I put the last rock in place and leveled soil in my rock garden. As I stepped back to take photos I heard a meaty thud; something, it seemed, had fallen from the sky.
It didn’t take long to find a tiny bird baby on the lawn. I looked up and spotted a nest about 12 feet up in the branches of our blue spruce tree; the same tree that had housed a robin’s nest in a post I wrote in April titled Grubs and Birds.
I’d need a stepladder… and I’d need a camera. How could I not take photos of this adorable blob of birdlet flesh?
As I got my rescue operation in order, I spotted a second bird baby on the lawn. I wondered: Would I find in the nest a fat cowbird baby that was pushing its adoptive siblings to their deaths?
I tore away weeds to gain a more complete view of the sky-diving house finch baby. The 12 foot fall onto soggy lawn seems to have caused it no harm.
Evaluating the Scene
I had to stand on the rung of the ladder labeled “This is Not a Step.” Once there, I realized Mourning Doves are not the only bad nest builders in the bird kingdom. Mommy and Daddy House Finch had simply built their nest on top of a sloping branch. No component of the nest existed to hold it in place! Given its paucity of safety features, that the nest had lasted long enough for eggs to hatch seemed miraculous (meaning “highly improbable”).
Now the nest was on its side, prevented from falling by an upper branch that had snagged the top edge as the nest tipped and dumped its occupants. I’d need twine.
Extreme Makeover, Bird Nest Edition
Did I build a new nest for the House Finches? No, but I wanted to. What I did was to loop some twine over the branch above the nest and under the branch that was supposed to hold the nest. I pulled the branches together until the lower branch was horizontal where the nest sat. Now little spruce sprigs jutted into the nest from the upper branch, so I trimmed several of those away.
I wasn’t kidding. My wife photographed my butt while I was putting the bird puppies back in their nest. She even posted it on Facebook!!!! Here’s the link where there are other photos documenting the event as well, but I can’t promise she set permissions to let just anybody look.
When I finished, the nest certainly wasn’t bomb-proof, but it was in better shape than I’d found it. I climbed down from the ladder’s “Step Here and Die” rung, found an empty plastic container, and lifted the House Finch puppies into it. My wife stabilized the ladder and held the Finch puppies as I climbed back to the “Death Rung.”
My wife handed me the Finch babies and I gently put one and then the other back in the nest while she photographed my butt. The finchlets seemed OK with it.
There’s folklore that if you get human stink all over wild baby animals, the wild animal parents won’t return to them. It’s a lie. House Finch Mom and Dad have come and gone repeatedly since I finished rebuilding their nest and re-installing their babies. In fact, I’m pretty sure they didn’t notice anything had changed though I hope my modifications provide inspiration for their next nest-building project.