Speckled Eggs

Pittosporum with Nest

Pittosporum with Nest

When I climbed the brick patio steps of a potential client last week I startled a little brown bird. She hopped along my path, then the low wall and finally flew away toward the garden.

I started a project at the same home this week, and again spotted the bird. This time she flew from the low branches of a potted Pittosporum. The jangling of keys in the door must have startled her. She flew out like a shot, surprising us both. When it happened a third time, I knew their had to be a nest.

With my camera in hand, and mama bird elsewhere, I peered into the dense leaves. Nothing.

Assuming I’d imagined the whole thing, I took one last look and there it was: a tiny, hair-lined nest and five speckled eggs.  Goosebumps!

Bird's Nest Closeup Bird's Nest with eggs

Much like Sarah The Gardener, and her ‘stolen’ chic, I’ve found myself feeling responsible for the tiny eggs.  Will mama bird continue to visit the nest with these frequent interruptions?  Is this the first time she made her home there, or does she come back every year?  I want to be sure to notify the movers so they don’t accidentally jostle the nest.  It’s a mere arm’s length from the front door, protected from the elements but not from the sudden jolt of a box of dishes or the end of a couch.

I’ve searched the web for ways to identify the eggs, and possible gestation, but it’s been tricky.  I think I’ve narrowed it down, but hope to get one more look at mama bird tomorrow to help me decide.

Any guesses?

Update: My friend Sheila forwarded the photos to Larry Jordan of The Birders Report to see if he could help. Larry quickly identified the probable bird as a Dark-eyed Junco.

Related Articles:

House Finch (native to the Bay Area)

Los Gatos Birdwatcher Partners

If you’re as fascinated with nests as I am, this site is for you.  Larry has an extensive photo library of bird eggs and nests with guidelines for identifying (without ever disturbing) the mama-bird and her clutch.

Bird’s Nest Webcams:

Bolsa Chica Nest Cam

Phoebe Allans Nest Cam

Waiting for the Birds

Tick-tock

Tick-tock…the waiting game

I’m tracking my various nesting materials in the garden, but no discernible visitors just yet.  At first I was hoping to spot a bird swooping by.  Now I’d be happy with any sign that they’ve found the super-soft bits of wool, laundry lint and yarn. I hung the wreath in the Magnolia tree outside my home office window. The bag of laundry lint is hanging from the Pittosporum out back.  I even added a third, large plastic bag, weighted down with a garden table for the squirrels. It’s directly in their path. No takers.

Nesting Wreath

Nesting Wreath

After our last big storm I found remnants of what may have been a nest from last year under the pine tree. The bits of blue lint were unmistakably the color of our flannel sheets. So…I remain hopeful.

On the subject of birds, I signed up for tweets (I crack myself up) about Phoebe the Allen Hummingbird.  I learned today that she’s already laid the first egg of her next brood. These hummers generally lay a pair at a time, the size of tiny breath mints.

Phoebe's nest.  First egg, February 10th

Phoebe’s nest. First egg, February 10th

Here is the link to the live webcam in case you missed it. Warning: watching the nest all day is habit-forming. That said, it’s a habit worth forming.  Enjoy!

When a Rose, Isn’t Just a Rose

Should I or shouldn't I?

Should I or shouldn’t I?

I’ve had my eyes glued to the inner branches of a rosebush all weekend. I’m right back at it today.  This isn’t just ‘any’ rosebush.  In fact, it’s not even my rosebush.

Tucked into the branches of this very special rosebush are a pair of nesting Allen Hummingbirds.  They’re expected to fledge at any time.  It’s mesmerizing watching the activity at the nest, something you wouldn’t normally see. Thanks to an astute gardener and the wonders of streaming video, you can see Phoebe’s nest 24/7 courtesy of a webcam just inches from the nest.

I’ve been snapping screen shots for the past few days, whenever ‘Faith’ or ‘Sandy’ start hovering above the golf-ball sized nest.  Most of my screen shots are false alarms.  Then, while I was seeing one of my boys off to school, one of the girls fledged the nest.

Then…she came back!  She left again (when I turned my back), and again returned.  It’s been quite the morning. I have two windows open on my computer as I write this, wishing you were all sitting here with me watching the show.

Sandy fledged, then returned

Sandy fledged, then returned

Once hatched, the hummingbirds leave the nest within twenty days or so.  Sadly, many don’t survive the first year, but those that do can live upwards of 12 years.  After watching the nest for so long, I’ve started to think of them as ‘my baby birds.’  I’ll bet everyone else feels the same way.  In fact, Phoebe has quite the following.  As of this writing, she’s had close to 15 million views in over sixty countries.

I encourage you to click on the webcam link below. If you miss the fledge, chances are she’ll be nesting again soon.  Phoebe returns to this rosebush every year, laying five clutches a season.

Here’s what you might see:

  • Mama Phoebe feeding her offspring.
  • Faith and Sandy fledging (leaving) the nest
  • Grooming (known as preening)
  • Dozing…so darn cute when they close those eyes

Be sure to tell a friend!

Phoebe Allen webcam streaming live from California (PST)

Phoebe, Sandy and Faith

Phoebe, Sandy and Faith

Phoebe feeds her brood every 15-30 minutes

Phoebe feeds her brood every 15-30 minutes

Trying out the wings

Trying out her wings

Dedicated to Erica and Joe. Thank you for making this all possible.

Los Gatos Birdwatcher

What fun it was visiting Los Gatos Birdwatcher this afternoon.  I haven’t been in a while and I’ve missed it.

The store is named for the town of Los Gatos which is Spanish for ‘The Cats.’ You’ll find no evidence of any real cats there, though they have a beautiful statue on display (more on that later.)

Now privately owned by John and Freddy Howell, Los Gatos Birdwatcher offers an array of products and services. I’ve never asked a question they couldn’t answer. I asked for assistance today identifying my little backyard hummer, see below.
DSC_0014

This particular hummingbird had a green chest and shorter tail feathers, quite different from the usual feeder crowd. John identified it as a probable female Allen or a first-year male Allen.  Apparently the males acquire color as they get older.

I also learned about a phone app called iBird. It’s an interactive field guide to birds of North America. If you’re a serious birder, this app’s for you.

Los Gatos Birdwatcher has a huge selection of wild birdseed, bird feeders, nesting boxes and assorted tools. They sell gifts and books as well, including jewelry, t-shirts, puzzles and bird-themed cards. I always feel so at home. They even have a corner dedicated to the bird-feeder nemesis, the squirrel, with clever nesting boxes and feeders. If you’re a fan of the furry ones, you can buy 25 pound bags of peanuts in the shell. You’ll have backyard friends for life.

Cutest Bird Nest Ever

Cutest Bird Nest Ever

Gorgeous Nesting Box

Gorgeous Nesting Box

Nesting Boxes

Nesting Boxes

Birdseed Feeders Galore

Birdseed Feeders Galore

The store offers the following services:

  • Feeder Cleaning: No charge, but they ask for a donation to Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center, Nike Animal Rescue Foundation or Friends of San Martin Animal Shelter.
  • Frequent Buyer Program
  • Seed Delivery in the local area
  • Monthly children’s nature programs: For pre-school through grade 3.
  • Community outreach
  • Backyard Bird Consulting Program

If you’re local to the area, be sure to drop by. If not, you can subscribe to their bi-monthly newsletter following this link.

Los Gatos Birdwatcher
King’s Court Center
792 Blossom Hill Road, Los Gatos, CA  95032

cat sculpture

The only cat you’ll ever see at the Birdwatcher

Smile! You’re On Gardening Nirvana

Some days you get lucky.  Today was one of them.

Like the felines in the house, many of the garden visitors put on a show till the camera comes out. Then they’re off, lickety-split.  Today I was able to snap some cuties.

First up, this dark brown squirrel.  Most of our native squirrels are grey with a white belly.  This little fellow is dark brown with an amber belly, pressed up against the fence. He’s been busy stashing peanuts in a corner behind a rock. They nab the peanuts from our neighbor’s yard, then head over our fence to either bury them or eat them.

Dark squirrel with amber belly

A dark squirrel with amber belly hugs the fence

Stashing his peanuts behind the Daphne

Stashing his peanuts behind the Daphne

Peanut Wasteland

Peanut Wasteland

A more typical gray squirrel passed through with a peanut in his mouth.  Isn’t he adorable?  He jumped into one of the planters when he saw me, then ran back to the lawn to squirrel away his peanut.

Grey Squirrel with Peanut

Grey Squirrel with Peanut
I wanna hold your hand!

We enjoy frequent visitors at our hummingbird feeders.  Today I ‘searched’ the orange tree with my camera lens to see if I might spot a nest. In retrospect, given the number of squirrels and rats that visit each day, the tree is probably far to active for nesting. I followed the bird’s flight with my camera lens and captured a few shots of a hummingbird new to our area.  I’ve never seen one like it.  My research says there are a dozen hummingbird species in California, but none of them resemble this little one.  Take a look at this species list and let me know what you think.

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It’s been bitter cold for several days, down to freezing most nights.  I’m keeping the feeders topped off, especially after learning that the non-migratory birds are nesting from now until May or June.  I wonder where they go to stay warm?

I originally planned to hang bags of laundry lint for nesting material in the spring.  Since learning that hummingbirds are nesting now through May, I plan to hang lint tomorrow.

In my fantasy world, I have an invisible cloak like Harry Potter.  I would spy on all the wildlife up close without fear of detection. Would you like to join me?

Gifts for the Joyful Gardener

Gardeners are practical souls.  We don’t mind dirt under our nails, or bruises on tired knees.  We’ll get up early or stay out late, weeding, pruning, planting and generally enjoying our time in the garden.  We love sharing seeds and flowers fresh from the earth and enjoy swapping tips for keeping the garden pests at bay.

If you have a joyful gardener in your life, here are a few gift ideas to tuck under the tree.

Practical

Your gardener will never lose their gloves in the garden again.  Floral Gardening Gloves allow you to pull weeds in style.

Floral Garden Gloves

Floral Garden Gloves

Seed Keeper or Seed Keeper Deluxe. I’ve been using mine for several months. It’s an easy and efficient way to store and retrieve the seeds you save or buy. They come packed with all sorts of garden goodies as well.

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Fanciful

Slipcovers: They’re not just for sofas!  Dress up your pots with a Patio Art Planter Slipcovers. You can change with the seasons, or simply cover up an ugly pot. It’s a nice way to wrap up a potted plant to gift as well.

plant slipcover

Slipcover Your Plants

Fair trade birdhouses attract birds to the garden. Keep those baby birds toasty warm till it’s time to leave the nest.

Felted birdhouse

Fair Trade Birdhouses

What a clever idea! It’s a card and a desktop garden all in one. It’s edible too. It’s a postcarden!  Click on the photo below and check out the time-lapse video on their site.

Postcarden

Astronomical

For the gardener with the travel bug: “Botanically themed cruises and garden tours of Europe are designed for gardening and gourmet enthusiasts who enjoy taking in ancient castles, magnificent châteaux and stunning landscaped gardens with iconic sites.”

Let’s all go! Who’s with me?

Hummingbird Quandry

We’ve often wondered if the hummingbirds at our feeder are the same year round. It lead me to do a bit of research on the migratory habits of the hummers native to our area. Last week I saw this charmer at our feeder, unruffled by the cooler temps and the rain. Was this one passing through, staying for the winter or about to leave town?

Hummingbird October 22nd

Hummingbird October 22nd

According to World of Hummingbirds, Allen Hummingbirds like to winter in Northern California but spend the summer in Mexico. So who’s been visiting in the summer? I used to think we had Ruby-Throated Hummers at the feeders, with the flashy iridescent red chest, but I’ve since learned they migrate on the east coast of North America and Canada.  Then there are Anna Hummingbirds.  Anna’s are one of the few year-round residents of California.  They can handle temperature extremes, so no need to winter in Mexico.

Following are the hummers we’ve seen in our garden this year.  Descriptions from World of Hummingbirds are at the end.  Who do you think we have visiting our feeders?

Hummingbird February 25th

Hummingbird February 25th

Hummingbird August 4th

Hummingbird August 4th

Hummingbird August 24th

Hummingbird August 24th

Hummingbird October 22nd

Hummingbird October 22nd

North American Hummingbirds

Halloween Countdown

Lying pumpkin

Lying pumpkin