Friday, July 01, 2011

Cycle of Life

Mr. & Mrs. Bluebird... this couple was obviously young... and disorganized.
(Click pictures to enlarge)

"A bird is three things:
Feathers, flight and song,
And feathers are the least of these."
~ Marjorie Allen Seiffert, "The Shining Bird"
Again this year, the bluebirds showed up. They were on time and a group of four or five birds snacked at the feeders and checked out the house. But, they were young... the male was lazy.. and chickadees built a nest of soft moss in one day and eggs were laid. The chickadees seemed distressed and more vocal than usual and I saw the male bluebird look in the already occupied birdhouse several times. Then the crime. Someone invaded the chickadee nest, took an egg and threw it against the bay window of our house. The dried protein dribbled down the length of the panes and a small shell fragment remained glued to the top. Who could do this? I would like to believe it was a blackbird or crow or one of the birds I really don't care for; so I give the bluebirds the benefit of the doubt and say it really couldn't have been them, their beaks are too small to carry an egg. Whoever the culprit was, it was so sad for the chickadees as they have a short nesting season and will not likely have another round this year.

Mrs. Bluebird was more industrious and practical than her mate.
When it was obvious that no chickadee babies were in the nest, I cleaned out the house... washed it... let it dry... and opened it back up for business. It still took this couple almost a week to decide on the place. I think she expected his help in building the nest, but his lame attempts ended up in pine needles being stuck in at the last moment; therefore, they simply stuck up and out the edge of the opening in a random way -- not tidy -- and were no help at all. No, the male spent most of his time fluttering at the window, pecking at the other male bluebird he saw as competition and peering in at us in the den (wanting mealworms). I think she expected him to either sit on the eggs while she hunted for food or bring her food. He didn't do either. I started in with the mealworms and she quickly learned that she would have to feed herself, he wouldn't do it.

Dinner time.
When the egg/eggs hatched, this young couple had to figure out how to feed the baby/babies. Mr. Bluebird fed himself first, downing four or five mealworms before taking one to the chick. Mrs. Bluebird, with true maternal instincts, fed the baby first and only herself after the chick was taken care of. Unlike last year's group, these did not always finish off the mealworms in record time. Whether it was because they had only one baby, while last year's had at least three or not; the result was that other birds became interested, particularly the brown thrasher. After he devoured the remaining mealworms at one meal, they seemed to become better organized and more purposeful in the feeding and took turns flying back and forth from the birdhouse to the mealworms. This couple added one stage, taking the mealworms to the roof for processing before flying them to the baby.

Feeding time... how could one small baby bird make so much noise. Posted by Picasa
At feeding time, the noise coming from the birdhouse was amazing and loud; it could be heard all the way to the back door and yet, there seemed to have been only one chick. He poked his head up with mouth wide open to get his food from mom and dad and starred with wide eyes at me. A week ago, I checked the birdhouse and there he was with feathers on his chest and looking like he was almost ready to go. Mrs. Bluebird must have told him to get down in the nest when I went to get my camera, for he was not to be seen when I returned. Sunday morning, the bluebirds had their breakfast of mealworms but by Sunday evening they were gone and though I left mealworms out for three days, no bluebirds. I presume they took their baby into the woods to teach him how to fly and to gather food. The feeder has been busy the last two weeks with all sorts of adult and baby blackbirds, blue jays, even finches; parents showing the babies where the food is and trying to get them to eat from the feeder without having to put it in their mouths. Now, it seems the juveniles have learned and the feeder sessions are more normal.

I waited for almost a week, then opened the house and took out the abandoned nest and washed the house. The very next day... yesterday... I came downstairs to the pecking sound of bluebirds pecking on the window and much agitation. Male and female, flying back and forth from the house to the feeder to the windowsill. I don't think these are the same bluebirds that just vacated the premises with their baby as they are supposed to stay with him in the woods for at least a few weeks. Hopefully, it is a new pair.. more mature (although this head butting against the window behavior does not indicate any maturity to the female who continually chatters at him while he is doing it) and perhaps they will build another nest and raise another family. I hope so. I still have mealworms left.

(end of post)
Friday's Ark
Camera Critters
Nature's Notes

Camera Critters


Ramblingwoods said...

SRP...I found three monarch caterpillars on my milkweed last evening. Today 2 were gone and I watched as a yellow jacket took the last one. How do you raise yours inside as I think I will do that if I am lucky enough to find another one,,,Excited to see one for the first time..horrified to watch it die..Michelle

Credman said...

Excellent photos!  We have Carolina wrens in one of our birdhouses. Yesterday we watched a black snake eat a nest of phoebes. It was very  emotional and better than Planet TV.

Ginny Hartzler said...

What a story, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! And your pictures are great, I love the baby! Gosh, maybe this is the same couple! What with the window head butting many times do they lay eggs in the spring? Oh, did you know that the english house sparrows are the bluebirds worst enemies? They will smash the eggs just for the fun of it, not even because they want the nest. That could have been the bird that smashed the egg. They also go in the nests and kill babies. I had a blog friend who took a picture of several babies the house sparrows killed.

Kenju said...

Great photos! I love the first one.

Sandra Hangey said...

really beautiful birds, i love their colors. i like the one in the box, it appeals to me because i like rustic. even rustic birds houses. glad to know i am not the only disorganized housewife. LOL we had baby cardinals a few years ago and boy could they yell and scream for food. the osprey babies were so far up i could not see them but i could hear them

Leora said...

What a beautiful bird.  Love how you captured the elegance so well.

Lady Fi said...

Wow! What magical shots. So gorgeous!

Tes Bernal said...

You have documented it beautifully! The shots are amazing. The photos look as if it jumped out of a magazine. Thank you for sharing! :)

Living So Abundantly said...

I just love blue birds. ;)  Your pictures are the best I've seriously ever seen of a blue bird couple!  Plus, that baby blue bird--perfect!  I also like how you changed the focus from your first picture and the second picture.  Your photography skills are clearly excellent!

Living So Abundantly:  New meme coming this Thursday, July 7, 2011, Give Back Thursday--come join the fun!

Dhemz said...

such a beautiful them!

Sandra Hangey said...

the song Two Coats is also from my past. My childhood past in KY. since i found the Saturday am bluegrass on the radio, i have heard songs i had not heard in 50 years, just like you said on the post.  the music is not for everyone but there will be a few who remember that far back. it is all about memories for me

Col said...

I guess it takes all kinds... even in the bird world. :-)  But how wonderful to be a spectator to all of this.  Love the story and the photos. :-)

Ramblingwoods said...

In case you don't have this... I don't know how aggressive blue birds are but house sparrows will trash a nest, kill a sitting female and nest on her head so I don't know. Sad for the little dees. I have a small birdhouse with a thing that keeps the house sparrows out...need to put it up as I just got it... probably too late this year.. For insult...european starlings nested in the wood duck nesting box...

Thanks for the info on the monarchs..I have one in a food container with paper towel that can be changed and a fish tank mesh lid on top. I keep putting in fresh butterfly weed and cleaning the frass...Michelle

Mio said...

Beautiful photos of the Bluebird, love them!

Eileen3600 said...

Nice post on the bluebirds. It is nice when you see a successful bluebird nest.