Monday, August 10, 2015

How to find a bird’s nest on a day hike

Photo courtesy of Photoree.
One fun activity to do on a hike is to search for bird’s nests. If walking through a woods, you almost certainly pass them without realizing it. Knowing what to look for, however, will help you spot them.

Begin by searching for locations where birds might build a home. Their primary concerns are making the nest difficult for predators to reach and camouflaging it so predators won’t see it. That makes rocky ledges on cliffsides a good spot. Trees with a thick array of branches or holes high about your head also are common choices. Ground nests, called scrapes, usually are built in depressions.

Next, try to spot unusual objects in those locations. For example, a collection of twigs and grass likely wouldn’t be bunched together on a rocky cliff, a tree branch, or a hole in a tree trunk. Usually such twigs and grass are shaped like a bowl, which the wind wouldn’t shape into.

Another strategy is to watch for bird’s protective behavior. If you hear birds chattering in alarm rather than singing, then they may be warning one another about you. Watch for the males of the species to fly away from the nest. This is an effort to bait you away from the younglings. Simply trace the line of flight back from the male to the nest.

A related technique is to watch where a male bird flies as it sings. Such singing usually is a sign of a male marking his territory. Often he will flit from point to point in a circle around the nest to let other males know that space is taken. The nest probably is in the center of the circle. You’ll likely need a binoculars and some patience to see where the male goes.

A long-term approach to nest finding involves starting in spring when birds build their nurseries. They usually do this during the morning. Simply watch for birds picking up dried materials such as spider webbing, moss, or dead leaves, and look to see where they fly to. This then allows you to watch the nest through the summer and into autumn.

Once you do find a nest, don’t disturb it. Doing so can cause undue stress to the hatchlings and even potentially dislodge the nest. Your best bet is to just view it from afar with a binoculars.

Learn about more than a hundred other hiking diversions for kids in Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities.