This time of year is the only time we, the birds and us, compete for fruits in our garden. We have wild cherry, ornamental cherry, white mulberry, wild raspberry, Golden raspberry, strawberry and blueberry on the property. We gave up on the wild cherry since it’s too tall for us to harvest; the birds always get the fruit first. Our neighbor used to put a bed sheet under one of the trees but what she got was the left over from the birds. We can only get the sweet, white mulberry from the lower branches but that’s enough. This year there are so many fruits that the birds and squirrels have taken longer to clean them up. So we are still picking mulberry.
Wild raspberry has not yet ripened. There will not be much fruit this year. I removed many of them early in spring because they were getting too invasive. Since there is no distraction now from the wild raspberry, I am more concerned with the Golden raspberry and am considering putting a net over them. I will have to cover the blueberries before the fruit ripens as well. The Gray Catbirds are pretty good at keeping their eye on the fruit.
We have been sharing strawberries this year since I have no time to cover them. What ever the birds missed is our feast.
Competing for ripe fruits in the garden doesn’t make us enemies. The birds still work the other part of the garden; picking off insects and grubs which are much more destructive to our garden. Losing some fruit to them is a small price to pay for their service.
Eggs of the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) by the vegetable garden have hatched, all five of them. Mom and dad are busy catching insects for the chicks. They are not bothered by me working in the vegetable garden now. I think they have learned from last year that I didn’t harm their kids so they let me walk near by without dive bombing me like last year. This makes it easier for me to weed and pick vegetables in the garden right underneath the nest.
The second Tree Swallow family nesting a mere fifty feet away also have five eggs. This family still gets nervous when I get too close to the nest. She will fly out of the box and perch on a branch above, watching me. When I get too close they take turns dive bombing me. I hope they’ll be friendlier next year.
I put a new nest box up in the garden to lure the Bluebirds in for their second brood but it seems like a third Swallow pair wants to nest there instead. We are building up a colony of Tree Swallows here and I don’t mind at all. They are prodigious insect eaters and fun to watch swooping, soaring and gliding in the sky.
A surprise family of Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) is nesting so low in the Rhododendron and very close to the front door railing. They usually nest higher up in the shrubs or in the thickest of the Forsythia. Last year we severely trimmed the forsythia reducing their nesting real estate. There are three turquoise blue eggs in there. I have to leave the front walkway alone until their chicks fledge.
Most of the birds that migrate south during winter have come back. The Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) came back before everyone else. They swooped around looking for their old houses that I had removed for the winter. They checked out the Bluebirds nest box and were chased off by the occupants. As soon as I put the box back up where it was used by them last year, they took ownership with in minutes. Another pair took one nest box in the front but was harassed relentlessly by the House sparrows. I hope that it doesn’t deter the Swallows from staying with us.
The Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) also came back to the feeder. I have seen just the males, no females in sight yet. Chipping Sparrows (Spizella passerine), Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon) and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) are back as well. The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) settled for the suet as many of the fruit trees around here haven’t blossom yet.
I haven’t seen the White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca) Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) yet this year. But the spring is still young and very cold. Hopefully they’ll filter in with the warmth.
Spring is the busiest time in our own garden aviary. We have both resident aerialists that stay with us year round and the ones that travel back and forth from North to South America annually. Every spring we roll out the red carpet for them, helping them stay strong and nurturing a new generation. By the end of spring some of them already have a new extended family and are ready to start a second brood. Most of them are camera shy but some of them have become used to seeing me in the garden all the time…just another big funny looking deer to them.
This Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) couple had three chicks. Yes, I checked. I patrol the bird houses in the garden to make sure that the House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) haven’t taken them over and to insure the Cowbirds haven’t laid their eggs in one of the nests. This pair ended up with one surviving chick. I witnessed one chick becoming a Bluejay (Cyanocitta cristata) lunch. I have no idea what happened to the other chick so I’m hoping it survived. They just had another brood, four newly hatched chicks, hopefully more than one will survive.
The Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) is one of the smartest and friendliest birds in our garden. They come back every spring and stay until late fall. We put oranges out as soon as we see the first one show up. They help keep the Japanese beetles under control. Their first brood, two chicks, have grown up and as far as I know one pair has started a nest in the front Forsythia bush.
All the books I have read indicated that Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) produce one brood a year in the Northern US but this pair by the vegetable garden are having a second one. Maybe because their first brood, three chicks in all, and their nest was destroyed by our neighbor’s cat. They didn’t give up and rebuilt the nest in the same box. We put a squirrel guard flange under the nest box this time to prevent the cat from getting to the nest. I haven’t peeked to see how many eggs they have. The good news is the Tree Swallow family that nested in the front yard produced five chicks and they have all fledged.
When we see the American Robin (Turdus migratorius) in the neighborhood that means spring is coming. A couple of pairs have nested in our garden each year. They help a lot by picking grubs off the lawn and gardens. Their first brood have all grown up now and they’ve already started a second one.
This House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) was building a nest she ended up nesting in. They have a habit of building a few dummy houses before they actually pick one. Five chicks from this nest had flown off. Two more pairs are singing and building nest in the garden now.
I don’t know where the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) nest but they are repeat annual visitors and we seem to have more of them every year. It’s fun to watch them doing their courting ritual; flying back and forth sideways like a pendulum- and when they take their dinner at dusk. Delicate and beautiful little birds that they are.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (Pheucticus ludovicianus) also stopped by to refuel this spring as usual before flying further north. They have a very distinctive and lovely song. I wish they would nest with us instead of just commuting through.
Yes, woodpeckers eats oranges along with a variety of things. They even eat small lizards upon occasion, though there are no lizards here. We were surprised to see one eating oranges we had put out a few years ago. The oranges were intended for the Baltimore Orioles and Gray Catbird but the orioles have never come down for it. We thought that only one particular Red-bellied was eating them, but more than one stops in regularly when they have active nests in the area.
They would eat for a while and at the end they would gather pulp, keep it between their beaks, and fly off, we presume for nesting youngsters.
There are some more avians around the garden this spring. The common ones like American Goldfinch, House Finch, American Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Blue Jay, Red-winged Blackbird, Downey Woodpecker, Chickadee, Titmouse, Northern Cardinal….and with them around we don’t need pesticide. The down side is we see less butterflies due to caterpillars being invited to lunch, so to speak, but our garden is never without someone serenading somewhere in the premises.