birds’ nests

crow in bare tree

Crow DIY?

Something is going on in the big Norway maple that shades my back garden. There has always been a family of crows living around here, but lately I’ve noticed a lot of flapping in that tree and heard a variety of crow vocalizations.

The other day was quite windy, and when I started my usual tour of the garden to see what was new, I found lots of foot-long twigs on the small round (well, roundish) lawn occupied by the table, chairs, and bird bath. Had the crows disassembled an old nest, or did a new one under construction fall apart?

twigs from crows' nest

If you were a crow, you could make this stuff into a nest.

 

I gathered up the twigs and put them on the table, adding freshly fallen ones to the pile through the day. I know nothing about nest-building, but wondered if the birds might decide to re-use the materials. So far they haven’t, although I’ve seen crows bringing new twigs to the site. That, and occasional wing-flapping sounds and crow calls, indicates that work is still under way. The previous collapse, if that’s what it was, hasn’t discouraged them. I’ve been thinking this may not be the best tree for their purposes, but the crows haven’t asked for my opinion.

Shoe Bird 1Somehow one feels privileged when birds decide to nest in one’s garden. I’ve found the sock-like nests of bushtits in different shrubs over the years, and in 2015, there were the Bewick’s wrens, a.k.a. the Shoe Birds, nesting in our back porch.

So I hope things work out for the crow family, although I’m a bit nervous about the defensive dive-bombing they engage in near active nests. And there might be deposits other than twigs falling on the table, chairs, and gardener. Maybe I’d better start wearing a hat.

Crow photo by Pixabay

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Being Aware

A red-leafed barberry bush in my front garden has grown larger than I expected it would (even though I took the cutting from a huge bush — such is the self-delusion of gardeners). I was planning to prune it next spring, cutting out one or two of the oldest branches at the base. This, I reasoned, would reduce the overall bulk of the plant. Last fall, after the barberry’s leaves had fallen, I took a look at the bush in order to decide which branch or branches to remove. I never got to that point, because I discovered a bushtit’s nest in the middle of the bush. It’s hard to see in the picture, but it’s that brownish clump of stuff among the thorny branches. (The white berry near it belongs to a snowberry that has grown into the barberry).

Bushtit's Nest in Barberry

Bushtit’s Nest in Barberry

Bushtits are tiny grey birds with long tails that hang out in groups, flitting through the garden at times through the summer. Their nests are woven of things like grasses, lichens and spider silk, suspended in a shrub, with holes near the top for the birds to come and go. I was surprised to find this nest, but now that I know it’s there, I’ve decided to postpone the pruning job until I know whether bushtits re-occupy nests from one year to the next.

This is one of the great things about being a gardener. You have to know what’s going on in your little paradise, and you have to accept that it is the domain of creatures besides yourself. The gardener can’t go along in happy ignorance — or at least the responsible gardener can’t. Yes, I have every right to prune “my” barberry bush, but I’ve decided not to exercise that right until I know whether it will harm the creature that was using the bush as a nesting location.

Gardening is in large part a matter of observation. Almost every day during the growing season, I walk around the place, just looking. How is plant X doing? Is plant Y spreading too quickly? Have the raccoons dumped the rocks into the pond again? (They have. Every time). Along with all those details, I make a multitude of other observations. Aphids on roses, sparrows in the lilac, moss spreading among the rocks of the paths, different sorts of mushrooms in various parts of the garden. Some of these things demand action, but most are simply interesting. After more than twenty years of gardening on this patch of land, I have come to expect certain phenomena to recur.

When you know a place in detail, you enter into a relationship with it that is deeper and more complex than when a piece of land is merely “real estate.” Which is why, as Henry Mitchell said, “Compared to gardeners, I think it is generally agreed that others understand very little about anything of consequence.”