Birds Archive

Birds update

Posted June 17, 2018 By Ruth

The last picture I took of the Song Sparrow baby:

 

Two days later it was gone.  I didn’t think it was far enough along to fledge, but maybe it did.  Or maybe whatever predator that feasted on its siblings finally got it too.

The last picture I took of the BlueBird babies:

They fledged early by my count.  Either I was off on exactly when they hatched, or only having to feed three babies meant they were able to grow faster.  The parents don’t appear to be setting up for a 2nd clutch, so I’ll probably pull down the Sparrow Spooker this week.

While I was getting annoyed at the House Sparrows for killing the Bluebird babies I missed them attacking a Tree Swallow nest.  That box is in a harder to see location, and I didn’t realize what had happened till I caught a House Sparrow going into the box with nesting materials.  The good news: no dead bodies.  The bad news: several destroyed eggs below the box.  *sigh* I’ll have to decide where I want to setup the trap this time around…..

 

F*@#ing House Sparrows!

Posted June 4, 2018 By Ruth

Not an hour after I finished typing the last post.

Stopped to look out my back window, which faces the Bluebird house.

See the male Bluebird fly out carrying a fecal sac.

See a little brown bird fly into the house.

FUCK

Storm out and head for the Bluebird house and sure enough a female House Sparrow bursts out and away.

Opened the box and took this picture:

 

Storm back to the house, dig out the Sparrow Spooker and my drill and head back out to put it on the box.

The female House Sparrow was in the box again!!

Put up the Spooker, check the babies.  As far as I can tell they’re all breathing, but whether they’ll stay that way…..at least the one is definitely injured.

The Bluebird parents aren’t enthused by the Spooker, but after a few minutes of swooping back and forth they figured out they could still access the opening.

Cross your fingers…..

Garden and general update

Posted June 4, 2018 By Ruth

The garden is FINALLY all planted!

Now to get some straw down for mulch and water retention.

I’m growing several new varieties of things this year.  The one interesting looking one so far is the Japanese Black Trifele Tomato, which is a “potato leaf” variety.  I’d never seen a “potato leaf” tomato before!

I still need to cage up the Black Plum tomatoes.  At the end of last year I tossed all the cages into one aisle of the garden.  This year, as I started working my way around to planting I noticed that I was getting yelled at by a Song Sparrow.  Turns out there was a reason for him or her being pissy:

While the nest is nicely snugged in the wedge between two tires, it’s also in the row with all the cages.  I pulled out what I had to for the less sturdy varieties, but I’m leaving the Black Plums as long as I can, in hopes that the cages will help protect the nest a bit.  Unfortunately the Song Sparrow may be out of luck.  As of yesterday the number of babies had dwindled to 1.  Not sure whats happening to them, but I’m crossing my fingers the last baby will survive!

Speaking of birds, there are wild turkey’s ALL OVER this year.  These two wandered across my front yard the other day, to Apollo’s disgust:

The same day, while I was hurrying to an appointment, I hit a not small bird that lunged out the road side ditch as I passed.  All I saw was a flash of a not small wing over the front passenger corner of the hood, felt the thump of the bumper smacking the bird, and looked in my rear view mirror to see a cloud of feathers in the air, but no bird.  It was raining, and I was late, so I didn’t stop.  When I got where I was going I took a minute to check the front of my car, no dents, can’t a been a turkey then, if I hit a turkey it would have left one hell of a dent…..except there were feathers caught in the corner of the hood, and they sure look like turkey feathers:

At a guess the impact was glancing enough to push the bird sideways instead of into my bumper.  There was no body on the roadside when I checked on my way home, so maybe he or she even survived it!

The Bluebird babies are still there:

Last spring/summer, between being sick for a month, plus the broken arm, plus life, I never got the strawberry tire weeded.  Hell, we ate like two strawberries out of it.  So this last week I set out to get the weeds out of the tire.  Unfortunately the neglect may have done in the strawberries.  After pulling all the weeds there was barely any strawberry plants at all!  After some back and forth I spent a couple hours today digging up the remaining strawberry plants, as well as the flowers that were also planted in that tire, and planting them elsewhere in the yard.  The tire needs a refill of dirt/compost, and then I’m going to cover it with black plastic and burn out the weeds.  I’ll plant new strawberries next year.

I also did a half-assed weeding of the hosta bed:

They’re filling in nicely, can’t wait till they fill in enough to cut down on my weeding!

Anyone know what these big ferny things are:

They’re trying to take over that corner, not sure if I like that or not……

 

 

Bluebirds!

Posted May 30, 2018 By Ruth

If you remember, last year I decided I’d had enough of the House Sparrows killing the Bluebirds and Bluebird eggs.  We trapped House Sparrows all summer and through the fall till it started snowing.  When the weather started turning nice in the spring we got back out the trap and caught a few more.

It seems to have worked.

 

I think they actually hatched a couple days ago, but yesterday was the first chance I  had to actually check the nest.

They’re not out of the woods yet, my first experience with House Sparrows killing Bluebirds was in 2013 when they killed not only the several day old hatchlings, but also momma Bluebird.  But so far we’ve seen essentially no harassment by the House Sparrows.  They’re definitely around, but they aren’t competing for the nesting box.

In another month or so I’ll start trapping again, should be just about right to catch the first crop of this year’s House Sparrow babies as they venture out on their own.

Along the same lines, a few years ago we put up a Purple Martin box in an attempt to lure them into nesting in the yard as well, I’d love to see a reduction in flying insects.  Unfortunately the House Sparrows claimed it and drove away the Martins every time they showed up to check the box.  The trapping has also fixed that House Sparrow problem.  Only for us to discover another problem…….Starlings.  The Martin house we got has the half circle openings which are supposed to be Starling resistant.  And certainly up until this year I’d seen no sign of Starlings being able to go through them, though I’d seen Starlings checking it out on occasion.  But this spring, with no House Sparrows to guard the house, the Starlings descended.  And proved that those half circle openings are indeed not Starling PROOF.  I attempted to get video showing the Starlings going in and out with nesting materials, but wasn’t able to get close enough.  So we reblocked the holes with paper cups.  So the Starlings pulled the paper cups out.  So we duck taped the cups in place.  So the Starlings pulled the tape lose.  *sigh* Currently the cups are taped in place with multiple pieces of tape.  I’m hoping that in another couple weeks, when I usually start seeing Martins around, I can safely open the house back up without the Starlings trying again……

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……