The Literary Drover No. 3642

I live where I live because I choose to live where I live. I know my choice has resulted in some difficulties and challenges for me personally and professionally. I know if, for example, I lived in Los Angeles-proper I would have more immediate access to producers, directors, actors, and other denizens of the entertainment trade. But there would likely be trade-offs: Environmentally-based C.O.P.D.; three, four, or five divorces; illegitimate children who loathe my existence because I am The Lousy Parent of the Year; countless legal actions manifested as a lack of morals and ethics on my part; tens of thousands of dollars annually for therapy associated with my failure in parenting, marriage, and other adult pursuits; one or two addictions that include alcohol and drugs.

The choice to live where I live instead of Los Angeles was determined in part because I decided the aforementioned trade-offs were not worth the related sacrifices. I decided that I would rather live a financially modest life (comparatively-speaking) than to realize twenty, thirty, forty years on that I had succeeded in only one way: Squandering most of my life, my talents, abilities, and skills to the supposed fulfillment of ego; along with the ruination of my self-respect.

Living as I do has allowed me clarity and focus through relative simplicity. For example, despite the declaration than spring has arrived to this part of the world, winter remains apparent, as expressed by recent events: I awoke recently to find a dusting of snow on the trees, ground, and flowers. Because it had been my intention to rise early and enjoy the dawn, the birth of a new day, which would set the tone for the day of writing that awaited, I swept away the snow from the rocker on the deck, made a hot cup of coffee, dressed properly, and sat, waiting for Nature would bring.

As I did I realized that I had company. With minimal movement I located the source of the presence: A mountain chickadee, who presumed in the early hours of the forthcoming day that I was a source of food.

I moved slightly and the bird flew to the shelter and protection of a nearby pine tree, verbally admonishing me for my physical actions. I ignored what might have been the feathered version of profanity, went inside, and returned with a handful of unsalted, shelled peanut halves that I arranged on the deck railing in a single line before reclaiming my seat and cup.

The light of the day silently arrived and the chickadee returned. Despite the fact half a peanut is almost as big as the bird’s head the chickadee decided to eat, doing so by furiously pecking at it, rendering it to bite-sized flakes and dust. By the time the Herculean-like task was completed and the meal was finished the day had arrived. The warmth of the sun provided comfort to both of us.

Full of food the chickadee moved to a position closer to me and I watched as it dozed.

The nap was short-lived because a Blue Jay and a Fox Squirrel arrived, and their apparent inability to co-exist where food was concerned upset the chickadee, which flew away.

The conflict made me smile and wonder: If this had taken place in Beverly Hills, in an upscale restaurant, as a conflict involving a lecherous movie producer and an aspiring starlet it would have been news, headlines of a salacious nature. Here, it is Life, day by day, and that fact alone provides reason to live where I choose to live.

The Literary Drover No. 1607

This is me, being a bird nerd: While watching a pair of nesting Golden Eagles I realized I was being verbally assailed by a bird later identified as Spotted Towhee. A discrete examination of the behavior later revealed that I was too close to its nest and was being asked to leave the area. It is named Pipilo maculatus. Order: Passeriformes. Family: Emberizidae.

The Spotted Towhee is a large, striking sparrow-like bird, generally found in thickets in the American West. The males gleam black from above while the females are grayish in Colorado. They are also spotted and striped with brilliant white. The warm rufous flanks match the dry leaves they tend to favor for an environment. In the spring months the males will ascend to the top of thickets and shrubs and sing a song described as “buzzy”.

If you can do so, watch when the Spotted Towhee is feeding on the ground. It has a two-footed, backwards-scratching hop that it uses to uncover seeds and small invertebrates it favors for food.

At one time the Spotted Towhee and the Eastern Towhee were considered to be the same species – the Rufous-sided Towhee because of interbreeding.

Again, spend some time watching quietly, especially in the morning, when the male will sing to attract a mate. The male towhee has been documented through recordings to spend 70 to 90 percent of the morning singing in pursuit of mating. Once a mate is acquired the singing is reduced to about five percent of the time.

The Spotted Towhee is about a third bigger than a Song Sparrow and weighs twice as much, but it is smaller than a robin.

For those interested it is known as “Tohi tacheté” in French and “Chouis” in Spanish.

I observed the Spotted Towhee in a large clump of bushes, much of which was Mountain Mahogany. It also nests in dry thickets, brush tangles, the edges of forests, old fields, backyards, and canyon bottoms. The denser the shrub cover and the more leaf litter present the more likely the Spotted Towhee is to live in it.

When breeding the Spotted Towhee eats mostly insects, including ground beetles, weevils, ladybugs, darkling beetles, click beetles, wood-boring beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars, moths, bees, and wasps. It may also eat what it finds in leaf litter, including millipedes, sow bugs, and small spiders. Should these food sources be limited they will also eat acorns, berries, and seeds that include buckwheat, thistle, raspberry, blackberry, poison oak, sumac, nightshade, chickweed, and crops such as oats, wheat, corn, and cherries.

Outside of mating season, in the fall and winter, they will eat plant foods as noted.

The nest of the Spotted Towhee is built initially by the female, with a framework of dry leaves, steams, and strips of bark. The inner edge of the nest will be lined with dry and fine materials that include grasses, pine needles, and hair from mammals such as deer and elk. After the nest is completed it will measure about four and a half inches across, with an inner dimension of two and a half inches to four inches, and will have a depth of about two and a half inches.

The Spotted Towhee is a generally a ground nester, and the nest will be built into a depression so that the nest rim locates at the surface of the soil or slightly above it. The nest may be located as high as twelve feet off the ground, but the preference is at ground, inside of a thicket, to conceal it and the contents.

A Spotted Towhee will rummage in leaf litter under shrubs and in thickets. They tend to hop when moving, and do so with deliberation to locate food. A conflict between two may involve one picking up a piece of bark, leaf, or twig, and carry it around as a defense against the other one. If a Spotted Towhee is disturbed it will flick its wings while perched, and sometimes may flash the white corners of the tail.

Resources for birdwatchers: