Activity: Take a Fall Nest Walk


Nest fall Text

Fall and winter are great times to hit the trail (or sidewalk) to spot nests of all shapes and sizes, created by a variety of creatures. It is good to observe from afar until you are sure that the nest is abandoned. When you are certain that the coast is clear, you can then move in for a closer look. Take a peek at construction materials, design, location, how the nest is attached to its chosen spot. Have discussions about who the architect could have been, why they chose certain materials and the location for building, and make guesses about whether the owner will be back in the spring or has abandoned the nest forever.

Nest fall 1P

Bird nests are popular with people of all ages. They hold a special place in our hearts for their amazing construction, as well as for the life and possibilities they hold.  A nest that has been abandoned for the season can provide an excellent opportunity to get a close up look at how and where the nest is constructed as well as how it has been attached to its location. Made with twigs, bark, grass, feathers, mud, or even a woven combination of all of those elements, birds nests are a work of art.

Nest fall building materialsP

Large nest-1

nest bush-1

thin nest-1

swallow nests

Nest Snow-1

Note: It is best to leave bird nests in place. Most birds build new nests each spring and therefore do not reuse the same nest, but other birds may fix-up and occupy an old nest, or use the old construction material in the building of a new nest (and in accordance with the Migratory Bird Act, collecting nests is illegal).

Hornet Nest 1-2

Birds are not the only ones who build nests and leave them behind for us to see in the fall. As we noted yesterday, some insects are also nest builders. Wasp and hornet nests become easier, and safer, to investigate in fall and winter. Just like birds, insects build in all sorts of locations. The ones built in trees become much easier to spot once all of the leaves have fallen, but be on the lookout in berry patches, low shrubs, and vines as well. We found one in a vine growing on the fence of our local tennis courts, and even in the posts holding the net up at those courts!

Hornet nest 2-1

Hornet nest 3-1

wasp nest-1

It is safe to remove these nests for investigation, as wasps rebuild each spring. Just be absolutely sure you don’t see any wasp traffic before you move in to remove the nest.

Extending the Walk

Of course not all of the nests in this post were found in one walk. Depending on where you are walking you may only spot a few. We have spotted up to 8 different nests on our walks along the river here in New Mexico. Some of those nests we had seen in the summer and began monitoring to watch who was coming and going, tracking the timing of hibernation and migrations. Once you spot a nest it is fun to check up on it; you may even find new occupants in the spring, or watch as others recycle building supplies for a new nest.

Share what you find!

If you go on a nest walk we would love to see what you find. Photos can be added to the Mud Puddles Flickr group, posted on our Facebook page, or shared on twitter. If you like, you can use the hashtag #mudtometeors so we can find you. Thanks!

5 comments… add one

  • Kim December 5, 2013, 9:08 am

    That is one of the best things about fall and winter, the bare trees so we can see all the nests. So much fun!

    • dawn December 5, 2013, 10:22 am

      Yes! It is a such a great time to spot them! We would love to have you share photos of nests you guys see in the woods, Kim!

  • tamara December 6, 2013, 9:32 am

    We woke up this morning to 10˚C outside! I think we will be going on a walk! We have collected a wasp nest from last spring as I was planting seeds. One diligent wasp was busy making a nest on one of my garden frames. L noticed and we managed to pop it into a jar when the wasp flew away. Felt sorry about taking something the wasp had worked hard at but didn’t want to worry about an angry stinger while gardening. Now it’s a very cool specimen!

    Our neighbour’s tree is alive with birds in the summer and many a crow makes the tree come alive with movement and sound. By the time the leaves fall you can finally see the huge nest nestled into the topmost branches. Very cool!

  • Dawn & Annie December 7, 2013, 7:59 am

    Oh, neat! Have you guys ever watch the documentary called, “A Murder of Crows?” It is great!

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