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.
Spring is a very active season for birds. I can tell that spring is really coming when the male American Goldfinches shed their winter coats and the male Cardinals are no longer willing to eat together. The same thing goes for the Eastern Bluebirds which no longer flock together like they do in winter. There is also their singing.
The first pair of birds that took up residence in our garden this year is the Eastern Bluebird. After picking and choosing among several nest boxes in the yard, they ended up at the same one the bluebirds nested in last year. I’m not sure that it’s the same pair though, since a flock of them stayed with us this winter.
Once the female has started to lay eggs, the male become very territorial. A Tree Swallow who just migrated back, checked the nest box for availability and was immediately chased away. As aggressive as the male bluebird is, he’s no match to the House sparrow. We have to diligently monitor all the nest boxes in the garden for signs of the House Sparrows. So far we have been successfully hosted Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, House Wrens, Chickadees and Tufted Titmouse in our nest boxes by monitoring the House Sparrows attempts.
Hopefully most of the eggs she’s caring for now will make it to adulthood. We’re happy to see more and more of them each year and to know that they are comfortable enough to stay with us year round.
These are the one’s that use the nest boxes. The one’s that prefer to build their own nests like the American Robins, Chipping Sparrows and Song Sparrows have already picked their spots in the foliage. I’ll have to check on the Robins next time I have a chance. Last I checked, they had just finished building their nest.
We are still waiting for the Grey Catbirds, Baltimore Orioles and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds to come back. The wait won’t be much longer because the Cherry trees have started to blossom and the Columbine is starting to bud.
I took the day off from work yesterday and the weather was on my side. Still plenty of snow on the ground but the temperature had soared to nearly 60°F. The honeybees should have been out and about now with a temperature this high, but alas, none to be seen. So I decided to inspect one hive. Intrinsically I knew I had to face my fear somehow. It’s better to know early than not know at all. I suspected they may have died of starvation since the weather has been inconsistent. That forces the bees to consume their stored food faster leaving them with nothing inside and nothing for them to forage outside. But I wasn’t expecting what I saw. There were no bees in the hive. None at all.
I ended up opening all the hives. My worst fear had come true. There were only a few dead bees in each hive which was otherwise empty. There were plenty of capped and uncapped honey frames in each hive but no live occupants.
First sadness hit, then depression, then self-doubt….what did I do wrong? I’ve been taking a mite count throughout the season and it’s been very low. We provided clean water. We provided food, with the supporting evidence of plenty left over in each hive. The only thing I did not do was treat them with chemicals. But I have never treated them from the start. They were fine and happy for many years, from one generation to the next, living their lives naturally.
I’m still sad and depressed but giving up is not in my nature. I will clean up the empty hives on my next day off and have them readied for new occupants. New honeybee packages are coming in next month and I hope we will work well together like their long gone relatives.
But there was a bright part of the day…I finally dug my way to the igloo, my cold frame. What was left in there were carrots, Mustard greens, a few Pac choi too. The lettuce I had sown in January had come up, barely reaching half an inch.
I pulled weeds out, watered the soil a little and sowed a few more seeds: Mizuna, Mustard greens, Radish, Arugula, Chinese broccoli, and more lettuce. They should start to sprout in a week and within a couple more weeks I can have my first salad of the season.
Our resident Eastern Bluebirds are also looking for a nest box in our yard and haven’t given up despite harassment from the House sparrow.
As the Buddhists say, ‘all is impermanence.’ There will be more honeybees. The garden is still there and this year’s seedlings are all sprouting high in the house and itching to get their feet in the ground outside. I really can’t complain.
Snow is still on the ground, a residue of the snowfall a few days ago. It’s very peaceful watching snow falling and the quietness afterward as the snow absorbs sound pretty well. Though it was too cold to go outside, a joyful moment was still there.
We hang bird feeders along the patio roof during winter which makes it much easier for us to refill them and we can bird watch when circumstance stops us from doing anything else. It’s also easier for us to patrol and protect the feeders from European Starlings and House Sparrows. The down side is we have to sweep bird droppings and whatever else they’ve dropped off the ground underneath. In spring, after we move the feeders back to the garden, we use soap and water to clean the remaining effluent off the fence. But it’s worth the effort. We can observe our avian friends closely and they can also take shelter in the woodpile under the roof from predators too large to squeeze in.
These are some of what we enjoyed a few days ago.
There are others that are more elusive like the Carolina wren, the Pileated Woodpecker and the Northern Flicker. Clearly not wanting the publicity with being caught on camera.
I would like to present you with the image of a warmer day in our garden, the Zephirine Drouhin rose. A climbing fragrant rose that blooms continuously throughout the season. One of many things I anticipate again in June.
About this ‘anticipation’, I got the idea from a free bookmark I received from the American Horticultural Society of which I am a member. There is a quote from W.E Johns on the back “One of themost delightful things about gardening is the anticipation itprovides.” It couldn’t be more true for me.
We all hope for better. We hope our garden will fare better than last year, our beehives thrive, our little friends who stay put survive the winter and our migrating friends come back to visit. We anticipate for better so we won’t lose hope.
Here are some of the anticipated events:
These are just a few of our anticipations for this year. We have been doing our best to give back to nature since she gives us so much joy. It’s our sanctuary amidst this divided world.
As for the world outside our garden, we hope that there are solutions for all conflicts so we stop being so divided and ruining ourselves in the process. We dream of a magic pill that will wipe out hate, bigotry, and selfishness from so many people’s brains, that the world can be a better place to live and a wonderful place to pass on to the next generation. Let’s hope that some of these dreams will come true this year. We cannot lose hope, it’s the only thing that keeps us going. Even if that hope is just a dim light at the end of the tunnel.
Whatever your anticipations and dreams are, we wish they came true for you.
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.
We were glad to see our old friends who flew back from the South, the Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). It’s fun to watch them chirping while gliding around at high speed. This spring one of their usual nest boxes was taken first by an Eastern Bluebird family (previous post) which had already produced four beautiful eggs. One of the Swallows poked its head in the house to check it out anyway. He was promptly bombarded by the male Bluebird and ended up in a nasty fight on the ground before the Swallow could get away. Both Bluebirds now stand guard not just on their nest box but on one other nest box close by.
One pair settled for the box by the vegetable garden. Watching them communicate with one another is quite funny. I wish I could tell if they are the same pair as settled there for the last two years. The Swallows have been nesting in our garden for the past several years and we hosted two broods last year alone so they could be the younger generation that were born here.
It doesn’t really matter which pair they are; they are all welcome.
The weather is still too cold for spring. Night time temperature a little bit above the freezing point most nights. Making matters worse, we had an ice storm four days ago. The birds, on the other hand, seem to know better since they have started to shed their winter down. This is the time of year I see a lot of fine feathers blowing in the garden or floating in the birdbaths. The male American Goldfinches have almost completely turned bright yellow by now, their summer color.
Most of our birds have just started to claim territory and are checking available nest boxes. Some have already paired up with mates. The Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), on the other hand, has already laid eggs. I thought they had only built their nest since it’s still very cold. I always monitor our nest boxes in the garden to make sure that there are no House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) nesting there. Once I saw the female Bluebird leave the nest box, I had to take a peek.
They never left us this past winter anyway. I think they probably felt comfortable here with food, water and roosting box to take shelter in during winter. And, plenty of food in spring and summer.
I hope they will have two broods this year since they’ve started the first one early. There really is no such thing as too many Bluebirds.
Most migrating birds are back and that provides a dawn to dusk symphony in the garden. Spring seems to be the season the birds sing the loudest; need to declare territory and for the males to show the ladies that he can sing. After observing them for years, I can tell now when they will be back. The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) will be back when the cherry trees start to bud. The Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) will be passing through at the same time. They summer further north. Hummingbirds will come when the columbine starts to bloom. Tree Swallows are here as soon as the insects are flying about.
Nature’s impeccable timing.
I was sick last week so gardening in the sun was off limits. Setting up a blind to take bird photos was too much work when my head felt like it would explode any minute. But sitting around doing nothing would have made me even sicker, that’s when the light bulb came on.
iPhone, little tripod for phone, remote control…..should work…..and it did. I just sat there 30 feet away clicking the remote control, capturing the birds activity up close without interrupting them.