To all the Dads who have nurtured a child on this Earth.
Almost A Full House
The temperature is still seesawing, but most of the migrating birds have reached us on their usual schedule. The Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have finally settled in one of the bird boxes and have started building their nest despite harassment from the House sparrows. We really have to keep an eye on this one to make sure that the sparrows don’t rout them.
The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) came back as soon as the flowering fruit trees like cherry and pear here blossomed. One of them was waiting patiently at the feeder station for the welcome mat. We promptly cut a few oranges and put them on a tray for them. It didn’t take them long to dive in for the juice, they must be hungry from their long flight.
Gray Catbirds, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Chipping sparrows are also here. The first two still play hide and seek with us; every time we took the cameras out they flew off. The Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina), the smallest sparrow around here, are not camera shy. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird haven’t reached here yet. Only the Bleeding heart flowers have start to bud and the Columbine still have a long way to go. We use the blooming of these flowers as an indication of the arrival of the Hummingbirds. The Columbine is a more reliable reference.
In the mean time, the resident Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) took no time in starting their family. So far she has laid five eggs and any day now we’ll will see the first chick.
The Black-capped Chickadees (Parus atricapillus) have almost completed their nest construction. It looks very comfortable with moss and a fine hair lining. It will be a couple of days before we see the first egg.
We are only missing the Ruby-throated Hummingbird but they should reach our garden soon. A flight from down south on their tiny wings takes a little longer than the others.
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.
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.
Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have been back in the neighborhood for a few weeks. They have been checking nest boxes around the garden but they have been chased out of each nest box they tried by the House Sparrows. In turn, we chased the Sparrows out. It’s a spring ritual that we have to do in order to secure a place for the songbirds.
Finally, a pair of Tree Swallows settled into one of the boxes. Hopefully, the other two pairs will not be discouraged by the Sparrows and will find another place to raise their families. We had three Swallow families in our garden last year and they tend to come back to the same place year after year.
The female has been building her nest for the last few days. Her mate keeps an eye on the intruder Sparrows. It’s fun to see her selecting nest material and trying to get it into the nest box.
Welcome home kids.
Two Tree Swallow Nests
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.
A Busy Time
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.
…Time For Us To Play Host Again
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.