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Posts Tagged ‘nests’

The ants are already active in the yard after such a mild winter.  So, I’m glad to see that a couple of Northern flickers have made a nest nearby.  They are the ants’ worst enemy.

Flickers may not be easy to spot in the morning mist, but their calls to one another are strong and lively.  They’ve been working on their nest in an old tree for the past week.  I’ve also spotted them looking for ants in the lawn. 

These migrating members of the woodpecker family have an unusually long and raspy tongue, not unlike that of an anteater. After digging holes in the ground with their sharp beaks, they use this sticky tongue to gather numerous ants, pupae and eggs quickly and efficiently.  Ants and other insects are the flickers’ primary food. 

Flickers make their nests in old trees, also known as snags.  After a 3 inch diameter hole is made, a large cavity about 15 inches deep is created by both parents.  Six to eight eggs are also incubated by the pair.

At this point, the cavity is still being excavated as I frequently see the birds flinging wood chips out of the hole.  Although they are known to re-use old cavities, this nest is a new one, and there’s much work to be done to create such a deep nesting hole.  The fungus seen growing next to the hole in these photos was removed by them yesterday afternoon.  They’re busy all day long, and the harder they work, the more ants they eat.  Imagine how many ants this entire family will consume over the summer months!

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Undaunted by the threat of rain, I thought I’d trek out to Silver Sands Beach last Friday in search of seagulls’ nests.  I had seen an enormous flock of seagulls there last year, and figured they might be nesting there as well.  Inspired by some beautiful photos of gulls’ nests taken by Anne at Nova Scotia Island Journal, I set out. 

seagull carcass

Five minutes into my trek , I stumbled across this large carcass of a seagull. I had just made a large painting of a gull’s head last month and recognized it immediately as a Herring Gull by the red markings on its mouth.   Although I love to collect feathers that I find while walking in the woods or on the beach, it somehow didn’t seem right to pick some feathers off the remains of this large, beautiful bird. So after taking a photograph, I set out again in search of the nests.

white birdSilver Sands gets its name from the sparkling sand that used to cover its beach.  This sand was taken away decades ago by trucks for use in the city.  Now all that remains are stones and short pockets of sand here and there at low tide.  There are mud flats and grasses in a marsh behind the shore.  This is where I caught sight of a very large white bird.  Its elongated neck and long legs reminded me of the many Great Blue Herons I’ve seen at Rainbow Haven Beach and along the Salt Marsh Trail.  My best guess is that it was a White Egret. It flew off as I approached,  and in its flight looked very much like the herons. 

sandpipers at silver sands

Sandpipers could be seen along the water’s edge on both the ocean side and the marsh side of the beach.  They called to one another continually, probably to let one another know of this large intruder in their midst.  This is the only place where I’ve been able to see Piping Plovers in the past.  They probably make nests here too.  I looked around the grasses but was reluctant to disturb anything or give any of these dear little birds cause for concern, so I moved on.  It wasn’t long afterwards that I was able to spot some rather unusual looking eggs …

eggs at silver sands

… probably because I had walked so far along the beach that I was almost at Hartlen’s Point where the golf course is located.  Still not having seen any nests or real eggs, I decided to head back.  Maybe I’d find them on another walk, on another day… 

Seeing the large white bird had made the long walk worthwhile.  Walking home along the beach, I could see Flandrum Hill in the distance.

silver sands beach

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nest

It’s not uncommon to find birds’ nests in my yard.  A few years ago, I took an inventory and managed to count ten.  I’ve found them resting on branches, in tree cavities and on the ground.  Many last long after the nesting season is over, sometimes into the following year.  They are sturdy and surprisingly well hidden.  In order to take the above photo, I had to extend my arm above my head while reaching into a tree.

Different species of birds use a variety of techniques to build nests.  What is most interesting is how different couples work together to get the job done.  Here are some of the many ways that couples share the task.

  • Males and females work together equally, ie. woodpeckers.  (Thelma, would you hold this for me while I drill it?)
  • The female selects and completes one of several sample nests made by the male, ie.wrens (I’m not 100% sure George, but I think this one will look best after I spruce it up a little.  What do you think?).
  • The male gathers nest-building materials and brings them to the female who builds the nest, ie. mourning doves (Here’s another piece of thread, darling).
  • The female gathers the materials and builds the nest all by herself , ie. hummingbirds(Just get out of my way John.  Can’t you see I’m working here?  There’ll be time for that later).
  • Both gather the materials but only the female builds the nest, ie. American robins (Ok Roger, the twig I found should fit, if you get me a smaller one to place beneath it).
  • The female gathers the materials and brings them to the male who builds the nest (Nice lichens Dorothy.  Are there any more where those came from?)
  • The male gathers the materials and builds the nest all by himself, ie. some shrikes (You know what a perfectionist Mark is.  He likes to take his time and get everything just right).

Regardless of ‘how’ the task is completed, nests are built annually, providing a stable shelter for offspring during inclement weather and safety from predators.    Not all couples may share the task equally but all being results-oriented, they manage to get the job done on time and within budget.  If only human couples could work so well together!

The above techniques are from The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of American Birds.

See here for a classified list of nests that may still be on the market this season.

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Every spring when birds return from their travels south, the first order of work is to build or re-build a nest.  I’ve come across a  few nests in the woods that still seem intact enough, though discriminating birds may not agree…

nest1Gently used nest for lease in quiet neighborhood.  Situated at least 6 feet off the ground so should meet the standards for returning robins.   Close to a naturally kept lawn with lots of  juicy worms.  No cats.

nest2

Charming fixer-upper available immediately.  May require re-mudding.  Ideal for a large family.  Secluded enough in dense wooded area to ensure privacy and protection from high winds.   No cats.  All offers considered.

nesthole

High rise living at its finest.  Historic property with original hardwood floors and panelling.  Enjoy beautiful sunsets from your private balcony.  No cats.  Going fast.

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