Nests hold interest even after birds are gone

My grandchildren used to come to the farm for what I called "Granny's Day Camp." They are now "grand-grownups." So today I'm writing to other people's grandchildren so they can learn about the birds that build their nests on the farm and how boys and girls can help birds find building materials. Here's my message:

The birds on our farm built a wonderful nest one summer. They found all sorts of things to weave twigs together and to tie the nest to the small limbs of our pear tree. They used dry grass, twigs and bits of string, horse hair and sewing thread to build their new home. Birds don't have hands. They stood on two tiny feet and worked mostly with their beaks.

After the mother laid three or four eggs and kept them warm for a few weeks, the baby birds grew larger and "pipped" a hole from inside. That was hard work. The babies wiggled and twisted to get out of the shells and finally made it. I didn't see this, but bits of eggshell were on the ground and in the nest.

Parents taught the baby birds to fly many miles without stopping. Before snowy weather came, the family left on a long trip to the South, where winters are not so cold.

Their nest was not at the top of the pear tree. I could stand on tiptoe and see inside, and what I saw were tiny blue and red threads -- the same threads I put in a mesh bag and hung in the mulberry tree near my picture window. I didn't see them take things from the bag, but they did because the threads were woven into the nest.

You also can save thread, bits of cloth or hairs from a brush for birds to use. After they're finished with a nest, it's all right to take it down and use it. 

Use it? Yes! Hang it on your Christmas tree as a special ornament. A tiny package or even some coins might be in the nest on Christmas morning. I cut off the nest and the small branches it was tied to, put it all in a box and sent it to my great-niece and -nephew, Kayla and Kyle, in Florida.

I suggested that they examine it by taking it apart. You can do that, too. Put a white cloth on a table, and slowly pull the nest apart to see how wonderfully it was built. There might be a surprise. Birds eat seeds, and the husks fall between the twigs and grass. Sometimes, whole seeds drop between the twigs and grass. Birds eat weed seeds, and that helps farmers because weeds hurt the crops, which they raise to make our food.

One more thing to do with a nest: Plant it! Use a large flowerpot or a spot in the garden. Dig up the soil and plant the whole nest -- or the seeds the birds dropped into it. Pat soft dirt on the nest or seeds, and water it every day or so. Perhaps something will grow.

By the way, there were white human hairs like mine in the nest that I sent to Kayla and Kyle -- and I didn't even own a hairbrush!

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