Damn! Damn this heat. We all move along an uncertain continuum of life that begins with birth and ends with death. And we all hope it’s a long ride, but sometimes it’s not. The ride for the bluebird babies was only twelve days. Twelve days of hell in a hot coffin-like cedar box.
It’s mid-afternoon and 109 degrees in the shade. I went out to water down the nestbox and discovered the little ones were gone. This really upsets me that this has happened twice this summer. I’ve been involved in wildlife conservation for a long time and I know one should be concerned with the welfare of the species as a whole and not get caught up in anthropomorphistic emotion regarding a couple of little birds that really don’t mean much in the scheme of things. But, what I know and what I feel are two different things today.
Bluebird populations were once in serious decline due to loss of nesting cavities from deforestation and competition from House Sparrows and starlings for the existing ones. Larry Zeleney estimated that bluebird populations declined by 90% from the 1920’s to the 1970’s. But in the seventies a bluebird conservation movement began and bluebird trails and backyard boxes were erected all across the country and populations responded with a great increase. But then in the winter of 1977-78, the coldest North American winter on record for the last 110 years came along. Some estimated 60% losses of bluebird populations. This is a climactic event of concern, yet populations increased again. In perspective, the loss of a couple of chicks to heat doesn’t have much effect on bluebird populations and deaths from heat and cold will continue and the avian species Sialia sialis will persist.
Nestboxes aren’t a perfect solution, but they have pulled bluebird populations from a downward spiral to the point they are a ‘species of least concern’. And the credit goes to legions of volunteers who have erected and maintained nestboxes. I’m concerned about Whooping Cranes, Lesser Prairie Chickens and Northern Bobwhites, but as an individual there isn’t much I can do to help them. But as individuals we can help bluebirds, so I guess I’ll just keep on keepin’ on and take the bitter with the sweet.
Second Brood Summary
- First sign of nest building 28 June
- Nest completed 01 July
- First egg laid 03 July
- Second egg laid 04 July
- Third egg laid 05 July
- Fourth egg laid 06 July
- Incubation begins 08 July
- First egg hatches 19 July
- Second egg hatches 20 July
- Unhatched egg removed 24 July
- Babies succumb to heat 31 July