This is a busy time of the year for us as well as the birds. We are busy with garden chores-cleaning up, pruning, feeding and planting. The birds are busy building their new families. The Bluebird’s eggs have hatched and the parents have been making endless trips feeding five chicks. They are growing up really fast. It will take around 15-20 days for them to fledge after hatching.
A pair of Tree Swallows have finished building their nest and started to lay eggs. The second pair was chased out of the garden by the first pair every time they checked that nest box.
While the House Wrens are still picking, choosing and building decoy nests in any empty boxes they find, two pairs of Chickadees have already laid eggs. One on each side of the yard.
Having made the destructive & nasty house sparrows unwelcome in the yard, we’ve become home to the colorful & friendly. Now the yard lights up daily in a delightful symphony.
One of my fellow bloggers asked me recently how the Bluebirds fared this season. A light bulb went on in my head how about a recap’ of this past breeding season? The Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) have done quite well. To our surprise, they have raised three broods this season however the broods may not be of the same pair. I know one pair has raised two broods since their chicks were allowed to hangout by their new nest box when they started the second brood. But the third which nested in the front yard nest box later in the season didn’t have any chicks around.
Below is my progressive observations of the second brood.
In the years past, we have only observed Bluebirds raising one or two broods at the most. Then to our surprise & excitement, we discovered a third brood in the front yard. I have seen the Bluebirds on this nest box a few times but have also seen House sparrows (Passer domesticus) on it too. The vicious House sparrows zoom into their nests, peck & break their eggs & will not let them have any peace. However when we tried to trim the hedge by the nest box, the Bluebirds wouldn’t leave the area so we checked the box. Bravo! What a pleasant surprise and hedge trimming was immediately suspended.
I don’t know how many of the chicks from these three broods have survived to adulthood. What I do know is that we hear more of their calling in the air, around the yard, than years ago. They come to the feeders and baths year ’round. They also look for places to roost in our garden in winter.
We have not yet had a heavy snow. We will see more of them once the ground is covered with snow and the lake is frozen over. I think they decided to stick around in winter because we have food, heated bath and warm places to stay. We pretty much rolled the red carpet out for our avian friends. The only exception is House Sparrows….for this bunch, it’s war.
I think the Bluebirds are getting more comfortable with our garden now. They no longer leave us during winter. We provide roosting boxes, food and water in heated birdbaths when nothing much is around in winter and we help with guarding their nesting box during their breeding season. Since they have become our resident birds, they have started their nesting early. Last year they had two broods and this year they have already started a second brood while still feeding their chicks from the first brood.
They started the first brood in April. Once the female lays eggs, we start to monitor the nest box weekly to make sure they are fine. Four out of five eggs hatched with the 1st brood.
We stopped checking their nest box when the chicks have full feathers. If they fledge too early, out of concern for their own safety, they could become other birds food. So we don’t want to stress them with visits.
The second nest is right by our vegetable garden and the green pole is only a couple of feet from the front of the nest box. Hopefully there will be another three or more chicks from the second brood.
I’m not sure if they trust us or the remnants of the old Gray Catbird’s nest was too good a spot to pass up. An American Robin family has built a nest in the Rhododendron to the right of our front door. There was a Gray Catbird nest there last year and some old nest material still hung from the branches. We can see the female sitting in the nest about 2 feet from our window. She also keeps her eyes on us when we’re in the room but stays put.
I guess we have been working together in the garden often enough that she’s decided we’re not her enemies. Why not live next to us? She has four beautiful blue eggs and we hope to see chicks soon. We decided to tape part of our mesh blind to the window so we can observe the nest and not stress her to much when we turn the living room lights on.
It was very windy and a little cold last Monday, felt almost like a cold front was coming in. I limp along in the garden due to a golf ball sized bruise swelling on my right shin. Why? Tripped on a cement block in the garden while looking up when I should have been looking down. Despite the wind, it was a very nice day. It was sunny and staying inside to nurse my shin would have been a waste of a perfect day. I dug up, replanted and pruned plants in the garden and whatever needed to be done without heavy lifting. In the middle of all these tasks, I heard the Bluebirds call too many times above my head. I realized that the parents were encouraging a baby to fly by calling it from different branches. I looked up and found one of the chicks perched quietly on a birch branch near by. He flew from branch to branch following the calls.
The peacefulness turned frantic when a Blue Jay showed up. Both parents bombarded the Jay nonstop until it gave up and flew away. Interestingly, the parents ignored a Gray Catbird completely even when it got within a few inches of the chick. They chased off the Blue Jays, Grackles and House Sparrows.
About this time, another chick poked his face out from the nest box and I realized there probably was one or more chicks still in there. I waited until the parents were busy leading the lone chick to safety to open up the nest box and snap some photos. This is when I love my iPhone the best, fast and easy to snap an image in a nest.
The chicks have all hit the road now. But I’m happy to help increase the local population of Eastern Bluebirds. I’ve been hearing their calls again and have seen four other Bluebirds snooping around the Tree Swallow house. Hopefully they will rear another brood in the garden this year.
The Tree Swallow family by the vegetable garden added one more egg to the nest, five in total. But this morning I found the evidence that someone had raided their nest (the white down and some grass straw were on the ground) but the female was still in the nest when I checked. I’ll know more when I’m able to check on them this weekend.
At this time of year our garden is busy with a variety of birds singing, courting, building nests and a few have already started to rear their first brood. I have mentioned some in previous posts about our resident Eastern Bluebirds and the migratory birds that come back either to settle in our garden or just passing through.
It’s been only a couple of weeks and the Bluebirds have hatched but only three of them. I keep checking on them every 7 to 10 days to make sure that the House Sparrows haven’t raided their nest and killed the chicks. All of them look very healthy now. Mom and Dad make countless trips every day to feed them.
The Tree Swallows that nested in the box by the vegetable garden have finished building their nest, lined with white feathers and down picked from the lake nearby. In less than a week, there are four white eggs laying comfortably in it. The female is so used to me being in the vegetable garden now that she just sticks her head out to look at me when I’m right by the box. If I continue working, even right below her nest, she just disappears back inside. Once in a while she would come out to stretch on top of the pole in front of the nest box. It’s a comfort to have her keeping me company while I’m working.
The second Tree Swallow family just starting to build their nest again. They were chased out by a male House Sparrow after they started the first time but I manage to get the Sparrow out. So, they resumed building at the same place. I hope to see four more eggs. It’s always nice to have more insect patrolling in the yard than less.