Thursday, July 22, 2010


Our living room has a fireplace which backs up to the garage and the brick work of the backside of the fireplace extends about two feet into the garage space. The door leading into the garage from the living room area is maybe 4 feet from these bricks, which make a corner sort of space where mops and brooms lean, standing on their handles with their business ends up. This is the further reach of the fireplace's intrusion into the garage.

A few (?) months or so ago I had left the garage door open and as I walked through door from said living room area two birds flew at me and then out the garage door. Once I got myself de-startled, I could see that these guys were beginning to build their nest amid the mop and brooms against the bricks. They chose the soft parts of the dried mops' tresses. Their nest construction was only beginning but their intentions were clear.

I recall a few years back that we had left some corrugated card board boxes outside our bathroom windows not far from the garage door and we discovered we had a nesting pair in there from the sounds we could hear through the window. A year or so later we noticed a nest was built in the exterior light fixture above the same area but a little closer to the garage. With this latest episode I began to realize a pattern. Slow me.

Our guests could not nest in our garage since it could not be left open while they hatched their eggs. I attempted to move the mops/broom collection outside adjacent to their traditional nesting sites. This failed. Nothing about their formative nest nor the mop/broom collection had any of the structural integrity required to survive the transfer. My best attempts reconstruct their original site had none of the stability required to provide a decent nesting site.

What to do?

With no substitute birdhouse available and no time to waste (they were watching me) I had to improvise quickly. The backyard revealed some flower pot type items, but what I was hoping for was a hanging basket used for dangling-type plants. We had some plastic ones, rather, we had the remains of some that had succumbed to the weathering and were now useless shattered shards of plastic, but one metal hanger survived while its hangee was shot. No matter, our guests await. By incorporating the hanger to an undamaged plastic flower pot that was not too big, I was able to recreate the hanging basket I had envisioned. It seemed too deep, so I filled it half way with soil and placed the proffered nesting materials on top of this, hung it from the hanging plants hooks not far from the light fixture though much closer to the garage door, which was now closed.

I did not let myself believe that this would work for our avian friends. As sure as I was that they were watching from some nearby tree, I had no reason to expect them to trust me, let alone accept my offer.

Peeking discretely out the window, we waited.

They went for it. It has been a while since I was this proud of my efforts. It is touching that they trusted me. Especially after I had just evicted them from their dream garage.

We know so little about birds. What species are our guests? Whither do they migrate? How long do they live? Are these the same birds from years ago? Has it been a decade? Are these returning hatchlings? Are they like salmon returning to whence they were spawned?

Weeks later I had seen no activity for some time nor heard the peeps of offspring. I hung their apartment too high to see into directly, all the better to make them feel safe. The long silence, absent any sightings, convinced me they had left, perhaps with offspring, for all I knew. So I got a step stool to get high enough to take a peek and a small flashlight to help me see. I was expecting to maybe see some telltale eggshells. I am being careful and quiet as I lean in to see leaves of nesting material and some feathers and as I reach in and shine my flashlight into a hole …

At least one bird flies out practically into my face and nearly knocks me to the ground from off my step stool.

If I had any jeepers in me they were gone in that instant.

I feel so blessed to have friends from the world of wildlife. Yet I have no idea who they are. Can these be persistent returners as I have presumed? Will we be able to determine their variety? They would seem to be only a few inches wide if that much and perhaps a few more inches long(?). Some combination of earth tones maybe? All of my observations have been as they were at relativistic speeds. I am fantasizing about getting their picture in hopes of making an identification, but I am more worried about scaring them any more. At least not any more than they have scared me. I believe I need a stake out with the camera.

How to proceed? Okay, carefully, but otherwise, how do I get a photograph? When shall I try another inspection? I must be patient but gad zooks, this is so exciting.

The scared-the-jeepers-out-of-me incident happened two weeks or so ago. I wrote this just now, then decided I could take a picture to include with this report. I go out a take pictures, but no trace of any occupant(s). I feel disheartened and certain I had scared them away for good. I take some pictures to illustrate my nestineering. I give up, but decide to take a more direct shot of the nest rather than the longer shots of just the hanging basket that I had. I can reach the camera in close while standing on the ground. I take a picture or two pretty close in. I turn off the flash. I try to take one, but I must be still for a shot without the flash, when ...

OUT flies the sweetest bird in the world, spooked once again, but as persistent and tolerant as ever. I know she (?) will return. If all of my harassment hasn't scared them away by now, this won't either.

A camera with its flash off, whirling around to take her picture, created a pretty swirling blur, but no useful image. Although, I think I could see a slightly reddish tinge to her trailing edges as she flew. She must have been below the speed of light this time.

I am trilled by all this.

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