Keep nesting season in mind when doing chores
Published 5:37 pm, Wednesday, June 1, 2016
It’s nesting season. I know, where have I been? It’s been nesting season for weeks already.
Not all birds are on the same schedule when it comes to nesting, however. Robins, chickadees and many of our year-round birds are getting ready to fledge chicks already. (Perhaps some have already.) Also, some of our early spring arrivals, such as Eastern Phoebes, have long ago built their nests and have growing babies.
Many other migrants are just now getting into the swing of the nesting season. I watched the other day as a female Baltimore Oriole constructed an amazing woven nest using grasses, sticks and twigs. The nest hangs from a branch like an oval basket. You wonder how something that looks so precarious withstands the wind and thunderstorms Mother Nature throws at it from time to time. But, when the leaves fall in October, you notice all these oriole nests hanging from oak and maple trees.
Spring migrants, such as warblers and tanagers, are still arriving and passing through our area. Those birds are just now picking out spots or will be in the next few days.
Water birds, of course, started long ago, too. We’ve all noticed the Canada Geese families along the sides of roads lately. More secretive water birds, such as Wood Ducks, also have babies in tow. The fluffy chicks are easy pickings for predators such as snapping turtles, foxes and raccoons.
American goldfinches, on the other hand, haven’t even started to think about the nesting season. They wait until later in the summer to perform those duties.
This is an interesting time of year in that regard. We have everything from species that have already fledged birds to species that are still weeks away from nest-building. In general, however, most songbirds are either sitting on eggs or busy feeding youngsters.
Spring, however, is also a time a year when humans like to tidy up around their own homes. Spring cleaning, spring chores, and the like.
Caution, or at least discretion, should be used when deciding which tasks to do when. Barbecue season is rapidly approaching and, for many, is already well under way. It may be tempting to power wash your deck to prepare it for summer parties. The undersides of decks are common places for birds such as robins and phoebes to build nests. If you are going to work on your deck, be sure there aren’t any nests underneath. If there are, it’s best to wait until later in the summer or fall to do that chore. (See, I just got you out of some work.)
Or, simply keep an eye on the nest and when the babies fledge you can remove the nest. Birds that have multiple broods in the spring and summer, such as robins, will simply build another nest somewhere else if their first nest is removed. But it’s important to wait until the first brood is fledged.
Now to get you out of even more work. Trimming or pruning hedges and bushes is not a great spring activity, unless you are absolutely certain there is not a nest in those bushes. Be aware, though, that bird nests can be difficult to spot sometimes. Birds (usually anyway) pick spots that are hidden away and tough to see. No one wants to cut a branch off a hedge and see a nestful of eggs or baby birds come crashing down.
Similarly, spring is a terrible time to take down trees. Who knows what is nesting high up in the treetops? Topple a tree this time of year and it’s probably more than just the tree that is coming down. That includes dead trees, too. While birds such as orioles build their nests in leaf-covered treetops, birds such as woodpeckers and chickadees use cavities in dead trees for nesting sites. The other day I was walking in the woods when I spotted a chickadee perched atop a skinny dead tree no taller than I am. He took off to a nearby evergreen and I noticed that this skinny, dead tree, about as fat as my arm, had a big hole in it about six inches from the top. I have no doubt that inside that hole were baby chickadees. A useless dead tree? Not to that chickadee family.
Last week a House Wren chittered and chattered all around my property. He checked out all four of the nest boxes I have spread throughout the yard. I don’t think he selected any of them. Bummer. In fact, he didn’t even choose one for a dummy nest. House Wrens and some other birds will sometimes put a few sticks into a birdhouse to throw off predators. This particular bird wanted nothing to do with my birdhouses. Maybe I need to reconsider their locations. Oh well, at least the wren sang and posed a few photos before moving on.
The nesting season coincides with the summer season for humans. Let’s go have fun and get our work done, but let’s keep the birds in mind while we do so.