Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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Central Park Tufted Titmouse.

Image: Bob Levy, author of Club George [larger view].


The photographer writes;

On first glance you might think this Tufted Titmouse is perched as I did but the image actually captured the bird in mid-air. I cannot remember if it was rising from or descending to my palm though I think it was probably on the way down. If it was in the process of leaving it would most likely have had a piece of peanut clamped firmly in its beak. I had been dispensing a few morsels to a Northern Cardinal acquaintance and frequent photographic model of mine who is singularly adept at beating the usually speedier House Sparrows to the food when I felt something lightly touch my shoulder. Much to my delight I turned my head to find a Tufted Titmouse standing there. He or she did not linger but rushed to the top of a low fence a foot away from me. There it was joined by three more of its kind. They began to zoom around me sometimes landing on my forearm or closed hand. One landed even on my head.

I knew what they wanted.

I held out my open palm sprinkled with bits of peanuts. The titmice took turns landing, grabbing and leaving with a piece as the other birds stared at them as if stunned by the boldness of their behavior. Hey, so did I. They did not linger on my hand but rushed off to cache their prizes in the crevices of nearby trees but they were soon back for more. I enjoyed this experience but truly laughed out loud when, as I peered through the camera viewfinder, one of the titmice plopped down inches from my face on the rim of the camera lens. These birds have been “encouraged” to behave this way by several birders who have been frequenting this particular spot not expressly to feed them but instead to watch one of the two Red-headed Woodpeckers that have migrated to Central Park this season. Red-headed Woodpeckers are uncommon anywhere and doubly so here. By the aggressive manner in which this particular woodpecker is defending its new territory I think it will spend the winter but that’s another story.

Comments

  1. #1 Bob O'H
    December 30, 2008

    Wow, nice.

    The Finnish birds can be just as tame. They even gave Grrl photography tips. If only she’d done what she was told, she might have had a few like this too.

  2. #2 bob levy
    December 30, 2008

    There are five of these birds. Likely they are a family unit. Late this afternoon they came toward me as soon as I stepped into their territory. I got the impression they recognized me. The ensuing feeding frenzy attracted two local Northern Cardinals that seemed exasperated by the free lunch the titmice were enjoying. The cardinals came quite close but would not imitate their smaller rivals. Even the Red-headed Woodpecker came by to express its opinion. The woodpecker landed within 10 feet while rattling a warning to the titmice to beat it but they paid no attention. So the woodpecker went back to stashing acorns while the titmice stuffed themselves until they went to roost.

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