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on Jun 5, 2020 in Wildlife Photography

I was Too Late?!

Red-breasted Nuthatch
captured by D6 / 180-400VR

Six days after we moved to The Ranch, I had all our nesting boxes up in place. Four days later I saw Red-breasted Nuthatches checking one of them out. Now understand, it never happens that way! Birds don’t find nesting boxes days after you put them up, they just don’t. More to the point, they just don’t move in either that fast. Cavity nesters tend to spend weeks and weeks checking out possible sites and then, they start to excavate. But here it was unfolding before our eyes, these nuthatches were definitely taking up residence in our nesting box. How fun!

I grabbed my copy of Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Bird and looked up the nesting biology of the Red-breasted Nuthatches. They incubate for about 12 days and are nestlings for about 16 days. I knew this clock was ticking yet life swept me away and I lost total track of time. We’d been seeing lots of activity, I kept saying I need to stop and shoot, but I just didn’t make the time. Then this morning my biologist friend said, “you do know how rare it is for a nuthatch to use a nesting box?” I knew it but it never really sunk home these past two months. That’s when I ran out with my bins to watch the nest box in panic. No activity! Was I too late???

After an appointment in town and a Zoom with friends, I sat down to shoot. I didn’t know if I was wasting my time or not. I thought I was too late, the chicks had fledged. I was still seeing no activity. I set up the D6 / 180-400VR eight feet from the box remotely shooting with the WR-R10. I was sitting about forty yards away. With bins in hand, I sat and watched. After a bit of time, I saw a nuthatch and a few moments later, it zoomed into the box. Over the next ninety minutes, both adults were busy feeding, removing fecal sacks, and then feeding some more. As you’re reading this, I’m out at the box for what should be their last day. If I’m lucky, and I mean real lucky, I’ll capture the kids fledging. I say I’ll be real lucky because I thought I was too late!

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