Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bird Nests: Signs of Spring

Guest post by Dan Weisz

This week I participated in a nice walk at Agua Caliente Park with Jeff Babson on his weekly bird walk, sponsored by the Pima County Parks and Recreation Environmental Education Department. This County brochure lists this walk along with many others The Friends of Agua Caliente also offer many resources for visitors

At the park, we saw very many birds’ nests. Below is a selection:

A Great Horned Owl sits on her nest high in the fronds of a Palm Tree.

This is one of two Anna’s Hummingbirds we saw sitting on eggs at Agua Caliente. The photo is dark and shadowy, but it’s the best that I have.

About thirty feet down the path, we found another Anna’s Hummingbird nest.  Both nests are as tall as they are wide.

In one mesquite tree, we saw a Vermilion Flycatcher sitting on her nest.  Her drab colors and the simple, dove-like nest, all help to camouflage the bird on the nest from predators flying above.

And below her, the male showed up with a mouthful of insects.  It’s nice to have food delivered right to your door.  He is looking up, waiting for the right moment to bring her a snack.

Deep in a citrus tree is the nest of (I believe) a Bell’s Vireo.  We did not see the bird this time.  Note how the shape and materials look very different from any of the nests above.

 A new discovery for the group was this Phainopepla nest with two small birds inside.  At one point, we saw both parents delivering food to the babies.  Because the nest is so well hidden deep in the oleander bushes, there were many branches in the way of good viewing.  If you look closely, you can see both babies with bare chins holding their mouths wide open and facing up, waiting for daddy to stuff something delicious down their throats.

Here is another nest where we did not see the parents while we were observing. This is the nest of a Northern Beardless Tyrranulet, a small flycatcher.  The nest is domed and has a side entrance and this one was located among the seed branches of a palm tree.  It is a very different nest from the other ones we saw.

On my way home, I stopped at Catalina Foothills High School, where students were on spring break.  Say’s Phoebes are common on school grounds and a friend told me about a nest near the snack bar of the football field.  I found the birds, but their nest was hidden above the snack bar’s light fixture and was not visible from the ground.  Both parents were dutifully bringing food to the nest.  In this case, a Fiery Skipper butterfly (Thank you Jeff Babson for the ID).

Above the football field was the nest of a Common Raven.  A friend tells me the birds have nested there for several years now.  You can see a bit of the raven sitting on the nest in this photo.

It is definitely springtime here in the desert.

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