Battle for a home

I always assume the best when I find broken robin’s eggs like this. I imagine a fat baby bird in a nest somewhere, getting stronger each day.

I came across multiple nests this spring. I have learned a few things while watching them. Most excitingly, I can now identify the species of parents of those gorgeous blue eggs with brown spots. All three nests I found belonged to Dark-eyed Juncos. I see the Juncos all the time at my bird feeder. I also learned that Juncos have a habit of building their nests on the ground, and that it is just as bad of an idea as it seems to be.

I told you about the first one: I was cutting very tall grass with the trimmer and accidentally exposed a nest that had been built into a blackberry bush inside the grass. I realized immediately that I had exposed it, and picked up the tall grass and stacked it all around with only a tiny entrance hole. But it didn’t work. Three days later the branch was bent over and the egg was gone. It looked like the work of a raccoon.

The egg I accidentally exposed while working one evening.
Same nest, the next morning. I couldn’t tell if the parent had come back or not at this point.

Next I was pulling weeds by hand beside the house and vaguely aware of an angry bird flitting from the rooftop to the ground, to the garbage can, and back to the roof, all the while chirping angrily at me. The bird was on all sides of me, harrassing. I was getting closer and closer to a great big burst of weeds and tall grass beside my house when the bird finally got through to me, and it dawned on me that I was being scolded for my behavior. I stopped just in time, and peeked carefully into the weeds I had not yet pulled. There was a beautiful nest.

Perfect nest with gorgeous eggs, right next to the foundation of my home.

It was my opinion that building a nest on the ground in this forested area was simply not a good idea. But of course, Mother Nature is most times wiser than me. I gave the spot a wide berth from then on. For the next several days I tried to stay away, but sometimes had to be in the area and that’s when I would see the Dark-eyed Junco fly off the nest and resume scolding me. The Juncos are very common here.

The ground below my bird feeder. Two Juncos are there, with the black heads.

Sadly one day, not even a week later, I saw all the weeds trampled. I hurried over to check and there were no more eggs on the nest. Again, it looked like evidence of raccoon. So sad. I really had hopes for her, or him, whomever had been scolding me anytime I came near.

The worst nest location choice of all was the nest I discovered on the ground while mowing the lawn on my riding lawn mower. I happened to be looking at the ground beneath the mower as I was backing up and turning around in a wide open area. Somehow, I had driven right over the top of a nest twice – once forward, once backward – and it had survived. But now the freshly cut grass exposed it completely.

See the nest in the bottom left, out in the middle of my lawn?
I picked up the nest, trying to decide what to do with it.

There were no trees above that it had fallen from – it had been built right there on the grass. There were no trees or bushes close enough that I was sure the parents would find the nest if I moved it. It was a very bad location with no camouflage. At a loss, I laid the nest back exactly where I had found it. The very next day the egg was gone. I had known it would be.

It’s always a fight out here in the country. We are all battling each other for the same piece of land we believe is our own land.

While everyone else is battling for their lives, I have the luxury to sit here, sheltered from the rain, and think about it.

I’m most aware of my personal battles. I fight the deer that eat everything I plant, the raccoons that eat my chickens, the worms that are building webby nests in my apple trees, the moles that tear up my grass, the rats hoarding chicken pellets, termites in the wood pile. It’s not just me though. All I need to do is look around and see that the fight for a safe and comfortable life never ends. The heron eats the fish in my pond. The raccoons eat the Juncos. Opposums eat the frogs. The cougar eats the deer.

It isn’t personal; it’s just what life looks like.  It’s all about the battle to make a home and keep it. The critters aren’t targeting me, just doing what they can.

14 thoughts on “Battle for a home

  1. That’s a good way to look at it, Crystal. We are lucky to be higher on the food chain. I don’t understand them building a nest on the ground either. I guess if you didn’t cut the lawn, they might live but then you could have a grass fire. No winning with this one.

    1. My assumption is that their nesting choices have won over the decades, and that’s why there are so many Juncos. Maybe the sheer numbers of parents overcome the predators. Maybe some Juncos nest in better spots. I feel bad for probably helping the demise of a few eggs. But even without my help, the predators probably would have found those.

  2. We too, have lots of Juncos but they are normally migrating through. I have found junco nests when I am out backpacking. Normally they are well hidden. Killdeer also build nests on the ground. Have you ever had one try to lure you away from its nest by pretending to be injured, Crystal? It’s a dog eat dog world out there. 🙂 –Curt

    1. Yes, killdeer unfortunately build in gravel parking lots sometimes, and I’ve had them try to lure me away from my parking spot. It’s so interesting to me that your Juncos are mostly migrating, while mine stay all year long (or seem to), and we are close geographically. The climate is different. I wonder if that explains the difference.

      1. We always have a few hang around, Crystal, but the vast majority head higher up into the mountains. They come down to winter here, starting in the fall and leaving in the spring.

  3. Hey Cousin,
    I have a solution for you heron. Fishing line. I don’t mean sit back and cast a line and catch the bugger. haha

    The heron stalks their fish. They fly into the pond area landing silently several feet away. They stealthily approach keeping an eye on their prey and their shadow. Once they reach the bank and have a fish within reach they strike. To prevent them from catching fish and giving yourself some amusement in the process, string some fishing line about four to six inches off the ground that is six to eight inches away from the pond bank. The heron cannot see the line and will trip over the line, squawk its head off and fly away. It will take a few “trips” before getting discouraged. Eventually, finding that there are easier fishing holes downstream.

    This worked for our backyard Koi pond (when we had one) and it gave us several morning chuckles in the process.

    Good luck and have your camera handy. Love you.

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