White-breasted Nuthatch captured by Z 6II / 500PF

Sharon and I are one what seems like an all station alert watching the bird activity at The Ranch. That’s because this is our first full spring here and we don’t know what to expect, from whom to when. We’re now up to 59 species of birds at The Ranch with the new addition just yesterday of Western Bluebirds. With that surprise and the Red-breasted Nuthatches that nested in one of our boxes we’d just hung last year, we’re open to any surprise. Well, I thought we were when we saw a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches start to get busy around a nest box I can see from my great room chair. Darn if they weren’t taking nesting material into the box, and at the beginning of April!

I instantly got out Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds and Birds of Montana and did some quick reading. I learned that indeed, it was an early start for nesting and that they don’t play nicely with other birds around their nesting cavity. They do use boxes and the female does all the incubation with the male bringing the female food while on the eggs. They tend to be site tenacious which tells me that with do precaution I could photograph them. All I wanted was some photos of their bringing in nesting material for now.

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

Having photographed them on feeders, I had a good idea of the distance I would need to be from the box for the image I wanted (about 7 feet). I grabbed the 500PF I have on loan from a friend, connected it to the Z 6II (via the FTZ) with the WR-R10 attached (remote control) and waited until both adults had come and gone from the box before approaching. With them gone, I scooted in, setting up the gear, focused on the center of the nest box hole, took a couple of test shots and walked away. I grabbed a chair, cup of joe, my bins and watched and shot. After a couple of hours, I repeated the process in reverse bringing in the gear.

Now the calendar is ticking until the eggs hatch and as life would have it, I should be home when the first egg hatches. I’ll wait 4-5 days after hatching and then go back to photographing the activity. While we’ve seen other birds courting, this is the first actual nesting behavior and it’s so early. It’s going to be a fun spring at The Ranch as the nesting has begun!

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