BIRD WATCH: Yard birds lay claim to nesting spots

BY THE TIME the garden work gets serious, our resident birds have already chosen their nesting territory.

One of the first to pair off and choose a place to raise a family are the spotted towhees.

I have plans to clean up the rhododendron bed, but I know these birds also have some plans.

They expect to set up housekeeping in the densest part of the bed.

Once I begin raking up the debris left over from winter, I expect to hear a harsh scold that is a drawn-out “toe-wheeee?”

A pair of common bushtits has been seen several times every day in an area on the north side of the house.

They appear to be looking for bugs on the plum tree branches.

I suspect they are going to nest a bit farther away from that location and are only keeping an eye on their chosen nesting site.

Once they begin building their stocking-like nest, they will be extremely careful.

They won’t go near the oceanspray bushes they prefer if there are any Steller’s jays or crows hanging about.

These small birds are masters of camouflage when it comes to building a nest.

You can look right at one and still miss that tangle of moss, leaves and twigs.

When it comes to nesting bushtits, the thicker and messier the area is, the more they like it.

Any plans I have of cleaning up the tangle will go on hold.

The birds will be happy and so will the weeds and blackberry vines bursting forth in that area.

Several hydrangea shrubs needed last year’s dead blossoms removed and some corrective pruning.

I could sense the eyes watching my every move.

These bushes are under an ancient beauty bush that every bird in the yard lays claim to.

It takes me a long time to prune any plant because I always doubt my skill.

The one-note scolds that accompanied my pruning were like someone telling everyone in the yard that I was about and fussing with their plants.

The black-capped chickadees, Anna’s hummingbirds and Steller’s jays all seemed to think it necessary to watch what I was doing.

There are two birds that become a little too pushy as to who owns what part of the yard once they claim their nesting territory.

The juncos seem to think any thick bush is fair game — regardless of where it is located.

Not only do they claim the thick evergreen shrubs in my yard; they assume the area’s nurseries also belong to them.

One spring, the garden shop in a Lowe’s hardware store had yellow warning tape surrounding one of these bushy evergreens.

A “Birds Nesting” sign warned away shoppers who might get too close to the nest built by a pair of juncos.

I thought that was very accommodating of the store.

I know from experience that nesting juncos can give you quite a heart starter (or stopper) when they suddenly fly out of a bush and almost in your face.

I’m very careful around my shrubs at this time of the year.

Hanging baskets will be in the nurseries and our yards this month and there will be homeowners and gardeners who will have their baskets stolen.

The culprits are mostly the house finches.

They seem to think hanging baskets and window boxes were installed to provide them the perfect nursery.

Chances are good the baby birds will survive and the plant’s caretaker will be on pins and needles until they leave the nest.

Careful watering does work and the nesting is usually successful.

Yes, it seems that everywhere you work in the yard right now, it pays to be careful because someone else is working in it, too.


Joan Carson’s column appears every Sunday. Contact her at P.O. Box 532, Poulsbo, WA 98370, with a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a reply. Email: [email protected]

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