Migrating Birds

They Are Back

Around this time in spring we prepare a welcome mat for the migrating birds, both the ones that come to stay for a season or just passing through.  We clean the birdhouses that were left out during winter for cold night roosting and set them back up.  Plenty of food is put out as well and we make some effort to insure the feeders won’t get emptied by larger birds like the Mourning doves, Grackles, European Starlings and Blue Jays by using weight sensitive feeders.  Grackles and Blue Jays manage to work these feeders anyway by bouncing up and down.  But we don’t mind since they can’t really land on the feeder blocking small birds from getting on.

We take our cues from the plants and trees in the garden.  We put oranges out when the cherry trees blossom; that is when the Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) start to show up.  We put sugar syrup out when the Columbine starts to bloom.  That’s when Ruby-throated Hummingbirds reach us from the south.

Arriving on the same schedule are the tree Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor). They’re looking for nesting boxes now.  This year is much harder for them since the Eastern Bluebird beat them to nesting, having eggs now, get very territorial.  They don’t want any neighbors, even when the closest box is 20 feet away the male Bluebird still chases any bird who has the temerity to stray too close.  Also House Sparrows that try to nest in every box in the yard.  It seems like an uphill battle for the Swallows but they still try and we do our best chasing the Sparrows to give them an edge.

A pair of Tree Swallows checking one of the nest boxes.  They have not yet picked one.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) has also arrived.  Generally we only see the male at this time of year.  Some years they will stay through the season but some years they just pass through.

A male Rose-breasted Grosbeak enjoy chipped sunflower seeds and peanuts
A male Baltimore Oriole enjoying oranges

I know that the Baltimore Orioles are here, aside from the cherry tree cue, we can hear them.  They haven’t come down for the oranges yet.  Above is an image captured last year.

 

Tree Swallows

Back From The South

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.

Swallow checking a prospective nest box
Swallow checking a prospective nest box
The female Bluebird says otherwise
The female Bluebird says otherwise

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.

So they settled for the one by the vegetable garden
So they settled for the one by the vegetable garden

It doesn’t really matter which pair they are; they are all welcome.