Feather shower

Yesterday I was sitting on my front step watching a kitten scout out everything that moved in my flower bed while my husband gathered grapes from our grape arbor. An occasional sprinkle on my bare arms teased that it might rain, so I looked up at the sky. What I saw coming down was feathers, a dozen or more.

I then did an instant replay and in my mind heard the echo of a bird squawk that had been heard only seconds before but I had ignored it. I wish I had looked up instantly and perhaps I would have seen what happened in mid-air right in front of me. Instead I must imagine the scenario…

Perhaps a hawk caught a bird in flight. Perhaps a mocking bird chased another bird away, though I’ve never seen a mocking bird knock feathers off another bird. I fear a bird lost its life to a predator that swooped down from the sky.

What’s the take-away for me? Keep your eyes and ears open at all times. You never know what you may miss if you don’t.

© 2010 by Janice D. Green

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Watch for birds in your dogwoods

I was in for a treat today. Actually it started about two days ago when I noticed a flash of red in my dogwood tree. I watched closely expecting to see a bright red cardinal, when in the same spot I briefly saw gray and white and thought I had seen a mockingbird. But it didn’t seem right to have seen the two different birds in the same spot so close together. As I continued to watch the mystery resolved itself. What I had seen was brief glimpses of parts of a much larger bird, the Pileated Woodpecker. It was eating the red berries on the dogwood tree.

Today I again noticed a large bird in the dogwood tree, though I couldn’t get a good look. So I retrieved my binoculars and began searching for the bird and found it. This time it was a Northern Flicker. I had commented to my husband only yesterday how we never saw flickers in our yard, only the Red-bellied Woodpecker which I used to mistake for a flicker.  Then I began to notice robins which don’t come to our feeders. All of the birds were after the red berries. I then discovered a female Baltimore Oriole eating the berries as well as the Red-bellied Woodpeckers. All within about five minutes I saw a wide assortment of birds, three of which I had never seen at our bird feeders.

But then, alas, the berries were all gone and the show was over. I went out in the rain to look closer, and sure enough, they had cleaned the branches of all red berries, though there were several lying on the ground under the tree. When the rain stops I may pick them up and put them in our feeders. I hung a suet basket near the dogwood hoping to attract some of the birds to it, especially the coveted orioles. I’ll be watching to see if the birds find it. We haven’t used that feeder for some time.

Bluebirds have fledged!

I just knew I had missed it. Dave and I left on Saturday morning to drive to Charlotte knowing we wouldn’t be back until Sunday afternoon. Four baby bluebirds were in the nest box and could fledge any time. What joy when I came home and discovered that the adult birds were still bringing food to the nest box.

In the heat of the afternoon, it must have been close to 100 degrees, the bluebird adults were drinking from the birdbath. I noticed other birds coming too, so I decided to add a little more fresh water. I think I scared them off doing it. I glanced out the window after adding the water, and I caught the tail end of a dog leaving the yard, which gave me the sinking feeling he might have caught a fledgling on the ground. I eventually dismissed this notion as the dog probably just happened by at the time. There were no feathers on the ground.

I didn’t see the adult birds come to the box over a long period of time, so I peeked inside the box and sure enough there was at least one bird still in there. I quickly closed it not trying to see how many were in the nest.

Then I parked myself in the recliner (elevating my sprained right ankle that had been neglected over the past 24 hours) and waited. After some waiting I saw Papa come to the box and then fly to the arbor. Then suddenly a bird popped out of the box and flew to the top bar of the arbor. It looked a little plump and ragged compared to Papa who flew up to it. I watched it a long time wishing I had picked up my binoculars before sitting in the recliner, but not daring to move now. Then it flew toward the roof and I didn’t see it any more. I continued to watch the birdhouse until it got too dark to see. I saw one of the adults fly to the roof so I suspect it was feeding and/or encouraging the fledgling.

That’s all I got to see. This morning I watched from the recliner again, but there was no bluebird activity. Eventually I peeked into the box again and found that the nest was empty, so I removed the nest and brushed out the loose nest material.

I have noticed what appears to be a tree swallow  hanging around the yard watching what is going on. I suspect it is interested in using the bluebird box. Thankfully there are two boxes available, one in our yard and one across the street, so we should be able to accommodate both.

I wish I could be privy to watching the adult birds feeding their babies while they learn to find their own food. But apparently the neighbor’s yards are better suited for that. I have yet to be able to observe this. I’m going to have to hang a bluebird feeder with some meal worms under the arbor before they nest again.

Watching for four bluebirds to fledge

I have a birdhouse with four baby birds in it that could fledge any day now, possibly even today. Unfortunately, I have yet to see any of my baby birds fledge. This is the 4th or 5th nest since I put the bluebird boxes up. I hope this time will be different – plan to watch closely. Read earlier posts to learn more about my bluebird houses and nests.

Bird watching so far this summer

I have been enjoying using Nestwatch for some time. Their website offers a lot of information and support for anyone who wants to observe birds that are nesting.

I’ve been trying to monitor the Eastern Bluebird nests this summer and keep running into dead ends. The first nest was abandoned with six eggs. After I had waited long enough to know that they would never hatch, I removed nest and eggs together and put them into a shoebox trimmed to fit, then I covered the front with cellophane. As long as the eggs don’t explode, I have a nice display to share with friends.

Meanwhile a nest appeared in the birdhouse across the road. There were five eggs, at least four hatched (it’s hard to count them crowed in that nest), then one day we found a few feathers on the ground. It was time for them to fledge and there were no sounds coming from inside the box so we opened it. There was one dead bird still in the nest that might have been killed by a crow according to my limited research. I cleaned out the nest as there were also a few beetles in it.

Within a few days a new nest appeared in the first birdhouse in my own yard. When I checked the nest this afternoon there were four eggs in the box. I hope this nest will be successful and I will get to watch the parent bluebirds feeding their baby birds around the yard.

I also believe I have a nest of Brown Thrashers in my yard. I found a nest in some tall red-tips bushes, but the nest is too high for me to peek into it and count eggs. I can barely reach it. I may return with a mirror to try and see inside the nest. When I was close to the bushes both thrashers were clucking up a storm as they scolded me.

I do love watching the birds!

Baby Chickadees

I discovered a pair of chickadees are nesting in a birdhouse that stayed vacant all last year (except that a paper wasp nest was hanging inside). At first when I saw them going in and out a time or two I thought they might be nesting, but yesterday when I tried to see in the hole in front of the box I noticed the wasp nest and assumed they wouldn’t be nesting in the box like that. Fortunately, the wasp nest was empty so I took the nest box down and removed it. Then I discovered that the chickadees had indeed nested inside. There was a nest with five babies in it. They had probably hatched a day or two earlier.

Learning the Hard Way

I think my bluebirds have abandoned their nest. I thought I had done a pretty good job of backing off and not checking the nest too often. But one time I flushed her off the nest before peeking in. I probably should have waited until another time to peek in. I haven’t seen them around since then and don’t think they are sitting on the eggs. In fact, the second bluebird box across the road now has a nest with at least four eggs in it and the birds are sitting on them. I suspect these may be the same birds.