Monday, June 13, 2011

A clutch of Spotted Towhee Eggs

Spotted Towhee nest with a clutch of 4 eggs
A couple of days ago we were walking down the steep trail to the back of our property to change the SD card in the trail camera (formerly known as the game camera).  As we approached the end of the trail, I saw a spotted towhee (Pipilo maculatus) fly out from under a thicket of grass, ferns and monkey flower plants not more than 2 feet from where I had stepped.  We thought it was strange that the bird had stayed in the brush until I got that close, and wondered if she had a nest there.  We looked around a bit and sure enough, there was a nest on the ground cradling 4 dappled eggs.  We quickly left the scene and went on to the trail camera, marveling at our find.

The nest was under this thicket, invisible to all who pass by
Then we noticed our two cats had followed down the trail!  Evidently they did not notice the bird or the nest, and stayed at our side as we lazed in the sun well away from the nest.  Rather than taking the trail back  with the cats following us right past the nest, we herded the cats up a different route to give the nesting bird some peace.

We decided to try to photograph the nest for this blog, so the next day we went back down the trail.  We watched carefully to see if the towhee would fly from the nest as we approached, but we never saw her leave.  We did find the nest again and I took 2 quick photos and quickly left the scene.  Since we didn't see the mama towhee, we are worried we may have scared her off for good the first day we stopped at the nest.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the incubation period for towhee eggs is 12-13 days and the nesting period is 10-12 days, so we will take another look at the nest 25 days after we first discovered it, and see if the eggs have hatched and the little birds have flown.

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