Nest Who?

July 18, 2013 | Greg Dodge

OK, no more rain for a while…but the HEAT!

I don’t feel so bad, though, when I look out over the water of the Wetlands and into one of the heron nests. The birds steadfastly hold their positions shielding their eggs from the blaring sun, getting up only to change position or move the eggs around bit. Eggs not only need to be protected from the cold, heat can actually cook the eggs in their shells. The birds have to keep them covered.

This green heron tries to dissipate the heat by opening its bill and panting.

The heron in nest 1 stands up to reposition the eggs.

By the way, it looks as though there are three eggs in at least one of the heron nests, the one above.

I’ve outlined the eggs in red in this enlargement from above.

The herons are not the only birds expecting, there’s a catbird’s nest just off the Main Wetlands Overlook, and a cardinal’s nest next to the vending area in Explore the Wild. The heat is just as stressful for those birds, although the catbird has chosen a more shaded location than the others.

Snug in a Groundsel Tree near the Wetlands Overlook, this catbird is at least a bit more protected from the sun’s direct rays as it incubates its eggs.

The cardinal’s nest was constructed in the open, the afternoon sun shines directly on the nest. This wasn’t a problem during the previous three to four weeks when the skies were mostly filled with clouds and rain. It now seems very much a problem.

This female cardinal spreads out to help shield her eggs from the intense rays of the sun. Note her open bill, she’s in panting mode.

Not only is the nest of this cardinal out in the open, she, the bird herself, her skin, has no protection from the sun. She has very few feathers on her head, a few on her cheek and a couple on top where her crest should be. That’s it!

Notice the paucity of feathers on the head of this female cardinal.

Baldness in cardinals is not entirely rare, in fact, it’s rather common. The subject of cardinal baldness was covered in some length in another post to this Journal in March of 2011 and still elicits comments from readers.

Don’t worry, she’ll regrow her feathers, her baldness is only temporary. I don’t know what causes it although I have my theories. If you’d like to know more about the subject click on the link above.

In the mean time, don’t let the heat get to you. Go out and enjoy nature, and keep your hat on.

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