Mitchell Canyon and tragedy in garden
Steve Buffi and I spent four hours walking to the top of Red Road in Mitchell Canyon today. While we were still walking in, we met Eric Schroeder walking out. While we spoke, we found an active N. Flicker nest still being excavated by both the male and female. They had a shift change while we were there.
We all agreed it was quiet, and when Steve and I reached the top of Red Road it was windy.
Steve had a single Hermit Warbler, we saw two California Thrashers, some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, a no binoculars needed Wrentit,a female Black-headed Grosbeak, and an Orange-crowned Warbler seen from the Globe Lily trail. Plenty of those flowers, too.
Heard birds in addition to those we saw singing were House Wrens and Wilson's Warbler. Steve and I had 26 species, though he did not put the distant Swallows on the list. Eric had 37 species, having started at 4:30 AM.
When I returned home, Rosita left to tend our plot in the Heather Farm Community Garden. The other day she showed me photos of two nests in our 12 x 4 foot plot. A CA Towhee nest is in the pea plants and a Song Sparrow nest is in the sweet pea flowers. She called me a bit later saying there was a snake in the Towhee nest.
I jumped on my bike and raced over to the park. What appeared to be a small Gopher Snake was leaving the nest, probably because I was trying to open the plants and look in to see it. It had eaten all four of the Towhee eggs, which caused Rosita great distress. The pea plants are so thick, I could not determine which way the snake went so I could see it better. I only saw a part of the tail end as it went out of the nest and down into the plant. Both Towhee parents came and were severely distraught, especially while the snake was still present.
When Rosita showed me the photos the other day, the Towhees had four eggs and the other nest had only one. We did not know what it was until today when we saw the Song Sparrow going there. She now has laid four eggs, too.
My big question is this, how does the snake on the ground know there are eggs to eat in a plant three feet up in the plants? And this, too, will the Song Sparrow eggs be safe?
Hugh B. Harvey
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Easy answer is 'eons of evolution'. More speculative answer might be 'it smells the nest / eggs / adults' feces', ... or 'the snake wanders around for days, even weeks, and happens to notice that some bird is actively doing 'something' in a plant that is in the snake's 'territory', so it returns to that location repeatedly until it also notices that the bird is 'sitting' on the nest and may be 'food' (or be making 'food') for the snake'.
... Or, .....