Dear friends, this blog post was never meant to be taken in all seriousness. I was feeling kooky at the time. If it sounds too bizarre to be true, don't believe it ;-)
Last Wednesday I headed back out to check on the Wallcreeper nest. This time I was a little bit more prepared. I had a full HD videoscoping setup (Swaro ATM80HD, 25-50xWide eyepiece, UCA digiscoping adapter, Pana SD100 HD camcorder) and a digiscoping rig (Swaro STM80HD, TLS800 digiscoping adapter, Canon EOS 350D). So I lugged all this stuff up the gorge with me, along with a local university student (Silvia Pramstaller) who is also very keen on birds.
It is often very difficult to get decent shutter speeds in such tight, dark gorges, but I did manage to get some decent digiscoped photos of the wallcreepers that I am rather happy with. Even better than the photography, was just the opportunity to be able to spend so much time with such a unique and enigmatic bird. Alpine birdwatching at its finest!
Female Wallcreeper (Tichodroma muraria, Mauerläufer) on nest with at least four (maybe five) chicks in nest. Male wallcreeper is in the foreground at the nest tunnel entrance.
A little known fact is that wallcreepers excavate their own cavities in the rock face. The male and female scrutinize the cliffs of an appropriate gorge - some times for years - searching for an appropriate crack in the rock face with just the right chemical, geological and geographical elements. After having selected a site, they begin with the hard work of clearing out a nest. In much the same way as the bee-eaters of the old world, and jacomars of the new world, these surprisingly robust little creatures hammer away at the chosen crevice one grain of rock at a time. This lengthy process can take a pair up to seven years to complet, but once finished, they can rest assured that their home bears all the hallmarks of great German engineering, Swiss precision and an Austrian's obsession with quality and "doing things the right way".
In the final photo, you can clearly see where the birds have scraped and scoured away at the roof of the nest cavity to create just the perfect dome shape. A cunning mixture of various locally-available clays, lichens and a specific ant species make for a perfect [mildly explosive] mixture that helps to quickly enlargen the entrance and the small stones littering the entrance have been carried in specifically for that function. The larger boulder guarding the right entrance to the nest must have taking them months to carry in. Incredibly industrious little birds are these Wallcreepers.
p.s. I did make a little video of the wallcreepers in action around the nest but my internet connection is upset with me today so I will have to post it another day.