Loving *All* Creatures, Great and Small

Do you know what dogs, birds and mice have in common?  My unconditional love of all creatures, great and small.

This last week I encountered all three.

Dark Eyed Junco

Bird's Nest with eggs

Dark-eyed Junco Nest

In late March I wrote about my amazing discovery, a small dark-eyed junco nest.  Mama junco built her little house in a Nandina shrub growing on my client’s patio.  She lined the nest with fur from the resident Lab.

Mama junco ‘posed’ for pictures a week ago Friday from a nearby tree. I left with a bounce in my step, looking forward to seeing her again the following week.  When I returned Tuesday there was no sign of her. She’s either abandoned the nest or met with a darker fate.  It’s been a full week since any of us have seen her. Perhaps the recent commotion around the front door sent her packing.

I’ve wondered if she registered the potential for trouble and simply decided to start again elsewhere.  My client generally enters the house from the garage, so the front door, near a sheltered patio and elevated from the street was probably a good spot.  Now realtors, inspectors, potential buyers and garden bloggers are traipsing past her tiny home. My hope turned to sadness by weeks-end as I passed the lonely collection of tiny speckled eggs.

Field Mouse/Cat Mouse

Mouse Relocation Tools

Mouse Relocation Tools

Thanks to the milder weather, I opened the back door early as I went about the start of my day.  Rounding the corner to our entry way, I heard a tiny squeak in front of the neighbor’s cat.  The cat, named Mighty Mouse, brought in a tiny field mouse, alive but obviously stunned.  I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a small plastic tub. I shooed the cat, covered the mouse and called my son for help.  He isolated all four cats in different rooms while I tried to figure out what to do next.  I could see tiny feet poking out and hoped she wasn’t injured.  I placed a weight on the tub and ran for my crafting mat. Slowly and gradually I slid the mat below the tub until the mouse was completely trapped between the layers. I released the mouse at the edge of the deck, hoping she wasn’t someone’s mother.  She was wet from the grass and stunned, but seemed unharmed. I went inside for the camera, reasoning that if she was gone when I got back, all was well. Much as I wish I had her picture, I’m happy she moved on.

A Lab Named Rosie

Rosie

Rosie the Magnificent

Rosie the Lab

Lining Nests for 13 Year’s and counting

I finished my week in the company of Rosie, a gorgeous sweetheart of a dog.  Her loving ways and sounds of contentment when you give her a scratch are endearing to all. Rosie is perhaps too old to chase mice, but several strands of her lovely fur line the now-abandoned nest of the dark-eyed junco.  She’s still in the game.

How about you? Do creatures play a role in your life?  Do you have a story to share?

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