Firecracker babies

As the pressure of population increasingly regiments us and crowds us closer together, an association with the wild, winged freedom of the birds will fill an ever growing need in our lives.
– Edwin Way Teale, introduction to Songbirds in Your Garden, 1953

 

IMG_7418 copyWe took a short trip to Prosper, TX,  for the Fourth of July weekend.  I expected the eggs to hatch around 07 July.  But when I checked the box after arriving home on the Fourth, I found two newly hatched chicks and one  little blue egg.   I checked a few minutes later and the remaining chick had hatched and Mama had eaten the eggshell.  Female bluebirds eat the eggshells to replenish depleted calcium levels in their bodies.

Recently a raccoon has been raiding the yard at night, tearing up bird feeders and opening the birdseed storage barrel.  Not one to underestimate the persistence and ingenuity of a raccoon, I worried that when the eggs hatched the chicks would be a midnight snack for this 27387253134_f238d910cf_omarauder.  A little peanut butter in a live trap and Rocky was soon in raccoon jail.  He was not a happy camper, tried to bite and urinate on his jailer.  Terms of his release were that he move to a neighborhood with no human neighbors.  Up until his release, Rocky claimed he was ‘entrapped’.  Some FeBreze was required post release. The things I do for these bluebirds!

It’s hot now and heat is a killer of bluebird eggs and babies.  I have the box located so that by early afternoon it is in the shade of a live oak tree.  The Sparrow Spooker is attached and we are ready to rear these babies.  Most of the time our babies fledge on the 17th day.  That means these should hop out into the big wide world on 21 July.  Hopefully this will happen with no drama.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 67.

Third Brood 2016

  • First sign of nest building                                                15 June
  • Three eggs                                                                             21 June
  • Three eggs hatch                                                                 04 July
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Third brood fledges

14184262194_18c3f1a320_oHappy to report our third brood of the season has successfully fledged!  The third brood is always the most difficult.  Fatigue on the parent birds and the hottest part of summer always make this one risky.  One little bird stayed in the box longer than the others, but finally jumped out.  Like always the parents take them down to the creek and perch them high up in some mature pecan trees.

The bluebirds won’t need much help until next spring when this millions of years-old bluebird saga repeats itself.  Guess we can take a vacation for the rest of the summer.  I hear the San Juans of southwestern Colorado calling.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 86.

Third brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               21 June
  • Nest completed                                                                 26 June
  • First egg laid                                                                      28 June
  • Second egg laid                                                                  29 June
  • Third egg laid                                                                     30 June
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   01 July
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       02 July
  • Incubation begins                                                              03 July
  • Four eggs hatch                                                                  15 July
  • Fifth egg hatches                                                                16 July
  • All chicks fledge                                                                  02 Aug
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Third brood hatches- almost

bluebirds copy   Yesterday afternoon was full of surprises.  First the resident roadrunner on the reddirt hill paid a visit to the back yard.  Came up on to the patio and then jumped up on the blue birdbath for a drink.  This is too near the nestbox for comfort.  This same bird killed my male bluebird about this time last summer.  So I walked outside and encouraged him to move on.  As I stood outside I heard the distant sound of thunder and looked north.  The sky was a dark blue with some ominous clouds that were quickly approaching.  A thunderstorm in parched July is always a pleasant surprise in Oklahoma.
   I decided to check the nestbox before the rain hit and was surprised again by three hatched chicks and one still inside a shell that it had cut in half with its egg tooth.  The rain and wind hit and I decided it would be fun to sit out on the patio and enjoy the sights and smell of a summer thunderstorm.  But sideways rain forced me to retreat to the house.  Mama went inside the box and stayed.  Daddy and a couple of juvies from the last brood huddled in a Chaste tree.  When the rain subsided another egg had hatched.
   This morning one egg remains.  It’s not unusual for eggs to hatch over a day or two.  Any longer than that and I will remove the unhatched egg.  It could break, making a mess that could attract insects like ants or blowflies.  These could injure or kill the helpless young blind chicks.
   Most of the time our bluebirds fledge on the seventeenth day, so these should take flight about August 01.  Looking forward to another successful fledging.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 81.

Third brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               21 June
  • Nest completed                                                                 26 June
  • First egg laid                                                                      28 June
  • Second egg laid                                                                  29 June
  • Third egg laid                                                                     30 June
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   01 July
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       02 July
  • Incubation begins                                                              03 July
  • Four eggs hatch                                                                  15 July
  • Fifth egg hatches                                                                16 July
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Third brood underway

Mama has built a nest and started laying her third clutch of eggs this season.  The first two successfully fledged.  Just one week after her second brood took flight, Mama III began constructing her third nest.  The juvie fledglings are following Daddy III into the yard for mealworms.   I’m surprised how aggressive they are toward sparrows and starlings.  If one comes into the yard, it gets mobbed by the entire family.  The Sparrow Spooker is back on the box and we are ready for round three!

I often get asked about attracting bluebirds to a yard, especially with mealworms.  Generally this doesn’t work.  Bluebirds pick a habitat that has grassy open areas for bugging and a wooded edge or area nearby.  They seldom eat birdseed, insects make up about 68 percent of their diet.  Once a pair is nesting on your property, mealworms will bond them to the site and to you.  My bluebirds recognize me from other people, wingwave and talk to me in the mornings.

However,  in winter much of their diet is berries and there are some plantings that can encourage bluebirds to stay around in areas like Oklahoma where they don’t migrate.  Your best bets are Flowering dogwood, holly, and American elderberry.  They will eat the berries off pokeweed in warm weather.  Occasionally I will have one come up in a flower bed and I let it grow.  Pokeweed and volunteer Tropical milkweed always get a pass in my beds.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 81.

Third brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               21 June
  • Nest completed                                                                 26 June
  • First egg laid                                                                      28 June
  • Second egg laid                                                                  29 June
  • Third egg laid                                                                     30 June
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   01 July
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       02 July
  • Incubation begins                                                              03 July
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Another brood fledges

bluebirds 008It’s always gratifying to launch another brood of bluebirds on to the red dirt hill behind the house.  This second brood of the season brings the number of chicks fledged from our box to 81!  We have a lot of bluebirds in and around our neighborhood and I suspect many are descendants from our original pair.  We are currently on our third male and female.

Our current bluebirds are young and healthy and I suspect they will attempt a third brood.  Heat gets to be a problem for the eggs and chicks this time of year.  It also stresses the adults who have to work hard to feed and protect their chicks.  I’ve taken down the Sparrow Spooker and hosed out the nestbox.  It’s ready if the birds want to nest again.

The adults get really worn looking in summer.  Few people have held birds in their 7441749366_447746016e_chands or spend time really close to them.  Bluebirds don’t look particularly small, but an adult weighs only about 1 ounce.  That’s not much body mass to store fat for energy and surviving the cold in winter, but the bluebirds persist, making the world a more beautiful place.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 81.

Visit my new flickr group Wild Oklahoma

https://www.flickr.com/groups/3604976@N23/

 

 

Second brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               07 May
  • Nest completed                                                                 10 May
  • First egg laid                                                                      11 May
  • Second egg laid                                                                  12 May
  • Third egg laid                                                                     13 May
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   14 May
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       15 May
  • Sixth egg laid                                                                      16 May
  • Incubation begins                                                              17 May
  • Three eggs hatch                                                                29 May
  • Fourth egg hatches                                                            30 May
  • Fifth egg hatches                                                                31 May
  • Six egg removed                                                                 02 June
  • Five chicks fledge                                                               14 June

 

 

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Second brood hatching early

 Birds are the most vivid expression of life
– epitaph Roger Tory Peterson chose for his tombstone.

bb hatchingI guesstimated that our second brood would hatch 01 June, but they are hatching earlier.  I wasn’t home when Mama completed this clutch, so she may have done something a little different while we were gone.

I walked out on the patio with my coffee this morning and saw Daddy come in to his perch with the tiniest of bugs.  That could only mean one thing.  I opened the box to find two just hatched chicks with one half of an eggshell still in the nest.  Baby bluebirds have an egg tooth on their upper beak that they use to go all the way around the middle of their egg. It always pops open into two exact halves.  Then the female eats them to replenish her calcium depleted body.  By evening a third chick had hatched and three eggs remained.

Every time I open the box to the sight and sounds of a new brood of bluebirds, it’s like bluebirds 006Christmas morning. Bluebirds are truly one of God’s precious gifts to the world.  It’s good to get lost in scenes like this occasionally.  For a moment we realize that there are important things going on outside our pampered human lives. Perhaps far more important.

After nine years of hosting, my days and my neighborhood are filled with bluebirds.  Something that makes both of us better, I think.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 76.

Second brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               07 May
  • Nest completed                                                                 10 May
  • First egg laid                                                                      11 May
  • Second egg laid                                                                  12 May
  • Third egg laid                                                                     13 May
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   14 May
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       15 May
  • Sixth egg laid                                                                      16 May
  • Incubation begins                                                              17 May
  • Three eggs hatch                                                                29 May
  • Fourth egg hatches                                                            30 May
  • Fifth egg hatches                                                                31 May
  • Six egg removed                                                                 02 June
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Second Clutch Complete

Be like the bluebird who never is blue,
For he knows from his upbringing what singing can do
– Cole Porter, Be Like the Bluebird, 1934

bluebird eggsWe took a short trip to Taos this past week.  Left with three eggs in Mama’s second clutch of the year and returned with six perfect little blue eggs in the box.  We’ve had rainy, cool mornings and Mama is in the box incubating as I type.  Typically bluebird eggs hatch in 12-14 days.  I usually just count on 13.  If she laid an egg every day, she would have laid her sixth egg on 16 May, and likely would have begun incubating the following day.  So the eggs should hatch about 01 June.

I’ve often talked about the need and methodologies of deterring marauding House taos pueblo 007Sparrows, but have not discussed wrens.  Wrens can also claim nestboxes and puncture bluebird eggs and remove nesting material.  While HOSP’s are undesirable birds, wrens are not and are protected by federal law.  Still there are things we can do to deter them from building in a bluebird box.

Daddy sitting on the Sparrow Spooker.

Some tips:  Put nestboxes at least 50 and preferably 200-300 feet away from brushy and wooded areas, especially away from areas wrens have used in the past.  Try a wren guard during egg laying.  Avoid slot boxes and gourds, and don’t crowd multiple boxes close together.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 76.

Second brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               07 May
  • Nest completed                                                                 10 May
  • First egg laid                                                                      11 May
  • Second egg laid                                                                  12 May
  • Third egg laid                                                                     13 May
  • Fourth egg laid                                                                   14 May
  • Fifth egg laid                                                                       15 May
  • Sixth egg laid                                                                      16 May
  • Incubation begins                                                              17 May

 

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We have a little blue egg …

Bluebirds are living, breathing gifts from God and if we are to offer housing to them, we must be prepared to offer the safest situation we can.   – Ninapearl, 2005

bluebird eggMama III has been a busy little bluebird!  Her first of season brood was only out of the box two weeks when she built a nest in three days and laid an egg on the fourth.  The first juvie from the first brood visited the yard with Daddy a couple of days ago.  This morning five came in with the adults.  Good to see at least five of six have survived a critical part of their life cycle.  By the time a bluebird is a month old, it is pretty much self-sufficient.  I watched a couple catch some bugs in the yard and Daddy caught a few bugs and fed to them.

The temps are heating up and can become an issue as we enter summer.  According to South jenkins 037Cornell, the optimal range for bird egg development is 96.8 °F to 104.9 °F (36 °C to 40.5 °C). If egg temperatures are lower, embryonic development slows. Higher temperatures can be lethal for the embryo. Bluebird eggs and nestlings cannot survive temperatures exceeding 107 °F (41° C). Prolonged high temps can severely impact nestling health due to dehydration and heat stress.  Keep in mind temperatures inside a box in the sun can be 10 or more degrees higher than ambient temperature. As I stated in the last post, I’ve moved the nestbox a bit so that it is in shade most of the afternoon.  We should be OK on this brood, but the third is always a challenge in Oklahoma.

I attached the Sparrow Spooker today after the first egg was laid.  We don’t have but a couple around and they already have a nest in big holly in the front yard.  Show no interest in the box, but hit the feeders regularly and promptly get dive-bombed by Daddy.  He’s more protective when eggs and chicks are in the box.

I also have a couple of blue birdbaths in the back yard that the bluebirds use regularly.  It’s not far to a pond, but I think the proximity of food, water and a security guard to the box helps bond them to this site.  I’ll probably rig up a mister over one of the birdbaths soon.  Not essential, but all the birds seem to enjoy it.

There will be a gap in reporting on the eggs since we are making a run to Taos for a few days.  Mama and Daddy do most of the work, but I get a great deal of satisfaction producing new bluebirds.

Our beautiful world, pass it on.

Total chicks fledged from this site is 76.

Second brood 2017

  • First sign of nest building                                               07 May
  • Nest completed                                                                 10 May
  • First egg laid                                                                      11 May
  • Second egg laid                                                                  12 May
  • Third egg laid                                                                     13 May

 

 

Posted in Birding, Bluebirds, Nature, nature photography, Oklahoma, photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments