During the doldrums of winter, especially here in the Northeast, I am often reminded of the dog days of summer while wandering around our property. We live on 5 acres that are comprised of scrub woods surrounding the open grass of our landscaped yard.
We have landscaped our yard to attract a wide variety of birds so it is no surprise that a variety of birds nest here every spring and summer. This time of year we enjoy walking around our property to find the marvels of construction that birds have created to raise their young.
A Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) family raised at least one brood from deep within this Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Mops’.
What is left of their nest this time of year looks more like a pile of twigs, but watching the Sparrow family brought a great deal of enjoyment this past summer. First observing the construction process, waiting through the brooding phase, and then watching the parents work so hard to keep the young ones fed. In all too short a time it was over and the young had fledged.
Another location for bird nests in our yard is the climbing hydrangea trellis on the North side of our house.
This is very popular with American Robins (Turdus migratorius). For the past 15 years at least one pair of Robins have raised their young from this location. When I examined the trellis this winter I was surprised to see three Robin’s nests. I don’t think the nests were occupied at the same time by a different family of Robins; rather, I believe, it’s likely that while the male fed an early brood the female built a second nest and started the process all over again. This summer I photographed one of the parents bringing a mouthful of tent caterpillars to the brood.
This summer we had a location chosen by a pair of House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) that really surprised us. One day we noticed a long piece of grass hanging out of the top of our clematis trellis.
The clematis is a very vigorous grower and had entirely engulfed the trellis. The house finch found a safe sanctuary within the globe on top. The female worked on the construction for quite a few days and I thought she would never lay eggs and start brooding, but they did successfully raise their young. It was fun to walk out in the yard and hear the chicks crying for more food. Here is a look at what the nest looks like in the trellis now.
Other shrubs that attract birds to nest are our Rosy Glow Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rosy Glow’); popular with Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), and our James McFarland Lilac (Syringa x p. ‘James McFarland’); popular with some of the smaller species of birds.
It is always fun to scout out the nests in the winter since we would not want to disturb them during breeding season. I marvel at the different construction techniques of each species. The American robin nests are so sturdy that they are often re-used the following year with only a small amount of renovation needed while other nests collapse shortly after they are finished being occupied. I am sure there are other nests hidden around our yard that we never find, but it sure is always fun to go house hunting in the winter.
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