Odds and ends photographs from the farm.
Odds and ends photographs from the farm.
Early in the second week of July I wrote a blog entitled “Saga of the Eastern Bluebirds at Canadian Hill Farm” In it I describe the trials of a pair of Eastern Bluebirds as they try to select a birdhouse for their second brood. I should point out that the real estate market is really hot at Canadian Hill Farms. I had put up 10 birdhouses around the yard and prairie and all but one of them was occupied. The Bluebirds were looking at the one available house. They had been mulling it over for about a week when the house was purchased out from under them by a pair of House Wrens.
This meant there were no houses available for the Bluebirds. I then decided to repeat an experiment I started last year and put up a new birdhouse in the yard near my deck. This seemed to work well last year when I put up two house after the first brood hatched and both were occupied by Bluebirds. Putting a new house by the deck provided a house for the Bluebirds and allowed me to easily photograph the Bluebirds without having to get out my bird blind. Shortly after I put it up the new house the Bluebirds did show interest but once again a House sparrow was making a move on the house.
As I ended the blog both the Bluebirds and Wrens were looking at the house. The Bluebirds had been chasing the Wrens away and it looked like the Bluebirds might be going to build a nest. The morning after I wrote the blog I found one of the Wrens dead on my deck. I suspect the Bluebirds chased it into a window. That effectively ended the bidding war on the house and the Bluebirds acquired it. During the following week the Bluebirds were busy building a nest.
Once the nest was completed I noticed that the fledglings from the first brood started showing up. Mom would be on the nest and the kids would be sitting on top of the house looking a little confused. She tolerated this behavior for about a week before she started chasing the fledglings away from the house. I had seen this behavior before but after about a week the fledglings disappeared. This time the fledglings hung around for three weeks. The female constantly battling with them.
Typically when I put up a bluebird house I also put up a a sumac branch near the house. This provides the Bluebirds with a place to perch as well as some easily accessible food. It also provides a nice prop for me to photograph them on. What I do is go out in the woods early in the spring and cut some sumac branches while the berries are still on them. I store them in the garage until the Bluebirds start nesting then put them out. I use a plastic fence post and duck tape the sumac to the fence post. This year the fledglings took a liking to the sumac that I had put out and started eating it. That seemed to really tick the female Bluebird off. She was constantly chasing them away.
In the earlier Blog I had forgotten to mention a problem we had with the female Bluebird. While she was raising her young and we were on vacation she sat on a deck chair and attacked our windows. One was a side window looking out on the deck and another was a large picture window. The deck chair and the side of the house wer covered with bird poop. We finally moved the deck chair and cleaned the windows and things calmed down.
Once the second brood had hatched she was back at the windows again. This time it was a window in the laundry room. She could sit on the edge of the garage roof which was right next to the laundry room window. Every morning she would start attacking the window before attending to her young. At first we chased her away but discovered she would just go to another window. We finally decided to let her have the laundry room window so that we would only have one place to clean up. I’m amazed that she was able to raise her young at all given the time she spends at the windows.
These Bluebirds seem to be much more relaxed approach to feeding their young. Last year when I watched the Bluebirds feed their young they were arriving at the nest about forty times per hour with food for their young. This year it is no where near that.
I have a good view of the bird house and there appear to be two young birds in the nest. It has been very warm and humid out and they have been sticking their head out of the nest quite a bit. The parents have picked up their feeding a bit but they still seem lackadaisical about it.
One thing I noticed again this year but didn’t really know what was going on. The male bird when he comes to feed the chicks will enter the house after feeding and remove something. I assumed he was charged with housekeeping chores of some type. What he was doing is removing fecal sacs. After feeding the baby birds will excrete one sac. The adults then enter the nest and remove the sacs. Apparently both parents assist in removing the sacs but I’ve only see the male do it. I managed to get some not so good photos.
The Bluebirds ate all of the Sumac that I initially put out. With the babies about to fledge I put another branch of Sumac out by the birdhouse. I noticed that the female was feeding it to the babies. Much easier to fly five feet that to chase down a bug.
With the second batch fledged I hope the female moves on and doesn’t start attacking our windows again.
More bird photos from Canadian Hill Farm can be found on my website.
I have to admit watching summer birds is more fun than watching the soaps on TV. The intrigue and backstabbing is amazing to behold.
Just before leaving for Iceland a pair of Eastern Bluebirds started visiting one of two houses I have setup in my north prairie. It had looked like they were planning on staying but every year the Tree Swallows show up a couple of weeks later and drive the bluebirds out. When we returned from Iceland we were surprised to find that the bluebirds did nest in one of the two houses. The other house was vacant.
Last week I noticed a flurry of activity out around the two houses so I went out to see what was up. I initially thought the first batch of babies had fledged and were hanging around. I took my camera along and discovered that the first batch had fledged and the adults were looking over the second house to raise their second batch. I stood around taking pictures with my long lens only to remember that 20 minutes earlier I had removed the memory card from the camera. Not a happy camper I returned to the house to get a new memory card. After I returned the bluebirds hung around long enough for me to get a couple of shots then they disappeared.
Unfortunately the bluebirds were unable to make a quick decision and a pair of wrens bought the house out from under them.
At this point I only had one vacant birdhouse so I decided to repeat last year’s experiment and put up a new house close to my deck in the hopes the bluebirds would use it. Last year this provided a great opportunity for photography.
I noticed the two bluebirds were checking it out but a week went by and they had still not made a commitment. Once again a wren came along and started checking out the house. I assumed the wren was going to take it over so I put up a second birdhouse about 5 feet away from the first.
I came in the house and started looking at some photos and my wife came along and asked me why I wasn’t watching the bird clean out the birdhouse I just put up? What’s to clean out I just put it up? I went to the window to see what was going on. Within five minutes of putting the house up a wren was busy cleaning it out. I didn’t check the house before I had put it up and a mouse had made a nest in it using some insulation I had stored in the garage. The wren was frantically working to clean the house out.
The next morning when I looked out the wren looked like it was starting to build a nest in the second house. As I was watching the bluebirds came along and started chasing the wren. The bluebirds then started check out the house.
The next day the wren was nowhere to be found and the bluebirds were still checking out the second house as well as looking at the first house.
The following day I heard the wren making a racket but didn’t see it by the birdhouses. I did notice the male bluebird sitting on the deck railing. I then noticed the wren hiding under the deck chair. Just then the bluebird took after it. About a half hour later I heard the wren again and noticed it was back at the second birdhouse and looked to be checking it out again. The bluebirds were nowhere to be seen.
This morning I noticed the Bluebirds were back and appeared to be building a nest in the second house.
I decided to put up another birdhouse in the eastern prairie in hopes the House Wrens will move to it. Later in the afternoon I noticed a wren checking it out. I can’t say I’m sorry to see the wrens apparently loose out to the bluebirds. The two houses I put up by the deck are under our bedroom window and the House Wrens seem to spend the entire day singing. We already have a crow that lands on the deck every morning and wakes us up.
There is a lot going on at Hoffman Hills these days. We have been seeing Sandhill Cranes in the Prairie area.
There are Canada Geese, Ducks and King Fishers hanging around the ponds.
We noticed a Muskrat in the first pond.
The Eastern Bluebirds have returned.
In the next couple of weeks the trees will have full color. The Birch and Maples are already budding out.
The Pussy Willows are just about done blooming.
We saw our first Eastern Bluebird on March 27th this year. He turned up in the afternoon and was sitting on one of my bluebird houses. I had taken most of the bluebird houses down for cleaning so I quickly put them back up. It has snowed several times but the bluebirds remain in the area.
This fledgling House Sparrow had just finished taking a bath.
A female Orchard Oriole looked a little lonely at my bird feeder.
Nap time for a fledgling House Sparrow.
A Grey Catbird heading for the nest with lunch.
An Eastern Bluebird caught after taking a bath.
A Baltimore Oriole waiting for its turn at the feeder.
I spent quite a bit of time watching a pair of Eastern Bluebirds feed their young. As I mentioned in an earlier blog one of the adult bluebirds were at the birdhouse on an average of every three minutes with food for the young. I was beginning to wonder if there would be any bugs or insects left on the farm when they were through feeding their young. It was usually difficult to determine what was for lunch. I would have thought that grasshoppers would have been the first choice because there are so many of them around. However, It looked like Katydids were the most popular item for lunch.
Earthworms were also popular.
Blackcap berries turned up on the menu a few times. I wasn’t too happy that they were going after the berries because I like them as well.
There were assorted other insects and bugs brought to the table.