Red-breasted Nuthatch Nest Construction

I headed out yesterday with Lorraine to do some serious wildflower walking (what the heck has happened to me, I'm interested in wildflowers now) near our beeyard.  Before Lorraine arrived, I headed down in the woods to see if I could figure out what birds were setting up territory where--I like to get know the neighborhood on the trail to our beehives.  There's a pair of Cooper's hawks that have been "kekking" around the hives, but I cannot find the nest at all.  There's a creek on the property line, so it's possible that it's across the creek, but from the calling interactions, it sounds like the nest is on Mr. Neil's property.  Where ever the nest is, I'm glad they feel welcome (and may they eat lots of deer mice).

But, while enjoying birds and vainly pursuing Cooper's hawks, I heard some serious pecking going on--it was loud.  I wondered if it was a downy woodpecker excavating a cavity and was shocked to discover that it was a female red-breasted nuthatch.  That tiny little thing was making some seriously loud pecking sounds! She was actually across the creek and I was still able to hear her.  You'll note a little haziness in these images, with the leaves coming out this nest is going to be well hidden very soon.  I marked where I stood, but who knows if in a week if it will be visible.  I was excited to find my first ever red-breasted nuthatch nest though.

Pitooey!  Look at that spray of debris!  She was really going to town.  It was interesting to note that she was not wearing a band, Mark and Roger have not banded her yet and they have banded a few red-breasteds when they come out to Mr. Neil's.  I found it interesting that the female was excavating the cavity, that seems like something a male would do.  I checked the handy dandy Birds of North America Online and it reads that female red-breasted nuthatches select the nesting site.  It did mention that males who had not paired up early on may excavate four different sites to show a prospective female.  The above female worked and then disappeared.  I heard some chattering and soon, a male flew in and took over excavation duties:


He was much more vocal as he excavated where the female had been silent.  It reminded me of one of those arguments you can have in a marriage where the male may be doing one thing (like excavating four different holes for you to lay eggs in) and quietly, the female begins work on the place she really wants.  The male then comes over to excavate and mutters, "Dammit, I excavated 4 different holes and then she picks one way at the far edge of the territory and now I have to start over on a new one!  What does she think my bill is made of? A woodpecker bill?  Ratcha Fracka Friker Frack!"

They are excavating near where I hear all of the Cooper's hawk kekking.  I hope I'm able to keep watching this nest through the leaves and that the two unlikely neighbors get along.