Naturalist’s Notebook: Here We Go Again!

My wife Candy got a real surprise this afternoon. She was looking for a large plastic flower pot for a project she was working on. Quite a few pots are stacked in our carport. As she reached to pick one up a little bird flew quickly out of the flower pot! I’m not sure who was the most surprised, us or the bird.

We looked into the flower pot, and the bottom has been filled with leaves, moss and twigs. There is a neat little hollowed-out nest with four small eggs. The eggs are cream-colored  with a sprinkling of brown spots. Most of the spots are on the wide end. 

Although we had no chance to identify the little bird as it rocketed outside, I recognized this kind of nest. I’ve got one in a soft drink carrier on my front porch. That nest is on a shelf over our heads and we couldn’t see what was going on. Four little wrens fledged from it a little over two weeks ago.

Seems we are the hosts to another Carolina Wren family. The new nest is easy to observe. It is only two feet off the carport floor. I sure hope our Black Ratsnakes don’t find it!

This is great for future Naturalist’s Notebook posts. I will be able to get a good series of photos as the eggs hatch and the youngsters grow.

Are there birds nesting where you live? Now is a great time to find nests, but you will need to use some detective skills. I have been a bird watcher for years, and will help you.

I found a Blue Jay building a nest in a large oak tree the other day. It is about 50 feet off the ground, but is fairly easy to see…if you know exactly where to look.

How did I discover the nest? Routine detective work. Clue #1: I observed a Blue Jay fly down to the ground near me and after a bit of searching, it gathered some twigs in it’s beak. Clue # 2: The Blue Jay then flew to a branch on the oak tree, then up to another branch, and finally right to the nest. Case solved!

I ran to get my binoculars so I could have a better look. After a few minutes the Blue Jay returned with more nest material. It put the new stuff in the nest, then sat in the cup of the nest and wiggled around, making sure everything was in the right place and the nest was comfortable.  I will now have another nest to watch.

Have you ever heard of citizen science? You are a citizen, but you aren’t a scientist. That doesn’t mean you cannot do scientific work. Sometimes scientists don’t have the time it takes to do work out in the field. You, a citizen scientist, can make observations for them. I love doing citizen science, and it is even better if you can enjoy a favorite hobby at the same time!

Watching birds is a great hobby. You  learn to identify them, learn what habitats they like, learn their calls and most of all – learn good observation skills. 

Over the years I have volunteered to help with Breeding Bird Atlas Projects in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. These citizen science projects were designed to learn what species of birds were nesting and in what areas of the state they could be found. These projects helped me learn the skills I used to find that Blue Jay nest.

Many volunteers helped in each state. Most of us were not scientists, but we knew and loved birds, and we had time to do the field work for these fun projects. Each person was given certain areas and our task was to discover what birds were nesting there. When these projects were completed, a book was published with the data we gathered.

You can be a citizen scientist too, even if you aren’t very old. There are people who count butterflies, watch lightning bugs (fireflies), track Monarch butterfly migration, or survey frog populations, just to name a few.

I will be doing a butterfly count for the North American Butterfly Association in a few days. I’ve had parents bring children as young as 6 years old to help with these counts.

Remember your Bio Blitz assignment from the other day? Did you make a list of plants and animals you found around your house? How many did you get? 

You were practicing citizen science and didn’t even know it! Now you know that you can do it too! Stay curious and keep your eyes and ears open.

Mr. Bill

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