During our short camp out at Kamakazi Ridge, we got to see some incredible wildlife interactions involving birds. On day 2 of our trip, I spotted a pair of Northern Flickers who were flying in and out of a nesting hole about midway up on a pine tree. Later that day, I watched as a squirrel made a big mistake of running up that very same tree. The squirrel had climbed all the way to the top, and within a couple of minutes the flickers went into full attack mode protecting their nest. The poor squirrel didn’t have a chance.
The angry birds kept diving at it as it ran circles around the trunk of the tree trying to escape. One of the flickers even managed to pull a tuff of the poor squirrel’s hair out in the blinding attack. The bewildered squirrel finally made a desperate midair jump trying to reach the limb of a nearby tree, but missed and fell almost 20 feet to the ground. It was a spectacular leap in which the squirrel seemed to fall forever. I watched as the irritated squirrel climbed another tree, and began to chatter while nervously flicking its tail. I felt so sorry for the squirrel who was totally taken by surprise by the flicker attack.
During this trip, we had a little problem with something getting into our garbage bags and spreading trash all over kingdom come. On day 3 of our trip, Don decided to take a short cat nap in the tent, while I sat inside the Blue Goose cleaning my camera lenses. Anyway, we had some trash in a plastic bag setting on the tailgate which I hadn’t hung up yet, and when Don woke up from his nap, he discovered that the trash was scattered all over the place. He asked me if I had seen any bears while he was sleeping because something had obviously been rummaging through the trash.
It was midday, and something had sneeked into camp without me even knowing it was there. Surely if there had been any bears in the area, the dogs certainly would have alerted us. So later that night I hung our trash up in a tree like we normally do. The next day when I went to hang up more garbage, I found that something had managed to reach the bag, and tear it open. Even though the bag was hanging about 15 feet off the ground, and 5 feet out on a rather small limb. So I spent several minutes picking up trash again - Grrrrrrr!
A little upset that some animal had outsmarted us twice, I decided to sit in a position where I could keep an eye on the hanging trash bag with my binoculars. Later that evening, the mystery was solved and we finally discovered what had been scattering the trash. A large crow, with a distinctive split in his tail feathers, flew down and landed on the limb from which we had hung the trash. Because the trash bag was hanging about 2 feet down, he couldn’t reach it, but he was able to hop down and perch perilously on top of the bag. By the time I walked the 100 yards to get to the tree to chase him off, he had already tore a big hole in the bag, and pulled out some paper towels. Since, it was obvious that this devious black bird wasn’t going to leave our trash bags alone, and I didn't want to spend the entire trip picking up trash, we decided to just keep it in the back of the closed truck. Problem solved!
I have heard that crows are very intelligent, and quite good at problem solving, and using tools. Apparently they have the ability to solve complex problems involving several steps or tasks. I found the following videos on You Tube and was totally amazed at just how intelligent these birds are! I was absolutely fascinated by watching the crow make a fishhook out of wire to retrieve a desired object.
During this camping trip, I also got to watch the courtship between a beautiful pair of little American Kestrels (Falco sparverius). They are one of the smallest species of raptors in North America, and it was a real treat to watch them mate, and hunt for small field mice & lizards in the clearing near our campsite. We saw them every morning and evening sitting on top of an old dead tree which they used as a staging post for hunting small game. I knew they must have a nest nearby, but I wasn’t really sure what to look for. Did they make their nest in an abandoned woodpecker hole, or did they make a regular nest out of twigs like Red Tailed Hawks?
While we were camping at Kamakazi Ridge, we witnessed the pair of Kestrels mating quite frequently, so it came as a total surprise to me when I located their nest and baby chick
I did discover their nest on our last evening at Kamakazi Ridge. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one to find it. Just after finishing dinner, I took a short walk along the canyon and heard the distressed cries of the little female. Looking up, I finally spotted her - diving at something in some trees. After a few minutes, the male had joined her, each taking turns at diving into the tops of the pine trees. It was obvious to me, that by their actions they were defending their nest.
As I circled the area looking for a better view of the action, I saw what they were so desperately trying to chase off……. You guessed it…..It was the same raven, with the split tail feathers that had stolen our trash. He was sitting on the branch of an old dead tree just above a nesting hole in the trunk. I was glad to see that the hole was directly underneath the branch he was sitting on, so he couldn’t really reach it. For a good 10 minutes, the mated pair harassed the raven until he finally gave up and flew off. Later I watched as the little female flew into and out of the hole several times, and even heard the hungry cries of a baby chick. Being carrion eaters, I am sure a small defenseless chick would have made a tasty treat for the large black bird.