May 14, 2011
Today - in honor of International Migratory Bird Day - I'd like to give a special "BRAVO!" to the master builders out there...and there are many.
As pictured to the right (Photo: J St. Sauver, USFWS), Cliff swallows have returned to the Refuge - and these amazing migrants have been using local mud, their own saliva and a whole lot of skill to create tiny-tube adobe homes above our Education Center doors. Just yesterday, these smooth-flyers were clinging to wood and yet today - there are over twenty nests built and many more on the way. Made with a special sized entrance - so that only they can squeeze in - the homes already (presumably) holding precious ones inside their eggs, as one swallow is staying in on the nest while the other is foraging for midge and mosquito to bring back for food.
Not to be outdone, male Marsh wrens are even busier than most birds on a usual spring day...but this year, with unfortunate heavy rains last week - they are beginning again. Marsh wrens build not one nest to impress his mate - but several - in hopes that a female will love his architectural design! And they are wonders - egg-shaped bulbs of sewn rushes and cattails with a tiny litle circular entrance...all lined inside with cattail fuzz for the days of nesting.
Several of the grebe species on the Refuge are also quite "handy" with making special homes. Floating nests are their expertise...using rushes, mud and more, to make a soft and comfy little house-boat-type-barge nest for their little ones. But - without a roof, and a tiny bit unstable in high-water conditions, these parents go a step farther and give their young a "grebey-back" ride just after they're born.
And finally, another amazing architech of the nest-ual...is the Bullock's oriole. Orioles are amazing weavers and sew grasses together to make a hanging, hammock-like enclosed nest that has no rival. They're so strong and well-made, you can usually see old nests still in many trees throught the winter from years past. What a better way to spend a summer morning with the wee-ones...than by swinging gently in the breeze.