Yellow Warblers and song sparrows are quite common in the garden with 3 to 5 pairs annually breeding there. Black-capped Chickadees are the next most common nesting species, followed by Northern Cardinal and American Robin. Gray Catbirds are fewer in number but in any given year two pairs will nest, sometimes three. At least one pair of Warbling Vireo, Baltimore Oriole and Mourning Dove nest each year. For three years in a row we had a pair of Green Herons nesting, as well as a pair of Eastern Kingbirds, and most years the kestrel box on the red barn will be occupied by a pair of American Kestrels. Downy Woodpecker, Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo, Mallard, American Crow, European Starling, and House Finch are all irregular nesters at the garden, nesting in some years and not in others. American Redstart, Brown Thrasher, and Killdeer have nested only once. In the early years of the project when the Resource Centre was only occasionally used, barn swallows would build a nest under the eaves, but they have been absent for the last 10 years.
Certain locations in the garden are more favoured by nesting birds than others. Often it is because there is more cover (i.e. thickets of shrubs, tangled vines and other vegetation, stands of conifers) which creates safer nesting conditions. Sometimes, however, birds choose sites that are so precarious that nesting success is not often assured! The Amphibian Pond is of course popular with blackbirds and the tree swallows inhabiting the nest boxes all around it. The New Woods, the thickets around the Old Field, and the red osier dogwood thickets north of the Old Woods are other areas which seem to attract the greatest concentrations of nesting birds. However, birds will nest in almost any site that seems to offer all the right ingredients for safe nesting and have been found in just about every part of the FWG.
Favourite trees and shrubs
At the FWG I’ve been keeping track of the different trees and shrubs used by birds for nesting. The most commonly used species are manitoba maple (Acer negundo), red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), white spruce (Picea glauca), crabapple (Malus sp.), and amur maple (Acer ginnala). Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), red oak (Quercus rubra), common raspberry (Rubus idaeus), Canada plum (Prunus nigra), butternut (Juglans cinerea), black walnut (Juglans nigra), tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), and birch (Betula sp.) are also quite commonly used. Other species in which birds have nested are poplar (Populus sp.), blue spruce (Picea sp.), highbush cranberry (Viburnum opulus), nannyberry (Viburnum lentago), hawthorn (Crataegus sp.), and red cedar (Juniperus sp.). Recently, I found a Yellow Warbler nest made in a tangle of dog-strangling vine (Cynanchum rossicum), an unusual location, but perhaps, given the prevalence of this invasive species, one which will become more common.