May 3, 2010

Photo by Audrey Pavia

Enterprising house finches made a nest in our antique hurricane lamp.

This morning was typical. I dragged myself out of bed to get ready for work, bleary-eyed from staying up too late watching episodes of Dexter (trying to get caught up since my husband Randy and I just discovered the series after 4 years — where have we been?). I fed all the critters — a 20-minute ritual — and then sat down to eat something. As I sat at the kitchen table in a stupor, listening to the toaster oven timer ticking away, something outside the window caught my eye.

A bird. Close to the house.

It flew to the slatted patio cover and then vanished. Where did it go, and what was it doing on the patio? Nothing there but some stuff hanging: windchimes and a couple of bells and old lanterns we picked up at antique stores. The bird feeders were in the front yard, where Foxy the Urban Barn Cat rarely goes. So why the avian interest in the patio?
 
I don’t do caffeine (doctor’s orders), so my morning stupor continued for awhile as I munched on my breakfast. While swallowing my last bite, I saw it again out of the corner of my eye — a bird.
 
Okay, something was going on. When you see a bird come back to the same place twice in a matter of minutes, there’s a reason. I went outside.
 
It was a female House Finch, a little brown bird native to Southern California but seen everywhere in the U.S. The boys are a bit more colorful than the girls. Their brown bodies are adorned with a red head and neck.
 
Lady Finch was hanging on the side of an old, cream-colored iron hurricane lamp we had picked up somewhere. When she saw me, she flew off. I then noticed twigs poking out of the bottom. Seems Lady Finch was building a nest inside the lamp.
 
The lamp’s ornate ironwork didn’t leave any spaces big enough for a bird to enter on the sides. I walked all around it as it swayed in the breeze. How did she get in there? Then I noticed that the bottom—where the twigs were poking out—had a hole in it big enough to fit a small candle. Seems that is where the female finch — and no doubt her mate — were getting in and out of the lamp.
 
I stood underneath it and looked up, wondering several things: Once the nest was built on top of the hole in the lamp, how would the birds get in and out? How would they stay dry in the torrential El Nino downpours we have been getting with such a “holey” roof to their home? And most importantly, how would the baby birds stay inside a nest that was built over a hole?
 
The answers to these questions remain to be seen. You can be sure I’ll be keeping a close eye on the Finch Family as they tackle life in a hurricane lamp.

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