Let the Nesting Begin

Western Bluebird (male)

I’m always on the look-out for bird nests at this time of year. They’re all over, you just have to be in tune–the country or city, trees or eaves.

 

So far we have found five nests on our property: bushtits, violet-green swallows, western bluebirds, oak titmice, and pacific-slope flycatchers.

Bushtit

It takes some time to find a bird nest; it should, that’s the nature of a nest. How crafty the adult is at hiding the nest, and then keeping it a secret, is directly contingent upon the survival of the young, and ultimately the success of the species.

 

For the bushtits, it was a treasure hunt. One day I noticed they were a pair. Gregarious birds, they are always in flocks of about a dozen, except in spring when they pair off for breeding.

 

After that, I started noticing they were nearby several times a day, not just their once-a-day fly-through. Then I watched with binoculars and saw one had caught a worm and instead of gobbling it up, the bird carried it off.

 

Soon after, we followed the little fluffball as it disappeared into a manzanita bush. Bingo — we found a pocket of lichen in the center of the bush. You can see how hidden it is.

Bushtit nest (in center)

 

If you’re interested in attracting nesting birds, there are many things you can do, especially providing: food, water, shelter, safety. The main thing: be attentive.

Violet-green swallow on nest box

Info about nest boxes:

National Wildlife Federation, Nesting, U.S.

Nestbox Info and Books, England

 

As for finding nests, start watching bird behavior and you’ll be amazed how busy they are.

How to Nest Watch

How to Find a Nest, Canada

 

Good book (U.S.) with bird nest specifics: Peterson Field Guides, Birds’ Nests

 

This year and last, our neighbors lamented there were no more swallows in the area. What happened to the swallows? they said.

 

I grinned. We have them swooping overhead, all day every day, from March to June.

 

Here’s a previously written post about their nesting: Violet-green Swallows.

 

Every spring the violet-green swallows and  western bluebirds have a few weeks of territorial chest-thumping before they choose their respective houses.

 

Bluebird at nest box

 

The oak titmouse is always “our” very first songbird to nest. This year they found a cozy spot inside an old tree snag.

Oak Titmouse

It is for this reason that we keep some dead trees standing–they are a wealth of life regardless of how dead they look.

 

Oak Titmouse Nest Site (round hole toward top of snag)

The pacific-slope flycatchers migrate up every spring from Mexico. We have hosted so many generations of this bird that I could write their family tree.

 

A post I wrote about them: Generations of Flycatchers.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher on nest. Nest materials are same debris as on roof.

Many people don’t have big yards to provide nest spots. I like this story from fellow-blogger Helen at Tiny Lessons Blog. She helped engage the community in providing a new nesting place for the osprey at her local salt marsh: the fundraising efforts and the new nest.

 

What a wonderful thing to live where birds continue to reproduce. And there are so many ways to view the chicks, whether it’s in your yard, a community park, or from your computer via live cams.

 

It’s a sweet reminder of the joy of life.

 

Parent Pacific-slope Flycatcher with a lot to sing about

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

 

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94 thoughts on “Let the Nesting Begin

  1. I love that little Oak Titmouse, it’s a little beauty. And of course the beautiful photo of the Western Bluebird. We have birds nesting in our garden too – and next door to us. My wife was attacked by hedge sparrows while working in the garden the other day. I guess she got too close for their comfort and it is certainly true that you need to be careful not to disturb the birds if looking for their nests. Our blackbirds (who had been nesting with us) are one of my favourites with its beautiful and varied song. At this time of year in the garden we have sparrows, dunnocks, sometimes a wren or two, magpies, jackdaws, blackbirds and regularly flying overhead, red kites and buzzards. Birds are the most cheering of creatures don’t you think!

    • Oh how I loved reading about your nesting birds in Wales, Alastair. And no matter how little the bird, they have a way of letting us big humans know when we’ve gotten too close. I had to look up what a dunnock is, and I see they are also called hedge sparrows. I do think birds are cheering creatures, and I thank you for your cheerful report here, Alastair. My best wishes for a weekend filled with nesting birds~~

      • LBJ is often the name given to “little brown jobs” here – small brownish birds of which there are a wide variety. They are no less entertaining for their lack of colour.

      • We have LBJs here, too, Alastair, and sometimes they’re called LBT (little brown things). But I’m with you, they are no less entertaining. I like knowing they are called LBJs in Wales, too. Thanks for the smile I have on my face.

  2. Although I live in a condo in the city, nature is all around. I’m not a bird person so I’m going to call the little birds who nest in our roof sparrows or finches… certainly not as exotic as your feathered friends. Maybe because of the erratic weather of the past years, there doesn’t seem to be a nesting season… it happens at different times during the year. As I live on the top floor I see the birds flying in and out with nesting materials and food. The sad part is to find dead babies that have fallen out of the nests and made the fatal fall three stories to the ground. I give them all an official funeral and burial in the dumpster! But considering the number of birds I see I think that is a very small percentage.

    • Enjoyed your comment, Roslyn. Yes, when we live in moderate climates, nesting can occur at all different times. And all birds nest at different times too. But you’re right, when you see them flying about with nesting materials and food, the activity has begun. Thanks so much for your visit, I enjoyed it. And I enjoyed your post to the balloon festival, too.

  3. It’s like a bird paradise! I will say since having met you and Athena we are making a real effort to take note of the birds we see. Next step is to be able to identify them. 🙂
    Such fun to wander with you in search of these lovelies and see where they have. Hoses to call home. The creativity in nest building really is fascinating.

    • I’m delighted you came along on the nest site walk, Sue, and how very rewarding to know that Athena and I have opened your eyes and heart up to birds. And you are so right, the nest building is fascinating. After the birds have been long gone, and it’s time to clean the boxes, it is very informative to see what each bird has used for materials. A real delight to hear from you, as always. And oh how I loved your post today on the penguins. My best to you and Dave~~

      • We seem to be on a bird theme Jet. So glad you enjoyed the penguins as we did too. Dave feels he may have dulled my enthusiasm for seeing them in Antarctica but it is hard to keep this penguin enthusiast from dreaming.
        We returned from Africa with many bird photos and note of their names. Now if we can figure out how to match them. 🙂

      • There’s a real allure to the Antarctica world of penguins, but at roughly $10,000 per person, we have found we can indulge in a lot of other birds and still keep our house. I like your approach, Sue; seeing penguins in Africa plus getting a safari and a bike adventure and Victoria Falls and many other African delights too. BTW, please feel free to email me with bird I.D. questions. I’m definitely not an expert, but either Athena or I can at least get you pointed into the bird’s family. Big smiles, dear Sue~~

      • That would be great Jet. I may do a post down the road and take you up on your offer.
        As to the cost of Antarctica yes a hefty price indeed unfortunately.

    • Your first western bluebird, and aren’t they just so spectacular? I’m delighted to know you have had this pleasure, Brick. And I always appreciate your frequent visits. Thanks for today’s comment, a joy.

  4. How wonderful to have nesting birds so close. That’s our project over the next couple of summers – to add more plant life to our backyard to in-turn attract more birds, bees and butterflies. Fingers-crossed!

    • The western bluebird range is primarily western U.S. and Mexico, and that’s a long way away for you, Gin. So what an honor it is to share their beauty with you here. My thanks for your visit and comment~~

    • It’s one of the most important aspects of successful bird nesting. It’s just a super touchy topic…. But I’m glad you added it here, thanks my friend~~

  5. I like bluebirds which are so cheery and bright. I once, three years ago, was visiting their bluebird houses and parked to look for birds. When I couldn’t get very close to any I walked back to my car. Oh, how I wish I could have filmed this funny male bluebird! He was sitting and singing into the rearview mirror. This was so precious in my memory bank. 🙂

  6. Oh, how the singing Pacific-slope flycatcher looks proud and young! I’m sorry I forgot to add this part. I like that she was able to catch the beak opening in song. 🙂

    • I like that photo too, Robin. The pacific-slope flycatcher is a rather obscure bird, often hidden in thick foliage, so it was fortunate she captured this bright pose. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  7. One of the best parts about WordPress is the differing wildlife. What a joy to see PCFC’s year by year! It’s not even on my life list. And a treasure indeed with the Bushtits — like finding a hummingbird new.

    We are still watching babies grow, first with the chickadees then the bluebirds, the wrens, the hawks, and now some night herons. Nest watching is a truly engaging and joyful experience to be shared with friends and family. Who needs TV? Enjoyed you post and photos as usual, Jet. Cheers!

    • It is pure joy to share the PCFCs and bushtits and other Calif. birds with you, Shannon. And the variety of birds you have in Texas is always such a thrill for me on your posts, as well. The PCFCs winter in Mexico so if you are ever birding down there in the winter, you will see them, we always do. We joke that it might be our summer birds, who are all descendants of the PCFC we named years ago, Penelope. Great to hear from you, thank you~~

  8. It really is a wonderful time to appreciate who decides to set up their nest close by! After many years, the bluebirds have decided on our neighbors yard. We do have a lovely array of others, including a Baltimore Oriole couple. 💛

    • Oh what a delight to be surrounded by nesting bluebirds and Baltimore orioles, Val. As if spring wasn’t glorious enough, then you have these stunners flitting around — what a joy. Thanks so much, Val.

  9. Great post, Jet. You’ve captured the joy of the breeding season. May is my favorite month, the temps are perfect and the birds are singing their spring chorus. I love to sit by the river and watch the many different warblers as well as others going about their business.

    • Sitting at the river watching warblers sounds dreamy, Eliza. What a delight to share our spring birds, thanks so much for your wonderful words and visit~~

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the spring nesting post, Draco. It is always something new at this time of year, and so life-affirming. My thanks for your visit and warm words~~

  10. It’s so rewarding for a bird lover to see it’s birds following the step of the cycle of life. I’m one of them and I’m almost sure you are one too! It really makes me feel good when I see the birds gathering twigs and other materials to help build their nest. Then I can anticipate that a new generation of the bird species will increase and perpetuity will continue. Great post my dear friend! 🙂

    • Whether we’re in our own yard or out in other places, there is so much going on with the birds in their various stages. It is great fun to share our nesting birds with you, HJ, thank you.

  11. This old misery loved the life-affirming and hopeful nature of this post! A particularly exciting time of year to be alert to bird life. We are in Yoho this weekend, and will keep our eyes peeled…already been buzzed by a hummingbird, so it feels like spring all of a sudden.
    Thanks, Jet, and we hope you have a wonderful weekend! (And lovely photographs once again by Athena!)

    • Thanks for your fun response, pc, I’m glad you enjoyed the nesting post. I’m so happy for you to be in Yoho this weekend, what a grand and inspiring place. Where you are the bears might be waking up — woo-hoo! I’ll be curious to hear what you see there, and look forward to your post. Always a treat, pc, thanks so much. And have fun!

  12. Thanks for sharing –always great to see the nests–we have blue bird in our blue bird house but starlings in our wood duck house 😦

    • I love the bluebirds, and when they are nesting here we see that brilliant flash of indigo so much more frequently, it’s a treat. And a delight to share it with you, Bertie.

  13. Thanks for this lovely post, Jet. It was a pleasure to read about and see photos of the birds nesting in your yard. I like looking for nests too. So far I’ve see two crow nests under a bridge, two baby pigeons and their parents (also under a bridge), a robin nest, a Cooper’s Hawk nest and a lot of Canada Goose nests. There are a lot of yellow warblers singing in the woods near my house so hopefully I’ll see one of their nests or some little ones soon. 🙂

    • It was fun hearing about the nests in your area, Myriam, and you must be good at spotting them, because that’s a lot of them. When I was in Wisc. last mid-June I found a yellow warbler nest in the woods; at the time they were feeding the young so I could stand back and watch the parents coming and going. It was about eye level and extremely hidden. Really fun, and I love knowing you’re out there spotting the babies. Many thanks, Myriam, and happy nest hunting. 🙂

  14. A lovely spring post Jet, the bluebirds are beautiful. I was really pleased to spot a tiny goldfinch nest and am keeping my eye on the crow’s nest in our local park – which is much easier to see!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Andrea, and thank you for taking the time to share your nests. A goldfinch nest is a true treasure to find, I hope you have the pleasure of seeing chicks in there too. And it will be fun to watch the crows grow up too. Many thanks for your visit~~

  15. I can hear the bird song in this post….and love Athena’s beautiful images. The one of the Bluebird at the feed box is startlingly beautiful! Also well done you for finding the nests, because as you say they are so clever at camouflaging them. I was in Hampshire this weekend in a beautiful country place…filled with birds and all sorts of other wildlife. On Saturday after a heavy rain a beautiful barn owl flew almost in front of the kitchen window giving us a perfect display. After I finish my commitments in London – which will be end of July, then I will go to the beautiful Brecon Beacons in Wales and in the autumn begin to make my long stops in France….definitely in rural locations. Have a lovely week ahead. Janet 🙂

    • I enjoyed hearing about your country weekend, Janet, and your upcoming rural visits. And I’m glad to share the rural nest-building here. The bird song is extraordinary right now, every bird is singing at once, and they have so much to say! Certain birds start before dawn, in the dark, then the chorus builds and it doesn’t stop until the dark of night. Great fun for you to see a barn owl up close at the kitchen window. In Native American culture, when an owl comes to you they are there to help you see through to the wisdom in a life matter. How wonderful for you. I hope you, too, have a lovely week. Thanks so much, Janet, it’s always a treat~~

      • Good morning Jet – Thank you very much for telling me about the owl symbolism in the Native American culture….I like it and in many ways as I begin yet another new chapter in life – it fits. Even thought I live in London – I am fortunate to be in a very leafy party and so I also hear the dawn chorus every morning….although no where as boisterous as yours – I think 🙂 have a wonderful weekend my friend…and may it be filled with birdsong and creativity…Janet…

  16. I’ve always watched to see bushtit and now you’ve made that possible. 😉 Thanks Jet. Beautiful photos and how wonderful to have the song of the birds around you.

    • Bushtits were one of the first birds I ever identified, a bird store manager patiently listened to my description and gave me the answer. So how fun it is to share the bushtit with you, Lloyd. Thanks so much for your warm comment and visit.

  17. You have posted some interesting birds similar to those in the N.W. I especially am interested in the Bushtits since they frequent our neighborhood; I have never attempted to search for their nests not knowing what they are constructed with lichen. During my morning walks, I will keep an eye out for a nest since some of our trees are dripping with lichen and moss. Thanks for your sharing

    • This was only the second time in 16 years that I have found a bushtit nest, SWI, so be patient with yourself. Since you have so much lichen and are seeing bushtits, you have a good chance of spotting the nest. I’ve included a link in this comment to a good description of the nest. Scroll down to Nest Description and Nest Placement. And have a great time on your treasure hunt. Wonderful to get your comment, thank you. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bushtit/lifehistory#at_nesting

      • Jet, I did read the additional info on the Bushtits behavior and nests bldg through your mentioned website. Thank you. If I spot a nest it will have to be collected into fall since they have the ability to use the nest twice a season.

      • I don’t think it’s a good idea to collect the nest. As you say, they use the nest twice in a season, but then also, it’s not a good idea to disturb nests in the wild. You never know, some other species might be nesting, or roosting. Unless it is a nest box, where you have to clean it out for sanitary reasons, it’s best to leave wild nests alone. I’m glad you found the linked info helpful, SWI.

      • Thank you for your comments, Jet. I think it might be rare that a bird will return to the same nest a year later where we live. The bird nests in our area usually don’t last over the year due to our wet and windy days during the winter. Plus since moss is part of many of the nests and still alive it continues to grow heavily covering the entire nest. Reading the link attached to your post mentions that the Bushtit does return to its nest a year later, it is important to respect their placement.

      • Yes, SWI, you’re right, it’s important to respect their placement. Out of respect to any wildlife, we should leave the woods the way we found them. Best wishes for a great weekend ahead~~

  18. Beautiful post, Jet. I recently found out that it’s illegal in Ireland to photograph bird’s nests! I presume it’s because there’s a danger of disturbing the inhabitants. I shall just have to continue to enjoy the birds that visit our feeders in the garden. 🙂

    Susan A Eames at
    Travel, Fiction and Photos

  19. I so enjoy this lovely post. Photos of these birds are beautifully captured. Thank you for sharing the info. I sense many bird nests in our nature parks and backyard. they are well covered and protected by branches and leaves. 🙂

    • Your description of “sensing” many bird nests is wonderful, Amy — I know exactly what you mean, I sense many too, many more than I’m able to spot. But as we know, that’s a good thing for the birds. Thanks so very much for your warm comment today.

  20. I am always amazed where birds end up nesting…..so many birds around here, it keeps amazing me…here in the suburban desert of Phoenix, we will find bird nests in almost any nook and cranny along roof lines…have had a few try and nest under the “umbrella” of our patio heater. The larger Mesquite trees and Palo Verdes house of number of nests. We have so many humming birds and I know their nests are small, but can never figure out where they are…probably by design…great post as always!

    • It was a real treat to get your Phoenix nesting news, Kirt, thanks so very much. Your artist’s eye is a sharp one to catch all those birds. As for hummingbird nests, they are nearly impossible to find. We found one once about ten years ago, and have been looking for another ever since, to no avail. They like to keep us guessing. ha. Many thanks for your visit, always a pleasure.

  21. I love your winged-friends, Jet. i can imagine the joy they bring especially at this time of the year. mr. western bluebird looks so handsome! we have quite a few that come around in the spring, I hear them sing all the time.

    • Hi Lola, oh yes, I do loved my winged friends. I have kept a bird and wildlife journal for 16 years here, and the activity is fascinating. I’m glad to share it with you, and am really glad you stopped by. Thank you Lola.

    • Hi Wayne, oh yes, lots of optical equipment, goes with us everywhere. With the opticals and Athena’s camera equipment, we are inevitably swarmed in airports by all the TSA officers. I use Zeiss binoculars, I love Zeiss lenses for the light they bring in. Also use a scope, set it up at home on the deck espec. for visitors and little kids; use it the most for raptors and shorebirds. Athena likes her Swarovski binoculars. I would love to see the birds and mammals of Tofino. Your recent bear and cub findings had me smiling all day, Wayne, and I’m not exaggerating. 😀

  22. You garden sounds like a bird paradise! Did you day 5 nests? How lovely that must be. Do you ever see the little ones after they hatch? This year we are doing house construction and that is unfortunately scaring away all the birds. Hoping for better luck next year:)

    • Oh yes, the biggest joy is the little ones. Once they start flying it is easy to spot the juveniles, not only for their fledgling markings, but also for their inexperience in flying. The just-fledged juvenile hummingbirds started flying this week and they seek out red-colored objects, anything red, in a comical way. Yesterday I put a red dish on the deck and a little hummer was on it in three seconds, but it was only human food. ha. You’ll have better luck when the construction is over, we had the same experience during a remodel a few years ago. Always a delight, Inger, thanks for your visit.

      • A lovely story, had to share it with my husband as well:) I never knew hummingbirds had an attraction to red – but that explains why all the hummingbird feeders I have seen are red.

  23. You just never know where nesting will happen, right?! I think it’s great that you have such beauties there and that we get to enjoy them through this post 🙂

  24. What a treasure trove of birds!!!
    Okay, a bit of excitement at my city home this spring when a sparrow left the nest a bit too, early.
    It couldn’t fly, and landed on my lower level back roof. Talk about frantic chirping! It hid under the air conditioner thingmabob, and would come out when mom came to feed it.
    I was very stressed. On day 3, I could hear it, but couldn’t see it anymore. Hubby said it had fluttered down to the backyard, and could fly up into the green grape vines. It took 4 more days, but now we have exactly what we needed, our very own sparrow!

    • I love this story, Resa. There are often mishaps when the fledglings are learning to fly, or get pushed out of the nest, and it is indeed stressful to be there, because you want to help and are not sure whether to just let the struggling little one figure it out, or if you should intervene with assistance. And you feel protective and responsible. We had carpet delivered only a few days after we discovered the bushtit nest in our manzanita shrub. The guy had parked the van in a weird way and he got way too close to the shrub, so I had to fill him in on the secret nest and warn him to be careful. I’m sure he thought I was a complete dork. lol. It worked out okay, like your sparrow. yay. Thanks for the great story.

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