Tag Archives: bird

A very nice nest

HW was brushing alders, and discovered an impressive nest.  He broke off the branch to show me, and demonstrate the features of the nest:

The nest builder used a combination of twigs, thick grass, and plastic threads from a feed sack,then moved down to finer grass for the inside bowl, and lined it with pine needles. From the back of the nest, you can see how the builder brought in short twigs and stacked, layered and crossed them, securing them with weaving, in the crotch of the host tree, almost exactly like we would go about building a treehouse platform in the fork of a tree.The ends of the “foundation” twigs are all sticking out the back. You can see how it was made to support this whole area. Birds are marvels.  It is a very nice nest.

Three nests

In the winter, all the nests become apparent.  img_5176

Completely hidden in plain sight when the leaves are on, exposed when they come off.  These well-made little nests are sewn right on to the branches, feats of micro engineering that stay whole, bowled, and upright in the storms.

The first is in an alder between the greenhouse and the beehive.  Well traveled spot.  They don’t seem to go to too much trouble to avoid us and our movements.  img_5175

The next is on a long arm of one of the big regal apple trees right by the farmhouse.  Also in the thick of activity.  This may have been a robin nest as the robin was acting furtive around the apple trees quite a bit.  But it seems so small.  Also precarious, but looks are deceiving.

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The third I found earlier in the winter when a guinea fowl was snatched in the middle of the day (ending the hens’ good-weather outdoor privileges).  There was no sign of foul play, and hopeful she was only lost, I mounted a search, walking in ever wider circles, becoming upset and resigned to the truth.

Thrashing through the brush, I ran into a knee-high nest, a precious little thing built by some grass-nester.  Two dead leaves that happened to fall into it curled up in it like they’re at rest.

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This is why we can’t get anything done in the spring.  If we’re not early enough, there are birds nesting everywhere we want to clear brush or trees.

It’s practically a bird hospital around here.

We have another bird in a box.  The first box bird was a few weeks ago.

This one did not hit a window.  I was riding my bike home, two panniers heavily laden with cucumbers, when I overtook a bird limping and flapping along at the edge of the asphalt.

It was a little mourning dove.  Familiar to me; I’m used to seeing a pair of doves at this spot on the road.

She let me pick her up without setting my bike down.  Good thing, because it would be tough to lift up a loaded bike with one hand.

Her wing was almost detached, held on by the skin, with a little break in the skin on the wing, and her underside was bloody on the same side as injured wing and limpy leg.  This bird was hit by a car.

So there I was, a bird in the hand, scorching hot day, heavy bicycle, a kilometer from home.  What to do?

I rode home one handed, with the bird in the other hand.  I sort of displayed her in front of me, somehow hoping that a passing driver would stop and offer assistance.  Is that a bird?  Can I help?

In fact, even the couple that pulled over to take a snapshot of our local pastoral beauty, while I was standing right there on the other shoulder, did not even register the bird in my hand.

The bird sat peacefully folded in my hand the whole way home, facing interestedly into the wind. It must have been similar to flying for her.  Nothing new here.

Once I had to signal a left turn and letting go with either hand was not an option.  Uhh, what do do here?  Gesture with the bird.  No flipping.  That was the only time she wiggled a little, when I waved her out in space to point at my turn.

Phew!  Made it home.  Bird into box.

I was fully expecting her not to make it through the night.  I assumed I had picked her up right after her accident and that she may any minute succumb to internal injuries.

But no, in the morning she was alert, even made a couple bids for escape, although she could not be interested in food.

A friend picked her up to put her on the Hope for Wildlife underground railroad.  That is, connect her to the network of volunteer drivers of injured wildlife.

I don’t expect this bird could be saved with a wing injury that bad, but at least she got to the hospital.

 

Patching the greenhouse

It appears that some raptor or another hit my greenhouse.

Perhaps it was hoping for a chicken.

Let me just make a plug here for Lee Valley’s UV tape, which is awesome for taping up greenhouses.  It sticks like Tuck tape, but is clear (and thicker), thus avoiding those visually compelling Tuck tape accents.

While I was up there patching, I got a bird’s eye view of Smokey watching the Silkie channel:

The coop and end of the run is bagged for some extra rain shelter, but this shows the Silkie fortress.  There’s a foot of hardware cloth turned out and weighted with rocks to thwart diggers, hopefully, and the fence/run detaches from the coop, making them both portable.

The dog is thwarted, and he’s not happy about it.  He wants a Silkie nugget.

The whole run pivots around the pine tree (and favorite anthill/dustbath).  I couldn’t part them from the pine tree, so I had to incorporate it.  The non pine tree area has bird netting on the top.

Jailbird

We have a bird in a box! A little sparrow in a shoebox, for three days. On Saturday I was shocked awake by a bird smashing into a window with the force of a snowball.  It was sickening. It doesn’t feel good building in the woods and then installing a bunch of windows that birds don’t understand and will slam themselves against.  I’ve hung strings on most of the windows to help them see it, and it helps greatly.  We have only had one bird casualty, and one chickadee that got its bell rung but recovered. This bird hit the only window without strings:(  I ran outside and found the bird gasping and quivering on its back, scooped it up, and took it in, holding it for several minutes, with my whole hand wrapped in a towel for dark, soothing. When the bird started to perk up, aka try to escape, I took it outside and held it up to a branch.  It seemed just fine, standing up on my hand, and it stepped confidently onto the branch, spread its wings after a moment, and jumped off to plummet straight to the ground. Then I had to recapture it, as it scampered away in the underbrush. Gravely inform HW we now have a pet sparrow.  Quickly google what sparrows eat, rescue sparrows, etc.  Create a habitat shoebox. 2015-07-04 08.34.39This is a young adult sparrow.  It has vestiges of the clown lips that baby birds have (called gape flanges), and on the first day it would sometimes do the “feed me!” squat and gape when I was feeding it. It’s fully feathered, though, and had full capability of flying, before hitting the window.*  Now its right wing droops; the tips no longer meet over the tail where the wing should rest. In fact, it drags under his tail and sometimes he poops on the wing tip. *This is important because lots of fledglings get “rescued” because they can’t fly.  They can’t fly because they’re learning how. Right away, we found instructions to immobilize the wing in position of rest.  So together we held the bird and wrapped its tiny body, with the kind of medical tape that only sticks to itself, trying to leave its other wing free and legs free so it can stand up. Well, the bird lay there panting like it was gasping its last, flopping pathetically and apparently unable to stand.  After an hour or so, I was convinced that it was dying of internal injuries.  Although it was wrapped barely tight enough to hold the wing, I thought if the bird’s gonna die anyway, then at least I can take the wrap off him. I took the tape off and the bird immediately affected a miraculous recovery.  Hopping around, exploring the box, breathing normally.  Later, Hope would say sometimes you can wrap a bird, but “Birds hate to be wrapped.”  No kidding. So cute!  I fed and watered him with a popsicle stick.  The first day, I gave him flax seeds and sunflower seeds.  Nothing.  I offered a worm (alive).   The worm inquisitively poked her in the face, and got  no response.  Ants?  No way.  A mosquito? Why yes!  Hmm, I could spend all day mosquito hunting.  I gave her quinoa, because we had some cooked, and she gobbled it up.  Also quickly proved that beak wiping is a universal bird thing.  Then I ground up the flax and sun seeds with mortar and pestle and mixed it with the quinoa.  We have a winner. 2015-07-05 12.51.11 Every hour or two I would come back to the house and feed the bird.  Very time consuming, holding the popsicle stick while the bird picked and chewed one grain at a time.  I can see how baby bird care is a full time job, running the parents ragged. The first day, the bird seemed fine, not in pain at all or bothered by the wing, shaking it once in awhile.  Also content.  I covered the box in the early evening, and it fell asleep with its head tucked under the injured wing.  Adorable! 2015-07-04 19.21.02 The next day, there was no more crouching and begging, and I saw him help himself to water out of his tiny cup!  Also, she would pick up food that she dropped.  I started leaving food on the floor of the box, and also dabbing chunks on the side of the box for him to peck off, while I got something done. I added a strawberry to the mash and got rave reviews. I gave him a whole strawberry, and he demolished it. Soon she mostly fed herself, but I still offered tidbits on the stick. The second evening, she developed a tragic obsession with escape.  He’d bump his head on the grate, peck at the wires of the grate.  Very sad.   I covered her early to calm him down. Hopefully, the energy to make jailbreak attempts is a positive sign.2015-07-05 12.47.08The third day he was even more obsessed with escape – give me liberty or give me death! (unfortunately, each means the other in this case).  She’d never say no to a mosquito, but otherwise, when offered food, she’d kind of attack it momentarily,  like hunger itself was an irritating distraction, and then resume craning her neck at the grill ceiling. In the evening  we packed her off to Hope for Wildlife.  We passed her over to a volunteer animal delivery driver (!), to go to the animal hospital, and get a bird Xray (!), and hopefully rehabilitation. I had no idea something so awesome as Hope for Wildlife was here, in Nova Scotia, and on tv.  I’m more impressed with this province all the time.  The same day as calling Hope, my bird issue was “dispatched” and someone living near me called to arrange a pick-up and transportation (!) FOOD: The suggestion to feed a wild bird cat food is almost universal (high protein meat based).  I thought about it, but most cat foods I wouldn’t feed to a cat I liked, so I decided I’d dig up worms if I had to.  Luckily, I didn’t have to, because worms went over like a lead balloon.  The live offering was a complete fail, so I minced one. Let me tell you, mincing an earthworm is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever done.  First I dug, and picked out an inch of worm that was severed by the shovel’s slice.  Perfect, I thought, already dead.  Only the pieces of worm that have the smooth ring that holds their DNA can survive being cut.  Right?  Not necessarily so.  Every piece I cut, no matter how small, writhed and contracted and to all appearances, experienced pain and tried to escape it.  Not to mention excreted mud.  Uggghhh-willies!  They only stopped moving when they dried out a bit.  Death, finally, by dehydration.  Thinking about the circle of life and how everything I thought I knew about earthworms may be wrong, I managed to complete the mincing of that one segment of worm that may or may not have been doomed anyway. The bird ate it, but preferred quinoa, so I stuck with that.  Earthworms are manna for baby birds, but not such a big diet item for adult birds (thankfully for me, gagging over the mincing). Here’s what I fed the bird, that it liked:** Cooked quinoa (couldn’t get enough) Boiled egg, finely minced. Ground flax seed Ground sunflower seed (hulled) Hemp hearts Strawberries (big hit!) Mosquitoes A few  cereal and bread crumbs Some soaked, top-quality high protein dog food (for high performance dogs), that we had (because we have a high-performance dog)  It snacked on the dog food, but did not love it. **As Hope told me on the phone, birds need a big variety- they need protein, fruit, vegetables, grains, and seeds.  If I had the bird longer, I would have tried adding garden greens, meat, beef suet, cereal, and nuts.  And they need it all minced very small, at least the young adult bird I had did.  It would reject any chunks too big to chew, including a whole flax seed. Spoggy the sparrow is a wonderful time lapse of a house sparrow hand raised from blind, pink, transparent infancy.

The awesomest thing lately that I didn’t get a picture of:

The Newark airport food court bird.  Terminal C, to be precise.

I was purchasing a juice when I noticed a sparrow hopping around under the food court tables , weaving confidently among feet and luggage.

“Hey, there’s a bird in here!” I announced.  “Oh yes, he comes here every day,” said the juice lady.

Right away I started to negotiate the awkward balance between trying to capture a picture of the bird by running around after it  with my phone outstretched, and trying to not look like a crazy fool while I did it, since maybe not everyone could see the bird, or sympathize if they did.  An airport is not the wisest place to be acting like a crazy fool.

I did not get a picture of the bird, although it swooped right past about two feet from me at knee height to investigate under the table of someone opening a burrito (good choice), and disappointed, hopped right across the concourse to another sandwich eater, effortlessly avoiding the steady crowd of walking people.

I am in wonder of small individuals like this that completely and totally adapt to the artificial environments that our species creates, and learn so much about our behaviour in order to thrive.  A five-year-old of our species could not negotiate a crowd of cross traffic so well, nor perceive so quickly who in the room was opening a package of food, as opposed to a beverage, or sitting without eating.

But this sparrow, at some point, “decided” airport=awesome.  No predators, unlimited food, just a few idiosyncratic human patterns  to get used to.  Through observation, a piece of cake.  Speaking of which, that wrapper sounds like the ones muffins come in…