In spring, I search for nests. I part the branches of shrubs and low-limbed trees, peering into their depths for a clump of sticks and string and shredded plastic — the messy structure of a mockingbird’s nest. I squat and look upward for a cardinal’s tidy brown bowl. I stand even with the end of my house and look from the side into the ivy climbing the bricks, searching for a tiny avian hammock tucked into the leaves by house finches. I check the fern hanging under the eaves for the vortex tunnel built by a Carolina wren. I watch at my window for blue jays flying into and out of the tree canopy, and I try to pinpoint the exact Y-crook in the branches where they’ve hidden their young.
For ten years, this was my nesting-season ritual because our little feist mix, Betty, was hell on fledglings. In her leaping, tree-climbing youth, I took down my feeders, emptied my birdbath, determined not to invite songbirds to believe this yard would make a good nursery. They nested here anyway, perhaps because our lot backs up to a little patch of sheltering woods, perhaps because birds will nest more or less anywhere. [Continue here.]