For Every Bird a Nest

Posted by on May 20, 2011 in Farm Blog, Flora and Fauna, Native Wildlife | 16 comments

Last week I was out in the orchard, pulling weeds, and startled someone in our ‘Flavor Delight’ Aprium tree.  Not thinking much of it, I went back to weeding.  Throughout the afternoon though I noticed a rather drab bird darting in and out of the branches.


When I was sure the bird in question wasn’t around, I took a closer look, and found this perfectly constructed little nest.

This beautiful little nest was tucked under the branches in the Aprium tree (Click any image to enlarge)

The nest seems to belong to some American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis).  The females can be difficult to discern from the Lesser Goldfinch (Spinus psaltria), but recently as I’ve only seen the American Goldfinches in the orchard, I suspect this nest more likely belongs to them.

This Goldfinch nest is tucked deep in the center of an Aprium tree

This morning I took the binoculars out so I could see if anyone was home without disturbing them, and sure enough, I found this female on the nest in full incubation mode.

This female Goldfinch appears to have just finished breakfast

If all goes well these finches will have a number of young nestlings to feed within a couple of weeks.


If you were with us last spring you might recall a pair of Pacific Slope Flycatchers (Empidonax difficilis) decided to build a nest on our front porch light. Sadly, although all the chicks hatched, the next day the nest was robbed by one of the numerous predators on the farm that seized an opportunity for an easy meal.

Last year this male Pacific Slope Flycatcher kept a very close eye on the nest during incubation

However, undeterred, our Pacific Slope Flycatchers are back this spring, nesting on a different part of the house.  This time they’ve chosen to build their nest on top of the telephone company wiring box mounted to the exterior wall on the quiet side of the house.

Flycatcher nests, viewed from the outside, look rather disheveled and disorganized

I found the nest while I was taking some recycling out to the bin, and heard a flutter behind me.  As soon as turned around, I saw the nest, and I knew exactly who had built it.  Pacific Slope Flycatcher nests have a fabulous way of making it look like I never sweep around here.  As the female was gone for a moment, I took a quick peek to see if there was anything inside.

I found three perfect little Flycatcher eggs in a nest constructed mostly from redwood bark and spider webs

Again though it seems, to my non-bird brain at least, to be a rather poor choice of location.  Although there’s less foot traffic here than by the front door, this nest is significantly lower to the ground, about half way between my waist and my shoulders!

This morning  the female is hunkered down in full incubation mode, and although I have my doubts, hopefully this time the young will go unseen.

This nest is wedged on top of the telephone wiring box, between the downspout, and the electrical panel. So much for location, location, location!

Clearly these birds seem rather challenged when it comes to finding secure real estate.  Although we really can’t fathom why they insist on nesting on the house, we really don’t mind, and will just avoid that side for a couple of weeks until after they’ve hatched.

…and Quail…oh my!

The next nest was discovered by Mr. Curbstone during a routine orchard weeding session.  About to go toe-to-toe with a mighty sow thistle, as the weeds were parted, a small clutch of eggs was revealed on the ground.

This California Quail clutch appears to be incomplete as it only contained five eggs

For the past couple of weeks the unmistakable calls of California Quail (Callipepla californica) have been echoing throughout the property.  Usually most of the nesting though takes place on our neighbor’s property, who until recently had significantly more sunlight, and a more diverse array of plants than we did.  We’re slowly remedying that though, and the Quail seem to approve!

Male California Quail

Female California Quail

Clearly though we must be doing something right, as this is the first year we’ve been aware of a nest here.  Hopefully, in a few more weeks, there’ll be little quail scampering about.

Last year's quail chicks lurking in the shadows behind their mother

Last year we started to see quail chicks around mid-June.

The discovery of three active nests on the property in a week is a new record for us this spring.  What’s most egg-citing is that most of our acreage is woodland, filled with towering tall trees, so we presume, and hope, that there are many more nests on the farm this spring that we haven’t seen.  Perhaps, for every bird a nest

California Quail Eggs

For Every Bird a Nest
~ Emily Dickinson

For every Bird a Nest —
Wherefore in timid quest
Some little Wren goes seeking round —

Wherefore when boughs are free —
Households in every tree —
Pilgrim be found?

Perhaps a home too high —
Ah Aristocracy!
The little Wren desires —

Perhaps of twig so fine —
Of twine e’en superfine,
Her pride aspires —

The Lark is not ashamed
To build upon the ground
Her modest house —

Yet who of all the throng
Dancing around the sun
Does so rejoice?


  1. The quail is so beautiful. Such great bird photography. We have the gold finches here and we’ve seen the lesser goldfinch (male) at our feeder too, but I’ve not spotted any nests.
    ann´s last post…Rainy Days- Chores- Shopping X3

  2. I have seen quail, but never a nest. Pretty nice find. I guess they are pretty camouflaged.
    Donna´s last post…Petal Perfect Peace Garden

  3. Enjoyed your post! I love the little finches, they are fun to watch. Wish I could get a photo of them. :)Nice photos!!
    Amy´s last post…Buying Young Plants

  4. I’ve seen a lot of Goldfinches over the years but never seen a nest. Now I know what to look for. That nest could easily go unnoticed. What a great find!

    Our mama bluebird is in incubation mode here. The babies should be due in about another week (fingers crossed).
    villager´s last post…Church Garden Update

  5. I adore California quail. Their babies are like fuzzy little ping pong balls with feet.

  6. I’m so glad to see that the birds are happy at your place. We have finches which love to eat the leaves of any sunflower the deer leave alone. They strip the leaves bare. And once I learned to recognize the call of the quail, they have been an absolute joy. The largest number of babies I ever saw with a mother was in New Zealand visiting my sister! 12!

  7. How exciting to have all those families nesting there! I love seeing how different the nests are and how pretty the eggs are. A couple of weeks ago across the street from my sister’s house a bunny and two Quails hopped up the sidewalk, so cute! The birds have been starting and stopping in the 2 birdhouses in my yard, I’ve never seen them do this before. I’m wondering if it could be weather related.
    Catherine´s last post…Remembering a blogging friend

  8. Very cool!

  9. great shots, great post and great poem…
    Donna´s last post…A Closer Look

  10. What an interesting post! Loved looking at all the different nests. Beautiful quail!
    Holley´s last post…Who are You

  11. It’s so gratifying to see nests, you must be feeling pretty good about all the work you have done thus far. We have two nests this year but I”m not sure if the chicks in either one has survived as we have witnessed the crows attacking both bluejays and starlings. I think our property could stand a bit more shrubbery around our nesting trees to provide some cover.
    Marguerite´s last post…A Changing Landscape

  12. Clare I’m so excited for you and I hope those flycatchers are able to rear their young this year without intrusion. I’m sure you must have lots and lots of nests still to discover. It’s just aswell that MrCurbstone was lightfooted that day around the weeds. I think our UK quails look quite different to the US ones though we only ever get to see the odd one if they have escaped from the local shooting estates. They haven’t taken to living wild unlike the grouse.

    We have nests here too this year but so high up and in such precarious places aswell. I’m patiently awaiting the arrival of the little fledglings on the fence as they practice their take offs.

  13. I just loved this post. I too have different birds nesting all over my garden in springtime. I’ll be sure to do a post of my local birds. We also have a Flycatcher but it looks so different to yours.

  14. What fun! I too hope you have tiny quails running about soon, and many good photo ops. They are so sweet.
    Zoe´s last post…Pink Faerie Wings

  15. You are so lucky to have so many wonderful nesting birds! I’ve been enjoying a chickadee family, but they give me a dressing down every time I step outside!

  16. How thrilling Clare to have these occupants sharing Curbstone valley with you. Fingers crossed for the flycatchers this year – adorable tufted birds. Redwood bark and spider webs sounds like a good line for a poem too.
    Laura @ PatioPatch´s last post…Blotanical and International Biodiversity