Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Gnatty Gnest

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Walking out the driveway on Sunday morning, Jules and I spied a male blue-gray gnatcatcher, then a female, hovering low on the trunk of a sapling. They were grabbing billfuls of tent caterpillar web to use in their nest building. My guess is that the web is used to hold the nest together, or perhaps to help attach it to the branch, or perhaps to help glue the lichens (used as camouflage) to the nest's exterior.

Being in constant motion, gnatcatchers are difficult to photograph, much less digiscope. But knowing that they would return to this source of building material, I was able to pre-focus on the spot and wait for their return. I managed to get these two images--not great, but they document the behavior.

The nest is on the other side of the driveway, and we look for it each time we walk the kids to the school bus in the morning. As noisy and "scoldy" as gnatties are around their nest, we're sure we'll find it soon.


On May 16, 2006 at 10:52 PM LauraHinNJ said...

Gnatcatchers are such great little birds!

On May 16, 2006 at 11:06 PM Bill of the Birds said...

Yes, Laura, and we're lucky to have tons of them on our farm. We could just as easily have named our place "Gnatcatcher Hill."

On May 19, 2006 at 9:27 PM Scott Fraser said...

We have a pair of gnatcatchers nesting in the London Planetree next to our house. I watched them build the nest, and they do indeed anchor the spongy nest with a lot of spiderweb, as well as use it all over the nest.

I have a series of pictures and some video captured of this activity. I haven't put the video online yet, but if you zoom in to this picture closely you can see the web anchoring the nest to the limb:

Gnatcatcher nest building

The original image is available from this URL (copy and paste it to your browser, Flickr won't allow direct linking from other sites to the original):


You can see the webbing pretty clearly underneath as well as wrapped all over the nest.

These picture were taken a few days before the nest was completed. It is now much larger.

Happy birding!