On May 30, 2020 the Eastern Bluebird pair that was occupying the white nest box on the south side of my office patio completed the mission of fledging their chicks. I had been filming them since they were apartment shopping for just the right cavity to call their own. The male bobbed in and out of several nest boxes we have in the yard and his mate would check them out then flit away. Finally they chose the place they would lay eggs and rear their brood. It was the same box they occupied last year. That was before I had two total shoulder replacements and wasn’t able to film much.
This season I photographed the female taking grass into the hole while her mate stayed around, not just watching her labors but also protecting their digs. They chased House Sparrows and Tree Swallows and eventually settled in to incubate what we believe was four eggs. The nest box they chose doesn’t open easily for inspection – but maybe that’s why they chose it! I filmed them both taking increasingly larger insects and worms to feed their chicks. You can find those pages in the March, April and May archives of the blog.
As the time grew near for the chicks to take flight and leave the box forever, I realized that I would likely miss the event. After all, I do have a job and other obligations which often infringe on my desire to hang out on the patio observing, and filming the backyard birds. So, I purchased a Trail Cam on Amazon for about fifty bucks and we set it up to truly capture the daily on-goings of Mr. & Mrs. Bluebird. What I learned was that one can capture other situations, as well, like the unexpected manner that poop is removed from the nest, and including an Eastern Meadowlark that spent time serenading the chicks, a pair of Song Sparrows courting each other, and the most frightening clip of my husband driving by on the riding mower. After watching many peaceful clips in a row, it scared the crap out of me!
Below you will find clips that document the last days before the chicks took the plunge. The motion detection on the trail cam didn’t catch everything. But, we caught a couple of the chicks taking their first flight.
For those of you who just want to cut to the chase, here’s the clip of a chick spreading its wings for the very first time (F0055 – 10:22 AM):
On May 28th, two days before fledging, the chicks were sticking their necks out, so to speak, and learning about the real word. (F0008 2:31 PM)
This clip is May 29, the evening prior to the fledging. You can see the chicks peering out while their parent sits keeping watch atop the fence.
Keeping the nest tidy is one of those necessary, but not necessarily pleasant jobs of parenthood. Here you can see both parents take the role of removing the poop! They typically flew at least 80-100 feet before dropping it, which makes sense if you are trying to remove the threat of predators recognizing the location of your young. (F0043 8:28 AM)
So, seeing the parents removed those little marshmallows of poop was interesting. Then, we captured what is really going on. You can see that clip HERE
10:02 AM F0052 on May 30.
The next clip, at 10:06 (F0053) The trail cam isn’t perfect. It has a delay from the time it senses motion and the time it begins recording. While it’s far less than a second delay, it typically doesn’t catch a parent bird flying to the nest. For example, most clips begins with the adult bird already clasping the box. This next clip, which is the one prior to the clip at the very top of one of the chicks flying out of the hole, shows a chick grasping the fence. It had already left the nest. From there, it flies from its position on the fence over the meadow grasses.
It was interesting to see that on the day of fledging, the parent birds were seen removing grass nesting materials from the box (F0054.)
Below are some other clips that preceded the clip at the very top, which is the last one that shows a chick ‘flying the coup’ so to speak. You can see the time stamp on the bottom of the clip, which is accurate. However, the temperature value is not accurate – I don’t know why it’s off to the high side.
Below: two chicks vying for the “window seat.”
F0050. For nearly a minute a chick is perched at opening. I see his feet pressed against the opening. I’m routing for him as much to fly as I am biting finger nails to slow the one-minute-timer that I set for each clip. He’s contemplating taking the plunge. “Go, bubba, Go! Fly!” Then, at very end….
I will say that the use of a trail cam was valuable, albeit not perfect, for documenting the final event of fledging after I spent a few months watching this pair of Eastern Bluebirds rear their brood. I hope they will come back to the same or a different box we offer to rear a second brood of chicks. Where we live, you can’t have enough birds to keep the insect population in balance!