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.
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.
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.
We’ve been doing pretty well with the birds this year. So far we have hosted a few families – three House Wren, three Tree Swallow, and one Eastern Bluebird. These are just the ones that used the nest boxes we put up in the garden. The first Wren family has already fledged. There were five chicks, but only four of them made it. The second and third are still feeding their chicks, three in each nest. Chicks from two Tree Swallow families had fledged few of weeks ago, four in the front yard and three in the back yard. The chicks from the back yard were the ones who conducted their flight training over the garden. The third Swallow family’s chicks, three of them, just hatched recently, although I think it’s a little late for the swallow. I hope the chicks will be strong enough to migrate south in late summer.
A family of Eastern Bluebirds had settled in the old Swallow house after they were chased from their original choice by a House Sparrow. They successfully raised three chicks. They might start a second brood since we still hear the male calling from high up in a tree. It would be really great if they do. They are incredibly beautiful birds to watch.
But now it’s time to clean up. I waited until the chicks were no longer coming back to roost in the nest boxes before I removed them for cleaning. It dawned on me when I opened nest boxes, one after another, that this is probably how the phrase “Empty Nest” came to be; when the kids are grown up and have left to live their lives. It was a sad moment but satisfying at the same time. I’ll put the clean nest boxes back up after they have dried so the birds that want to start a second brood will have a chance to do so.
I’ve been keeping track of who nests where, so it’s a good thing to recognize the nest construction technique of each bird. I am always fascinated by the Tree Swallow’s nest. They line their nest with feathers, mostly white ones on top of a woven grass platform. The images below are a little bit yucky since a few chicks were in there previously. I think they are pretty interesting though, to see how different birds build their nests.