Tag Archives: birds

Cheep thrills

When it comes to building a home, some say location is everything.

house finch nest

house finch pair

Just ask Mom (right) and Dad (left). Can you guess what birds they are?

house finch nest

Look at their finch-astic creation and its “pebbled” rim.

house finch nest

Tucked in a carport nook

My apartment community has 3 banks of carports with a total of 70 nooks (possible nest sites). Fourteen of those nooks have nests in them. Carports closer to the tree-lined property edge and adjoining field have four times as many nests (12 of 42 nooks) as those near the interior (2 of 28). Makes me wonder if easy access to twigs and leaves (building materials) drove nook selection.

house finch nest

Short on neatness, big on warmth

house finch nest

The other nests are mansions compared to this one, but its Birdie B&B listing reads, “Cozy nook offers eggs-cellent shelter and total privacy.”

house finch nest

Talk about green building!

I walked over to the two adjoining sister properties to check their carports.

house finch nest

That “pebbled” rim again

house finch nest

house finch nest

Active recyclers with a zero carbon footprint

By building nests in carports, house finches enjoy protection from raptors and tree-climbing kitties, as well as shelter from the elements. I’m in awe of the little fliers for their design skills, building prowess, resourcefulness and strategic thinking. And they sing! Their chirpy tweets help me greet each day with a smile.

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What’s that bird?
I turned to this most awesome field guide to narrow it down.American Bird Conservancy's Field Guide: All the Birds of North America

20170618_091923-1

The range maps for redpolls, bramblings and Cassin’s finches don’t include Texas, so those birds are out. Besides, the male redpoll has a small red cap, but Dad has a lot more red on his head. So it comes down to purple finch or house finch. Given Dad’s red head and chest (but no red on his back), it’s a house finch pair.

house finch pair

This photogenic pair made identification a snap.

20170620_052236I have an older edition of All the Birds of North America, the American Bird Conservancy’s Field Guide. One of my most loved books. It was prescribed for an Intro to Birding continuing ed class I took at UT Arlington several years ago. I love the guide for ease of identification, water-resistant pages (in case you drop it in a pond), and small check boxes in the index (think life list). Amazon has a newer edition.

All About Birds by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is an amazing online resource. I learned that house finches “nest in a variety of deciduous and coniferous trees as well as on cactus and rock ledges. They also nest in or on buildings, using sites like vents, ledges, street lamps, ivy, and hanging planters.”

The print and online guides were my ID mainstay for the longest time.

But now there’s an app for it!
The magical Merlin Bird ID app (North America) suggests a location-based “bird pack” upon download. Five easy questions on location, date of sighting, bird size, main colors, behavior — and boom! — house finch.

Do I like the precision, speed, and convenience of the app? Absolutely. But I still have a soft corner for the print guide. Using range maps and matching coloration/markings on birds I see to beautiful illustrations works the brain and brings a different kind of thrill. Call it finding as much joy in the journey as in reaching the destination (that’s my bird!).

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P.S. I made sure to take nest photos when the parents were out foraging so as not to startle or alarm them. As an extra precaution, I took the pics sans flash, and all from below.

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Nest western

Walk by this apartment. What do you see?

Nest - long shot

A twiggy little dwelling, built by a birdie

And what shall we call this avian abode?

Nest - close up

Lighthouse? Super bowl? It’s home, tweet home.

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Big on birds? Check out these photo essays from the archives:
Swallow tales: Barn swallows build a nest, and three bitty ones follow.
A bird takes wing: A mourning dove chick hangs out on my third-floor balcony.

Swallow tales

Thursday, June 6
A pair of barn swallows start building a nest on the fire sprinkler you can see from my front door. In three days, the parents weave and compact bits of straw and mud and mystery goo into a twee bowl for their babies-to-be.

SwallowNone2

The sprinkler is about 10 feet above the ground and tucked away in a corner, so the nest is protected from strong winds. These winged structural engineers know their cantilevers. And based on the same principle, here’s a swallow’s nest built by humans!

The Swallow's Nest Castle on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine

The Swallow’s Nest Castle on the Crimean peninsula in southern Ukraine.

Lovely, don’t you think? I hope to visit someday. In the meantime, I get to admire this marvel of avian architecture up close:

Perfectly perched for protection

“Our house is a very very very fine house”

But the “two cats in the yard” had better stay away. 🙂

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So almost a month goes by after nest building is complete. Mom and dad take turns to incubate the eggs. And then one day, I hear cheeps!

Friday, July 5
Two baby swallows are peeking out the nest. Fuzzy but not fluffy, and all eyes and mouth at this point, especially at feeding time, when they open wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiide.

The parent is obvious, but look closely and you’ll see two fuzzy little heads too.

Wednesday, July 10
A third baby appears. It was in the nest all along but hidden from view. When I returned from work today, the babies were so hyper, I thought they were going to fall out.

So thoughtful and sweet.

My neighbor’s note along with layers of bath towels on the floor to give the babies a soft place to land.

Another good thing about the towels is that they catch all the bird poop. Two grown-ups and three babies make lots of it! I saw a baby birdie position itself so its little bottom was hanging off the edge of the nest before it let go of a neat white torpedo that landed on the towel, ten feet down. Not even a week old, it just knew what to do. Either that, or the parents have firm house rules: posters are okay, poop is not.

Wednesday, July 17
The babies are fluffy versions of the adults they’ll soon be. The parents get agitated if I so much as open my front door to step outside. I know they’re guarding the nest and their young, but it’s the only way I know to leave my apartment or I’d climb out the balcony and rappel down the side of the building. When mom and dad are away looking for food, I take all the pictures I want from below of the baby birds. I’m not in their face—hope they feel safe.

Uno!

Uno!

The third bird is taking a nap.

Dos!

All three together! This fluorescent light is most unflattering, they say.

Tres! We’ll pose, but can you do something about this fluorescent lighting, they ask.

All evening they’re very animated and the nest can hardly contain them. They’re more than ready for flying lessons.

Thursday, July 18
Morning comes and the nest is empty! Tear. The fledglings are out, testing their wings. Yay!

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The birdies come back to visit now and then. Their loud cheeps are my signal to look out the front door. Dark purple coats. Aviator glasses. Looking sharp!

Monday, July 22
Another cube-bound corporate day. I come home to the perfect antidote. This:

The missing third sibling, the one that lay low as a newborn, is probably out doing sorties.

The missing third sibling, the one that lay low as a newborn, is out doing sorties.

Window tweet-ment

Image

This adorable Birds on a Branch vinyl decal from Elephannie totally brightened up
the brown accent wall in my apartment. When I’m reading in bed, I’m under a tree
in a meadow, with birds chirping overhead.

Flit over to Elephannie for birds, animals, flowers, foliage, chalkboard vinyl,
monograms and more in an I’ll-take-one-of-each collection of super cute decals.