Of Woodchucks and Titmice…

Yesterday I saw three cute, little woodchuck babies emerging from the brush pile at the edge of our yard. They wandered around, climbed on some fallen limbs, and foraged in the grass. This afternoon I took a camp chair and sketching supplies down to the path where it goes into the woods near the brush pile, settled myself more or less comfortably, and waited. For a while there was no sign of the woodchucks, so I watched and sketched a vociferous House Wren who tirelessly spills his son through the woods nearly all day long.

After a half hour or so, I saw Momma Woodchuck’s head appear from the hole under the brush. She stayed motionless, just her head showing, for a long time, while I ever so slowly lowered my binoculars, avoiding any sudden move that would alert her to my presence. After a while I saw an adorable little baby woodchuck appear under Momma’s chin, then another baby on the other side of her. They looked around briefly, then lacking the highly suspicious nature of their mother, they emerged fully and began to climb on the piled up branches. Momma remained motionless and alert. A third baby appeared beside Momma, then ducked under her chin and began nosing at her mouth. She still didn’t move, and finally Baby #3 moved away to forage in the weeds. At that point I noticed a fourth baby approaching from the direction of another hole I’d noticed. Maybe Baby #4 is more independent and had decided to make his own way out into the world?

I sat as still as possible, only barely moving my right hand to sketch the woodchucks, occasionally glancing down to see my page. Suddenly I heard a whirr of wings behind my head, then again, this time so close I could feel the air moving against my hair. And then I felt a bird land on my head! I resisted the temptation to move, and the bird began yanking at my hair. I felt a couple of hairs get pulled out, and from the corner of my eye, I saw one of my white hairs floating to the ground. At least whoever it was had the decency to pull out white hair and leave my few remaining dark hairs.

I continued sketching the woodchucks and the bird continued to yank at my hair for a little while, then seemed to be trying to rearrange my hair with much twisting and scratching, but no more yanking. I was a little concerned he was checking out my head as a potential nesting site, since obviously that would prove disappointing for him, but after perhaps five minutes he hopped off my head and onto the back of the chair beside me. I turned slightly, curious to see who this was who so appreciated my hair, and he took off, landing in a nearby tree– a Tufted Titmouse.

Meanwhile, Family Woodchuck continued to roam, climb, and explore, with Momma watching closely. Finally, after I had been sketching for an hour (sitting for an hour and a half), I heard a quick whistle, and all the babies and Momma ran into the burrow. I came in and added color to some of my woodchuck sketches and did a quick memory sketch of a Common Yellowthroat who had landed briefly right in front of me. I had already sketched the House Wren in watercolor, while waiting for the woodchucks to appear.

Field sketches of House Wren and woodchucks (click image to see it larger)

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