When I moved up to Ipswich, MA, four years ago there was a bird nest box already hanging from the neighbor's Eastern Red Cedar. My husband can't quite remember who put it there, possibly his old roommate, but either way the box hung on our side of the fence and I have adopted it.
In the four springs I've lived here I've never bothered to clean it out, which I know is an important thing to do if you want to have healthy birds nesting in it. Last year was the first year I really paid attention to the box and I caught an adult chickadee exiting it many times. I knew someone must be using it, but I never looked inside, not wanting to disturb a potential nest.
A few days ago my toddler and I were doing a yard clean up (well, I was raking and she was sprawled on her stomach, completely covered in dirt, digging in my veggie raised bed with her bare hands, she totally takes after me) and I noticed the box had fallen in the wind storm the New England coast went through a few weeks ago. Meteorologists say we had winds up to 80 miles an hour and damage equivalent to a category two hurricane.
I picked up the box, located the chain buried in last year's leaves and carefully pulled off the bottom sliding piece of wood. Inside was a wondrous site, click to enlarge:
The old nest fell out in two pieces. The bottom half was soft sphagnum moss most likely collected from a few houses away where my neighbor has a patch of it along the river. The moss layer was an inch thick. Did it start as a tiny piece and grow in there? Four years of not cleaning it out could I suppose grow moss that thick.
The top layer was the nest, a little cup mostly made of animal hair. The neighbors who own the cedar tree have an enormous, friendly, shaggy, golden retriever named Baker. I have a feeling a lot of that hair is his.
I pointed out all the parts of the nest to my 17-month-old who has far too many words for her own good. As I hung the box back up in the cedar tree she ran around in circles screaming "BIRD NEST BIRD NEST BIRD NEST!!!"
Just this morning over her sippy cup of milk and my mug of coffee, which we always drink in a big chair looking out at our bird feeder and the nest box, we saw a chickadee going into the box. I'm not sure she could see it so I told her a chickadee went in her nest box. An hour later we went outside to play and she ran over and said "Chick-chee bird nest?" "I sure hope so, and you can take care of it" I told her, and she laughed. Having one's own little nature pupil is the best thing in the world.
Lake Padden, a month later
2 hours ago