Last year, I was thrilled to have a chickadee couple take residence in our birdhouse and raise their young just 6 feet from the living room window. This year, what with all the remodeling going on at precisely the wrong time, nobody was very interested. I was a bit disappointed, but then, you can't get nesting birds every year.
Everything changed the weekend before the garden tour when I actually had hired help to get the garden ready. I don't think much of the mow and blow guys, but my helper is a professional gardener who only uses hand tools and is knowledgeable and passionate about native plants. It was fun to work with her, and amazing to see how fast she was. But then there was an interruption. I heard my helper call me, and she led me excitedly to a Western sword fern that she had just been cleaning up. She moved away a few fronds, and there it was: a little nest with 4 perfect eggs.
After we'd gotten over the surprise, we noticed that two indignant birds were not far away, chirping and demonstrating their disapproval of the big lumbering mammals that were invading their territory. Those birds were dark-eyed juncos, a fairly common small bird in the sparrow family.
We went on to other tasks, but of course we started keeping an eye on events under that fern. The annoying thing was that the nest was completely hidden, but we noticed the parents flying to the nest regularly and blocked off that part of the garden during the tour.
About 10 days after we'd first found the nest the traffic pattern changed. Now both birds were coming and going and coming and going (and making angry noises in our direction if we had the nerve to appear in the garden). I was amazed how busy those bird parents were, and a little shy about additional pictures so I can't show the babies but I'm pretty sure they were there.
Last Friday, the pattern changed again. No more juncos back and forth, though we still see juncos in the garden, drinking from the birdbath and picking seeds of the hardscaping.
Of course the question is are those the parents, or the kids? Did the kids make it or did a cat or other predator discover the nest? We'll never know, but I'm hopeful that all went well because the nest, now empty, looks undisturbed and I see no traces of a bloodbath in junco-land.
I'm thinking the kids already found a great place to hang out somewhere in the neighborhood, far away from their parents, who finally have the garden to themselves again.