Nesting Instincts

The birds are getting busy. Even as I gradually shrug off winter apathy and answer the call of spring, the feathered ones are already well into the season. The season of renewal and rebirth is well under way.

A pair of cardinals have commandeered the old apple tree in the meadow. Covered with the exuberant growth of Paul’s Himalayan musk rose, the tree offers the perfect shelter. This rose bears lethal thorns so any nest within is well protected and well concealed. The romance of a home covered in roses appeals to me. Even the knowledge that birds do not have a notable sense of smell, does not hinder my satisfaction that the rambler will be in full bloom and radiating its sweet scent when the baby cardinals are born. This tree has been the keeper of a cardinal nest for some years now and at the last winter storm, I watched the adult pair sit atop the ‘umbrella’ of rambling rose and observe the snow fall. As though they were simply onlookers to a parade from their very own balcony.

Friends of mine have a college of cardinals that resides in his rhododendrons. Which leads me to believe that these birds are indeed quite romantic and select sites based on not just practical. Charming is important as well.

There is a robin who isn’t wasting any time. She ( her industry makes me think it is a she but I’m biased) took her time inspecting various locations in the garden. A site in the espaliered fruit trees has been selected. One by one she ferries small twigs and dried grasses to this place. I haven’t yet determined her mate as I only see one robin at any given time. The focus with which she works is impressive. Sometimes, holding building material in beak, she pauses at a different location. I believe she does so to lead away any creature that might bring harm. So wise.
I’m so glad the dormant oil treatment of the fruit trees has already been completed. Otherwise, it’d have to be put on hold or not done at all so as not to taint the eggs or babies. I do enjoy picking apples and pears in the fall and it would be no fun to find them riddled with bugs.

This year, I’ve put up a bluebird house. I’m hoping fervently that they will come. Earlier in March, a friend spotted a bluebird not too far from my garden so I’m optimistic. The literature on siting the birdhouse is daunting but I’ve done my best. The one fact that bothers me is that apparently, sparrows like such houses too and we are told to thwart them if we see them near a bluebird house. If a sparrows nest is found in the house, it is recommended that it be removed. I know I cannot do it. While I understand that sparrows are not native and their population needs to be curbed, there is simply no way I can do such a thing to a fellow mama. I just can’t. I don’t mind shooing away a house hunting sparrow but remove the nest? Not a chance. So the blue birds had better get to this house first.

I hope that this year I will have the pleasure of encountering a hummingbird nest. Unsurprisingly, these diminutive birds weave fine grasses and plant fibers to make the nest. Then they hold it all together by using spiderweb silk! How does this tiny, exquisite creature know about the super-resilience of this material? It blows my mind how smart and skilled birds are. Nature astounds and impresses consistently.

To support all the construction in progress and yet to happen, I’m hanging up a nesting wreath. It is a plain wreath of grapevine prunings to which I insert feathers, string, ribbons, grasses, mosses and small twigs. Nothing artificial or fake of course. I know birds like to liven it up as, on several occasions I’ve seen nests with a piece of bright ribbon, a strip of foil or even a gold thread woven into it. After all, any good interior designer knows that when working with earthy neutrals, a shot of color or shimmer will give a room just the right pizazz.

So, while I’m not planning to expand my family, the birds have inspired me to do some spring cleaning and repairing and a spot of redecorating. I have been given the cue to make the best possible nest for my loved ones.

I hadn’t planned to but this post segues perfectly to reminding you to consider sprucing up your homes. New curtains or a throw pillow. Upholster a tired looking chair. It is also that time of year to start thinking wedding/engagement/baby shower/hostess gifts. Stock up on stationary to send invites or thank you notes. Yes, despite the ease of e-mails, a handwritten note still works best. So, do check out the ‘Shop’ page for my note cards and fabric pattern. Prints of my art work are also available – I’m currently working on the Gallery page. Stay tuned!

Please also check the Happenings page to get information about the Rocky Hills talk this Thursday, my art show all of May with reception and poetry reading on May 2 and, my garden Open Day on May 9. Mark your calender and come! I look forward to seeing you at all the events.

Baby robins in the espaliered apple trees

Baby robins in the espaliered apple trees

Watchful mama robin

Watchful mama robin


Goldfinch within the buddleia

Goldfinch within the buddleia

Cardinal on top of the thorny Paul's Himalayan rose

Cardinal on top of the thorny Paul’s Himalayan rose

Dove nest in pine bush

Dove nest in pine bush

(c)2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

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1 thought on “Nesting Instincts

  1. Wonderful column! I never gave any thought to a hummingbird nest. Sounds magical. My cardinals nest in forsythia bushes. The red against the yellow blooms is stunning. Good luck with your bluebird house. I hope your friend’s sighting augurs well!

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