Monday, August 21, 2006

Recycled (Nest, Not Post)

First there was one. (Click all pictures for larger views) Posted by Picasa
"Doves build practically the worst nests of any bird there is. They put a few sticks in the branch of a tree and that's it. It's horrible." ~ Doug Bowman
Last year the Mourning Doves built a nest in our fig tree and it's true; just a few twigs, nothing to make it stable. They also seem to move the baby birds out of the nest only days after they hatch, perhaps to brush beneath the bushes.

This year we had a nest of robins build in an evergreen bush at the end of the house. You can read about our disaster and makeshift artificial nest here. One commenter called it our FEMA nest. I intended to clean the FEMA nest out but became preoccupied with my pumpkins. (another post) Only five days after the robins left, Dad came in and announced that we had another occupant in our pipe cleaner anchored, plastic nest. Sure enough, there it was; one small pale pink egg on a layer of fresh pine needles.

(Click "read more" below to continue with story and pictures)

A couple of days later, there were two. This nest still had the base of mud mixed with twigs and paper that was the remnant of the robins disaster. It had the outer plastic shell and pine needles we had added, plus a few of its own. While this bird did not have obvious building skills, he did know a good thing when he saw it.

At first, Mother Mourning Dove was very skiddish, and flew off the nest when I tried to take her portrait, but as days progressed she grew accustomed to my camera. Papa, however would pace back and forth on the roof at the edge of the house and chirp loudly.

I thought it would take about fourteen days for these babies to hatch so I kept close watch. Mama grew more and more possessive of her nest and more bold or comfortable with the camera.

But my time was short! I had to go to New York in two more days and still, no babies! On Wednesday, I thought for sure they had hatched. Mama would not leave the nest at all. Perhaps they have hatched and she is sitting on the babies to keep them warm? I just had to know! So I tried to get her off the nest for just a few moments.

What did she do when I put my hand in to move the branch aside? She hit me! She slapped my hand with her wing! Mama wouldn't move but she hit me! I finally did see beneath her wing and alas, no babies, just eggs. They would hatch while I was gone.

Sure enough, two and a half weeks later, on my return, the nest was empty. The babies gone, but wait.... under the holly bush in the front yard.... yes, a young mourning dove walking back and forth. She was almost full grown but you could tell she was still a young one. For one week she stayed under the bush, only flying up to the roof or to a nearby tree if pressed. I left bread crumbs, nuts, and water. What happened? Why was she still there and alone? I found a bunch of feathers near the evergreen that housed the nest. Was her nest mate killed? Or her mother? Did she not know where to go or what to do? She could fly away but came back each night to the haven beneath the bushes. Then, just as suddenly, she was gone. We saw her last on Saturday morning. She flew into the woods behind the house.

I wonder if we should keep that FEMA nest available and ready. I've cleaned it out now. Will robins try again there? Perhaps the mourning doves will return next year; but I'll probably have to build the nest for them. Perhaps we could post a notice:
Nest for rent. Cheap.
Sturdy, good drainage.
Furnished on request.
Apply within.
(end of post)


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