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When birds leave the nest, take a look

By Robert Tougias

Publication: The Day

Published November 08. 2013 4:00AM

Warm days, cool nights and a sustained climax of peak fall foliage colors have made this past October one of our finest.It almost feels strange to have made it through Halloween without a freak snow or wind storm such as in recent years

Inevitably though, the rains came in November and with them a strong breeze that sent the golden leaves flying in the wind.

Now, the November woods are a naked scaffolding of sturdy trunks and an intricate network of branches. Although effete looking, everywhere there are reminders of the teaming life that once was the summer. Bird nests are now revealed in trees and shrubs throughout the November landscape.

Take time now to journey through the autumn woods in search of the last remains of summer. If you discover a finely woven nest a few feet from the ground filled with tiny rootlets, it may be the work of a wood thrush. Female wood thrush weave a nest of dead grass, leaves and small stems. The nest is about 6 inches across with a 3-inch inner bowl formed by the female's breast.

At last, we see the reason for the thrush's song that filled the endless summer dusk. And all across this county, nests are visible in the forks of backyard tree branches, made by another member of the thrush family: the common robin. When you see a nest, it too will remind you of flute-like notes sung all summer long.

The lesser known red-eyed vireo hangs a small bowl-shaped nest from a forked branch high above roadways. Similarly, the northern oriole suspends a seemingly precarious nest from the outermost twigs of towering trees. With nothing but its beak, the oriole carefully threads strings, plant fibers and bark shreds into a pouch that is so securely built it lasts for years. For the tiny hummingbird, a branch fork is not necessary - its nest made with plant down and spider webs is stuccoed right onto small limbs.

Not all nests are so intricately constructed. Crows' nests are a loose formation of small sticks with an inner cup made of soft plant fibers and moss. Look for these nests high up at 50 feet, where they are hidden among the canopy foliage. Great horned owls, if they build their own, often reuse a crow or hawk nest, but they even less particular about details. Their nests consist of little more than a large stack of sticks with some feathers or fur.

In the waysides and meadows, goldfinch and indigo buntings nests are now exposed in the young saplings. Each bird line their nests with spider silk, but the goldfinches' nests will be the more tightly woven. Look for the nest of your resident cardinal closer to home anywhere there is a cluster of vegetation.

While few birds reuse the same nest, many will build a new nest in the same general location. Knowing this will give you an advantage next spring when you hear the song but cannot locate the singer. Imagine, watching a favorite song bird build its nest right before your eyes.

Robert Tougias is a Colchester birding author, and he is available for lectures. You can email questions to him at rtougias@snet.net.

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Most Recent Poll
As our children crash from Halloween candy overload, we look ahead to the next big holiday: Thanksgiving. What are you looking forward to seeing on your dining room table on the 4th Thursday of November?
Cranberry sauce: Whether it's the home made stuff containing actual cranberries or the reddish jelly shaped like the can it plopped out of, it reminds me of childhood.
9%
Turkey, of course: Turkey slathered in gravy. Turkey with cranberry sauce (see above). Turkey with mashed potatoes on it. Turkey in sandwiches the next day. All I care about is the golden bird.
81%
Latkes: For the first time in 125 years, Thanksgiving falls during Hanukkah so our table will be filled with the best food both holidays have to offer. Happy Thanksgivikkah!
5%
My Thanksgiving has been completely taken over by the ever-earlier Black Friday sales. My big meal will be looking more like a fast food burger in line outside of Best Buy than the traditional sit-down meals from days of ole.
5%
Number of votes: 736

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