Wednesday, August 1, 2012

nest building

The cardinals graced us with many nests this year. The first one I saw early spring was in a rose bush in the big back yard. It had three eggs in it but several days after discovering it, the nest was empty, abandoned. I don't know what happened. Some predator must have gotten the eggs. I don't blame the predator...snake or possum or raccoon or even a bigger bird...or want to exterminate it just because I like birds. I imagine the birds would, though, if they could. That's only natural, just as I killed the copperhead up by the house two weeks after getting bitten by one on the edge of the property. Killing to protect yourself is one thing, killing indiscriminately is another. As I told my kids and grandkids, every living thing deserves it's life and it is far better to let the thing live than to kill it just because you can.

And I don't begrudge the predator that got the eggs it's meal. Everything has to eat and in this system, what we eat is each other. The little things become food for the big things, the big things become food for the little things. Besides, if every cardinal egg hatched and grew to adulthood we would soon be overrun by cardinals leaving no room for other birds.

The second nest I found was in a rose bush growing against the fence of the Little Back Yard. Three eggs laid, one fell to the ground, one disappeared, and one hatched and fledged which I posted about here. The third nest I discovered was in the pole beans. Five eggs laid, one disappeared, one was left in the nest small and stunted, three hatched, one disappeared and two fledged.

The fourth and last nest was in the large shrub outside the window where I sit and work. This shrub is popular with the birds. It's not uncommon to see several kinds of birds in it at the same time. Because this is where I spend most my time, I noticed when the female cardinal started building her nest under the eave of the house.

I was lucky enough to be able to photograph her progress though the pictures aren't that great as I was shooting through a dirty window and screen.

Day 1, July 5 midmorning - A cardinal is building a nest in the large shrub outside the window where I work. it doesn't look like much because she has just started but every minute or so she's back with another twig.

Day 1 late afternoon - The picture isn't great as this is on the morning side of the house and under the eave so there's not much light now and I'm shooting through the glass and screen but she's made considerable progress in the last couple of hours.

Day 2 morning - The female cardinal is just now back at her nest building. This is the first time I've seen her today. I snuck outside and took a picture of what she has accomplished since she started around mid-day yesterday.

Day 2 late afternoon - 5 hours later the nest is looking complete to me. She still brings twigs but she spends much more time tucking and poking and nestling around in it. I tried to get a picture with her but she is too deep in the nest and the screen and low light make it impossible to discern her. I took this one from outside while she was away.

Day 3 - This morning she was on the nest. You can see her tail sticking up and her orange beak. after she flew off I went outside and tried to position myself to get a good picture but when she flew back and saw me she made an immediate u-turn and flew away. She came back with a big piece of shredded leaf or bark after I went in so she's still adding to her nest. She's at it right now, grabbing the ends of the twigs and poking them in. Her male is generally perched on the fence rail around the Little Back Yard.

Day 4 morning - The nest this morning. She's still coming and going this morning so I guess she's still adding to it. She nestles down in it and pokes here and there, changes position and nestles down in it again then flies off to return a minute later and do the same. Her male is on the fence rail singing and when she returns to the nest she emits a little peep. Emma, the cat, sitting on my drawing table, is quivering and emitting little sounds of her own until I distract her with some petting.

Day 5 - The female cardinal and her mate showed up about an hour ago and she is settled in her nest. no more poking and prodding, no more back and forth so I guess she has laid her eggs now.

Day 6 - The female cardinal finally showed up at her nest today chirping to announce her arrival. She's nestled in and I can hear her mate chirping in the yard.

Day 7, July 11 - It's raining again today, been raining steadily since before I got up this morning. My lady cardinal is in her nest under the eave high and dry. The pole bean cardinal is bearing the brunt keeping her babies dry.

After that, I didn't see her anymore. The nest is still there, abandoned.


  1. Oh, I have never thought about chronicling a bird as it made its nest. I like the idea a lot. I always enjoy birds making their nest. Kind of magical for me.

  2. I have a small picture of a robin sitting on her nest to remind me of the nest I watched outside our study in Minnesota. They finally hatched and we were so happy to use our front door again! I do wish we had cardinals here, but I have never seen one. Mostly jays and junkos.

  3. pretty amazing the work they go thru in nesting and raising young.

  4. You are a beautiful bad ass, Ellen. The way you can be practical and accepting of all parts of what is "natural" is GREAT. You really have snake powers.

  5. I would never get anything done if a cardinal built its nest outside my window. I miss cardinals; we don't have them in the Northwest.

    Their attrition rate is awfully high; no wonder there have to be so many nests.

  6. We have so many wrens hatching their eggs everywhere around the yard, and not so many cardinals. We haven't many cardinals; too much woodland gone. I would like to know a cardinal was in our brush.

  7. You got rain??? What a blessing.

    I have noticed birds are making more nests this year. They must know something we don't.

    Love that shot of the babies.

  8. It's amazing birds successfully reproduce at all -- it really is.

    I wonder why she abandoned the nest? Maybe the presence of the cat -- or even you -- spooked her. Or maybe she just wasn't comfortable there. Hard to tell.

  9. Love this little photographic diary. Your work bench is an inspirational place for you!

  10. I love the story - even the mystery at the end...

  11. Interesting observations, Ellen. You're fortunate to have such a bird-friendly yard.

  12. It's a shame it was abandoned but lovely to watch its progress.


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