This summer we have lost nests to logging, cows, and natural junco predators. None of those shocked me. A pinecone as death-dealer, however, was a surprise.
When I took this picture, I thought that this nest was dead. The chick you see was completely motionless and stone cold. The pinecone—which was not supposed to be in the nest—had (we think) prevented the female from warming her chicks up, and without their mother’s warmth these very young, naked chicks quickly got too cold.
But when I took the pinecone out to count chick bodies, one of the bodies moved. My field assistant and I took the chicks—there were three, all as cold as the morning mountaintop air—in our warm hands. I still thought they were probably dead: recently dead things may twitch when disturbed.
But as the tiny bodies began to feel less chilly, they squirmed more and more.