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!

Last peek before fledgling stage

Eleven days and still growing

Eleven days and still growing

This picture was taken on July 1 when the babies were eleven days old. You can see the wing and tail feathers getting longer and very blue. They have wide beaks when they are young to make it easier for the parents to feed them.

(OOOPS! I should have re-read my bluebird book before taking this last peek. I wasn’t supposed to peek after the 13th day. I hope I haven’t messed up here. Fortunately the birds didn’t move around at all when I opened the box. Maybe I didn’t disturb them enough to cause any harm. I re-read the book after writing this post.)

Last peek before fledging

I peeked into the bluebird box one last time today to see if the babies were doing OK. They look healthy. Their eyes were open and they didn’t move. Their feathers are filling out nicely and I could see some bright blue feathers in their wingtips and tails. They are now 16 days old. It would be risky to peek in at them after today because doing so might cause them to fledge before they are ready to survive. I hope to see these babies grow up and fly around for a long time.

Pictures and text copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

Mockingbirds and bluebirds defending their territories

In two previous years we have had mockingbirds to nest in our grape arbor. They can be very territorial and agressive and would dive-bomb us if we got too close to their nest. I had already decided that if they nested in the arbor again I would remove the nest because we want to be able to enjoy our arbor and tend to the flowers and plants that are growing on it.

Now that the bluebirds have begun nesting in the bluebird house which is about 15-20 feet from the arbor, I frequently see the mocking birds trying to chase the bluebirds away. The bluebirds do a pretty good job of holding their own, however.

My husband noticed that when the bluebirds are on the bird feeders the other birds pretty well leave them alone and wait for them to leave before coming for food themselves. This is true even of the more aggressive cardinals who often chase the other birds away from the feeder. So our bluebirds aren’t wimps, even if they are small.

Copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

When will the bluebird eggs hatch?

I keep wondering when the bluebird eggs will hatch. I peeked again today and should have counted the eggs. At the time I was only thinking about whether they were hatched or not, so didn’t study them long enough to be sure. There are probably five eggs, though maybe only four.

I found a web page about Eastern Bluebirds to gather more information about their nesting habbits. ( I also put some information on a calender to help me keep up with what is happening and to give me a better idea on when to expect them to hatch. Here are the dates so far:

April 2: Set up birdhouses
April 5: Two pair of bluebirds fighting over nest box
April 6: Moved our second box to make it more attractive for second pair of bluebirds
April 12: Nest in birdhouse but no eggs yet
April 14: Two eggs in nest
April 16, 17 or 18: last egg was laid (They lay one egg a day and I’m not sure of the count)
April 30, May 1 or 2: expected time for birds to hatch (13-14 days from the date the last egg was laid)

The last time I checked, there was no sign of any nesting in the second box we moved to our neighbor’s yard.

I will try to remember to take my camera and a stool to stand on so I can take pictures of the eggs in the nest before they hatch.

 Pictures and text copyright © 2008 by Janice Green

We’ve been blessed!!!

I peeked again today and there were two blue eggs in the nest in the bluebird house. We have been blessed. I’ll be posting along as the family progresses. I dare not peek too often. I understand that preditors can smell our footprints and may lead preditors to the nest.

(PS I wrote this two days ago and discovered today that it was still in draft mode. So for the record, the two eggs were discovered on April 14. )

We've been blessed!!!

I peeked again today and there were two blue eggs in the nest in the bluebird house. We have been blessed. I’ll be posting along as the family progresses. I dare not peek too often. I understand that preditors can smell our footprints and may lead preditors to the nest.

(PS I wrote this two days ago and discovered today that it was still in draft mode. So for the record, the two eggs were discovered on April 14. )

Bluebirds and American Goldfinches

Goldfinches on thistle feederIf I were asked to name my favorite bird of all, it would have to be the American Goldfinch. I have many childhood memories of watching these delightful black and yellow birds flitting around on the fence rows in the Indiana countryside. After moving to South Carolina I have enjoyed watching them appear in flocks on a row of small sunflowers I had planted in my yard one fall. Since my last move, I have been less successful with growing sunflowers from seed, but we have still had the privilege of watching them come in flocks to feed on sunflower and thistle seeds at our feeders. I learned that in the winter their plumage becomes a dull yellow and brown, so it took a while for me to recognize them. But by now, they are ready to migrate back north and their feathers are becoming brilliant yellow and black again. What joy to watch them!

The bluebirds are another favorite bird for me, though I have had less opportunities to watch them. But this promises to change this year. Last Wednesday my husband and I purchased and set out two bluebird houses in our front yard. We purchased a small booklet about planning for bluebirds, and by the time we got home, we had a plan in place for the best place to set up our birdhouses. When we drove into the back yard and got out of our car, the first thing that caught my eye was not one, but two bluebirds in the treetops between our yard and the next. Joy upon joy! I had been watching for them and thought I had seen a brown female at the feeder recently but couldn’t be sure.

We lost no time in getting our birdhouses up realizing that we were already at the tail end of the time bluebirds made their nests. I have been watching one of the birdhouses out my window as I work at my computer hoping to see some action. This Saturday morning – only the third day after setting them up – I watched a flurry of bluebird activity around one of the birdhouses. There are at least two pair of bluebirds checking it out. I am concerned that they may already be fighting over this birdhouse and ignoring the other birdhouse which is not in as suitable of a location. We read that they bluebirds have been known to kill another bluebird that is competing for their nesting site, so tomorrow after church we will be moving the second birdhouse to a more suitable location in our neighbor’s yard. (They have already agreed to this.) I hope we haven’t taken too long to move it, but there was no opportunity to do this today because of prior commitments that kept us out of town.

While watching the bluebirds in the front yard and the goldfinches on the feeders in the backyard I made another discovery. Goldfinches love dandelions. We are not lawn fanatics who get bent out of shape over dandelions in the lawn. We like having both dandelions and clover for the honeybees. But while watching the bluebirds fight over the birdhouse, I discovered a flock of goldfinches on the ground around the dandelions. It first appeared that the dandelions were popping like popcorn until I realized that the things that were popping up and down were goldfinches. I hurried to get my camera, but my movements scared them away and they didn’t come back to the dandelions. Walking around the house with camera in hand I found them on the bird feeder, though I couldn’t get close enough for a really good picture.

Goldfinches at dish feeder

We had to leave for Charleston by noon and didn’t get home ’till after dark. I can’t wait until tomorrow to see them all again. I hope we will get the second birdhouse moved quickly, and then get a few good pictures of both bluebirds and goldfinches.