A Daily Walk With DietPower
Walking is the best exercise for weight loss. And the things you see!
I discovered these eggs today in a tiny nest atop a porch light on Kilian Drive. Five are pale blue-green and the size of medium olives. The sixth, much larger and mottled in brown, represents a major drama in the bird world.
The smaller eggs, you see, were laid by a house finch, a salt-and-pepper-gray, sparrow-like creature with a cheery, twittering song. The male house finch sports a blotch of red on its crown, as if its head has been dipped in ketchup.
Originally from Mexico and our Southwest, the house finch was introduced to Long Island in the 1940s, where entrepreneurs tried to sell caged specimens as "Hollywood finches." Although they never caught on, a few pairs were released into the wild and quickly spread over most of the East, where they thrived by supplanting the sparrow population. Today, ornithologists estimate U.S. house-finch numbers at more than one billion.
House finches are vegetarians. While the female sits on the eggs (this one fled when I intruded with the camera, chattering angrily from a neighboring sugar maple), her mate continually flies in to feed her wild mustard, thistle, knotweed, poison oak, and other seeds, as well as cherries, pears, plums, strawberries, blackberries, and other fruits. One of her favorite snacks is dandelion seeds.
Now for the drama: This pair of house finches doesn' t know it, but they are raising someone else's baby.
At dawn a few days ago, a female brown-headed cowbird flew to the nest, and in less than a minute, deposited the brown-mottled egg. She may also have thrown out, or even eaten, one of the house-finch eggs.
Cowbirds are North America's most notorious brood parasites. They originally lived a nomadic life, feeding on insects and seeds stirred up by herds of bison. Today they have adapted to the American suburb, laying eggs in as many as 220 other species' nests.
Most of the cowbird's unwitting victims raise the intruder's young along with their own. Others push the foreign eggs out of the nest. Still others smother them with new layers of nesting material.
House finches do none of the above. Instead, they inadvertently foster an ornithological tragedy.
Both male and female finches feed the fledgeling cowbird the same as their own. But cowbirds aren't vegetarians—they need animal protein in their diet. Hence, although the baby cowbird usually hogs a lot of the food, it inevitably dies of malnutrition.
Now I am faced with a moral dilemma. Should I rid the nest of this cowbird egg before it hatches into a baby that steals food from its five nestmates, only to die in the end? Or should I let nature run its course without human interference?
About this page: Precisely at noon each day, I step out of my office for a 3.5-mile walk around my Connecticut neighborhood. I carry a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TX5 pocket camera with a Leica 10x optical zoom lens. My object is to make an interesting photograph of at least one thing that is different that day. I post the results here, hoping they will inspire you and your friends to walk, too. —Terry Dunkle, DietPower founder and CEO.
Click here to return to today's page
All My Yesterdays
Wednesday, May 20: An Old Friend Is Dying
Tuesday, May 19: Crow vs. Hawk
Monday, May 18: Yours Truly
Sunday, May 17: A Wild Geranium
Saturday, May 16: War Flowers
Friday, May 15: A Mysterious Barn
Thursday, May 14: Who Invented the Microscope?
Wednesday, May 13: The Kitchen Sink
Tuesday, May 12: Slow Down!
Monday, May 11: What Lilacs Are For
Sunday, May 10: Mama Butterfly
Saturday, May 9: Gone to Seed
Friday, May 8: A Pack of Boston Terriers
Thursday, May 7: Underground Passage
Wednesday, May 6: White Violet
Tuesday, May 5: Singing His Heart Out
Monday, May 4: Kenny's Secret
Sunday, May 3: Monument to an Afternoon
Saturday, May 2: Gasoline Rainbow
Friday, May 1: The Duck and the Bashful Maiden
Thursday, April 30: A Poison Ivy Sandwich
Wednesday, April 29: The Very Picture of Spring
Tuesday, April 28: A Busy Bumblebee
Monday, April 27: Electric Pink
Sunday, April 26: Saturday Night Special
Saturday, April 25: An Old Oak Falls
Friday, April 24: How an Ant Sees a Daffodil
Thursday, April 23: The Nameless Brook
Wednesday, April 22: Weeding Time
Tuesday, April 21: Wet Apple Buds
Monday, April 20: Mr. Allen and the Crew Team
Sunday, April 19: Bloodroot II
Saturday, April 18: Green Jellybeans
Friday, April 17: Bloodroot
Thursday, April 16: Skunk Cabbage III
Wednesday, April 15: Find the Critter
Tuesday, April 14: Blessing of the Animals
Monday, April 13: The Crow Who Said "Wow!"
Sunday, April 12: A Quirky Church
Saturday, April 11: Self-Portrait in a Pothole
Friday, April 10: Easter flowers
Thursday, April 9: Dumb as a Squirrel
Wednesday, April 8: April Snow
Tuesday, April 7: Egg Trees, Connecticut Style
Monday, April 6: I Carry My Lunch
Sunday, April 5: A Tree in Spring
Saturday, April 4: Pigs with Drivers Licenses
Friday, April 3: Forsythia
Thursday, April 2: Skunk Cabbage II
Wednesday, April 1: Mystery of the Hanging Shoes
Tuesday, March 31: Downy Woodpecker
Monday, March 30: 300-Year-Old House
Sunday, March 29: The Broken Fence
Saturday, March 28: "You're Such a Delight"
Friday, March 27: Skunk Cabbage
Return to today's page
To comment on this page, .