After several days of rain and dreary weather, I was able to get out in the brilliant sun on April 30 and May 1. May 1 was my birthday, so it was especially nice to experience the tranquillity and vibrancy of Spring.
I can’t believe the progress that our “tenants” have made with their nesting. Here is the latest – listed by Species. The photos may be from Friday, Saturday or a few from both days.
After fretting for their safety due to the frightening images I saw on social media of whole Bluebird families succumbing to the deep freeze in February, I am super excited to share that we have three Bluebird couples well on their way to raising chicks.
Check out the size of the grub (figuratively – not literally) they are feeding their youngsters. Those chicks must be getting pretty big! Dad isn’t even chopping it into bits before offering it to the kids.
Not all that long ago, we bought a couple more of the round, “birch look” boxes that were on clearance at the farm store. Last year a Bluebird couple fledged four chicks from the same model that is located near my office patio. Robert put up the new boxes and the one in the alleyway was immediately inspected by a pair of Chickadees. They have not followed through with the lease and that box (as far as I can tell) still is not occupied. The second one of the same style, we put on a post behind our Training Building. I have kept an eye on it when I observe the Tree Swallows in box 20 on the repurposed utility pole. But, apparently, I wasn’t paying sufficient attention. On Friday, while watching the Tree Swallows, I saw movement around the round-birch box, so I staked it out for a spell. Dang! I observed a female Bluebird taking fairly large size food into the hole. I saw, but didn’t get to film the male. The mama looks a bit disheveled. Perhaps it was just the wind.
Robert alerted me to a third pair of Bluebirds that are occupying the box in our front yard, just about 20 feet from our front porch. I was able to snap these photos of the female in late afternoon light. I saw the male a few days ago perched near the box. I haven’t seen any food going in, so I think she is still incubating the eggs.
We have an abundance of Tree Swallows on our property this Spring. It’s actually hard to fathom how many pairs of these lovely birds are using the boxes, but I read that Tree Swallows are most likely to return to the place they were hatched when they begin breeding. Since we offer plenty of options, I suppose they feel able to stick around and start their own nests.
This is the box in the center of my office yard which I can view from my desk. Two years ago, Bluebirds used the box, and last year a pair of Tree Swallows fledged chicks from that box. Because it’s located only about 40 feet from the patio, we struggle with the House Sparrows and play a game of cat and mouse with them in early Spring. By that I mean, we allow the sparrows to start a nest, then we open the box and leave the door open for a week, then shut it and allow them to start a nest, again. Eventually, they give up – and around that time the Bluebirds and/or Tree Swallows show up. This year, it’s Tree Swallows that are – in my hopeful opinion – are about to commit to the box. This is an interesting situation because one of the pair seems to be a juvenile, based on the brownish color. I have tried to find out if Tree Swallows breed in their first year, but I’ve not found the answer, yet. Needless to say, there is a small group of four or five birds that seem to be related (perhaps parents and kids from last year?) that are spending much of the time on and in the box.
We also refer to this box as “Matt’s box” since our friend Matt hand made it for us. It’s positioned in our small, young orchard that lines our driveway near the road (which is about 175 feet from the house.) Last summer, a pair of Bluebirds used the box. I discarded a House Sparrow nest from the box a couple of weeks ago. Over the weekend, I was happy to see a Tree Swallow sticking her head out of the hole while her mate perched at the top of the T-post on which the box is secured.
This box is on the East fence line of our property – towards the north end. Last year, a Bluebird couple made a nest and fledged chicks in Box #13 which is on the north fence line about 400 feet from Box 14. Sadly, within a couple of days a House Wren killed the chicks. Although it was late in the season, the Bluebirds moved down to Box 14 and were successful there. This year, I noticed Tree Swallows in the box a week or so ago. I suspect that the female is incubating eggs, as she seems to be spending most of her time in the box. Last year, as watched the Bluebirds rear their chicks, I grew to love this location. It reminded me of a quaint little cabin because pretty, purple wild flower grew up around it and butterflies visited it frequently. It was such an endearing place to sit and watch the Bluebirds raise their babes. The now spent and brown remnants of the wild flowers remain – I can see them gently wrapped around this box. I hope the flowers bloom again this summer!
I’m not considering this a sure-thing, but I spent a nice bit of time with a little group of very friendly Tree Swallows at and around this box on Friday afternoon. Number 18 sits in the center of the property on a post that once supported a gate for livestock. There’s a length of fencing that remains, as well, and the birds were perched on the top wire when I moved into the area. Curiously, they didn’t feel compelled to fly off when I approached and I was within twenty feet of them while I observed and evaluated their intentions regarding this nest box. Last year, it was overtaken by a House Wren that laid her eggs in another nest, but felt compelled to cram large twigs in two other nearby boxes. I have read that it is a competitive strategy that species often uses. Time will tell if these birds lock in on the box. This group also contained a juvenile appearing bird (more brown, less of the iridescent blue coloring) and a couple of obvious adult birds. The proximity these birds permitted allowed me to get a few really nice shots where it’s almost possible to see their unique personalties.
This is the nest box that is located on a repurposed utility pole. Although this couple has been well established in this box for a while, apparently they still feel it necessary to do some modifications to their nest. I filmed them taking pieces of grass both in and out of the box.
This box is along the south property line, near the road. The male often sits on the electric line far above the box. The pond is just about 75 feet from this box, which is a favorite place for the swallows to feed. Because I hadn’t seen the birds for several days, I did open the box last week and saw two white eggs. I’m assuming she’s now incubating them.
I wasn’t expecting to find anything in this box when I approached it at the end of the day on Friday. But, a bird flew off the top of the box when I got closer, and the two of them flew up to perch on the power line across the street. This box is on the west property line, along the road that our house sits on. I moved off a distance, and in just a few minutes, they returned and I was able to film this pair. Although they held onto the front of the box by the hole, and perched on the top of the box and the pole it’s secured to, in the short time I stayed to observe, I didn’t see a bird enter the box. It’s possible they were just there checking it out as an option. Time will tell if they sign the lease.
I just started hearing House Wrens singing about five days ago. Last year they occupied four different boxes. This year, a bird is showing interest in a new box in the alleyway, and another has built a nest along the east fence of my office yard. It’s only about 100 feet from Box 19, which is where a Wren had a nest last year. Perhaps this is the same bird and she has decided to go for an upgrade.
This is the new box we put up when we added the new new, round birch-look boxes. It’s a bit smaller in floor space than a typical Bluebird box, so it makes sense that a House Wren fancies it.
I’m amazed at how many boxes are occupied or on the verge of that. Imagine this: We built this house in 2016, and moved in on Christmas eve that year. In May 2017 we put up our first bird house, and a Bluebird couple moved in a few days later. We put up the center box that summer, too. In 2018, we added three more boxes to create our “planned parenthood” strategy for the House Sparrow. 2019 I had two major surgeries and didn’t do much. Only last summer (probably in mid to last June) we put up several other houses around the property after I learned about the concept of Bluebird trails. Now, this year, there are birds in or nearly moving into twelve boxes!
Additionally, there are a few other boxes that I’ve recently checked. One, (the unlucky #13 where the Bluebirds lost their chicks to the Wren) show no signs of activity. However, four others that I checked over the weekend all have a little beginning of a grass nest. I suppose that could have been started then abandoned by either Bluebirds or Tree Swallows. But, I’m guessing that at least one of them may end up with a pair of Bluebirds. That would be so splendid!
ORCHARD PEAR TREE
This isn’t a nest box, but it’s still worth sharing. I noticed this characteristic nest in a young pear tree in our little orchard. I was fairly certain I knew to which bird it belonged. Like I expected, it didn’t take long for a Robin to show up – albeit I will say that it would have been a bit more magical if it had been a partridge!