The Building Project
The Building Project
The dove is building his nest again. It’s the same nest as before, layered at the same place where a branch on the large white pine connects to the trunk of the tree beside my backyard deck.
In mid-July, there were two mourning doves engaged in the effort. They would fly from the tree with their squeaky-hinge wings flapping and land beneath the maple, not 50 feet away. They’d collect twigs and clusters of pine needles blown there by the wind, or gather blades of dried grass left by the mowers.
After finding a suitable beakful, they’d flutter back to the pine, landing inelegantly with a “splat” that shook the needles on the branch, then waddle over to the nest. One or both would arrange the new material, repeating the process over and over. I could see their dark silhouettes inside the recesses of the tree.
The last time they built the nest, nothing seems to have come of it. The doves chased each other around the yard, doing as doves for centuries have done, performing their courtship rituals. Morning after morning, as I sat on the deck to drink my coffee and write in my journal, there was no further activity. The nesting project, I assumed, had not been a success. There were no chirping babies, no parents bringing food, no fledgling flyers. No activity until today, a month later.
The male (I think) is back at it again. He’s flying from the same white pine, down to the maple, collecting materials, and bringing them back to the nest. This time, I’ve been studying him and his somewhat inept techniques.
The white pine is flanked by obstacles on three sides – a cherry tree to the left, another white pine to the right, and my deck railings in front. There is an open area of grass about 12 feet wide at its rear.
The branches of the white pine radiate out from its trunk in layers. The lowest layer sweeps the pine needle-covered ground beneath the tree. There is a second layer of branches, and a third. Between these two layers is a fairly open gap, and the trunk of the tree is easily seen. The nest is in the fourth layer, and it is overlaid by the branches from above, offering far more privacy. This is good for hiding the nest, but it makes it much trickier for a somewhat clumsy dove with a beak full of twigs to locate the proper landing place.
Four times this morning, while watching the dove work on his construction project, I observed him mistakenly fly into the open gap between branch layers two and three, missing his mark. Sometimes he’d land with his characteristic “splat” sound, realize his error, and fly back out. He’d land on my deck railing, still clutching his load, do an about face, study the tree, and try again. I suppose, when flying into such crowded territory, all white pine branches look alike, and it’s easy to get it wrong. Once, he realized his error before landing in the gap. He managed a very impressive U-turn, using his wide-spread tail feathers as a rudder, and made it to the railing without losing a blade of grass. He did his about face, studied the tree again, and landed on his target. I almost clapped.
This dove is working so hard. I hope his mate, wherever she is, will appreciate his efforts, and a family will result. I’ll keep watching, fingers crossed, and let you know.
August 16, 2023
Text and image copyright Cam Miller, 2023
I love your blog post regarding the somewhat clumsy but determined and loveable doves. I hope they raise a family and you can watch them grow and fledge.
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