Friday, April 29, 2011

Whoooo's Using Box #18?

The bluebird season is well on its way with numerous chicks ready to fly, if they haven't already by now. A few of the nestboxes have been claimed by chickadees, titmice and, in one box, a tree swallow claimed the same one it used last year. When we peeked in the box, a Canada goose feather wafted out and the swallow chased it down and returned it to its proper place. It didn't like our disturbing the decorating scheme.

One box, in particular, has been a big disappointment this year. We are in the fourth year of the monitoring project, and Box #18 has been the most successful in producing little blues. We believe its location near open areas and a few lampposts for perching places contribute to its success. However early in the season, we found feathers (perhaps a mourning dove) at the base of the support pole. There has been no bluebird activity nearby at all. No blues watching us or singing their lilting calls from the trees. Recently, we found owl pellets around the pole so we're sure the box is doomed and an owl is using it as a hunting base. We're going to relocate that box and hope the bluebirds will take an interest again.

This is the first year that we've had nests with six eggs in them and, in fact, there are two boxes with half-dozens in there. If they all hatch, those parents are going to be very busy catching meals for hungry chicks.

Also this year, we've noted a pair of wood ducks hanging around the duck box on the larger of the two ponds. Although bluebirds are our main responsibility, we do keep a watchful eye for all the birds and always have our binoculars in ready-mode. Seeing the wood ducks near the nestbox was exciting and we hope they have decided to use it. At this point we haven't checked the box for fear of spooking the ducks.

As in past years, some nests have been disturbed and the eggs disappeared. In one case, it was a house wren. Those birds are notorious for destroying bluebird nests and tossing the eggs out of the box. Then they go in and build their stick nests on top of the bluebirds' nests and take over. We also believe that snakes have gotten into at least one box. However, it's all part of nature and we keep that in mind.

So at this point, the season already has had a few surprises and we're always interested in whatever we find when we ride the trail. There's still lots of activity to come.

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