Well, we certainly did not want to discourage Chip and Mitzi Vinebustle, the bushtits, from building a nest right spang in front of our noses. And we’d only get the one shot. In spite of the fact that it takes a month or more to knit a bushtit nest, they don’t reuse them the next year, but choose a different location. The amazing thing is they totally could reuse them. The suckers are sturdy. I’m always seeing bushtit nests from previous years. They look like fluff with intention, but they make it right through the winter, and as you may recall, this is tornado country.
Not really. But it’s tornado neighborhood. We had a genuine petite tornado a couple blocks away last year and it took some trees down but I’m betting the bushtit nests made it through. What makes them so durable?
The main ingredient is spider web, a.k.a. God’s Own Spandex. Chip and Mitzi are in there tugging on the webbing and pulling it every which direction. Usually these nests dangle from tree branches, which means the construction crew has to hang onto the nest with their feets while they’re working on it, but Chip is totally using scaffolding. We have the smartest birds! The wisteria is jangling with old beans on strings and they’re hanging their nest right in amongst them.
|Mitzi up top with construction-grade fluff|
That was job one, for us. The beans are left over from last year’s pendulous flowers and some warm evening in March they all detonate. They can take your eye out. You can hear them blow up from a block away. Unfortunately not every one has gone off yet this year. There were still three unpopped beans hanging within a foot of the Vinebustles’ nest, so we clipped them off. The explosion would be sure to discourage any prospective fuzzy homeowner and that’s if it doesn’t blast them into the street.
It’s possible that bushtits have enough equanimity to shrug off exploding wisteria beans, though. They don’t mind us too much. And they’re not real fussy. The Literature states that the location of the nest in a given tree “tends to be from 3 feet to 100 feet” off the ground. Tends? That’s like saying your average American tends to live somewhere between sea and shining sea.
The Literature also says that the tits incorporate feathers, fur, and downy plant matter to camouflage the outside of the nest. That way nobody will notice a foot-long fuzzy sock with a bustle of bushtits flying in and out of it all day long. Because once Chip and Mitzi invite the whole family back in, there are going to be lots of bushtits, and they never stop talking, either. It’ll be as quiet as a preteen slumber party. Everyone wants a turn. Let ME sit the eggs! No, let ME! MOM! It’s MY turn! Pip pip pip! No fair! SCOOT OVER!
|Chip on his scaffolding|
Camouflage? Please. They might as well go for a snappy argyle.
The extra helper tits are referred to (in The Literature) as “supernumeraries,” and yes, that is the same term used for extra nipples on people. It’s a little dismissive. The implication is that you really don’t need all those bushtits. They’re superfluous. But bushtits never find each other superfluous. They all find each other equally swell and they’re all super excited about making new ones.
So among the things I’m looking forward to here is the arrival of the Louis Tiffany drapes Mitzi has on order, and the day the sock will bulge and bop with essential birds, cozying up in the feather lining. There won’t be a kid jiggling his bag of marbles who will be any happier than me.