Believe it or not, spring is upon us. The signs are all around us if you care to look. Trees are budding, flowers are blooming, tiny love-struck mammals are replicating at a break neck pace, and, most wonderful to me, birds are building nests.
I was lucky enough to find one of these nests this past Monday. An adult Western Scrub-Jay flew into a bush not 10 feet in front of me. A few moments later I heard a “snap” come from the bush. I peered in to see the Scrub-Jay maneuvering a freshly plucked twig in its beak. The jay then flew out of the bush 50 feet to the parking lot across the street, and deposited the twig on a branch of one of the magnolia trees. I walked over to the tree and noted the distinctive messy pile of unorganized twigs that can loosely be called a nest made by jays.
I couldn’t help but feel a jolt of excitement when I found the nest. It means that there’s a whole new round of babies to watch! You see, every year I take part in a citizen science program called Project NestWatch. It’s a project where anyone can go out, find a nest, and monitor it for a season by reporting certain dates and numbers to the site. You get to watch the adult build the nest, lay eggs, see nestlings hatch out, and cry a single manly tear as your baby birds take flight.
The great news about this project is that some birds are very obvious nesters. Out west where I am, Scrub-Jay nests are very easy to find, and across America the American Robin can be found nesting anywhere it can find a spot. I’ve watched Scrub-Jays, Robins, and Western Kingbirds fledge from nests that I found myself. I can’t tell you how special that feeling is. It’s even better if the birds fledge from a nest box that you built yourself. I’ve watched Eastern Bluebirds, Chickadees, and Tree Swallows fledge from nest boxes that I’ve built.
It’s an absolutely wonderful experience. Every spring I get to help raise new baby birds, and it’s super easy. All it takes is a pair of eyes and some patience. Not only do you get the satisfaction of watching the birds grow, but at the same time you are contributing data to researchers across America about when birds breed, how many young they produce, what predators they face, and much more. If you want to know what it’s like to have some baby birds of your own, then go to Project Nestwatch to start learning how you can share in this experience. And as always, if you are going to participate please follow the ethical guidelines that are outlined on the site.
As for me, well, I have some nests to check up on. Good luck in your nest searches and happy birding!