Every year, I look forward to spring. Not so much for the warm weather because spring in Ohio doesn’t always equal warmth. I enjoy seeing the earth come to life. I love the flowers on the trees, the green grass, the plants sprouting, planting my vegetable garden…ALL OF IT! I know, it’s sappy, but I love it. It is renewal. Who doesn’t like that?
But my all time favorite part about spring is watching the birds nest. In my backyard, we feed the birds all year round and watch them watching us from our window. My husband suspects that birds eating from the feeder looking at us are not much different than us going to the zoo to look at the birds.
Feeders allow birds that don’t migrate to have a constant food source. Also, it encourages them to nest in the boxes in my yard. The benefit is that I get to observe the eggs, the baby birds, and occasionally the first scary flight of the fledglings. They are hilarious!
Before I retired from teaching, I assisted a local naturalist (who is also my friend) establish a bluebird trail of nest boxes behind our school. It is a perfect location next to a large field and creek at the back of the school property. Many years before, an Eagle Scout built them for his final project. Over the years, the boxes fell into disrepair and were in dire need of replacing. My friend and her husband cut all the pieces for the new boxes and students rebuilt them, sealed them and they were reinstalled.
Nest boxes need to be checked at least weekly, otherwise they will be overtaken with English sparrows. These are also called house sparrows. English sparrows are a nonnative species to the United States. They were brought to the country to take care of an insect problem. However, no one paid too much attention…they don’t eat insects. Left unchecked, they will overtake habitat from other native birds, resulting in fewer bird species. I don’t want to tell you how they do it. I am afraid you might be eating breakfast while reading this. If you ever see birds nesting in the CVS sign, those are English sparrows.
For many years while I was teaching, we would take the students out once a week in the spring to check the boxes. We removed English sparrow nests, and checked the native nests for eggs and babies. We were attempting to attract bluebirds, swallows, and wrens. The students loved it and learned about invasive species, how to identify different bird nests, and how to make observations in nature. I loved it and so did they!
Obviously the project has been taken over by another teacher, but I have my own little observation happening in my backyard. This week was my reward, the hatching of bluebird and chickadee eggs. I have learned over the years that nature is everywhere. Keep your eyes open and you never know what you will see! Watching birds is a party, my friends.
Resources to create your own backyard habitat:
How to build a nestbox: https://www.audubon.org/news/how-build-bluebird-nest-box
Cornell ornithology: An excellent resource on birds
Ohio Department of Natural Resources
If you don’t want to build your own:
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