Monday, April 25, 2016

April Gardening: Fluffing the Nests

As the first flush of March and early April perennials waned, I now anxiously await the next wave of blooms to come in my perennial garden - azaleas, roses, irises, clematis, and poppies. One of the more notable things I've observed while waiting for the blooms through these last few weeks of April has been the nesting activity. Let's check it out!
The little birdhouse you see in the photo above is several years old, handcrafted by a local potter. The chickadees must like this cozy little cottage. It's at least the second time I've seen the chickadees take up residence in it.
I've spent a couple evenings just watching the male, female go in and out of the house - very entertaining. Based on research, I've learned the female nests and incubates the eggs, and the male feeds her during that time. The male, female take turns feeding the nestlings once hatched so, from what I observed of both going in and out, the babies must have already arrived. The babies leave the nest 12-16 days post hatching, with the parents encouraging their exit by placing the food outside of the nest. The parents continue feeding the babies for several weeks after leaving the nest.

Another species, the finches, seem to be totally indiscriminate as to where they'll nest or how they keep house. The nest in the photo below is in our magnolia, on a limb very near a window on the west-facing side of the house. Previous to spotting this nest, I noticed the birds kept flying into the dentil molding of our house just above this area. For a couple days in a row, I was discouraging their getting comfortable in that by using the jet spray on the hose nozzle aimed at the dentil work. I guess this limb intersection was the next best thing.
Below is, I suppose, the ghetto abode of some more birds nesting in the hood. They chose the alley behind the house, over the motion sensor light on the garage. They were evicted. I will not be known as a slumlord.
Another observation has been a lot of robins running around the yard. I can't tell if they're digging for worms (I have a lot!), or scouting out the real estate possibilities. I don't know the behavior well enough to know where they are in their life cycle, but I see a couple at a time, dancing and prancing, one behind the other, back and forth along the brick walls and in the mulch.
I've had robins nesting in my landscape before, typically in the climbing roses, and one time above the light fixture at the corner of the house, in the courtyard.
We actually saw two of those fledglings leave the nest - so fun to watch! They really don't have the skill of flying mastered right out of the nest, though it's obviously instinctive soon after. They just seemed to free base jump and sort of scale the closest wall. This shot below was taken shortly after one of the robins left the nest, and was perched on the brick ledge right below the nest.
I'd hoped for bluebirds to nest in my yard this year; however, I didn't really do anything special to encourage it. So, the possibility of a bluebird nest eludes me and my landscape yet another year.

I will, however, be encouraging the hummingbirds to come to my yard by placing my feeders out very soon. They should be arriving any day now. Be sure to view one of my most viewed posts on hummers for the common recipe for their feed and tips on protecting them from an unsuspecting, natural enemy. Until that day comes when I am fortunate enough to land the holy grail of nest building in my yard - a hummingbird nest - I thought I'd share a friend's photo of one (below).
The friend who gave me permission to use this photograph is retired and living in Arizona. She recently shot this photo on her friend's patio. Sweet, isn't it? Now you know what to look for....a very tiny masterpiece! Perhaps the hummer thought the bird on the chime was a guard at post, there to protect her babies. :)

One thing I simply cannot protect are the bunnies who want to nest in my yard. While the finches are bad housekeepers, the bunnies are just not instinctively intelligent in sighting their homes. They nest right in the middle of the yard! I've had one repeat offender, choosing the same location as last year's nest. Another one decided to nest in my juniper ground cover, right beside the magnolia. Big mistake.
I don't know what got the rabbit, but I suspect it was a hawk. The next door neighbor spotted what they thought was a raven swooping in and snatching a robin right out of the dogwood in their front lawn recently, so maybe he took the rabbit. Nevermore.

I walk the garden almost daily, checking things out and taking countless photographs as part of my annual garden journaling. My next garden post will, hopefully, be a sharing of my next wave of blooms as they [literally] unfold. In the meantime, I'll piddle with everyday chores of weeding and nurturing. The grass I patched as part of the chores covered in my last garden update is doing well. I just finished giving my courtyard roses a dose of systemic care for insects, disease and fertilization. I'm happy to report I am still doing well NOT to purchase any new plants.

How is your garden growing?
Rita C. at Panoply
Postscript:  For a most excellent resource book on identifying North American bird songs, check out this book, the first edition being a hardback version from 2006 (Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song), published by Chronicle Books, with terrific information and bird song recordings built into the actual book, easily accessible by number reference.
The latest edition is a downloadable, Kindle version, with an audio and video access to the birds and their songs. All songs are drawn from the McCaulay library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The 2006 version is available from 3rd party suppliers on Amazon or through eBay. It's awesome!

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