Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bird Nests from Cape May County

In keeping with the nest theme from yesterday's post, here are a few nests that I encountered recently. The first is the nest of a Marsh Wren pair at Stimpson Island Road in Cape May County. That road runs out through fields into a salt marsh; at the end of the road you can look out over acres of marsh and follow a few short trails. All around the parking lot there were singing Marsh Wrens, and a few of their nests were openly visible.

Like other wren species, Marsh Wrens often build dummy nests. A male will start construction of several and then his mate will finish the job on one of them. A pair will often raise two or three broods per season. It was not clear if this nest was currently active, no longer being used, or just a dummy.

The second nest was one that I found at Beaver Swamp WMA. This one was about four feet off the ground in a small bush. The nest is about five inches wide, and it contained two eggs, each about an inch long.

No birds were visible either in or around the nest, and I could not hear any scolding coming from nearby bushes. So I think that this nest was probably abandoned after these two eggs failed to hatch. Based on the size of the nest, its location, and the appearance of the two eggs, I think that this nest probably belonged to a pair of Northern Cardinals. Usually cardinals lay 3-4 eggs, so it is possible that there were other eggs that either hatched or got carried off by a predator.

Finally, I may have posted both of these already, but here are two osprey nests. The first is at Brigantine.

The second is in Cape May Harbor.

A useful guide for identifying nests and eggs is A Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds by Paul Baicich and Colin Harrison. The egg illustrations in that guide were very helpful in identifying the nest from Beaver Swamp. Of course, other guides are available as well.