Field Notes: Mid-spring on May Day

It’s May, it’s May, the lusty month of May!

Female American Robin with nest material Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Female American Robin
with nest material
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

This time of year, the park is alive with song, sun, and scavenging for just the right nesting setup. It’s often a team effort; as the robin above collected dry grass, her mate was on a nearby branch, seeeep-ing softly.

Male American Robin Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Male American Robin
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Robins’ approach to nest construction is within the broad category of assembling: taking biological or non-biological materials and putting them together in various ways to form a sturdy nest. More specifically, robins use an interlocking technique, piling sticks together, then weaving grass to make a soft bed for their eggs and later young.

But the real expert weavers in our woods are the Bushtits, those perfect tiny brown fuzzballs who work assiduously to weave a huge variety of forest materials—lichens, mosses, feathers, grass fibers, spider silk—into a long, flexible, snug place to raise children. This female Bushtit is just leaving her nest-under-construction after several minutes of interior decorating.

Female Bushtit (note golden eyes) leaving nest to fetch more building materials Lincoln Park, West Seattle, Spring 2014

Female Bushtit (note golden eyes)
leaving nest to fetch more building materials
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Prospective parents who aren’t weaving their nests are busy at excavations. For the past few weeks, chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Northern Flickers, and other cavity-nesters have been exploring various nest possibilities in the forest.

Black-capped Chickadee explores potential nest site in tree Lincoln Park, West Seattle Spring 2014

Black-capped Chickadee explores
potential nest site in tree
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Red-breasted Nuthatch at potential nest hole (hidden behind nuthatch) Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Red-breasted Nuthatch at potential nest hole (hidden behind nuthatch)
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Northern Flicker exploring nest hole Lincoln Park, West Seattle Spring 2014

Northern Flicker exploring nest hole
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Northern Flicker female at nest hole

Northern Flicker female at nest hole

Humans have provided some nice nesting opportunities near the park as well. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Black-capped Chickadees who seem to have chosen this incredibly convenient-to-photograph nest hole—at human-eye level in the utility pole across the street—will keep at it. How great it would be to have a spring full of baby chickadees to follow!

Black-capped Chickadee excavating nest in utility pole (note claw marks below hole)

Black-capped Chickadee excavating nest in utility pole
(note claw marks below hole)

More secretive are our seasonal visitors, the warblers. I’ve never managed to find their nests in the park; I feel lucky enough just to occasionally get to see the actual bird, usually camouflaged perfectly in the foliation…

Orange-crowned Warbler on Oceanspray Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Orange-crowned Warbler on Oceanspray
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

Black-throated Gray Warbler Lincoln Park, West Seattle Spring 2014

Black-throated Gray Warbler
Lincoln Park, West Seattle

We also have Yellow Warblers, Townsend’s Warblers, Wilson’s Warblers, and Yell0w-rumped Warblers, but so far this spring they’ve been too sneaky for me to get a good current-year photo to share with you.

The woods are full of secrets and surprises this time of year. It’s a time for new hope as buds burst into flowers and birds burst into music. Happy May Day!

It's May, it's May!

It’s May, it’s May!
(Spotted Towhee)

 

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5 responses to “Field Notes: Mid-spring on May Day

  1. Karen Mawyer

    Beautiful birds, Trileigh, and beautiful observations! A few years ago, we had a chickadee family nest in an ornamental lighthouse-themed “birdhouse” hanging near our screened porch. We got to hear them for several weeks, to watch the babies poke their heads out, and I actually got to watch them begin to launch.

  2. Reblogged this on J.L.Commerée's Weblog and commented:
    Nice post by neighborhood blogger

  3. thank you so much for what you do. I am new to seeing your photos (last few months) but this entry particularly moved me, just lovely, thank you.

  4. Enjoying birds chirping outside my window while looking at your pictures. Gorgeous as usual.

  5. Pingback: The Fragile Season | Natural Presence

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