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Monday, 16 July 2018


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If you think there is even a tiny chance that the nest has not been abandoned don't interfere with it: don't poke a phone camera into it for instance. Because that's a really good way of making sure that it will be abandoned.

Sorry to be so abrupt, but, seriously, don't do this.

[According to the research I did first, the important things are not to touch the eggs or touch or move the nest, which I was careful not to do. --Mike]

Up here in the Loess Hills we have a lot of birds on the farm. Mourning doves, swallows, humming birds, cardinals the occasional pheasant or wild turkey and they are all welcome visitors but the robins that have been nesting here are like family.
Can't explain why Mrs Plews and I bond with them this way but we do. Maybe it's having a cup of coffee watching them hop around the yard with their youngsters.

I'm pretty sure that the "screen side camera" on the iPhone doesn't adjust focus at all - it's a fixed-focus lens.

A sad story for sure, we have similar drama every year with bluebirds and our bluebird house. The success rate for our bluebirds is very low, in fact over the past 5 years we can confirm only one batch of eggs actually hatching and young birds leaving the nest. I have actually considered removing the house to spare ourselves of the emotions involved. Back to your camera, there is a very excellent app for your phone from Moment. It is inexpensive but adds many controls to your iPhone camera such as shooting tiff or raw files, exposure and also focus, give it a try. I will not take a photo on my iPhone without this app which also works on the video mode as well.

If you're SURE the mother is gone, why not take those eggs gently from the nest and place them in a conspicuous spot on the ground, where they will make a nutritious gourmet meal for a local raccoon or opossum, who might be raising babies as well. (Then show us a picture of the shell fragments, of course.)

Coming into focus is kind of a neat metaphor for coming into life. And since these chicks apparently never will, it's kind of appropriate that the eggs are out of focus. This forced you to tell the story, which in turn was made more compelling by the image being soft. So, in other words, it's perfect as is!

I very much appreciate your sadness over this apparent little local tragedy. You wouldn't think I would, from high above a dense urban downtown. But birds are very much part of our cliff-dwelling lives. For the past few years, for example, we've followed mated pairs of peregrine falcons in the area, an interest that brought very similar sadness when all three chicks of one long-mated pair this year were found dead in the nest. No cause was discovered. The female wailed over them in apparent mourning for a day and night.

But I take some encouragement in the realization that the avian world is huge and the survivorship rates can normally be quite low. So unhatched eggs, or dead chicks, are probably the statistical norm. But it's still damn sad.

Reminds me of the mockingbirds that would nest in the tree in front of our house, except my memories are of complete and utter terror. A month or so out of every year I would have to sprint from the front door to my car parked on the street while being dive bombed by 6 ounces of parental bird fury. Oddly enough, if I had one of our young boys with me I could walk casually with no problem.

Very sad. Robins are one of the few things I miss after moving to central Texas from the Midwest. For my early life they were a sight of joy on the arrival of spring. While we have a huge number of bird types, no Robins. I miss that.

Every spring we look forward to seeing a nest being assembled under our deck, followed by the waiting, and then the gratifying sight of dutiful, diligent parents feeding the noisy, ravenous, upturned mouths. But nothing beats catching the moments when the fledglings take their first flight -- ok, plummet. In variably there's the one chicken little of the roost who stays behind -- chirping, refusing to take the plunge. Priceless.

Sadly, sometimes the event fails to unfold as expected, likely due to inexperienced parents. The other explanation, which I try not to think about, is cats. Domestic cats cause such carnage to birds.


Mike, just to counter your sadness: I’ve read your post in the morning and on my way home from work my wife alerted me that there are birds chirping in our bathroom vent above the toilet. Came home, pried open the plastic bottom of the vent, released four swallows. They started flapping around in the smallish bathroom but they were exhausted so I could easily catch them eventually from the tub or the floor, with gloved hands, brand new gloves. A fifth one turned up on the bathroom floor an hour later (less than 30 minutes prior to me submitting this comment), it was released also and flew away. I hope they have a chance of making it, what an evening! Second time poster, wouldn’t make up such a thing, had to let you know!

Forgot to mention: all five were mature enough to confidently fly away, although they rested for a while on my porch before taking off...

I feel your pain Mike. We have a flycatcher nest under an awning that gets regular use. Two broods some years, including a second that hatched this year, about 5 days ago. Sadly, last year, we had a cold snap on late April, and poor mama flycatcher froze to death on her nest trying to keep her eggs warm. She had her wings spread open, trying to keep heat in the nest. Luckily a new female took up residence this year.

It joyfull but nerve wracking to watch them build a family. I love it.

It is sad, yes. I live near a forest and see occasionally such scenes. As a young man I was not able to think of it any longer, or to be sad even. Perhaps (too much) experiences, our genes and solitude change us in this way. Take care.

Going through a very similar experience now. A Hummer built a nest right outside our front door. In my excitement I got the tripod and put it at the window also by the front door. When I opened the window and started machine gunning away, she left for a couple of days. Now back and has deposited one egg so far. We aren't even using the front door until this is over. Hummers are very interesting and will often fly right up in your face and hover as if communicating with me or the dog-have even landed on my shoulder once. After the window incident she has flown repeatedly to the window and hovered-apparently telling me to keep the damn window shut and keep my distance which I am doing.

Hi Mike,
A robin family also built a nest in a low bush in our yard. I started out with taking cell phone photos (being careful not to touch anything) and later, after the eggs hatched, long footages of video. Here is their story: https://vimeo.com/278857983

"The best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer somebody else up." ~ Mark Twain


On a free day, swing by Cornell's Ornithology Lab. Wonderful tour, fantastic facility.

My wife and I are in the process of falling in love with Ithaca, having stopped there on our way to our wedding last year, getting our marriage license, and spending several days up there at the end of May. We're hoping to spend a few weeks up there next summer, and maybe I can stop by and say hi.

Best wishes to you for happier days!


We have a covered walkway between our back door and our unattached garage, and for the first time this year, a robin spent several frustrating weeks filling a knothole in one of the horizontal wooden beams with nest material. Unfortunately, the beam is only a couple of inches thick, so all the stuff was promptly falling out of the back of the hole, onto the walkway below. It was "fraught with humor" ("The Parent Trap".)

I figured that this was a prime example of 'survival of the fittest'. If he couldn't figure out why his nest kept disappearing, he likely didn't deserve to pass that 'dumb' gene on.

Then, suddenly, he got smart, and started packing nest material into an upper corner, which managed to stay, wedged into the tubing I've run for a patio watering system for hanging planters.

Soon enough, we had a mother robin sitting on the nest, which persisted for a couple of weeks, and then suddenly she was gone. I haven't looked into the nest, but I assume that one of our friendly neighborhood raccoons found the nest (or perhaps the squirrels? Do they eat bird's eggs?).

I figure we'll leave the nest up to see if it gets used next year, but then if it is subject to being raided, maybe I'm not doing any birds a favor.

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