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Indigo Bunting Nest!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I was going in the garage via the small side door and saw a tall white lettuce plant (a weed) sticking up out of my pink hibiscus patch that lines the garage. I reached over to pull it and a small brown bird fluttered up out of the hibiscus!  Now, having done this a number of times I know the way a female bird flies when she's coming off the nest--in a quick, fluttery way designed to draw attention to her and not her nest.

And there in the nest were three lovely greenish-blue eggs. Which I did not photograph, because I didn't want to scare Mrs. Piper.

who sat for a long time on them and stared me down when I'd peek at her from the yard. Go away, primate. Just go away.

And then on August 15 in the morning I peeked in when she came off the nest and there were two babes, just hatched.

The flash fired, whoops! but it didn't stop the new babies from begging from an unlikely mama: my Canon G-12.

Oh sweetness.

They've grown by Day 2...but still think the camera's Mom. I've learned to disable the flash, and to wait for late morning to get the most ambient light on the nest. Ohhh, I love this shot so much.

 By the looks of that last egg, it's not going to hatch. See the big gas space in it, the white zone at the big end? The contents are probably liquid, never having been fertilized. And gas is building up inside. 

I had an interesting discussion with a chicken-raising Facebook friend about whether or not to remove the bad egg. She recounted having to shampoo and blow-dry a buff Orpington hen who sat too long on a bad egg and had it explode on her.  I sympathized completely, and shared my experiences shampooing and blow-drying everything from cedar waxwings to hummingbirds. Yes, I have blown-dried a hummingbird or two. Find that exact sentence anywhere in the universe, I challenge you.

I heard her point, but my cost-benefit analysis of the situation came out in favor of leaving the infertile egg in the nest. I've had 30 years of experience with infertile eggs in bluebird nests, and I've never had one explode in the short time it takes to fledge a brood. I do routinely remove them after the nestlings are two days old, but the ones I don't find simply get pushed down into the nest cup and do no harm. This, however, isn't a bluebird nest in a safe, predator-proof box. It's an open-cup nest about 2 1/2 feet off the ground in a shrub. I didn't want to touch this nest with my hands. I stuck the camera lens in through the leaves but never handled the eggs or young. I was taking a pretty big risk as it was, just approaching the nest. I didn't want to leave my scent on it and possibly attract a black rat snake or raccoon.

 The nest is in a pink saucer hibiscus shrub right up alongside our detached garage. A cement sidewalk borders the flower bed. This is an old photo of the shrub--it's a the bright green one with heart-shaped leaves, just to the right of the pink hollyhocks and window. It's a bunch more grown over now, as you'll see.

I could stand on the sidewalk, poke my camera in through the leaves, and grab a couple of shots without touching anything. Since we walk up and down the sidewalk all day long, my scent being there would not alert a predator. The chance to document an indigo bunting family's life from Day One was just too good to pass up.  I knew I'd probably never have a chance like that again, and I took it. But I didn't want to touch that nest with my hands.

One of my favorite photos from the series, also on Day 2, August 16, 2012. I can't take that bad egg. 

It's in use, a sweet baby's pillow. Doin' his chickie Pilates.


Chickie Pilates!
Love this unfolding--err, hatching--story.

Can't wait to see the updates! And if they include these little darlings turning into some awful snake's breakfast, please give an advance warning for those of us in the reading audience who are not only snakeophobic, but have a more - shall we say - delicate constitution. I can't stand even the THOUGHT of the sight of a snake eating a live animal although I know, I know....they need to eat too...tell them to go find a little rodent in the tall grass or something!


I am awed, but distracted by the hollyhocks. My Mom always grows hollyhocks even though Florida isn't very hollyhocks friendly. They remind her of her hometown of Glen Campbell, PA... where she says folks used them to hide the outhouse.

Hi admin
Nice Post
Always Suscses For You

Sweet story! I'm such a big fan. I always love your pieces on NPR. Glad I found you on Nature Blog Network!

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