Damn this heat

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

About lindell dillon

Lindell Dillon is retired and lives in Norman, OK. He grew up in Duncan, attended Cameron College and graduated from the University of Oklahoma. His interests include photography, nature, birding, and investing. Oklahoma Master Naturalist, alumnus Norman Police Department Citizens Academy.
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6 Responses to Damn this heat

  1. Katie says:

    That is so sad. I don’t think you’re being anthropomorphic. When you put time and emotional effort into what is a conservation project, it must be dreadful to find another brood has perished. Would it possible for you to move the nest box back a bit so that it receives full shade during summer, but is still away from predators? Otherwise, could you construct an umbrella above the nest during the non-breeding season to give the Bluebirds a chance to get used to it?

    • lindell dillon says:

      I can’t position the box to receive shade all day. I’m going to give some thought to other ways to keep the box cooler, but don’t think much of anything will work in this heat. Supposed to be a record 113 today.

  2. Nell says:

    I share your grief at losting the blue bird babies, but it sounds like you did everything you could. I also have a nest box and after my bluebirds had laid five eggs, something happened and the five eggs were gone and my bluebirds left.

    • lindell dillon says:

      Since all the eggs are gone, could have been a snake if you don’t have a baffle to keep them out. Or the eggs could have been heat addled and the bluebirds removed them.

  3. Dana says:

    This makes my complaints about the heat so petty compared with these sadly killed baby birds. Your writing is wonderfully evocative, photos too….!

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