As I've written about before, the transition to Fall is my favorite time of year. I think part of my love for Fall is due to the decline in the tick and chigger populations.
Our favorite resident female squirrel (whom we've named, "Olivia") has been a frequent visitor in this part of the Savanna - now we know why. With the leaves gone, we can see her new nest at the top of this oak tree. Unfortunately for her, the Great Horned owl has also found her nest. Several weeks ago, around 11 PM, I was out with Nikki and suddenly the GHO flew out of the dead tree to the right of Olivia's nest, sending more dead limbs crashing to the ground. We've seen Olivia since then, so I'm hoping she has decided to nest somewhere else.
As Fall transitions into Winter, it also provides me with the opportunity to cut back limbs on trees that were allowing the hawks to hide their approaches and attacks on my martins. Apparently though, not only some limbs, but some more trees have got to go, before my martins return in March.
|The hawks used this corridor to come bulleting through and surprise my colony. (the closest tree in front is 150' from my colony)|
I hate cutting down trees. It just feels so wrong. But, if my colony is going to survive and thrive, I need to make some sacrifices. It always makes me feel guilty when I do it, as I know the resident wildlife are using the trees to raise their young.
As the trees, bushes, blackberries, multi-flora rose and the other varieties of shrubs we have here have shaken off their summer and fall colors, I have started to feel a bit better about the decision to take out some trees. To my delight, I have found that many more birds are using the dense cover provided by the leaves and brambles, than I originally thought.
In this thicket north of my house, of blackberries, multi-flora rose and buck brush, I had to look 3 times to verify the nest in the middle of the thicket.
(to enlarge the photo, simply click on it).
|Check out how well hidden this nest was - dead center of the photo.|
|Nest #1 (zoomed in photo of the nest in the thicket above). It seems to have a combination of small twigs and grass.|
Updated: a purple martin friend suggested "Mockingbird" nest. I fully agree!
|Nest #2, formed out of grass & leaves. Updated! A purple martin friend suggests this is probably a field sparrow nest!|
|Nest #3, also formed out of fine grasses and leaves.|
|Nest #4 - formed out of fine grass.|
|A closeup of the cup of Nest #4.|
|Nest #5 - nest composed of tightly wound moss.|
|Nest #5 - nest composed of tightly wound moss- a little different view.|
|Nest #5 - nest composed of tightly wound moss|
|Nest #6 - view from the top.|
|Nest #7 - a bit of mud, grass and small twigs in this one.|
Nest #8 - 100% built out of the native grasses in that area.
|Nest #8 - I give up - ideas?|
|Nest #9 - grasses & small twigs.|
I was able to find 4 more nests, but they were so deeply buried in the thickets it was difficult to get a good picture. Given the multiple predators and issues I have to deal with with my purple martins, it makes me wonder how so many of these nests actually produce surviving nestlings. Seeing the numbers of birds here on Gobbler's Knob indicates they are at least somewhat successful though.
I love surprises and I love that the birds are able to keep their secrets during the summer. But in Fall & Winter, I get a peek into what they did during the summer and imagine all the little stories that were going on, right underneath my nose - well, underneath the leaves at least.