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.
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.
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.
However bad this last winter was, the Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia Sialis) elected not to leave us for warmer digs down south. Maybe because we provided everything they needed here: food, water and places to roost inside from the cold wind and snow. This last winter was the first time that they were really present on an almost daily basis. Once the weather started to get warmer, they started to seriously look for a place to nest. From an initial flock, there are only four left now. They have made their territorial claims. I don’t know whether the pair that is nesting in one of the nest boxes now is the same pair that nested in there last year. I was unable to find any information on whether they try to nest at the same place every year as the Tree Swallows do.
Last Sunday, Easter Sunday, I spent all day in the garden. Aside from doing the usual garden chores I also checked on the new residents. Who’s just come back, who’s nesting where and also monitoring the House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) at the nest boxes. The American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is still battling his image in the bay window on a daily basis. A female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is building her nest in the front Azalea. Two pairs of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are taking up residence in two of the nest boxes, one of which is the same as last year.
In the end, to my surprise, I found my favorite Easter eggs. A pair of Eastern Bluebirds have laid four beautiful blue eggs. I hope it’s not too cold for them at night (still below 40ºF most night) for them to hatch. I hope to see them start bringing food in for their young in a little over a week. And then, start a second brood…
There has been one snow storm after another and the official spring date is still more than a month away. Our garden is covered a foot deep in snow crusted with ice. The cold frame we put up last fall has become an igloo at this point. I have no idea what has happened in there since I can’t have access without digging my way in through snow. I’ve left the honey bees alone. The only sign that there are live bees in the hives is the fresh dead bees I found on top of the snow around the garden.
It was very sunny and no wind today so I braved a low 30º F, in my knee-high boots, to stomp around inspecting the garden. As much snow as there is on the ground, there are many signs that spring is not too far away. I always see the arrival of American Robins (Turdusmigratorius) as an indication that spring will be here soon enough. Today was the second time I’ve seen a large flock of Robins come around.
Aside from Robins, the male Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) no longer keep to their truce. They seem to keep close to their female companions now and chase other full grown males around the yard. The Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) are also looking for nesting spots now and no longer just coming to the garden for food.
The American Goldfinches (Carduelis tristis) are starting to shed their winter coats. There are little bits of yellow tipped grey down here and there on the snow, and the birds are beginning to show spring colors in bright yellow blotches.
With a lineage that stretches all the way back to the dinosaurs, I figure the birds know better than I.
It’s that time of year again…a time to look for a perfect place to raise a new generation. The birds that usually hang out together during winter start chasing one another, claiming their territory. A few of them checking out the nest boxes we put up in the garden. I cleaned them in mid-fall and put them back up for the birds to roost in winter, and I check them again around this time of year to see if any of them need to be cleaned again. Some birds do make a mess in there when they use them as a roosting place.
The Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis), which never left us this winter, have been coming everyday to check the nest boxes. They seem to be very serious about two of the boxes. One box had a pair of Bluebirds nested in it last year, and a pair of Tree Swallows have nested in the other one. I hope they make up their mind soon, especially if they want to take the one that the Tree Swallows used to nest in.
Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are known to come back to the specific nesting place they used in the previous year. We had two generations, three pairs of them nested in our garden last year. And, yes, the older pair came back to the exact nest box they had used the year before. They are pretty vicious in defending their nest so I hope the Bluebirds will build their nest before the Swallows come back.
We love both of them so we can’t really take sides. With House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) and European Starrings (Sturnus vulgaris), we pretty much chase them away or clean them out if they have nested in one of the boxes. I know it sounds mean spirited but they are pests and they kill other birds or break their eggs to get their nesting place. They’re not indigenous to this area.
I would also like to increase our state bird population. The Bluebird is the official New York state bird. I acquired this knowledge a few years ago when I looked up Bluebird so I’m glad that we’ve hosted our state bird three years in a row…..and hope to continue the trend this year.
We have been housing Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) in our garden for a few years now. They arrive in early spring and check out birdhouses around the yard for nest-building and raising their chicks. In years past they would be gone by mid-autumn, but they never left this year. After their chicks fledged this year, they’ve been hanging around and foraging for food in the garden. I thought they would be gone by now, but I still hear their call from high up in the trees. Lately, they’ve been coming around inspecting birdhouses again…but for roosting.
Five of them came around today, checking out three houses in the garden. It is interesting to me that so many birds are very territorial during mating season, then hang out together during fall and winter. I guess it’s a self-preservation thing. Anyway, five of them descended and spread out checking the birdhouses. Once in a while they would stop to pick food off the lawn or take a bath. Yes, aside from food, we provide hot baths for the birds in winter.
I hope they will stay with us this winter. I usually remove some of the birdhouses in winter so the House Sparrows wouldn’t have a chance to roost in them. Aside from putting them back up today, I also added a Bluebird feeder in the hope of making their lives easier if they decide to stay.
The Bluebird population was in decline at one point because they couldn’t compete with the House Sparrows, a non-native. Just recently I read that their population has been increasing as birds lovers have started putting birdhouses up for them and intensely monitoring them. We have successfully raised a few families, but we also lost two would-be baby Bluebirds to the Sparrows.
If the Bluebirds stay, I’ll have to declare war on the sparrows this winter. There will be no half-truces like in past years. ‘No quarter to be taken, aaarrhhh!’ I must remind myself not go out house-hunting sparrows in the middle of a sub-freezing night lest I accidentally roust a bluebird instead.