Soaring Bird in the Neighborhood

This afternoon after we returned home after lunch out, I got a picture of what could have been the bird that made off with a mouthful of house finch chicks last month.

I don’t know why I didn’t draw up the window blind when I first heard the sound of what reminded me of a bed sheet flapping in a high wind a month ago.

When I finally did crack the blind, I saw the huge, black bird with what seemed like a wingspan as long as my leg beating those wings mightily at the air to stay aloft as it plucked the baby birds from the tree.

It was fast as lightning and the theft was done so quickly, I had no time to be more than a witness.

I vowed not to go pawing into trees anymore looking for bird nests just to get snapshots. I think I gave the big predatory bird, whether crow or turkey vulture or whatever it was a visual cue to where its prey lay helpless.

The Robins Try Again

We have a couple of brand new birds’ eggs in what may be a second nest by the robin pair. Now that made me wonder about whether or not the first nest under our deck was a decoy or dummy nest. You probably won’t believe me, but I thought of that before I googled it.

What got me wondering was the nest the robins build under our deck about a week ago and which they seemingly abandoned. See the progress in the video:

My last picture of the first robins’ nest showed that it was empty.

There was only one egg that ever turned up in this nest.

And then we found the new robins’ nest in our front yard crab apple tree.

I wondered if the nest under our backyard deck was a dummy or decoy nest, maybe to discourage a persistent birdwatcher. I checked the web and found a short article on Sialis, “Dummy and Abandoned Nests.” Since Google identified the site as “Not secure,” I can just summarize that the author (who is not identified), reports that some males build nests to provide the female with a number of choices. She picks one and finishes the nest–much more neatly.

Some birds build decoy nests because they might have been scared by a possible predator in the area–like a large black crow in our area, which actually did make off with an entire clutch of House Finch nestlings only a week ago.

I found another web site that essentially gave the same explanation and both mentioned somebody named Benjamin E. Leese, who wrote about this topic in something called BlueBird Journal, Summer 2018, p.14 and 15. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the article, possibly because it’s a print journal and not available on line.

Another thing I wonder about: if the crab apple nest is the real McCoy and the under-the-deck nest was a decoy (hey, those rhyme), the problem with the crab apple nest is that, when approached from the back, it’s wide open to flying predators.

Anyway, both nests were done in a couple of days, although the crab apple nest probably was done after the under-the-deck model. I’m pretty confident that the breeding pair built both of them. I know they all look alike, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, evidence or no.

Male has a black head; female has a grayish head

This reminds me of another nest that robins built on our property a few years ago, this one right between our house and the rail of our deck. It was a real Hoorah’s Nest!

Spring, A Time for Optimism

This is the season for optimism and milestones: graduating medical students and residents, new faculty from the graduating resident class—including the milestone of getting the suspicious looking postcard notice in the mail reminding me that I’ll soon be eligible for open enrollment in Medicare.

No kidding, I got my first ever Medicare Open Enrollment postcard notice although, of course, it was not from any government agency as the Medicare Open Enrollment Inquiry Card indicated. This notice was obviously a lure from an anonymous marketer soliciting for one or more insurance companies, “SD Reply Center” in Rockwall, Texas.

Don’t get sucked in by this hustle. This has been going on for years. I found an on line news story from 2012 written by Bob LaMendola, with the Sun Sentinel in South Florida.

This is widely viewed as a scam, and the company targets seniors (yes, I am one of those). If you send back the card with all of your personal data on it which they request, outfits like SD Reply Center (SD stands for Senior Direct) will sell it to insurers who may knock on your door. Insurers themselves are forbidden by federal and state laws from sending these postcards or otherwise soliciting seniors unless we request them. While it’s not against the law for companies like SD Reply Center to solicit seniors, consumer advocates advise us not to mail our personal information to the sender of an anonymous postcard. While it may not be harmful, seniors are then in the difficult position of fending off eager insurance salespersons.

I will be shredding my postcard. But I will remain aware of Medicare open enrollment and pursue less worrisome avenues for more information about my coverage options. You have to keep your eyes peeled for trouble.

Speaking of trouble, our birds are in a lot of it. Right after the house finches lost their nestlings, the cardinals lost their only chick, probably to the same predatory crow that took the house finch babies. The cardinal and house finch parents are now gone.

The cardinal nest is empty.

However, while the robins might have abandoned the under-the-deck nest (not clear, my wife says she saw one flying under our deck), they may have settled into our front yard crabapple tree. It’s thick with flowers right now and provides excellent cover for the brand new nest the floor of which still needs work (just like the nest under our deck needed for a while).

Spring is a time of optimism. Hope springs eternal in the human breast—and in the robin redbreast.

OK, Maybe Robins Can Build Nests Anywhere

I’ve been making fun of birds who build funny-looking and impractical nests. Maybe I’ve been wrong about the robins, though. My wife alerted me by phone that the robin I joked about in my YouTube video, “Nest Building for Bird Brains,” had actually cobbled together a convincing nest underneath our deck.

I couldn’t believe it. I think the only explanation is alien influence. Their heads are egg-shaped and that’s about the only proof you need.

I figure the aliens get into our dimension via spacecraft through a wormhole, which would appeal to a bird, especially a robin. They love worms! They would just as soon gobble up a worm as poop on your Hostas. Then the alien probes the robin (they got this thing about cloaca probing), inserting an egg as big as my head for crying out loud. This naturally leads to a change in the robin’s central nervous system, leading it to become insane in the bird brain (so to speak) and rendering it incapable of doing the normal thing like building a nest in a tree, so they end up slapping it under a deck, in your lawn mower, on top of your god-forsaken egghead, good gahd amighty!

However, you can hardly call it quibbling when I point out there’s no bottom in the nest—yet. On the other hand, if I were a betting man, I would have bet against it getting built at all.

You can still see the floor board! Ya gonna lay eggs on that?

Our guess is that, at this rate, the floor will be down in no time and eggs will likely be laid soon after that.

Hoorah’s nest if I ever saw one…

We now have three bird nests to keep track of for the next couple of weeks—cardinal, house finch, and now the robin. At this rate, we’ll be lucky to keep up.

Bird Brains Building Nests

I just can’t figure how some birds ever get the nest-building job done. It’s mind-boggling how clueless some of them are. And it’s no wonder—they’re all bird brains trying to figure out something that they obviously don’t have much more than bare instinct to go on.

Robins are some of the worst nest builders around. About 4 years ago, they tried to build a nest in between our deck rail and the house. It was the most hilarious Hoorah’s nest we ever saw!

This year they’re trying once again to build a nest underneath our deck. Don’t they get it? That’s what trees are for.

We’ve got a bird’s eye view of the egg-laying prowess of a house finch and a cardinal, in the front yard and the back yard respectively. We don’t understand how the cardinal lost one of her eggs. She just laid a replacement.

Funny thing about cardinals and house finches. We see the male house finch feeding his mate all the time. The papa cardinal is a rare visitor to the nest; I sometimes wonder if mama has trouble with laying enough eggs because she’s underfed.

And the eggs of the house finches are not what we expected. They’re creamy white, not pale blue. Guide books are not always right, I guess.

We’ll keep checking on the robin’s nest building progress. I’m skeptical, but I’ve been wrong about a lot of things.

Bird Brains Building Nests
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