Bird nest building frenzy

Nests are popping up in more trees this week. Ones that were nonexistent a week ago has set up its abode safely in the crevice of tree branches. No wonder birds are darting everywhere, high and low, and chirping out orders to each other. It’s lots of work to perform for a small animal and that means many trips from gathering materials to building.

A common size nest is similar to the opening of a drinking glass cup; some are roundish on the bottom while others are upside down cones.

However, a particular nest stood out from the rest. It must’ve been constructed by bird/s; it’s a mansion compared to the others. I wonder if it belongs to a larger size bird or if several of them worked together – like a communal home for the new eggs.

I wish I were tall enough to see a furry little heads poking out or know how to operate a drone to see above the nests, but that’s wishful thinking, not to mention intrusive. They wouldn’t appreciate a curious human near their nursery.

We’ll have to settle for watching YouTube videos of spring hatching.

The idea of the nest in the bird’s mind, where does it come from?

Joseph Joubert

Till this year, I didn’t give much thought to bird nests. But this lockdown meant a lot of staying home and walking around the neighborhood masked up and maintaining social distance; we began to slow our pace and look up at the trees.

Birds must go to great lengths to build their nests and they do this every year. How do their instincts kick in to do this every winter?! Nature is full of surprising findings…look at the salmons and how they travel from sea to river to spawn eggs in the river of their birth.

Again, nature delights, teaches, inspires, and helps me see how good and great God is.

7 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; 8 or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. 9 Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?

Job 12:7-9

Feeding the busy builder birds, at least trying to

Few years ago, one of our windows was thoroughly streaked with bird poop: only that window. Turns out it was a bird who converted the overhang into its own cozy condo. I called a local office (can’t recall the specific place) to have someone remove the nest, but I was advised to leave it undisturbed till the nest was abandoned. Dismantling the nest was illegal.

It stayed and they continued to leave daily presents for us on, under, and around the window.

So it wasn’t a surprise when recently we noticed berserk activity from a group of random birds; zipping from tree to tree. They weren’t a flock: it was just arbitrary flying around of different sized birds. When they were camouflaged inside the tree branches, we could hear little “beep” sounds, similar to a home smoke alarm that is low on battery. They’re probably building nests for spring hatching. Hopefully the nests will be built only in trees and not in the previous condo space above our window.

Hypothesis: birds are building nests for the winter; they will lay eggs soon

When we discovered small v-shaped nests in several trees, we wanted to feed them, especially during this busy building season. A quick search about healthful foods for birds explained that bananas are beneficial to birds’ healths. Perfect for using up bananas that are starting to brown.

I chopped up 2 bananas into pieces and strung it through the middle (I cored it with a small straw) with twine. Ellis crushed up nuts using a mortar and pestle, which she sprinkled over the banana. 

Strung pieces of banana through twine to hang on the tree branches
Lots of birds flying around this particular tree. We were certain the birds or squirrels would eat this nuts-banana treat, but when we checked the next day, it was untouched. We removed this treat after 2 days and put it out for the neighborhood squirrels.
A potential spot to leave our treat. When we saw the nest, we agreed to hang it on this tree. You can see the nest higher above the blue circle. The banana treat is circled in blue. I overestimated my height and underestimated the tree’s height.
Day 2 of checking on this banana treat. It was half-eaten.
Day 3. Safe to say the bird/s loved our treat. All eaten.

We enjoyed the process since we could follow up and see whether a bird had eaten the treat. It wasn’t easy going unnoticed by the birds with all the crunchy leaves littered on the ground. Although it would’ve been delightful to see the birds eating while we looked, it wasn’t going to happen with 3 pairs of eager eyes staring at them.

Conclusion: one treat by a nest was consumed. The others were pulled off the tree branches and given to squirrels. At least the leftover was consumed by a happy squirrel. Yay, we all win!

This picture was posted yesterday for “Silent Sunday” before I realized I would write a post about it.  That’s the context of this picture; kids perched on the rails calling birds, squirrels, any critter would do, to come and eat the banana treats.

“Warrior” (baby tetra) update: disappeared, probably into Platy’s fish tummy

We worked so hard to revive Warrior in its quarantine bowl. (The link tells the story of Warrior and his emergency situation). The fact that he overcame the trauma of being squished was a miracle in itself.

The next morning he swam energetically and ate a bit of new food, and it seemed like he was ready for the transfer into the main tank. The moment he swam out of its halved water bottle home, it had no problem schooling with the other Neon Tetras. The day passed without any incident and the 2 baby tetras were hanging out with the bigger ones.

On the third day, Warrior disappeared: nowhere to be found, not even stuck in the filter.

We suspect it’s the orange Platy named Sunny. She has a tendency to nip at other fish tails, eats like a maniac during feeding time, and often swims right through the middle of the schooling tetras.

It was disappointing to lose Warrior so quickly. They put her in fish jail, a separate container next to the tank. Chris explained to them that Sunny wouldn’t understand this as punishment and it would go right back to its old behavior once it returns to the main tank. But this would be an experiment then to see if the other baby tetra disappears; then, we’ll know there’s another tank-mate-eater.

Right after Sunny’s transfer into fish jail. Odd behavior: motionless, even when offered food.

You wouldn’t believe Sunny’s immediate reaction to being put in the bowl. She stayed motionless at the bottom next to the plastic pink tree. Even her favorite pellets did not animate her; they just floated down untouched.

It was unbelievable to observe this dramatic behavior change.

When we peered in the bowl, she turned away and faced the bottom of the tree accessory.

We didn’t want her to die from stress, so she went into the main tank. Even there, she acted the same way. She hid in the corner, normally where the catfish hang out, and would not swim. Once we turned off the lights, she swam away from the corner for a bit and darted back when we looked into the tank.

Elliot was all nerves thinking that Sunny may feast on the remaining baby tetra. So I had to tape up the netted container onto the side of the tank as a protective holding place.

Baby tetra holding spot until it gets bigger. It gets a lot of attention from its tank mates; catfish clean the bottom of the holder and other fish love to enjoy on the baby food leftovers that disperses in the water.

The tank is peaceful once again and none has disappeared. Kids are appeased and still dreaming of getting a larger tank. ummmmm, no. These little bloops stress me out and flares up my bad knee pain. It’s only a 10 gallon tank, but it needs cleaning, care, fish relationship mediation, cleaning up after kids overfeed and drip water everywhere, and clean the tub from old poopy fish water. ughhhhh, no thanks.

Readers, thank you for reading this far…I realize this topic may not be entertaining as it’s about fish that you have not spent time with. But I appreciate you following my story about these little fishies and hope you learned something new about fish keeping from our experience.

Mysterious fish disappearance & reviving a baby fish after a squeeze incident

Recently, our Neon Tetra fish numbers dwindled to five from seven. One suddenly disappeared about a month ago, and we assumed it was eaten by the female Betta, the biggest fish in the tank. No other events occurred until three days ago; we noticed only 5 were visible.  

Kids were intrigued by its disappearance and determined to solve this mystery. They were not kidding. Elliot opened the tank lid and started lifting the decorations and moving around the gravel. I doubted he would find anything, but when he lifted the cave a tissue thin skin with its regular coloring swirled to the surface. Its insides were gone.

The red color is not blood. Its the red stripe on its body. Kids want to keep this specimen for an indefinite amount of time.

Clues: The orange Platy was seen nipping at the Tetras lately, so it became the first suspect. Betta became the #2 suspect. These suspicious fish had two sets of keen eyes watching their moves and a tap on the tank glass if they got too close to the Tetras.

Kids profiled each fish and after watching, what seemed like a billion YouTube videos, they concluded it’s the catfish group. One video explained how catfish will eat their tank mates if they run out of algae to eat. A-HA! We haven’t been giving them algae drops since they probably had enough to eat from the leftover food and fish waste. I assumed they already had plenty to eat.

New Plan: For kids: Must buy new fish to replace the 2 Neon Tetras. For me: Let’s keep it the way it is and no more fish.

Action: Bought 2 orange Platy’s and the 2 of the tiniest Neon Tetras at PetSmart. When I told the guy we wanted the smallest ones, he really delivered. They were barely visible in the plastic bag.

Implementation: Kids wanted to do the transfer themselves. I wasn’t too sure but it would be a good learning experience nonetheless. Two minutes in…water all over the chair and floor. This plastic bag collapsed and water spilled out when I cut the rubber banded part off with a scissor. Clean up took about 30 minutes for me while the kids ran off to do their thing. humph…

First transfer to our tank from PetSmart. Two baby Tetras mingling with the others.

Realization after the fact: The tiny 2 Tetras are probably babies. They may starve because the bigger ones will get to the food first.

Next action plan: We must transfer them to a smaller bowl. I tell Elliot and he wholeheartedly agrees that’s the best plan.

Implementation: Prepared a small fishbowl with conditioned water and some rocks. Elliot netted out the first one and put it in the bowl. Unfortunately, the second one got squeezed on its side during the transfer. It darted out of the net and Elliot tried to hold onto it, and this is how the Tetra’s midsection got squished. It immediately went limp and floated slowly down to the bottom of the bowl. Thought it was playing dead, but it was breathing rapidly, floating sideways. It wasn’t floating upside down; all hope is not lost yet.

Reaction: Elliot – speechless. Me – frustrated. This probably means we’ll have to go back to PetSmart the next day. Elliot: visibly upset and panicking when the fish wouldn’t swim. He apologized to me for being careless and apologizing to the fish for hurting it. I told him he didn’t need to apologize to me; it was no one’s fault. We were trying to provide a conducive habitat for the fish, except that our well-intentioned move went awry. He put his hand to his eyes and started crying saying if the fish dies it would be his fault.

When he replayed this saga to his sister later, she asked if he cried. He said, “No, I wasn’t crying. I was weeping.”

I’m exhausted from cleaning, moving this and that around, comforting a sad child, and googling treatments for Tetra fish. My first instinct was to tell Elliot that we should just let it peacefully die. We’ve accidentally killed so many fish that I didn’t see it possible to revive a tiny one back to health. It’s not that I’m heartless about fish; I really didn’t believe we could do anything productive.

Problem Solving: Google how to care for injured fish. Elliot starts searching YouTube videos and I google search on my phone. Visiting a fish vet is a possibility, but I wasn’t confident we’d go that far. The Tetra was $2.50. He found a video from a YouTube channel called Joel’sAnimalPassion00; his Tetra looked weak and would hide in dark spaces away from others. He provided specific steps for treating a sick Tetra. His channel

Step 1: Quarantine the sick fish in a small cup or bowl

Vitals: Rapid breathing, floating around sideways. At time, it swims normally and floats sideways again.

Step 2: Add a few drops of water conditioner and a dissolve a dash of salt into it. He added some medicinal formula for fish, but we didn’t have that to add at home. Had no idea if this would work, but it was worth trying in changing the water composition with salt.

Step 3: We do all of steps 1 and 2. Since the fish may be stressed out, we add a tiny pinch of “First Bites” powdered food.

Step 4: Still floating around, nibbling at the food falling over it, and breathing rapidly still. The YouTube guy said his Tetra didn’t like light, so he covered the cup with a cap. We used a small white box to cover the top.

Reducing sunlight to create comfortable ambiance for frazzled fish. Fish is housed in the bottom half of a cut plastic water bottle.

Step 5: Wait and see

Step 6: The next morning, we are surprised that the wounded Tetra is swimming normally. We give it more food and it perks up. Few hours later, we net him back into the 10 gallon tank. Immediately, it starts schooling with the other Tetras. Its name is “Warrior” due to the ordeal it survived.

Conclusion: Elliot is thrilled he was able to revive the baby fish back to health. He said we were the Emergency Room Fish Doctors and that it was tough treating a baby fish.

Current status: The revived Tetra is back with the other fish in the main tank, schooling happily with the others. I don’t want it to starve, maybe I’m paranoid, so we feed the two in a separate net container. Rest of the fish are inundated with baby food scraps. Must do a water change in the next day or two.

Careful transfer from quarantine to main tank.
Warrior is back!

This experience has convinced the kids that they are ready to upgrade to a 20 gallon tank. They promised to do all the necessary work and won’t need my help. Elliot says he’ll even use his birthday money to buy the new tank. I’m not giving in easily; they told me the same spiel when we got the 10 gallon tank. Guess who does most of the cleaning, feeding, and burying the dead fish by our garage.

Update: Day 2 of post-discharge from the small bowl. Warrior is happily schooling with the other Tetras.

Trunk slide for squirrels

I’ve been seeing interesting trees this month. The variety of trees is endless, so it makes sense that there would be an array of trunk shapes. But I didn’t know the extent of how tree trunks can bend, stretch, and create new shapes like they do.

What seems simple and obvious doesn’t register until you start to wonder. Then, seeing it multiple times and wondering why it is the way it is, it begins to make sense. Ohhhhhhhhh.

When I’m in nature, I cannot not marvel at God’s creations. The colors, shapes, textures, sights, and its variety are spectacular. Its beauty is unmatched.

God has made them to bless and teach us.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:7-10

Wouldn’t this be an exciting tube slide for squirrels or any small animal? Weeeeeeeeee

I hope you get a chance to wonder at some strange or common things you see in nature. It could be flowers or weeds cheering you on your walk to the parking lot or the little patch of garden outside your house. It’s all around us! This COVID-19 staying home thing is making me rethink how to fill my day and what I need most.