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The Switch Has Been Thrown

I said these words in a previous blog: 'Birds are now settling in to their nest-building, egg-laying, and brood-raising responsibilities.' By now, the beginning of August, most of those brood members have left the nest, and are on their own (more or less), though some certainly remain. (Some species have multiple broods. And some are late breeders.)

A Little Review

Before we move on and cover what happens next, let's take a look at a few photos that recap the past season.

Nest building. Here's a Northern Mockingbird caught in the act.


Northern Mockingbird with nesting material
Northern Mockingbird with nesting material


Here's a cutaway of an abandoned House Wren nest in a bird house in our backyard.


House Wren nest
abandoned nest


Why it was abandoned and never used, I'll never know. Birds will do this sometimes. This is a cool shot because you can see all the different materials used, from the finer and softer materials on which eggs would be laid--the egg cup, as it were--to the larger, coarser materials that serve as the foundation, and in this case stop intruders.

Brood-raising. Here are a few pictures, again from our backyard, of adults taking care of their recently fledged young. These kinds of pictures are always touching. 


adult Eastern Bluebird feeding young
male Eastern blubird feeding young


adult Downy Woodpecker feeding young
male Downy Woodpecker feeding young


Migration in July?

OK. So why the blog title, 'The Switch has been Thrown?' In late June, I often imagine a giant celestial lever switch being thrown--with a resounding 'clink'--around the time of the summer solstice.


After the switch has been thrown, the days get shorter. And right around that time some birds begin their journeys south. 

It's hard to believe, but true, that southward migration has been underway for about a month. No, it doesn't begin sometime in September. Here's a short excerpt from recently published 'Fall Migration Begins' by Dr. Ashley Peele, Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas Coordinator: "Once again the Fall migration season is upon us. Our summer residents are departing, as northern migrants begin moving through Virginia. In eastern Virginia, early waves of shorebirds are moving down VA’s coastline, while the earliest fall warblers are beginning to travel down the western mountains." That sums up what's going on now.

Another Reason to Watch Birds

Here's another reason to watch birds, then. Bird watching makes us more aware of, and really attunes us to, the rhythms and cycles of nature. When we observe birds and other natural phenomena we learn about what's going on around us, of which we've been largely unaware. And we hopefully reconnect. 'Reconnect' is the operative word. We all come into this world with an inborn fascination with nature. I learned that as a teacher of countless young children. But many lose that fascination somewhere along the line, unless it's nurtured, of course. Bird watching is an activity that can restore that fascination.

New Additions to Our Critter List

We'll wrap this up by adding a few more animals to our river critter list. Here's a Black Swallowtail. (I can ID a few other things besides birds.)


Black Swallowtail butterfly on flower
Black Swallowtail butterfly visiting thistle


Here's a young rabbit.


young rabbit
young rabbit playing peekaboo


And here's a dolphin (one of about 6) that was swimming north past Top Rack Marina last weekend. 


dolphin swimming
dolphin swimming


The dolphins spent most of their time underwater, so they were tough to capture. Brian, manager of the marina, told me he'd seen dolphins there once in the last 10 years. Jeff Thompson of the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center said that there are several reports from that area annually. Joe Rieger of ERP said this was a rare sighting. Here's my thought. Could this sighting indicate a trend? Are dolphins, like river otters, showing up in the Elizabeth in increasing numbers as the health of the river improves? We'll keep our fingers crossed.

Here's an animal that may or may not indicate river health. But it qualifies as a critter all the same. Furthermore, it's 'wondrous strange' (credit William Shakespeare). So we'll add it to our list.


jellyfish swimming
'wondrous strange' jellyfish


I shot this near the Nauticus in downtown Norfolk. Town Point Park and the area around Nauticus is a great place to visit on Sunday mornings. Parking is free on Waterside Dr. (thank you, Sarah), but get there early. The highlights? The docks, the garden on the grounds of The Pagoda Restaurant and Tea House, and the Armed Forces Memorial.

Thank you for reading. I covet your comments (so please comment!). Time to take my leave.


dolphin diving
dolphin diving (and leaving)


Click here to email Dave or leave your public comment below.


Hi Dave,

Your photos are great (especially love the jellyfish and the mockingbird, the latter of which is really lovely and could be hung on a wall or used for stationery, such as on the cover of cards).

Regarding the "abandoned House Wren nest", I believe that's a "dummy nest" that a wren built on top of a Carolina Chickadee nest. to keep other birds from nesting there. Did you ever empty the box? I'd be curious to know if the wren did this before the chickadee female laid eggs. If not, the chickadee eggs would be in the nest as the adults would not have been able to continue using the box.


Marlene, Thanks as always for your comments. I'd never taken pics of jellyfish before. It was a challenge. But it was fun also. You may very well be right about that nest. Typically House Wrens nest there. But I do seem to remember either a chickadee or a titmouse making repeated visits earlier in the season. Will let you know. Best, Dave

Apparently you were right! I went out to check that nest, and slowly removed everything. Beneath all those sticks was a small nest with a lone small egg in it. A chickadee or titmouse egg? The egg was more or less intact, but was broken in one spot..

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