Birds Archive

MY garden!

Posted June 25, 2017 By Ruth

I have Tree Swallows nesting in the nest box closest to the garden.  I had to move that box a bit further from the garden a few years ago, when the nesting pair got fussy about me being in the garden while there were chicks in the nest, but haven’t had any issues since.  Well, not seriously, they get fussy about me working the row closest to the nest when there are chicks in the nest, but that’s manageable……

Till this year.

As I was planting those pepper plants last week (Wednesday) the Swallows started fussing when I walked the row closest to them.  I figured the babies were hatching, tis the season.

Friday I had a few minutes and headed out to do a little weeding…..and got driven out of my garden by dive bombing Swallows before I’d gotten the furthest row done!

Dammit, its MY garden!  I was here first!

I like Tree Swallows, they eat mosquitos, and deer flies, and the like.  But they don’t get to claim my garden either.  Once this set of babies leaves the nest I’m going to have to move the box again……..

Birds

Posted May 25, 2017 By Ruth

There were no babies from the pink Bluebird eggs.  The House Sparrow struck barely a day before they’d hatch.  There is another male Bluebird (not the same one I think) scouting the nest box yesterday, so maybe we’ll still get lucky this year.  I’m not holding my breath though.  My local House Sparrows aren’t deterred by the normal methods used to keep them away from the Bluebirds.

I’ve decided its time to do some religious trapping of the sparrows.  Before someone freaks out, House Sparrows aren’t a native USA bird, they are infact an English native (and if it was legal I’d happily box them all up and ship them back), and they’re highly destructive to natives, as I’ve had to learn the hard way.  Trapping and killing (or even shooting and killing) is legal as long as local laws on the subject are followed and the killing is done in a humane fashion.  I’ve done casual trapping before, as well as had some luck with the pellet gun, but they were one bird at a time methods.  This time I’ve ordered a repeating sparrow trap, which is capable of holding a large number of birds.  We didn’t need to spend the money, the trap isn’t cheap, but my husband isn’t arguing with me, he’s as frustrated with the House Sparrows as I am.  I’d happily leave them alone if they’d leave my local natives alone, but they aren’t.

In more amusing news, this is the location of one local Robins nest this year:

That is the top of our solar panel meter and shut off.  In an emergency that nest will likely be destroyed as the firemen shut down our solar panels.  In addition the nest is between our garage door and the front house door.  And my dogs are absolutely willing to munch on baby bird if given a chance.  As a result we’ve tried hard to keep the Robins from nesting there.  The first summer I hung shiny spinny ribbons above it (you can see the remains in the picture).  The 2nd summer the Robins wove the ribbons into their nest (I didn’t get a picture, I should have).  The 3rd summer we stacked odd shaped irregular items on top of it.  They nested on top of the irregular shapes.  Then I hit on the bird spikes, you can get a 10ft pack from Amazon for not to much.  They worked for two years, it was awesome.  Then, in the mess that has been this spring, I left for work one morning and spotted the above image, and of course had to snap a picture.  The nest is built up enough none of the spikes poke through.  It was probably there for a day or two at least before I spotted it, it generally takes them a day or two to build it.  I feel like it needs one of those motivational captions about overcoming your environment.  I guess I need to come up with a new solution for next year……

Pink Bluebird eggs

Posted April 27, 2017 By Ruth

I was so relieved when the Bluebird pair survived our 3ft snowstorm.  And I was delighted when they started building a nest in one of the boxes.

Then the Tree Swallows arrived, and they tried to claim that nest box, but the Bluebirds persisted, and claimed it as theirs.  For over a week I saw only the Bluebirds around that box.

Then I checked it and found this:

Dammit, when did the Tree Swallows sneak into the nest!

And Monday:

I was beyond disappointed.  Tree Swallows are cool, but I want Bluebirds!

But then Wednesday, when I stepped out of the back door to open up my little greenhouse for the day, a Bluebird flew out of the box!  I checked, and sure enough, still 5 little pink eggs!  Is the Bluebird sitting on the Tree Swallow eggs?!  WTF!?!

Beyond baffled I emailed the story and pictures to a couple folks who know way more about Tree Swallows and Bluebirds than I do.  The response: Its still WAY too early for Tree Swallows to be laying eggs at my latitude, and despite the color those eggs are shaped like Bluebird eggs!  I was vaguely aware that sometimes Bluebirds will lay eggs so pale as to look white, but not that they can be so pale as to look pink!  But it is a known phenomenon!

I’ll be looking to add powdered calcium to the live mealworms I feed, and I’ve contacted the local Bluebird society to see if there’s anyone who’s interested in banding the female for study.

The things you learn!

Owl

Posted March 17, 2017 By Ruth

I keep forgetting to post this.  The last time I checked the trail cameras we’d had an unexpected visitor (note, this particular camera keeps resetting itself.  Not sure why, so date/time are incorrect, all photos taken within the last month).

There’s video too, but I’m too lazy to upload that at the moment.  But that folks is a Barred Owl!  We’d been hearing them fairly regularly, but never ever expected to see one on camera!

And it puts me in a bit of a dilemma.

I’ve been wanting, for a while, to put up a Screech Owl nesting box, with the understanding that its the same size as what Kestrels want and either was fine.  We know there’re Screech Owls in the area, their whinny like call is very distinctive, and I’ve seen Kestrels within a couple mile radius.

But the tree where we planned to put that box is just out of the frame on those pictures.

And we now know for sure that the Barred Owls are hunting there.

And it is possible to build a Barred Owl box.

And with a Barred Owl box we wouldn’t have to worry so much about the squirrels maybe taking over the box as the Barred Owls eat squirrels.

Choices choices…..

I can breathe again!

Posted February 23, 2017 By Ruth

Donno if its just the extra few days, or if the steroids and inhaler did the trick, but I can breathe, and although I’m still coughing I don’t feel like I’m hacking up my lungs anymore either.  Woot!

I finally managed to plan out my garden for the coming summer, and now desperately need to get seeds started.  And heck, ordered, as I never even finished that.

Empty holes are so I have fiddle room.  Once everything else is planted they’ll be filled with sunflowers and lettuce.

Gotta do taxes, now that I can think again.

Gotta finish this woodworking project.

Heading back into work today, for the first time in over a week, they ought to be thrilled.

Its been absolutely lovely here the last few days, I spent some time just enjoying the sun.  Even saw Bluebirds yesterday!

Baby House Wren

Posted July 18, 2016 By Ruth

I think I mentioned before that there was a crazy House Wren building a nest inside the (functional) well pump head.  Thankfully we don’t NEED that pump, but we try to keep it functional as a backup water source, and to get water from for watering needs around the yard to help cut the water bill.  So I wasn’t thrilled to see the Wren building his nest in it.  But until he’s done with the nest there wasn’t much to be done.

There is at least one baby in the nest:

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And the parents are busting their butts to keep it fed:

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Not looking forward to cleaning that one out……

Baby birds! And updates

Posted June 11, 2016 By Ruth

We’ve been watching a pair of Song Sparrows flit around the area by our back deck all spring.  This week, on several occasions I noticed that they appeared to be carrying something in their beaks as they did so, and NOT nesting materials.

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So yesterday, since I had some time, I started the search for the nest.  Partially out of curiosity, but also so I’d know where to avoid with the dogs once the babies were fledging.  I found it:

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It’s hard to tell in that picture, but there’s four babies in that nest.  And it’s about two long steps from our back porch stairs.  Talk about a bad spot for fledglings!  At least it’s in a flower patch we’re not going to mow over…..

Yesterday I finished running the soaker hose throughout the garden.  150ft total.  Two hookups though, one with a 50ft hose and one with the remaining 100.  Both worked perfectly.  Now I shouldn’t have to fiddle with it till either fall or if I can find enough cheap fittings to change out the hose over the pathways.  There’s something addictive about this “being prepared” thing though.  Four 55 gallon barrels should water my garden for a couple weeks no problem, and this area is very unlikely to go without rain for any longer than that.  But I’m finding myself looking at the two unmodified downspouts and debating the addition of more barrels.  Heck, I could add a 3rd barrel to each of the current downspouts no problem!

The Black Icicle tomatoes are now several inches over the top of their tomato cages.  I guess I’m going to have to rig a 2nd layer of some kind.  The Black Plums usually end up over the tops of their cages, but not till closer to August, and then not by more than a foot or so, so I can weave a stake into the cage and tie them to that.  I don’t think that’s going to work for the Icicles!

I hilled the shortest of the potato plants, but most of them were tall enough by yesterday that I didn’t see the point.  I’ll pick up some straw this week and just do a layer of that next.

There’s several very awkwards spots right around the house that are a pain to mow, but for various reasons aren’t prime spots for plantings either.  One of them is in the corner between the bedroom and the living room addition.  Its on the south-east side, so it gets sun till about noon, but up until we put on the gutters it was excessively wet as well.  Now with the gutters on the house it’s just wet.  Former owners had an azalea in the sunniest spot of the corner (the outside edge), and a happy hosta in the middle of it, but that left a 4 or 5 foot wide stretch right in the corner with nothing but weeds.  The azalea wasn’t thrilled either, so last fall I pulled it out and replaced it with a hibiscus.  As for the rest, I have, at various times, tried planting a few different things there with no success.  Nothing thrived.  Even the daylilies had to be transplanted out after half of them disappeared.  Now, with the gutters on the house I started looking closer at the hosta that was there.  I’m not a huge hosta fan.  But if the one is thriving……started looking closer at the hostas for sale at work, and this week came home with 8 pots of 4 different varieties (two pots of each) and planted them around that area.  Cross fingers for me!

 

Garden

Posted June 1, 2016 By Ruth

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Buena Mulata Pepper plant, and flower.  Pretty little thing!

 

Arty of course was delighted to help me in the garden:

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He was only interested in the potato bed too, and not for digging either, he just wanted to stand in it.  Go figure….

And there’s a House Wren building a nest inside the pump head for the old manual water well pump.  I know we don’t  use it much, but we DO try to keep it functional……thats going to be a fun one to clean out!

General updates

Posted May 30, 2016 By Ruth

My rain barrel system that I was putting together when I caught myself with the drill bit is up and running.  Course, it helps when you remember to close the drain taps before you try to fill them.  But I’ve got one barrel full, and two more half full, so I’ll take it.

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Now to set up the soaker watering system so I can use that water!  BTW, that scratch is well healed now, just a shiny scar down my arm.  Though you can still see the marks from the bandaids too.

Good god Robins are stupid birds…..ever since we put in solar power the Robins have been determined to nest on top of the switch box for the panels.  Several home made deterrents failed and we resorted to bird spikes to keep them off the box.  It was a bad place for several reasons, including that in the event of a fire we would need access that box in a hurry.  Plus it was easily accessed by a pair of dogs.  A week or two ago a Robin tried to build a nest on top of a tiny light fixture on the side of the garage, equally accessible to the dogs, though at least a few more feet higher in the air.  I went to go dig out the spare bird spikes, but by the time I got back I discovered that the nest had fallen off the light!  Over the next 4 days the scene was repeated, Robin would build a nest, and an hour later it’d fall off the light.  The bird finally gave up.  Yesterday I found where it had moved too.

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Those boards are the remains of the A-frame I used to cover the broccoli over the winter.  The nest is nose height on Apollo, along a path we walk along several times a day with the dogs.  Its under the edge of the pool, which is only about 4feet high, which is why we’d not noticed it till I happened to look in the right direction while gardening.

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To late to try to convince the bird to nest elsewhere, we’ll just have to watch out for the nestlings I guess.

The weather has been an almost literal killer lately.  We’re pushing record breaking heat, temps in the upper 80’s to even low 90’s, and harsh sunny.  Very little rain, what there is has been only in scattered showers, or thunderstorms.  So I’ve been watering the garden daily.  Course, then there’s me, working in the garden dept of said big box store, during the Memorial day sale madness.  Normally SPF 55 is all I need, but when its this hot even reapplying it twice throughout the day isn’t enough.  I came home from work Saturday decidedly pink.  On top of almost collapsing from the heat despite drinking water constantly.  I spent my last two hours on Saturday inside the building doing non-difficult tasks after that.  Yesterday I picked up some of the sun screen that is supposedly sweat proof, and while I was at it made I picked one that was 70 SPF.  Gotta find a hat I can stand to wear at work that’s legal for the dress code too.  They’re predicting a hotter than average summer, so I’m going to need it.

Yesterday (Sunday) started out equally hot and nasty, but mid-afternoon a string of storms rolled by and we even got some rain, cooling things off enough to make it possible to work outside.  I got the 2nd level of the potato bed on and the potatoes mostly hilled:

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Here’s a shot of the entire garden from a few days ago:

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Summer bird feeders

Posted May 5, 2016 By Ruth

I was chatting with a coworker at work about bird feeders, several weeks ago, and she commented that it was about time to pull them in for the summer.  She couldn’t decide if she was horrified that I left feeders out all summer, or horrified at the birds she was missing out on….

This week we had our first of the year Baltimore Oriole

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And our first of the year Rose Breasted Grosbeak

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And infact, before I left for work this morning there were three male Grosbeaks at the feeder, and I just missed a photo of a male Ruby Throated Hummingbird at the hummer feeder!

I do cut back on how much seed I put out.  In the winter I do a Black Oil Sunflower seed feeder (holds about 5lbs of seed), a mixed seed feeder (home made mix, again about 5 lbs of seeds), a nijer feeder and a suet feeder (real suet, not the store bought bird suet blocks).  In the summer I cut back to just the sunflower seeds, and keep the nijer feeder only till birds stop emptying it (though one year I had a Downy Woodpecker who claimed the thing), plus at least two hummer feeders, and I load the suet cage with orange halves (as pictured above).

Speaking of Downy Woodpeckers, not only have I had them claim the nijer feeder, but they’ll eat fruit (like the Oriole’s oranges), AND drink from the hummingbird feeders!

(oh, and yes I took the photo of the Grosbeak into work today on my cellphone to show off to my co-worker!)