Friday, May 23, 2008

Empty nest

I thought I would write about butterflies next, but there is a robin update. The baby robins have grown up and gone off to college. We didn't see them fledge, but after examining the nest and the area around it I'm pretty confident that they made it out on their own without mishap. The nest is intact and undisturbed.

This nest is a work of real beauty. I'm amazed at the carefully molded mud layer pressed against the grass outer layer. It's hard to photograph even now that I'm free to get up close, because it's so well hidden.

It's best to leave it undisturbed. I've read that birds may come back and reuse it for the 2nd brood of the season, building a new layer on top of the old nest first. I've never seen this myself.

Other birds have been carrying nesting material around the yard, so we know there's a lot going on in the nearby bushes and trees, mostly out of sight.

Mr. Lonelyhearts, the little house wren, is still trying to get a date. He's been singing and putting twigs into the birdhouses, but we still don't see a mate.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nesting update


Baby robins! We see three tiny beaks in our robin's nest. One looks bigger than the others, but this may be because of its position in the nest. Other (fuzzier) pictures show them all about the same size.

All day the parent robins gather worms and bugs from our back yard and ferry them to the nest. The lawn and especially the flower beds seem to offer a birdie buffet. When they're not feeding the nestlings, the parents are often standing guard in a nearby tree or on the fence. They chase away blue jays who wander into the area. The jays may only be after the peanuts at the feeder, but our robins are taking no chances, since jays are known to eat eggs or prey on nestlings.

We're watching our little house wren with some puzzlement. Will he ever get a date? He's put some sticks into all 3 of our birdhouses, and last weekend we saw him fly to each house in turn, perch on the top, and sing. ("Oh, what a beeea-u-tiful nest; I made it just for you-ooo...") But we haven't seen a mate. Last year we had wrens nesting in 2 our of birdhouses, and we saw the pairs together. But we're not sure whether we have a pair, or a lonely bachelor.

This house shows the largest nest of the 3, and so we think they'll nest here, if they nest in our yard at all. The nest is bigger than it was last week, but we're still not sure what they're up to. House wren nests are practically all twigs -- and if you ask me, they could use a few lessons in interior decorating. But the mama wrens seem to like it, and I guess that's what counts.


I have no idea where these little guys are nesting, but we think it must be nearby. I enjoyed watching this chickadee pulling fibers out of my planter--he worked at it for several minutes, and then flew off with a beakful of them. Later, I watched as the pair pulled little vine bits off the brush pile. Chickadees are cavity nesters, so they'll excavate a hole in a tree, or nest in a birdhouse. (Pick ours! Pick ours!)

Visitors of note this weekend included a grey catbird and -- to my utter astonishment -- a cedar waxwing. Butterflies have started appearing too -- and they will be the focus of my next post.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A bird bonanza

Our back yard is full of birds! I am too tired to write much, and besides, the pictures are the most fun. So here is a photo album of visitors to our back yard. Please excuse the awkward placement & uneven sizing.

Female (L) and male (R) Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks. The photo of the female was taken a couple of weeks ago, but they are abundant in the yard.

This weekend we saw 3 Baltimore Orioles (L) and one vibrant Indigo Bunting (R).

Although others in our area have reported seeing Indigo Buntings, we were still a little surprised to see them this early. They usually begin visiting our yard in late May or early June. I love them just for their color. Buntings belong to the finch family and visit the thistle feeders along with Goldfinches.

Of all our back yard birds, I think I love woodpeckers the most. We had downy and hairy woodpeckers over the weekend. After this female Hairy Woodpecker (L) had eaten, she packed her beak with suet and flew away with it. Babies?

The most exciting visitor we saw
recently was the red-headed woodpecker.
It's been a long time since I was able to admire the rich colors of this bird in person. Male and female look alike, so we're not sure which this is. This bird, too, was taking suet away.

By the way, woodpeckers like both plain and flavored suet. But the kind with lots of seeds in it is less useful -- they pick the suet out and leave the seeds. We use plain in one feeder and "Peanut Butter and Jelly," which has peanuts and berries in it, in the other.

That's the back yard bird news. Next time, I'll give a nesting update.