EMPTY NEST! -Â UPDATE: April 5, 2012
What a SURPRISE! When I checked the nest this morning there were no eggs. The photo below documents that there were five eggs in the next yesterday. What happened to the eggs? Were the eggs stolen? Did the parents move the eggs to a better neighborhood? Can House Finches move eggs from nest to nest? Â Were the eggs the victim of egg snatchers? Do I call the fire department, 911, the FBI, or perhaps CSI? This is a real puzzler.
What’s YOUR theory? Leave a comment!
The Bird Report -UPDATE: April 4, 2012
Four years ago (March 2008), a male and female bird decided to set up housekeeping in one of our Boston Ferns (see previous post, below). They raised a happy family and have returned around the same time each year for an encore performance. Here we go again …
04/04/12 – Photo of latest nest and FIVE eggs.
Watch this space for further updates as they become available. To read the original post, please scroll down …
NOTE:Â Thanks toÂ Jeff Webster who left the following comment via Facebook: â€œThe nesting birds are house finches. The hawk on the wire is an adult Cooper’s hawk. The hawk near the pool is a juvenile Cooper’s. Great shots and a whole lot of fun.â€
JUNE 8, 2008 – DAY 1 (Image 1 of 2 – Below):
Looking north, a view of a hanging Dallas fern. What’s this got to do with watercolor painting? Well, nothing and … everything; read on!
A neighborhood bird has built a nest in the center of this fern. Why she selected this hanging fern for the home of her future brood is an unknown. Maybe she thinks it’s a nice neighborhood in which to raise her offspring, maybe it’s the option of no mortgage requirements, who knows?
DAY 1 (Image 2 of 2 – Below)
Looking south, this is a view of the same fern. Not much room to maneuver, so maybe our bird friend selected this location because of the low overhead (rim shot here)!
When I take down the fern to water it, I’m surprised to discover a most beautifully built bird’s nest. It is small (about 4 inches in diameter), ever so carefully crafted, and located dead center inside the fern. I’m not sure if the male or female bird builds the nest (maybe both?) but the nest builder(s) is (are) masterful architect(s); more like Frank Loyd Wright, than Buzz Oates (a local “little boxes,” no frills kind of builder).
JUNE 11, 2008 – DAY 3 (Image 1 – Below)
Today I discover TWO eggs neatly deposited in the nest! My wife and I are in for some interesting times! We have no idea yet as to the species of bird. So far, we have seen only flashes and shadows of the mother bird as she comes and goes.
JUNE 12, 2008 – DAY 4 (Image 1 – Below)
The morning of this date, I find a THIRD egg. Impressive, but not enough for an omelette yet (just kidding folks, no need to send me hate mail).
JUNE 24, 2008 – DAY 16 (Image 1 – Below)
Well, well, well, this morning what to my wondering eyes should appear but TWO newly hatched birds! Mother bird is still as elusive as ever though. I think I’ll name her “Flash!”
Will the third bird be born tomorrow? Check out the BIRTH UPDATE (see image in the upper right corner of this blog). As they say, stay tuned … further details right here, where the news comes three-hundred thirty-third in an already overly saturated market. But for now, back to you and our previously scheduled blogging!
JUNE 25, 2008 – DAY 17 (Image 1 – Below)
Some time between yesterday and this morning the third egg hatched right on schedule! When we first look into the nest we are met with three heads, each with a wide open beak! However, moments later the heads are retracted and each bird turns into a nondescript fuzz-ball. Mama bird seems attentive and continues to live up to her moniker of “Flash!” How she gets into and out of the nest and fern without seeming to disturb the nest, babies, or fern is truly amazing!
JUNE 27, 2008 – DAY 19 (Image 1 of 2 – Below)
DAY 19 (Image 2 of 2 – Below)
This morning the baby birds appear to be okay. Yesterday we spotted what we think is one of the parent birds, but we were unable to get a photograph. However, today we are able to get a few good photos. Judging by this bird’s colorful plumage we assume this might be the male bird (we’ve dubbed him Redhead). He appears to be taking some responsibility for the feeding of the young. The apparent female bird (“Flash”) tends to fly directly into the plant and onto the nest. This bird consistently flies to a nearby hanging plant and perches. He then spends a few seconds carefully assessing the situation and then proceeds to the nest.
JUNE 30, 2008 – DAY 22 (Image 1 of 3 – Below)
Not a lot of activity in the nest the past few days. It has reached the point of becoming a bit worrisome. Upon morning inspection of the nest there seems to be only minimal movement relative to the newborns. Are the newly hatched birds getting fed enough? Are the parents in danger during their feeding runs?
DAY 22 (Image 2 of 3 – Below)
The neighborhood hawks have begun to show interest in the area. One hawk in particular, seems intent on hanging out at the top of a nearby telephone pole/wire within perfect view of the nest. We’ve also seen thisâ€”or anotherâ€”hawk in our European Birch tree, which is 10 to 20 yards from the nest.
DAY 22 (Image 3 of 3 – Below)
Despite the hawk we do see the male (Redhead) coming and going during the day. On the other hand, the bird we think is the female (Flash) has not been seen in some time. Today’s morning inspection showed one or more hungry mouths and reasonable movement in the nest. Good news, but we won’t be happy until we see three open beaks and the return of the mother bird!
JULY 3, 2008 – DAY 25 (Image 1 – Below)
Since the last update the parent birds have been attentive to their nesting duties, coming and going with regularity throughout each day. The problem with the nest being built inside the hanging Dallas fernâ€”at least from our perspectiveâ€”is one of watering the plant enough to keep it alive while not placing the nest or occupants in peril. For now we set the plant in a tub of water every couple of days to allow the fern to absorb water from the bottom up. In this way, the nest is left undisturbed.
This morning we thought we heard what might have been the faint chirping of the newborns. We did a few high fives in celebration! However, the celebration didn’t last long for when we checked the nest there appeared to be no movement at all from the baby birds. Is this a sign of deep sleep or no life?
After about an hour (and the parents coming and going), we couldn’t stand the suspense any longer and sneaked a second peek. This time three heads were clearly visible, two of which made some slight movement, but nothing like a few days ago when one of them presented its wide open beak for feeding. For now, we watch, wait and hope for the best.
Lunchtime update: We ate lunch out on the patio this afternoon. We were surprised and pleased by the distinct peeping sounds of multiple baby birds emanating from yonder nest! Wow, what a pleasant surprise! After momma “Flash” left the nest, we couldn’t help but take a peek and a quick photo. As the reader can see. there are distinct images of the three newborns. And, just look at how they have grown!
JULY 5, 2008 – DAY 27 (Image 1 – Below)
Not a whole lot new today, so here’s a picture of the watering technique we’re using. We float the plant container in a stainless steel tub filled with water. Hopefully, soaking from the roots upward will keep the plant alive and the birds undisturbed.
JULY 7, 2008 – DAY 29 (Image 1 – Below)
No wind today, unhealthy air quality, and 103 degree temperatures in the smoke filled Sacramento area. Yesterday, I missed the daily watering of all three ferns and apparently paid the price. Twenty-five to fifty percent of two of the three ferns suddenly turned brown … overnight! Ironically, the bird fern appears to be thriving and providing a happy, healthy home for our bird friends who are growing by leaps and bounds! We are now able to clearly hear the youngsters “sounding off,” calling to their parents for feeding several times a day. As for the parent birds, one can only marvel at their co-operation, attentiveness, and dedication. Truly amazing and inspiring!
JULY 9, 2008 – DAY 31 (Image 1 of 10 – Below)
Today has been another smokey (unhealthy air quality), HOT day (106 degrees in Sacramento)! That’s the bad news. On the positive side, this morning upon removing the hanging plant for watering we were once again amazed at how fast the baby birds are growing! Normally, during the watering process we remove the plant, place it on the ground or table to soak in a tub of water. Then while soaking the plant we position the fern fronds so they don’t interfere with the photographic process. However, this morning we could see the birds moving about in the nest as if they were confused or frightened. Concerned our actions might cause the babies to jump from the nest to the ground, we decided not to water the plant, but took a few photos as quickly as possible without moving the fronds. The following images are the best we could do under the circumstances.
JULY 9, 2008 – DAY 31 (Image 2 of 10 – Below)
In the previous photo, it appears two of the three birds are visible. Just prior to snapping the shutter the top bird moved away from the nest toward the fronds as if attempting to hide. In this photo two of the three birds are clearly visible, with only the tail feathers visible of the third bird (top, center of image).
JULY 9, 2008 – DAY 31 (Image 3 of 10 – Below)
Shot from another angle, all three birds are visible. These three photos were taken as rapidly as the digital camera could recycle for the next shot. Fortunately, the birds remained in the nest. What we didn’t know at the time is that we believe these little guys are already capable of flying from the nest (read on). Why they didn’t fly away is not clear. Maybe they felt more comfortable hiding than flying, or maybe they were not frightened at all.
JULY 9, 2008 – DAY 31 (Image 4 of 10 – Below)
We now move the time line ahead by an hour or so. Here, we need the sound track from the movie “Jaws” playing in the background as one of the neighborhood hawks is spotted only six to ten feet from the nest! We think he might be the parent of the young hawk seen in previous photos. He appears slightly dazed, confused, disoriented as he hops around the area. Is he looking for easy prey? Or, as we suspect, is he nearing the end of his life cycle?
JULY 9, 2008 – DAY 31 (Image 5 of 10 – Below)
Before we can chase him from the patio, Mr. Hawk flies up into our nearby European Birch trees about ten yards away. We decide to use the garden hose to scare him off into another part of the neighborhood. To the best of our knowledge, he never came back. Yet! (imagine soundtrack from Jaws here)
JULY 9, 2008 – DAY 31 (Image 6 of 10 – Below)
As time moves ahead by a few hours, we think (things happen fast) we notice birds flying from the nest to our birdbath (at the base of those European Birch trees). Have these birds been practicing their flying lessons without us noticing? What happened to all the initial stages of learning to fly, flopping, stumbling, etc? Are we imagining things? Inquiring minds want to know (ours)?
JULY 9, 2008 – DAY 31 (Image 7 of 10 – Below)
Ironically, there are three birds in the birdbath, one of which might be a parent bird? Are these our birds? Yes? No? Maybe? The camera telephoto feature is on maximum so as not to frighten them. After several minutes, we think we see our feathered friends fly back to the nest, with the emphasis on the word, think!
JULY 9, 2008 – DAY 31 (Image 8 of 10 – Below)
Several minutes later I’m in the yard working on something or other. As I finish up I move toward the house and the nest. As has become my habit, I try not to disturb the birds (other than for watering and photo sessions). As I look up at the nest, I am surprised to see one of the baby birds outside the nest! Maybe this is the “third” bird (remember the third egg appeared a day later than the other two eggs), and therefore not quite as mature as its siblings? The rapidity with which these babies develop is truly fascinating. We check on them about every two days. The growth pattern is one a lay person must see to believe.
JULY 9, 2008 – DAY 31 (Image 9 of 10 – Below)
This young bird appears as fascinated by me as I am by him/her. The bird does not appear threatened by a nearby human. The rest of the day went as usual, with the parent birds attending their brood, coming and going with caution and determination.
JULY 9, 2008 – DAY 31 (Image 10 of 10 – Below)
Well, here’s our friend up close and personal! What’s next? Again, is this the bird that is one day younger than the other two? Has this bird been temporarily left behind? Is he intrigued with my good looks and funny hair? How long will these birds remain in the nest? Have they already learned to fly, or is it just our imagination? And, and … what of the neighborhood hawks? Details on the ten o’clock news …
JULY 10, 2008 – DAY 32 (Image 1 of 6 – Below)
Here we go again! The return of the hawk, Part Two! The hawk’s intent is not clear. We aren’t sure if he’s after the baby birds, or he’s fascinated with the water, or something else in the pool. When we last saw him a few days ago (assuming this is the same hawk) he was on a lounge chair very close to the bird’s nest. He then moved away from the nest to the pool edge and appeared as if he wanted a drink of water. After some time he flew from the edge of the pool and momentarily landedâ€”or pouncedâ€”on the white plastic tubing (a snake?) of our pool sweep. Obviously surprised, he flew back up onto the deck again and finally up into a nearby tree. Today, it seems that his entire focus is on the pool area.
JULY 10, 2008 – DAY 32 (Image 2 of 6 – Below)
Here, it appears that he’s almost ready to step into the pool area.
JULY 10, 2008 – DAY 32 (Image 3 of 6 – Below)
Our pool sweep, a Ray Vac, looks and moves around the pool reminiscent of a small, Manta Ray (see last photo). Could this be the object of our hawk’s attention?
JULY 10, 2008 – DAY 32 (Image 4 of 6 – Below)
If this, indeed, is the same hawk that visited a few days ago his health seems greatly improved. Same hawk, or different hawk. What do you think?
JULY 10, 2008 – DAY 32 (Image 5 of 6 – Below)
This guy eventually flew up into the same tree as he did a few days ago. Again, we have to chase him off with a jet stream of water from a garden hose. We see him fly to the roof of the house next door, shake himself off, and then fly to an unknown destination to the north.
JULY 10, 2008 – DAY 32 (Image 6 of 6 – Below)
Here’s a shot of the Ray Vac pool sweep. Is the hawk hungry for baby birds, a drink of water, the snake-like tubing of the pool sweep, or the RayVac itself? If the latter three options were the case, it seems like the hawk would have visited us before the birth of the birds. Or, maybe the birds drew the hawk initially, and then he became fixated on the pool vac. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of our resident hawk?
JULY 11, 2008 – DAY 33 (Image 1 of 3 – Below)
The hawk is in the area … again! This guy is truly an early bird, up and ready for the hunt at about 6:15 this morning. Even the particulate filled, smokey air doesn’t keep this guy out of the sky!
JULY 11, 2008 – DAY 33 (Image 2 of 3 – Below)
This photo is taken from the perspective of the bird’s nest. Again, we estimate the hawk is about ten to twenty yards from the nest area.
JULY 11, 2008 – DAY 33 (Image 3 of 3 – Below)
Soon after taking this picture, I put away the camera and pick up the water hose. A stream of water causes the hawk to fly toward the north-east and destinations unknown. Later this morning we notice increasing activity from the parent birds who make continual trips to and from the nest. We avoid watering the plant today so as not to disturb the occupants. Little to no activity relative to the nest this afternoon. We wonder if the birds have flown the coop? We suspect the baby birds might have left their birth home earlier this afternoon. Did we miss their departure? We’ll check further tomorrow morning when we take the plant down for watering.
JULY 12, 2008 – DAY 34 (Image 1 of 1 – Below)
Today is a good air day in Sacramento. One of the first good air days we’ve had in a little over two weeks. And, it looks like our bird family has departed, and done so in good health. All that remains is an empty nest. That’s good news for the birds, butâ€”after almost a month of watching and waitingâ€”we feel a bit of emptiness without the joy of watching and hearing the bird’s development from eggs to empty nest.
FINAL SCORE: HAWKS 0, BIRDS 5