Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fresh Faces and the Evil Eye

With the end of April here, there are twenty-three bluebird chicks being fed and nourished by doting parents. Within the next week, ten of them probably will be out in the world learning the ways of chasing their own food. In addition there are forty-four eggs being incubated so the bluebird season is well on its way.

We have nests in seventeen of the thirty-three boxes. This is a slight increase over the number of nests last year at this time. Also, there are chickadee and titmouse nests in three of the boxes but we don’t include those in our data.

Unfortunately there is evidence of predators in the bluebird nests as some of the eggs have disappeared. The nests themselves don’t seem to be disturbed and we don’t find the eggs on the ground near the boxes so perhaps snakes are invading and eating them. Also, we are seeing the stick nests of house wrens in one box. The wren is persistent and we do remove them because, at this point, they are only the beginnings of nests and no eggs have been laid. If there are eggs or chicks in those nests, it is not lawful to remove them.

House sparrows have chosen one particular box for their use. They are a threat to the bluebird population so their nests are being removed also. House sparrows are not native birds and, therefore, not protected by law. They are messy birds and use lots of trash in their constructions. We’ve found materials such as cellophane, cigarette butts, and goose feathers. Like the house wrens, they will destroy bluebird eggs as well as chicks and sometimes prevent bluebird parents from entering the box.

As we peek into the nests, we are finding that the mother bird sometimes refuses to leave the box. We knock on the side of the box to make the bird fly out and when we open the panel to peek in, the bird is in there and just gives us the evil eye. When mama is glowering at us and refusing to budge, then we just tell her we’ll wait until next week to see what she’s hiding. Maybe her mood will be better then.

That’s the status of things along the bluebird trail here at the garden the last week of April.

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