Sunday, May 05, 2013

The Accidental Bird Watcher

Posted by CotoBlogzz

Coto de Caza, CA – It all started a few years back with a blackberry vine planted outside our kitchen.   Since then, I look forward to  summer time  when our traditional Sunday Brunch includes French Toast and fresh blackberries.  This periods also reminds me of the Bard as Helena exclaims:

Yet, I pray you:But with the word the time will bring on summer,When briers shall have leaves as well as thorns,And be as sweet as sharp. We must away;Our wagon is prepared, and time revives us:All's well that ends well; still the fine's the crown;Whate'er the course, the end is the renown.”

When briers shall have leaves as well as thorns,

And be as sweet as sharp.

Kitchen with a view - framing a nest

.. in less than 10 hours

Then last year, as we had consumed the last berry and I was dressing the vines, I came across a previously used sock-like nest.  Now, I do not know my birds from my bees, so I took a cursory look at the various nests and in the "Birds' Nests: An Introduction to the Science of Caliology" book by Charles Dixon (1902), Dixon writes that the Penduline titmouse builds pendulous nests. An  Oak titmouse is :

From the outside looking in

Notice the nest is more like a frame at this time - trasnparent

The nest, its builder and a neigbor

The nest - almost done.  Most of the work now is about the finish and perhaps ornamental

4-5", year-round, grayish body, jaunty crest, light gray throat and underparts (Local Birds of Northern California Backyards & Trail Birds). Or perhaps  a Wilson's warbler (4-5"; spring, summer, fall resident; olive above, bright yellow below; yellow face with black cap; longish tail) or a Bullock's oriole (7-8"; spring, summer resident; orange and yellow; black crown, eye line and throat; large white wing patch on dark gray wings.)

In any case, some ten days ago,  as the berries started to bloom, we watched as  a pair of birds busily survey the vines and settled on a spot just outside our kitchen window.  Within 8 hours, the pair had framed a nest.

The next day, there was little activity around the nest, so I decided to get close and take photograph from the outside.  Since we did not see the birds for a couple of days, we figured I must have disturbed them and probably the birds abandoned the nest.  Not so.  The next day, the pair of birds picked up where they left off.  As they continued to build the nest, I got the impression that the next phase was more specialized and required a special type of material.

During last week’s Santa Ana Winds, I watched as one of the birds was head-butting the frame.  Do not know whether he was trying to test the wind resistance, or simply shape the nest.

For the last four days, the couple continued building the nest in an apparent frantic finishing phase, as in form, not function.  I noticed they have managed to use a six-inch string to weave the top of the nest.  The outside of the nest now has several white, circular ¼ inch shell-like pieces.  I am not sure if the material is intended for some sort of function, or simply ornamental.

Now the nest seems fully developed with a clear entrance, and we know it  did withstand last week’s Santa Ana winds.  In case the birds are home and when  we use the kitchen door to the backyard, they fly away trying to divert  our attention away from the nest.  Seems like soon we will have a new pair of neighbors.

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