Monday, April 30, 2012

Pale Male Waits, the Highbridge Red-tail Nest, and the Songbird Nest Report: Robin, Cowbird, Chipping Sparrow, Mourning Dove

 Photograph courtesy of
 Pale Male as dapper and self assured as usual surveys his domain on Saturday from one of his favorite perches on the Linda Building.  No doubt as usual, mentally absorbing the many prey patterns spread out before him which he will put to good use when the mad rush of hunting for hungry eyasses begins.
 Photo taken on April 28th.  Things have changed since then.
 Just exactly whose eggs are what has become slightly clearer.  This year the Cowbird eggs do not match those of the, I think now, Chipping Sparrow host.  They were the brown heavily speckled eggs as opposed to the pale greenish blue with a few flecks as were all the eggs last season-both Chipping and Cowbird.

 The nestling above with the giant red mouth is a cowbird chick.

It turns out that one of the ways that a parent bird knows who is hungriest in many song bird chicks is that that chick's mouth will have the heaviest blood flow.  Hence another survival quirk for Cowbird young is a constantly bright red mouth.

The nest in question is deep inside this clematis.  Early the morning of the 29th I heard an enormous racket and looked out the window next to the trellis. It was a Crows vs every-other-bird-in-the-neighborhood melee.  By the time I got outside the Crows were being chased across the park by a feathered posse of mostly Grackles.  I took a very very quick peek into the nest.  I couldn't see  the chick and it appears to have been predated.  I'm not sure about the status of the eggs, (I got a glimpse of one of the pale ones), as to get a really good look requires a tippie toe stance and some peering as opposed to seeing the red mouth of the chick which really stands out.   I didn't want to be the last straw for abandonment of the nest by gawking  if it wasn't abandoned already.

Later in the day I did see a parent whip into the Clematis and I didn't see it come out again right away so perhaps there is still hope.  I'll chance another look once in a day or two.

Remember the nest that we'd decided belonged to a Robin?  Indeed it does.  Note that sky blue egg.  
In fact it appears to belong to a rather human habituated Robin though she will flush out by a surprise thump of the front door. (I've stopped using it for the time being.) 

This is the lowest Robin's nest I've ever seen.  The bush is less than four feet tall besides the fact that if you stand on the front step you could reach out and pull mom's tail without even leaning.  Look carefully near the top of the bush and you'll see her tail feathers sticking out the back of the nest.  Though perhaps the fact that the nest is so close to human habitation may be one of its selling points. 

The nest robbers, mostly Crows here, (The Blue Jays were extirpated from the area by West Nile virus.), never come this close to the front door. 

 I have a feeling that since the township's new garbage collection agency supplies large covered wheeled bins for both recycling and garbage that perhaps any domestic garbage picking, if any, the Crows were doing has been completely eliminated, making nest robbing, once again, an important source of Crow protein.

That is until the softball games in the park with their resultant refuse of hot dog and brat goodies in open cans take some of the heat off.


Remember the dove nest in the tall bush?  Yesterday I noticed that the twigs appeared disturbed and there was no dove eye peering through the greenery.  
The nest has disappeared.   Not to worry too much as  there were no feathers at all to give away the demise or even the disturbance of the parents.

And do check out Rob Schmunk's beautiful photos of Martha and the eyasses at the Highbridge nest on his blog at--

Donegal Browne

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