The Glint In Their Eyes

It’s been dreary and overcast for many days in a row. But, yesterday the sun came out. I took the opportunity to capture a few good photos of the wild birds that visit my yard.

The Eastern Bluebird couple that has been making a home in the white birch nest box on the south fence decided to check out the closest box to my office patio where I set up my camera. It allowed me to get some good shots of them both. I love when I can capture a glint in their eyes, and when it’s possible to see the details in their lovely feathers. The couple sat on the fence just near the “pond nest box” as I refer to it because it is nearby our koi pond. The male flitted down to the box, peered inside, then took a position next to his mate. She flew down to look inside, as well. That position puts the birds just about twenty feet from where I sat waiting to click the shutter.

The male checks out the nest box while his mate observes (upper right.)
Male Eastern Bluebird.
Male Eastern Bluebird.
The female E Bluebird flies to inspect the nest box, while her mate sits observing (upper right.)
Female E Bluebird.
Female E Bluebird.
Male E Bluebird perches on a shepherd’s crook bird feeder.
Minutes after he and his mate were examining the nest box near the office patio, he was back at the primary box he and his mate have built a nest in.

Bluebirds – New Couple?

For nearly two weeks, the Bluebird pair has been working diligently on selecting and building a nest in the white birch nest box on the south fence. You can see more on this activity here.

This was filmed March 31, 2020.
This is an image of the female from March 31, 2020.

Curiously, when I was filming the Purple Martins on April 7, I saw a bird perched at the opening of a wooden nest box on the far East fence, down by the Ponderosa Pines. That eastern nest box is about 125 feet from the white birch box where the pair, above, is making their nest.

This bird was perched on the East fence near a wooden nest box.

Upon further inspection, as I zoomed out to the extent of my lens, I realized it was a female Bluebird. Perched not far from her was a male Bluebird. The female entered the nest box. The male inspected it and they remained on or around the box for a few minutes. From what I have read, once the female enters the box, that the male has presented to her for inspection, the pair will begin building a nest in that box.

The female E Bluebird flew to inspect the nest while her mate perched nearby.
Not to over-anthropomorphize the situation – or, please humor me and allow it – this photo suggests that the female is communicating her sentiments regarding the possibility of using the box to raise their chicks.
The male perches at the hole and looks in.
The male flies off as the female peers out of the hole.
The pair perches close to each other and about six feet from the nest box.
The pair perched on the eastern fence, near the wooden box.

Eastern Bluebirds are known to have large territories that they protect from other E. Bluebirds. Most everything I have read says that nest boxes should be at least 100 yards apart to attract multiple pairs of Bluebirds. That is nearly 200 feet father apart that the white birch box sits from the box on the eastern fence. We offer multiple boxes because we also have Tree Swallows that use the boxes to raise their broods and tend to prefer the boxes at the east end. Seeing the Bluebirds on the far fence made me wonder. Was this a different pair than has been building a nest in the white birch box? Or, is it the same pair?

Only a few minutes before I saw the birds on the far eastern fence, I had filmed a male Bluebird perched on and near the white birch box!

Male E Bluebird on April 7, at the white birch box filmed before I saw the pair shown above.
I have filmed this male and his mate many times in the past ten days, as they selected and began building a nest inside it.
This is characteristic behavior for this male to visit the nest often throughout the day. He often hunts for insects from the top of this fence, or even the top of the nest box – then swoops down to the lawn to nab it.
I zoomed in on the image to see if I could detect a pattern difference in the color markings of this male and the one I saw minutes later on the wooden box at the East end of the yard. it’s hard to say.

If it’s the same pair, why are they checking out the wooden box on the East fence, when they have obviously been putting a significant amount of time setting up shop in the other box? Do they want a reserve option in the case of some natural catastrophe that could happen to their first choice?

If it’s a new pair, perhaps a son or daughter from last year’s brood and a mate, why were they not chased off by the primary pair that has already established their territory and nesting spot in the white birch box? During the winter months, I observed three Bluebirds perching on a different wooden box in the yard. At the end of the season, we left the door open to discourage House Sparrows from occupying it in early Spring. I found it curious to see three Bluebirds together, hopping in and out of the box, as if it were a familiar place (perhaps where they had fledged months earlier?)

I have tried to perform side by side evaluations of the photos to determine if they are the same, or different animals. While the colors seem more muted on the birds that were on the East fence, the distance was significantly farther than those I took at the white box, and a 300 mm zoom camera lens is truly reaching its limit for clarity at that distance. Also, the sun was not at the exact point versus the horizon and perhaps it behind a cloud when I captured the shots at one box. Those factors can certainly alter the hue of the birds’ colors. I simply cannot rely on the photos to provide color differences as proof.

When I was a child, there was a male American Robin that came to our backyard every year for many years. We knew he was the same bird because he had a small white, rectangular patch of white on his red breast. Interestingly, we came to realize that he had passed that mark onto at least two of his sons, as well. That leaves me wondering if we do have a second pair of birds taking up residence in the eastern box, will they be unique enough to discriminate? We could have very similarly marked individuals if they are relatives! I’m left to realize that I would have to catch the two pairs in the yard at the same time. With the territorial nature of the species, I think that’s a fairly low probability.

The moral of the story: genuine living creatures will not always behave or appear the way that the reference books or internet sources proclaim to be fact. Let that be a lesson about most everything else, avian related or not.

Goldfinches!

Probably everyone who puts out a niger (thistle) seed feeder will attract Goldfinches. Their range extends from Mexico to Canada. But, despite their common occurrence, they are still delightful to see. I took these photos on April 6-7, 2020. Some of them appear to still don their more drab coloring that keeps them safe in winter months.

Purple Martins

Last spring we put up a Purple Martin house and within a few days, we had tenants. These birds are social, and live together in colonies. The more the merrier is their mantra. Their song is a quite complicated chortle that, once you hear it, you will always recognize it. It is cheery and musical. Purple Martins are in the swallow family. They prefer to roost near a body of water, as they actually drink on the fly – skimming the surface of a pond or lake. Good for us, we have a large farm pond that is within 300 feet of where we erected the first house.

This spring, I hoped to attract more of the aerial insect eaters. We put up a tower of eight gourd shaped houses that were specifically designed for Purple Martins. The Gourd Tower sits just 16 feet from the existing red house, which we purchased at the local farm store for a good deal last April. The red house is very traditional, with two stories of side-by-side dwellings, plus two nest boxes in the dormer level on the ends. The gourds are stand-alone homes hung in close proximity to each other. The way I see it, we are offering housing to the artsy Martins and their more contemporary friends.

Female Purple Martin (top right) and a male (bottom right) arrived on April 7, 2020 and immediately checked out the red barn house.
A few minutes later the same pair landed on the north side of the house and inspected a couple of options there.
Female Purple Martin lands on the north side of the red house.
A male Purple Martin scopes out the view and flight pattern from the north side of the red house.
A female Purple Martin perches atop the new Gourd tower.
A female Purple Martin navigates around the Gourd Tower. She actually landed on one and peered inside, but I wasn’t able to catch that.
A male Purple Martin prepares for a landing atop the Gourd Tower. he looks like Superman!
It appears that this male Purple Martin likes the view. He remained on the top of the tower for several minutes.

House Finches

The House Finch is a fairly common species in my area of the country. But, it’s still a delight to catch a glimpse of the raspberry red flash of color when the male comes into the yard. The female doesn’t don any bright plumage, but she is still beautiful.

More Bluebird Magic

The sun finally came out and I was able to shoot some images of our Bluebird pair as they continue to make their home in the birch stump box on the south fence of my office patio yard.

The first two images are a comparison of what I can see from my patio location where I photograph the birds, and the cropped image that enlarges the images.

Here is the female Eastern Blue Bird sitting atop a post on the south fence near her nest box (which is attached to the next post over to the left.)
This is the same photo, but cropped to show the details of the bird’s textures. This is taken with a 300 mm zoom lens. I wish I had something larger, but once you get to an auto focus zoom over that length, they get pretty pricey.

Building a Nest

On March 27, 2020, I ventured out to the patio, again without a tripod and again on a cloudy day. Hence, these photos are not as clear as I would like. But, I couldn’t resist capturing some shots of the female Eastern Bluebird while they complete their courtship and move onto raising a family. The male tends to woo the female by identifying a suitable location to raise a brood. The female has the final say (birds, too!) Once she chooses the abode, it’s up to her to furnish the place. For E Bluebirds, that’s a nest of fine grasses, perfectly assembled to form a soft resting place for their 3-5 future eggs.

Here is a series of images that I captured as the future mama painstakingly arranged her nest and eventually got her hubby’s final approval.

Once the female begins building the nest, they will protect it against other species that attempt to steal their real estate. below, shows a House Sparrow (which is not an North American native – and can be quite invasive and have a negative effect on our native birds) flying into the Bluebird’s nest territory.

Bluebirds – action Shots

The header photo is a female Eastern Bluebird (the one that is claiming a nest box on the south fence of my office patio yard.) She took flight from her position near the box and I just snapped. The box is over 50 feet from where I sit on the patio with a 300 mm zoom lens. So, I can’t really tell what I’m going to capture until I download the photos onto a desktop computer. I can’t believe that I snapped as she was going after a flying insect! I wish I had been using a tri-pod and that the sun had been shining, because the image would have been clearer. But, it’s still amazing that I caught that action.

This is the same photo but with more height.

Tree Swallows!

On March 25th, Robert and I were working on a project in my office patio yard when birds beckoned to be filmed. I ran to get my camera and was able to capture these photos of Tree Swallows. We have four nest boxes on the far (East) end of the yard. Each year, two or three Tree Swallow pairs used them to raise a brood. This year, a pair became interested in the center box. Enjoy the photos.

Bluebirds in Spring!

For the past few days I have been fortunate to capture some inspiring images of a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. They have come back to a faux birch wood nest box that we hung on a fence. Last year, they fledged their young from that same box. The year prior, which was our first year at this home and so the first year we erected nest boxes, they used the box in the center of my office garden yard.

Below, you will find photos taken on March 25, 2020.