Competition

There is no morality in Nature. No Right. No Wrong. It is, as Darwin discovered and penned for the world to ponder, “survival of the fittest.”

So, while my heart feels a bit heavy to share this, it is what it is.

The Bluebirds that had laid eggs in next box #29 on the east side of our property (which I shared in an earlier post) lost their nest. The first sign was a Tree Swallow standing atop the box.

As I filmed the lone Tree Swallow, two others approached and I captured evidence of their incredible areal prowess.

It’s hard to be mad at a bird that provides such a vivid image of why it belongs on this Earth.

Then, it seemed that the third bird removed itself from the quarrel and left the arguing to the pair.

I returned to that spot about an hour later. When I approached the box, I realized that the nesting materials had been tugged out the hole. I assumed it was done by the swallows, but I suppose another animal could have done the damage – and the Bluebirds left and the Tree Swallows claimed the ruins.

When I gingerly open the box, a couple of lovely, blue eggs rolled out and fell to the ground. I observed one of the eggs upon the bottom of the box, clearly disrupted from where they should have been nestled in the deep, soft cup that Bluebirds create for their clutch.

Traveling backwards in time, the real culprits of the displacement were the field mice that had taken over the other two boxes we had on the East fence (#14 and #15.) Last year, Tree Swallows used #14 and Bluebirds used #15 three times to fledge many Bluebird chicks. This year the Bluebirds arrived before the Tree Swallows, took the new box rather than the ones we tossed mice from three times and smelled of mouse urine. I always assumed that when it got warmer, the mice would go on their merry way. When that didn’t happen, we did two things.

The day before the Tree Swallow take over of #29, we removed #14 and #15 with the intentions of cleaning them and reinstalling them with a mouse proof baffle.

We also put up two new boxes in the same general area where we removed #14 and #15. It was the very next day, after we put up the new boxes, that I saw Tree Swallows atop the Bluebird’s nest box.

I decided to remove the shredded nest in Box #29, so that either the Bluebirds or the Tree Swallows could set up shop. Still, when I checked for progress three days later, the Tree Swallows didn’t appear to move in. However, and this in an interesting point, I observed a (perhaps THE) Tree Swallow pair checking out one of the new boxes.

The most curious thing, is that these are very unique boxes compared to the others that we have up all around our property. Following the general appearance and design plans for the Gilbertson box, we created our own PVC style boxes. Well, they aren’t really a box, since they are cylindrical in shape, but box is a common term for a cavity nesting house.

My design is a bit different. The Gilbertson is made of a thin wall PVC for the purpose of squeezing the tube away from two screws, in order to remove the box from a stationary top. I purchased one Gilbertson box and I struggled to actually squeeze it sufficiently to get it off the screws. The Gilbertson box critiques say that the thin wall limits the insulation from cold and heat.

I chose to use standard 4″ PVC, which is thick walled. I purchased 4″ pipe PVC fittings (end drains) to provide ventilation at the top and bottom. I inserted thick vinyl tile, cut to fit the bottom while leaving just a the corners exposed to the drainage holes. For the top, we fitted another PVC drain end cap, then put a wooden roof over it, creating a slope with a wedge of wood that allowed for top ventilation and shade as well as a way to allow rain to run off. I used a dremmel to etch grooves in the interior front side which would allow chicks to climb out as well as several deep grooves in the exterior of the box under the entrance hole so that parents could get a toe hold when entering. I used a water based stain to darken the interior and to decorate the exterior.

Here is my first box – which is not representative of the final product, but shows the details that you can’t see in the later photos below.

The day after the take over of Bluebird box #15, I filmed these Tree Swallows checking out one of our new boxes, which is located on the same eastern fence line, about 200 feet away.

This box is north of Box #29 (the one belonging to the Bluebirds, then ravaged) and I’m happy to say that I saw Bluebirds checking out the second PVC box that is south of Box #29. The female perched in a nearby tree while the male stood atop the roof.

I also filmed Tree Swallow on the WAY other side of our property (west end) in one of the two new boxes we installed there.

I am excited that our new PVC boxes with our own unique design are seemingly attractive to the cavity nesters. Yesterday, we went to Menards to purchase enough material to make about six more boxes. I also purchased 6″ PVC to create a box the size that Great Crested Flycatchers might like. Last year I watched them checking out our Duck box (too large) and several Bluebird boxes (too small) Perhaps I can create a nest box that they will find just right!

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