Avian real estate mistakes

Several types of produce we grow appeal to birds as nesting sites. Earlier this year, a field sparrow built a nest among our trellised pea plants after the peas stopped producing. This was a nice hidden site within the pea vines, and Joanna found it as she was collecting some dried pea seed. We showed the nest to several visitors, and the sparrow would hop along the trellises nearby, scolding us severely until we moved on. Unfortunately for it, a brown-headed cowbird pulled its standard stunt and got its own egg to replace the sparrow eggs. The nest seems to have been abondoned after some of the torrential downpours in July. Not the most Darwinian of sparrows.

Another bird build a nest in the pole beans, a rather more precarious affair that relied on holding tight to a couple bean vines. Also a site visited regularly by humans, this lasted until another strong storm shook the nest up too much.

A new nest showed up shortly thereafter, this time in the okra. Nestled snugly in the crook of a strong okra plant, it seemed to be the best choice of location yet. I’m pretty sure this was an Indigo Bunting, as I’ve had a female scolding me regularly whenever I harvest every few days (I think it’s the same bird as the beans, since the eggs and nest look exactly alike). However, it’s become clear that the bird made one big mistake. Take a look:

See that large green thing in the lower left? Yeah, that’s an okra forming. The nest was built right on a flower, and sure enough a developing okra has shoved right through the base of the nest and up into the pocket, almost displacing the eggs. It’s also begun to deform the nest upward as it grows, elongating it from a nice cup into a tall, stretched stack. I took pity and cut the okra off at the base, then gradually worked it out from underneath before resettling the next back down into its original crook of the plant.

We weren’t sure it would stay put, since it lost much of its binding in the stretching and subsequent replacement, but it’s still there. And the female Bunting is still hanging around scolding me whenever I harvest okra.

These are the fun things we see, spending every day on the farm. Of course, if the food-safety policies California has been enforcing take effect nationwide, the presence of such nests would be deemed a major health risk and we’d have to declare a good-sized radius around this location unfit for harvest and sale. You know, bird crap and all, which is pretty much what I think of such rules.

We’ll enjoy the birds nesting in our vegetables while we still can.

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