have been trying to go out whenever we can and sit in the woods and watch. On a recent weekend, when I was leading a tour down east, she sat and observed some of the goings-on of some of the birds that call these woods home. She later wrote a poem about what she saw. Here it is, with some photos of the birds taken at other times and in other places.

Following the Nuthatch

by Melissa Dowland

When searching for a bird of prey
On a fall or winter’s day
Never trust the noisy titmice
Only the nuthatch will suffice.

The titmouse is a busy soul
Forever making a dreadful scold.
He flits about the whole day long,
Rarely pausing in singing his song.

Tufted Titmouse 3

Tufted titmouse

The busy wren, he too will cry
So loud, he calls, though small in size.
But he is easily distracted by
The lonely squirrel who wanders by.

Carolina wren

Carolina wren

So would you like to spot a hawk
On your winter hike or walk?
Then heed the nuthatch’s nasal cry.
For when the hawk his eye does spy

Out rolls his nasal, cranky ‘yank’
Heard over hill and down the bank.
The nuthatch is a wise old bird
So listen closely to his words.

“There goes the hawk, warn one and all!
Oh forest, listen to our call!”

White-breasted nuthatch on tree trunk

White-breasted nuthatch

So look, oh wanderer, for the source of that sound
Up in the trees and on the ground.
If you’re lucky you might be blessed
If the nuthatch and hawk make you their guest.

Red-tailed hawk

Juvenile Red-tailed hawk

3 thoughts on “Following the Nuthatch

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