About 3 weeks ago, I was getting ready to head back to Houston when I noticed a bird's nest behind the passenger seat of the Park Host ATV. This is a couple of weeks after I pulled the startings of a nest out from the grill of my truck. Lesson learned... keep an eye out for birds' nests early in spring when you live in the woods. 😀 And I think I'm going to start putting out spots that are better for them. Since this has happened, I've heard many full-time RVers get birds nests in various places on the trailers too.
Anyway, I thought, "I'll move that when I get back from Houston." Of course, I forgot. Drove the ATV to my daily rounds, and when I got back, I noticed there was 1 egg in the nest.
Immediately, I felt guilty for driving the ATV and I was worried some eggs might have fallen out when I drove it. Would the mother come back to the nest? This is my first experience with a bird's nest and you always hear stories that you can't move them or touch them or the moms will abandon the nests.
So I reached out the park rangers to see what we can do. A few days went by as we tried to figure out what kind of bird and how to come up with the best plan to move the nest. And every morning when I checked the nest, there was another egg but no bird. So I was excited that the mother bird was coming back but getting increasingly worried that it's going to get harder and harder to move. Everyone I reached out to about how to successfully move the nest said I had a solid plan but the likelihood the mother bird would stay was very low.
If you know me, you know I'm a process person. Between that, dog training and my podcasts! I broke things down into very small steps. Here's my plan and my logic.
Step 1: Build a bird box - (about 6 days since starting the plan to move the nest, 6 eggs in the nest... BTW I did research and this bird only lays about 3-7 eggs and usually about 3-5 so I'm pretty sure since I have 6 eggs, I didn't lose any on that first ATV ride!)
The park rangers helped me get a bird house made! They even put a little ledge on it so the bird could stand on it to feed her babies. 😀 Once the bird box was done, we were expecting bad weather. High winds and rains. So I decided not to do anything until it passed. So I just placed the bird box next to the nest.
Step 2: Move the nest to the bird box (day 7)
Now I saw the mother bird a lot more. Before, if I walked by while she was in there, she would fly away. Now, she staying but becoming alert to my presence and making herself known. I wait for her to leave the nest.
I put on gloves. I wanted to leave as little smell of me as possible. As fast as I could go, but being extremely careful, I picked up the nest and put it in the box. It seems to fit really well, but I still felt like it loosened up a bit.
I put the bird box in the same exact spot as the original nest. I wanted the mother bird to go back to her spot and the nest be there.
Step 3: Move the ATV closer to the tree (day 8)
Maybe I'm not giving the bird enough credit to be able to find her nest, but since the chances of abandonment were so high, I wanted to do everything I could to make this transition easy. So my thought was, if she's used to looking for this bright green gator, let's move the nest and the gator closer to the final spot. The final spot is the closest tree to where she set up her original nest.
I started to notice that she would leave the nest first thing in the morning for a little bit but that was it. I believe she started incubating the eggs yesterday so she's staying in there most of the day.
So when I noticed she was gone, I moved the gator to behind the tree. This put the nest roughly on the same flight path to get in but she now has to fly past the final destination tree just slightly. In my mind, this was getting her used to the tree.
Step 4: Connect the birdhouse to the tree (Day 9)
Because she's incubating, she doesn't leave the nest very much now. So I had to check the bird box many times. Finally, in the afternoon, she was gone. I was hesitant to move it because I was getting ready to go out of town again and I wanted to make sure everything was good with the bird box. But I decided I needed to keep this process going. So I put the gloves on again and started to connect the box to the tree.
This part would have been a lot easier with 2 people! 😀 With 1 hand, I held the box firmly against the tree and used a bungee cord to quickly help hold it up. Then I was able to get some more p-cord and bungees on there. I will admit, this was not my best knot tying! 😀 I didn't want to be there too long. 1) the longer I was there, the more scent I would leave 2) if she came back and saw me messing with it, I figured she would abandon it. Who knows...maybe she was watching me the whole time.
After I got it attached, I tried to tilt it so it was roughly in the same direction and angle as the original nest. In hindsight, I probably should have put in on the other side of the tree and lower... closer to where she originally had it.
BTW... at no point through this process did the male bird try to protect the nest. These are Carolina Wrens and usually the male bird sticks around. I hope he's out there because from my research (many hours of podcasts), apparently the mother and babies have a better chance to survive if the male bird helps feed and protect the nest.
Now that nest is fastened to the tree, I'm hoping it'll withstand the hill country winds! Time will tell if the mother bird comes back.
I left the ATV in the same spot. Thought she was looking for that bright green thing to find her nest still. It look longer than I would have liked but luckily, before I had to leave for the weekend, the mother bird was back in the nest that was now connected to the tree! Phew!
I asked the park rangers to make sure the bird box looked secure throughout the weekend and they said they would call me if anything looked wrong.
Step 5: Remove the gator (Day 12)
When I returned, there was no mother bird in the nest. For hours! I was really nervous. I noticed the sun was hitting the nest directly and it was really warm. So now I was nervous that I put the nest in a bad spot. Plus, it's in a pretty open area so easy for predators to see her. I kept my fingers crossed.
Later that evening, I checked again and she was back in the nest! I waited until the next morning to move the gator. Once she was in there, I placed a stick with some Spanish Moss on top of the nest. The moss hung over the front so it gave her a little bit of shade. I didn't want to overdo it, just that is the very last adjustment I made.
Step 6: Monitor (Day 13 - 15)
The mother bird is still incubating. The eggs should hatch anytime within the 6 days. "They" say it takes 14-16 days of incubation for the eggs to hatch. The mother bird has been in the nest most times I look. She stays burrowed down so it's really hard to see her in there. This makes me feel better about predators not seeing her.
Today is day 15 and I'm moving from Buescher State Park to Bastrop State Park. It's only 15 mins away so I'll be able to come back and check on the birds. If you happen to see a bird box or nest, please be sure to keep your distance. You never know what kind of stress will make the mother bird abandon the nest.
I think the Carolina Wrens might be a little more resilient with their nests since they show up on the oddest places to start with. But given everyone I talked to basically said the nest would be abandoned, I'm really happy with the results. Also, several people stated (in general, not the park system), said I did way more than they would have done. That makes me kind of sad because it really wasn't that much work. It just took a little bit of thought and some patience each day.
I really enjoy learning about nature and I love podcasts, so I guess I did go a little over the top listening to podcasts about the Carolina Wren, but hey... if you enjoy being outside, why not get more educated on what you're seeing and hearing. That just makes it a lot more fun for me. 😀
Do you have stories about moving a bird's nest? Comment below! Can't wait to hear them.