Monday, July 28, 2014

Construction season off to one fast start

May 04. 2013 11:11PM

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It’s construction season, and activity is occurring at a rapid pace.

I’ve seen work going on everywhere, and the locations are some of the most ingenious around.

This spring, I’ve seen homes constructed on an ancient barn beam, on top of a two-by-six leaning against a shed and even inside the auger of an old combine.

It seems there are no limits as to where this type of construction takes place, and in this case, that’s not a bad thing.

Every spring I’m amazed by the places where birds will construct their nests. There are always the obvious locales, such as in the crevice of a tree or inside the safe confines of a man-made nest box.

But each year, I find some creative, even precarious, examples.

There’s a robin that built her nest suspended within a four-inch gap between two saw horses. The nest is woven tight enough that it is wedged between the pair of saw horses, which are underneath the overhang of a roof, offering a bit of shelter.

The nest seems secure now, and the light blue egg shells on the ground are proof that things worked out fine for the robin, but how did it choose the spot? And how did the robin start the nest? With little to anchor to, every piece of grass and twig had to be perfectly placed as the nest took shape.

I found another nest constructed in an outbuilding where, days ago, I laid a hammer across the corner of two walls. There was just enough space between the hammer and the corner to hold a nest.

Building in such a locations certainly takes patience and a bit of ingenuity.

When it comes to daredevil nest construction, nothing beats a barn swallow. Every spring, their nests appear on the flat surface of ceiling rafters inside many barns.

A mixture of mud and grass that hardens like plaster, the technique allows swallows to attach their nests just about anywhere.

Even more amazing is the work that goes into a swallow’s nest. Mud is brought to the construction site by the mouthful and the mother makes more than 1,000 trips just to bring enough material.

To make things easier for the birds, I hang several nest boxes in early spring. While my goal is to attract bluebirds, the nest boxes are used by a variety of species.

Purple martins usually stake their claim before the bluebirds get there, but sometimes the nest boxes are so popular that birds will still find a way to use them even if the inside is occupied. Many times I’ve spotted a nest on top of a nest box.

I guess it’s kind of like a waiting list — when the tenant inside moves out the tenant on the top can move in.

My admiration for nest construction does wear thin at times, however. Inside the cab of a tractor, for example.

When I opened the door to climb inside, I noticed a trail of bird dropping leading from a vent in the top of the cab, across the seat, over the steering wheel and through an open window. I lifted the vent flap and peered inside and was greeted by a startled European starling.

The bird made a quick exit out the window, and deep inside the vent I could hear the faint “peep, peep” of her young.

Even though starlings aren’t a native species and the location of this particular nest was less than desirable, I decided to let it be since the young had already hatched.

Once they leave, however, the nest will follow and the window will remain shut to avoid a repeat.

In the meantime, I’ll keep the seat covered and remember to duck when I climb into the cab.

After all, it’s construction season in the outdoors, and sometimes you can’t stand in the way of progress.

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