Once again it’s time for the weekly Bluebird Update. All nests are progressing as they should, or rather as I hope they would, except one curious development with the nest in the infamous Sail Boat Pond nest box (we’ll get to that later).
The “Cow Pasture” bluebirds have hatched. It’s difficult to see but it appears that only four eggs out of the original five have hatched. I can see only four beaks in the photo below but it’s possible one bird is buried beneath the pile.
Last week I reported that the chickadees in the nest box at the Bungee Jump had hatched. They are doing well and are starting to look a bit more like birds, sort of.
I typically check the nest boxes in a specific order, start at the farthest nest (Cow Pasture) and work my way back to the Butterfly House nest. The next box on the list from the Bungee Jump is the nest behind the Sail Boat Pond. But here we have to pause, take a brief detour before opening that box. We have to go back a few days, to last Saturday.
As I walked past the nest box on Saturday afternoon (4/27) I noticed a chickadee on the box cautiously peering into the entrance hole. Another chickadee was in the tree above the nest box calling to its mate. It was an, “I’m irritated” kind of call, a “something’s wrong here,” message being broadcast to whoever was listening.
I could also hear a House Wren calling from the dense brush nearby. Perhaps the wren had started a nest inside this box, which was originally constructed by the chickadees. Maybe this is what the chickadees were so upset about. I didn’t know, of course, if that was the case, but it was a reasonable assumption considering the House Wren’s reputation for doing such things. The series of photos that follows helps illustrate the story.
As the birds perched on the box they were very cautious in their movements, not the typical quick frenetic behavior of chickadees. They were being extremely cautious.
Thirty some photos later I left the scene satisfied that the birds’ nest had been renovated by the wren calling from the brush and that they, the chickadees, were trying to decide what to do about it. The birds, both chickadees and wren, were still there when I left. I would check on the box in a few days anyway, perhaps the wren would have settled in by then, they usually win these nest site battles.
It’s now Tuesday again and I am approaching the nest box. I open the box and look inside. Before me is the chickadee’s nest as it was the week before, a moss-bottomed nest with animal fur on top. The nest was undisturbed, in perfect order. The chickadees had apparently worked something out with the wren.
I poked around to see if there were any eggs just under the fur and moss. No eggs, but the nest was now vibrating, and I could hear a buzzing sound. Something was emerging from deep within the nest!
It was then that I remembered the bumble bee that had, I thought, used the nest box to get in out of the cold last week. The bee obviously intended to stay, it was going to nest within the nest box. Most bumble bees nest on or under the ground in an old rodent’s nest or other suitable structure, but this one had found a nice comfortable bird’s nest to settle into.
The birds had been held at bay by the bee, it was the bee that had the chickadees behaving in such an odd way on Saturday.
Thinking back, I regret what I did next. I removed the entire nest in hopes that the bee would leave and the birds would start over with a new nest. I should have let the bee have its way. It would have been just as interesting to watch the progress of the bees as they built up their colony into a working industry. An opportunity lost. I won’t do that again!
Last week, the nest in the Amphimeadow held three large bluebird nestlings. On Tuesday they were all gone, flew the coop, the first of this year’s bluebirds to do so.
The nest box over near the Picnic Dome still has six chickadee eggs. They should all hatch by next week.
The Butterfly House nest originally contained five eggs. During last week’s inspection four had hatched and I had hoped that the fifth would follow. It doesn’t seem as though the last egg hatched.
Finally, we have two empty nests, one emptied by this observer, one emptied by the birds themsleves, by fledging. Two nests hold a total of nine bluebird nestlings, five in one and four in the other. The remaining two nests are occupied by chickadees with 5 nestlings in one and six eggs in the other.
Except for a few egg failures, all seems to be doing well. There has been no predation, no hypothermia, and no abandoned nests. Besides the “bee” incident, where no harm was done to either party other than several day’s labor rebuilding the nest, all occupants seem to be making due, and even flourishing.
So, until next week….
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!