White-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) are often talkative birds seen in leafy neighborhoods or along woodland trails. They are very natty in their white, black and gray feathers, with a bit of russet undertail trim. However, there are times when they are very quiet and rather furtive. That is when they are storing seeds for later consumption.
When seen scurrying around tree trunks often spiralling down head first, it is assumed they are gleaning for insects and larva. They probably are, but sometimes they have other plans. Yesterday we watched this one retrieve sunflower seeds from a feeder and then fly to a small tree where it perched briefly surveying the area for possible watchers. In a few seconds it would head down the tree to poke a seed under a flake of bark.
A black oil sunflower seed (small black triangle) is partially visible about one fifth way up the trunk in the top image. It could hear our camera shutters and would look at us. Since we were staying still it seemed to assume we were not paying it any attention and continued saving seeds. When a second nuthatch landed in the tree, this one left. It came back about fifteen minutes later to continue the task.
If you look closely at this image, you can see the gray/brown sunflower seed being pushed under the bark by the sharp, somewhat upward curving beak. It is definitely a multi-use tool. Sometimes it would try several spots and it would take some effort to push the seed into place.
In addition to watching the nuthatch’s behavior, we got to admire the intriguing layered feather pattern of its wings and tail; something one does not see so graphically as it circles rapidly around tree trunks.
The soft background colors are an out-of-focus building – darkish windows, window sill and stonework. Selecting only as much depth of field (DOF) as needed to emphasize the main subject eliminates the need to remove or change backgrounds later. We work to avoid or adjust for distracting backgrounds in camera. It makes for more satisfying images. Frequently out of focus objects in the background will record softer or slightly different colors on the camera sensor than what we see. This is another of the pleasures of the art of nature photography.