This past summer we hosted an unexpected group of visitors. Sometime in mid-June I was about to take down the spider plant from its hook above our porch for some much-needed watering when I noticed bits of grass and weeds poking out of the top. Closer inspection indicated that a nest had been built around the middle of the dirt in the plastic hanging pot. I decided to leave it alone and spritzed a bit of water around the roots on the side, where some of the plastic had broken off last year (a tumble the plant took when I went out after dark and thought I had hung it up: not).
As the days went by, we spied Mama and Papa House Finch as they flew from the nest to a nearby wire every time one of us opened the door onto the porch. It was pretty common to see one of them sitting on the wire, complaining at us, as we sat on the porch reading. Eventually the finches became relaxed enough around us to return to the nest even when we were there.
A few weeks after the nest first appeared, my husband (who’s a bit taller than I) noticed the eggs. Days later we heard high-pitched cheeping sounds, and peering out the door screen saw one of the parents sitting on the nest, obviously feeding the demanding baby birds. Eventually, as the chicks grew, we could sometimes see three little heads poking up, mouths open wide.
Then, one day, they were all gone. We were able to actually witness the young’uns’ first flight. All day long, I’d noticed the parent birds sitting on the wire, calling out to the nest. I was out on the porch reading when my husband came home late in the afternoon. As he mounted the stairs to the porch, a little bird flew out of the nest and down to the ground. My husband worried that he had startled the bird into a premature flight and that it wouldn’t be able to defend itself outside of the nest. But I pointed out that the parent birds had been acting differently all day: instead of sitting on the nest and feeding the chicks, they were out on the wire and calling to them. I think the parents had decided they’d had enough and that it was time for the Finches Junior to leave the nest and learn to fly and fend for themselves.
We were surprised when the little birds didn’t come back, and I started to share my husband’s concern. Then I googled “finches nest” (or something like that) and discovered that once the little birds “fledge,” that is, take their first flight, that’s it. No more nest.
I also found something else: a webcam recording of a similar finches’ nest, with up-close shots of the nest interior, that a nature-loving blogger had installed when a finch family decided to build their new nest on top of the wreath on the front door of his house! I didn’t look at the entire set of footage, but what I saw was fascinating. Here’s the link: http://www.watching-grass-grow.com/house-finch/2010/
We gave it a couple more days in case the parent birds needed to stay there for the night, then took down the long-suffering spider plant, the nest inside still intact and encircled with an almost decorative rim of bird poop.
And how did our poor spider plant survive all this? It looked pretty scraggly when all was done and my husband took the nest off, but now, two months later, it’s green and flourishing, thanks to frequent watering. After reading that finches often raise two groups of chicks in a season, we decided to give poor Spidey a break, and have left it on the porch steps for the reminder of the year. My guess as to how the spider plant survived all those weeks without a proper watering?
It was “watered” by the birds.