I spent the morning cutting back the potato vine we have growing on a little trellis on the south side of our back porch. Cut it way back. It had long since moved up and over the edge of the porch roof and was getting ready to start across the roof of the main house.
So I whacked it back to just the main stems and wound those poor bare things through the trellis. Hard to believe it’s still vital, but our yard is full of things that have survived my ministration. My vision is that some lush new foliage will emerge and replace the dead-looking sticks that for the last two or three years anyway were all you could see on the trellis.
Not that the dead-looking sticks were lifeless or unproductive. The last two springs, bird nested there. Last year, a pair of towhees, who couldn’t figure how to tend their eggs and keep away the scrub jays at the same time. The scrub jays got the eggs.
This spring, the scrub jays built a new nest, higher up toward the porch eave, well protected from the sun and out of the way of intruders. Not even the jays could fly straight to the nest; they would fly around to the inside of the porch, onto the potato vine, and up to the nest in two or three hops.
I’m not sure how their brood made out. I know for sure they had one good-size fledgling, but I suspect from watching the adults that it got out of the nest early and took refuge in some bushes alongside our driveway. How it made out after that, I don’t know. I’m reminded of Lillian Gish looking out into the dark in “The Night of the Hunter” and saying, “It’s a hard world for little things.”
Looking at the nests, which I extracted from the trellis as I took the vine down, it’s hard to believe more than one of anything could thrive within. My cupped hands could easily hold either one. The towhee’s nest is a loose affair of sticks, lined with grass; it was held in place by the happenstance of the surrounding vine. The jay’s nest seems to have been tightly woven into a sort of platform of sticks that they might have added to. It’s a beautifully symmetrical bowl lined with pine needles and grass and a single strand of plastic string.
My clean-up impulse means the vine won’t provide enough cover for nests this coming spring.
But the spring after that? Maybe. If the jays or towhees or any other optimistic adventurers want to give that spot a try, we’ll be happy to have them.
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