San Ramon nest standing in the path of progress

DEAR JOAN: A mating pair of small common songbirds decided to build their nest in a fern we have on a stand on our porch. We didn’t realize the nest was there until a few days ago, when mom started laying her eggs.

The parents have actually been tolerant of activity near the nest, including us moving the fern stand off the porch to an equally protected area a few feet away, once the egg laying began. Ordinarily, we’d be happy to let the family be until the brood matures and moves on. Unfortunately — for the birds, anyway — we will begin a major landscape improvement project in a couple of weeks that includes demolition of the porch and the adjacent area where the nest is currently located.

There is a shaded and somewhat protected area around the corner, about 50 feet away that won’t be disturbed by the construction work, so I’m inclined to move the fern stand to that spot. We’re guessing it would be best to make the move before the hatchings appear, but need your advice.

Irene and Dan Weakley, San Ramon

DEAR IRENE AND DAN: Unfortunately, moving the nest either before or after hatching is against the law that protects birds. However, relocating might be preferable to the alternative.

You don’t say what birds these are, but most of the smaller birds have shorter fledge times, meaning chicks will spend only two to three weeks in the nest before leaving it. Would it be possible to delay the work until then?

If not, I’d suggest moving the fern with the nest in stages, rather than making one big move and risk the birds not being able to find the nest.

DEAR JOAN: If, at this time of year, I see a black-tailed deer with antlers that are about as long as the ears but only have two little prongs, can I assume he’s a first-year deer or might he be older with antlers that will get bigger?

Also, I know that blue potato bush is deer-resistant; however, I don’t want to harm the deer by planting toxic things. Will deer nibble at it or do they know to leave it alone? What do you advise?

Rhonda, Concord

DEAR RHONDA: It’s possible you’re looking at a young deer, but only time will tell. The black-tailed deer, like most deer, shed their antlers each year between December and March, with new antlers appearing from April through August.

When the antlers grow back, they will be progressively larger season after season, but you’d have to know when the antlers were shed to determine now what might be coming. It could be an older deer that shed his antlers recently, or it could be a relatively young deer growing his first or second set.

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