Hollow post story, time to act
- Yesterday evening (5/9/12) my friend Michael and I hiked some of the Valley View trail. On the way down in the dark I stopped at a hollow steel post. As I told him about the problem of birds dying in open-top hollow fence posts when they investigate them as potential nests (and then can't open their wings or climb up the smooth sides) I heard a loud snapping sound. I thought it must be a beetle or other insect. The snapping stopped for a while but then it resumed, so I decided to get out my flashlight and look inside. About an arm's length down was an ash-throated flycatcher resting on what I thought was miscellaneous detritus. As I watched, it snapped its bill several more times. I was afraid of getting jabbed but I reached down anyway and lifted it out. When my hand came to the top the bird fluttered its wings, made a crying sound, and fell to the ground along with another bird that I had inadvertently picked up. The second bird was also an ash-throated flycatchera recently dead one. When I looked back in the pipe I saw the skeleton of a third bird.
The living bird lay splayed out motionless on the ground at our feet. I picked it up, eliciting another cry and more snapping. Not knowing how long it had been there, I decided to take it home to try to give it some water and nourishment. But on the way down the trail I opened my palm to see what would happen, and it flew off.
I left the dead bird and the skeleton at the foot of the post, and stuffed chamise into the top of the post to prevent further tragedies this season. I also stuffed willow into the posts in the parking area by Mill Creek Pond, near the Valley View trail head. I hope others will check posts and stuff them or cover them with something. I think ash-throateds are one of our most vulnerable species to this kind of death, as they seem to like top-opening cavities.
This afternoon I realized my binoculars were missing and thought that in the dark and the excitement I must have left them at the post. I felt hopeless about finding them after a whole day of hikers going by the spot, but went to look anyway. They were there (at 3 p.m.)! I don't know if I tucked them off the trail under some foliage, or if some Good Samaritan did that, thinking the owner might come back looking for them, but in any case they were not very visible. If a Good Samaritan was responsible, I'd love to thank that person in person.
I looked up ATFLs on BNA and can't find any reference to bill snapping. Has anyone else experienced it?