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Common Nighthawk

Unexpected Pleasures and Challenges

During the "stay home, stay safe" way of life, our neighborhood become the walking capital of Harris County.  We, along with many of our neighbors, were out walking 2 or 3 times a day.  I bet many of you had the same experience.  All this walking gave us time to really stop and smell the roses, or, in our case, look up and study the birds.  While doing so, we were delighted to make discoveries that during normal times we might have missed.  

We were lucky to enjoy many Mississippi Kites flying overhead this spring.  One tree always had one or two of them sitting there every evening.  One morning we noticed a kite carrying a twig, and then another.  It was building a nest near our house.  We followed the bird and found a pair hard at work just around the corner from us.  We had never noticed Mississippi Kites building a nest in our area before.  After our third visit to the tree, the neighbors started asking questions, and now we have two new households keeping an eye on the nest.  (They are birders now but do not yet realize it.)
A few days later, we got a call from another neighbor just a few houses down about some big birds building a nest across the street.  We took our birding tools to check it out and to our delight found a pair of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons hard at work on a new nest.  The neighbors now have a new scope and issue daily heron reports. 

We look everywhere for new nests on our daily walks.  As of this writing, I can report we have located 2 Mississippi Kite nests, 1 Yellow-crowned Night-Heron nest, 3 American Robin nests, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker hole with little beaks popping out.  We have spread the word and most neighbors are excited and glad to have a new hobby. 

As with all urban bird stories, there is the "however."  It has made me keenly aware of tree trimmers during nesting season.  The number of chain saws heard over the past few weeks was alarming.  How many nests could have unknowingly been destroyed? 

In addition, a real pet peeve is a tree-trimming commercial on the radio about spraying your trees for bugs, ugh!  Bugs are bird food.  There is a sad story out of Corpus Christi years ago about a person calling the local bird rescue lady over to her house because she was finding dead birds.  When asked about tree spraying, she admitted that just a few days before she had in fact had her trees sprayed.  She was remorseful once she become educated on the connection of dead birds and spraying.  (Don't get my wife started on mosquito misters and butterflies.)

These stories have a common denominator that aligns with an important part of our mission, Educate, Educate, Educate.  In most cases, once someone is made aware of the cause and effects of things we humans do and what impact it has on birds, most people want and will do the right thing.  We just need to keep fighting the good fight.  And I want to thank all of you who try every day to make your home, city and area a better place for birds.