In my efforts to learn as much as I can about the nesting practices of the birds in Eliza Howell Park, I try to get close looks at the nests I find if possible. When the incubating parent is absent and if I can actually see into a nest, I take a picture.
The quality of these pictures is not always good because of limited access and because I am in a hurry to depart (so that the parent feels free to return).
NOTE: In each of the photo pairs that follow, the nest picture is mine and the bird photo is Margaret Weber’s.
For the first time, a few days ago I was able to get close enough to look into a Blue Jay nest.
Blue Jays nest in trees, usually 10 – 40 feet high. This nest is unusually low, between 6 and 7 feet high, though it is in a thicket. I found it the way I find many nests, by watching where the bird goes when I see it carrying nesting material.
There are many nests (most) that I cannot look into because they are too high or are in tree cavities. I occasionally make use of a step ladder, which I did to get this picture of a Barn Swallow nest.
Barn Swallows often make use of human constructions for nesting locations (such as barns and bridges), building its mostly mud nest (with some plant fragments and feathers added) on a ledge next to a vertical wall and usually under a roof or overhang. The one in the photo was under the roof of a shelter in the park.
A few bird species nest on the ground. These nest are very well hidden, the primary method of protecting them from predators. These the ones that I find, when I find them at all, only as the parent flies off the nest when I unknowingly walk too close.
Mallard, one of two duck species that nest in the park, is a ground nester.
As with most other ducks, the female does all the parental care, including all the incubating. When I startled her off the above nest, she must have knocked one of the eggs out of location.
The Gray Catbird nests in very thick vegetation, usually 4 – 10 feet high. Because of the location, it is often difficult for me to get a close look, even when I know where a nest is located.
While it is not unusual for me to find a Catbird nest, it is difficult to point them out to park visitors because of how inaccessible the locations are.
It IS unusual for me to find Song Sparrow nests; I was looking for about 10 years before I found one. Whenever I saw a Song Sparrow carrying something (nesting material or insects to feed the young), I would watch. And it would watch me back, never going to the nest as long as I was there.
I found this nest when the incubating bird flew out at my feet as I was walking through high grass and flowers near the tree line.
Song Sparrows nest on the ground in thick plants or very low in shrubs or trees.
In the last 15 years, I have observed some 40 different bird species nesting in Eliza Howell Park. I have pictures of nests with eggs of about 1/4 of these in my slowly growing collection.
I plan to post more nest photos soon, in Part 2.