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A Petulant TItmouse

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A telephoto lens can give you tunnel vision. You focus down on the bird you're after, and you may completely miss whatever's going on around it. This was a classic case of photographer's tunnel vision. I had the titmouse in my sights and was shooting away when suddenly the bird's bill opened and it began to emit a high, shrill Seeee Seeee Seeeee! What in the world??

I swiftly twisted the telephoto zoom, widening the field of view, to find that a Carolina wren had landed on the Zick dough bowl rim.

It was obvious that the titmouse didn't want to share the dough, felt threatened by the wren, or both. It stayed in its mondo-aggro pose and shrieked and shrieked.

In a comical moment, the wren turned to look at me, as if to say, "Are you getting this ? Because this bird definitely has a problem, and nobody would believe it if you don't get a shot."

Yes, dear, and that titmouse is being a total baby if you ask me. I'm getting it.

I agree. I think I'll show him how unimpressed I am by this over-the-top display. (Scratches cheek).

Photonote: An ISO of 1600 will freeze the blurred motion of a bird's foot!
Science Chimp note: The Carolina wren is an over-wing scratcher, and please note the white spangles on its lower back feathers. I have a theory about those, to be aired in a later post.

Eventually, the wren picked up a few nuggets of Zick dough and departed, leaving the titmouse the reigning dog in the manger.

Hm. That went pretty well. You weren't taking pictures, were you?


That was just too good. I have a viscious wren at my house.

So I just came over to the blog to look up previous posts on Wrens, and found this! I loved it. I just had a baby and her name is Wren, so I'm looking over all of your previous posts about Wrens :)

Hi everybody, from Honduras, where it's pouring again. Thanks so much for all the great comments on the Chetpost. Yeah, I'd like to jump through the screen and pinch those doggeh 'tocks, too. I'm having fun and relaxing a little too much, since it's pouring AGAIN. It's supposed to be the dry season here but nobody told the clouds.
Still, it's fun and I'm not complaining, just whining.

I am so glad you can talk with the birds. The pictures themselves are wonderful, but the dialog makes this a really great post.

Hope the clouds disappear and you have sunny skies!

Very cute ! :-)

I love titmice, the bright eyes, the crest, the attitude... Great pictures!

Talk about attitude! The look on that titmouse was classic two-year-old-at-the-daycare. "Miiiiine!!!"

A lesson learned... next time I'm faced by someone in mondo-aggro mode I'm just gonna turn and nonchalantly scratch my face!

King of the dough bowl! Love the photos and the story!

These are great, Julie! Two of my favorite bird species, and you captured their personalities beautifully and clearly (in words and pics, I might add): the titmouse in full tantrum and the wren nonchalantly focused on the business at hand.

And Kyle got it right about the titmouse: you can hear the screaming brat in those images.

These are great bird captures!

Dang, DANG! I love these pictures!!

What a fun series of photos. I am always surprised at how loud titmouse cheeping is, compared to the size of its little body.

Ossum! You can learn me some of them camera tricks. ISO 1600 whaaat? I laughed my way through this precious post.

Somebody needs to put the sun up for you.


An over-wing scratcher. Who knew ?

Wishing you sunshine in Honduras.

Love that series. Too funny!

Titmeece* just love to nag. I believe it was the poet who said, "THEM THINGS IS HYPER!" With a hat that fancy, I guess it's hard not to feel important. Chet, on the other hand, don't need no pointy hat to feel -- or be --important.

*How's that for deftly sidestepping the titmice/ titmouses trap?

Quite enjoyable! You captured some precious moments and your text was a chuckle.

How hysterical! I've never seen a Titmouse get angry like that. Have fun in Honduras and keep taking lots of pictures!

Them titmices is hyper.

Great shots of two wonderful species!

Birdie90, you said it - "THEM BIRDS IS HYPER!" But I've known a Carolina Wren or two be a little hyper, as well.
Seriously though, great photos. I love it when one has the fortune to be able to catch bird interactions like this with a camera. And I love how the Titmouse looks so composed and dignified in that last picture, as if it had never pitched a fit at all.

A wonderful series of photos.

Great photos .. you catured their personalities perfectly.

Hey, Julie, where did your Zick dough stoneware bowl come from? The glaze looks like an old Radcliffe Pottery studio glaze I used to love. Maybe whoever made your bowl knows what it is ...

So, Julie, this morning as I was braiding my hair, I was looking down at one of my nature books laying on the floor next to my bed. The title of the book: Identify Yourself. Illustrated by: YOU!! I was so excited! I brought up your blog and showed my brother-in-law who exclaimed, "I know her!" Apparently, he shadowed you on a birding trip at Cape May with Pete Dunne a few years back. Well, I am pretty excited to have made this connection. And so glad to have found your blog and website.

I'd love to know what Zicke-dough is and how to make it. My wrens have the same speckles and I thought it was to help moderate the sun's heat. I'm a first time visitor and love the site - have loved your work for years in Bird Watcher's Digest.

Mariel, go up at the top of the blog homepage and type Zick Dough into the search box. The post that has the recipe is called Whatcha Doin' Up There? You can also search for that post by name. Have fun.

Great photos. These two birds are frequents at my feeder as well.

Being a city dweller, I had a 2nd floor feeder hung outside my study window. When I was working at home, I would get to see the progression of birds.

At first I would get a lovely female downy WP, and a chickadee I named Squeaky since he seemed to lack a full song, and a few other regulars, but later in the morning a huge rowdy flock of house sparrows would swoop in and clean out the feeder in a loud raucous feeding frenzy, driving the other birds away. All except for one determined Titmouse that would come dive-bombing in at a 45 degree angle and literally body slam the House Sparrows out of the way to get at the feeder.

At first I thought he was bully, and would tap the window and yell "knock it off"...then I came to undertand through this blog and others, that the House Sparrows were in fact the bullies, and sort of the hoodlums of the feeder world. after that I came to appreciate and even cheer the assertive little Titmouse.

Other bird feeder watching friends tell me that they usually share the feeder peacefully, but not always, I guess.

Great story and I'm envious of your photography skills! Are you on Twitter? I'd love to follow you. I'm @EKricfalusi.

Posted by Elizabeth March 2, 2009 at 12:42 PM

O.k., I thought I was crazy that there was a little wren outside my door the other day...I was like,"shouldn't you be further south today?" and he was like, "I want dibb's on your mailbox this spring I am! And those nut hatches hang out in big threatening groups! Have you noticed this?

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