Butternut chronicle: Nov. 13, 1998

For those who just tuned in, I’m transcribing and reworking the notes from an old journal consisting entirely of thoughts and observations made while sitting on my front porch. The butternut tree that then dominated the view has since fallen over, and I have yet to reconcile myself to its loss – or to the imminent loss of its species, currently being wiped out throughout its range by a disease of unknown origin and poorly understood epidemiology.

3:20 p.m. Fifty-four degrees. A male white-breasted nuthatch inches along the edge of the porch roof, probing under the lip of shingles with his workmanlike bill.

There are four things you need to know about white-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis): 1) they are basically solitary; 2) their strongest allegiance as a non-migratory, highly territorial species is to place; 3) nuthatch space is defined and delimited by the presence of trees, with which they have a unique and intimate relationship; and 4) they spend must of their waking hours upside-down, finding thereby all the small gleanings overlooked by everyone else.

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