Anne Horrigan Geary: Observing birds and their nesting
DALTON >> I'm always looking for objects that will create a focal point in the garden, to enhance the beauty of the flowers and not detract from it. I have some metal tuteurs (tripods), topped by lifelike, resin birds which complement the beds and also stake the leggy perennials which they surround. They are especially good with peonies.
Once, I bought an amazing aluminum frog — about 24 inches high — meant for the garden; but I haven't found the right spot yet, so he sits alone and unloved in the garage. I had better luck with a tall wooden structure, meant to look like a rustic chapel, which tops out at over three feet.
It has a birdhouse opening built into the top, but for three years none of our feathered friends deigned to consider it worthy for nesting. Their decision might have something to do with the two furry felines who visit the area in search of their favorite plant — catmint.
This year, however, a pair of small black birds were seen checking out the lodgings. After much inspection, something was not to their liking, and they flew away.
The chapel seems destined to be home to trailing vines and nothing else. There are definitely pairs of nesting birds in the neighborhood, but I suspect they have opted to nest in the multitude of trees and shrubs.
Although I don't know where they nest, a pair of cardinals are frequent visitors to the yard. The male spends lots of time in the forsythia where he can safely forage, and then he takes his bath.
We have a shallow copper birdbath near the white garden and the cardinal moves from the forsythia to the white rose, to the rim of the birdbath, takes a sip of water (to check the temperature?), then hops in. Much splashing ensues, and when he is satisfied with the result, he flies back to the forsythia to shake the water off his wings and preen a bit. I haven't seen his mate bathing yet, but she is never far away in the trees because you can hear them calling back and forth.
We have also recently had a pair of small woodpeckers in the yard. They were frequent visitors when the suet feeder was out. Because the squirrels keep taking it down and emptying it, we are without the enticement of suet.
This week we will be putting up the hummingbird feeder because the tiny birds are on their way. There is even a website to track them. We can also watch live webcam feeds of nesting bald eagles in Washington, D.C. and osprey on Cape Cod. Armchair birding was never so simple; but I still like to see the little critters in the flesh/feathers.
As I sit here, looking out the window, I see birds passing by. I also hear assorted chirps. The birdsong starts at dawn, which keeps coming earlier; but I'm not so keen on being awakened at 5:15 a.m. when I don't have to get up for work.
My friends, the robins, are out every morning on the back lawn doing their hop-walk-stop routine, helping rid us of lots of bugs and the occasional worm. I would love to see inside their nest, but I have no idea where it is. We did have a nest once in a dense evergreen; but that was on Cape Cod.
I am fascinated by how birds create their nests in such a variety of shapes, sizes, and from such diverse materials. If I had to build my nest, it would look like a heap of shoes. Luckily, I have a cozy abode from which to watch my avian visitors.
Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.
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