Monday, March 20, 2017

Bluebirds! Season 7. Episode 1.

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
First day of spring. "Birds begin nesting," says my Japanese almanac. "Doubt it, this year," I thought.
House Sparrow nest
To my surprise the house sparrows have begun nesting. They didn't even wait for me to disinfect the box (my project today).
Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
The resident bluebird pair, on the other hand, seem content to wait.
Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
They, as usual, have their eye on box 16, under the giant oak (see top image). Box 16 will need a day to air out (disinfectant) but then it will be good to go.
Wood Ducks, Charles River, Needham, MA
In other first-day-of-spring bird news: wood ducks! Plus, hooded mergansers and, spotted for the first time at CRP cruising over the fields, black vultures! I thought they were big crows and then I saw the white wing tips. Black vultures in Massachusetts. That's a scary global warming trend.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Bluebirds! Season 6. Episode 10. Season Finale

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA after July mow.
Suddenly summer is almost over. By next week all the boxes at CRP will be empty of nestlings. Then it will be the clean-up and long wait for next year.
Eastern Bluebird nestlings, Charles River Peninsula, July 9
The second bluebird nest is moving along quickly.
Eastern Bluebird nestlings, Charles River Peninsula, July 15
Today my first legitimate bluebird dive bomb. It was so bluebird--an elegant swoop from an upper tree branch towards my head. I get it, bluebird. It has been a lot of work to keep these chicks alive. 
Tree Swallow fledgling, Box 19
Meanwhile the tree swallows are all fledged or on the verge of fledging. 
Tree Swallows, Box 11
I imagine the parents will be mighty relieved when these hungry mouths can fend for themselves. 
Tree Swallow, Box 19
Some of the tree swallow families can be seen zooming around the peninsula. Some seem to have already moved on to staging areas. 
Downy Woodpecker
See you next year, bluebirds et al. And yes, downy woodpecker, it's safe to explore these boxes now.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Willets of Wellfleet

Willet, Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellfleet, MA
Mid-June isn't the best time to see birds in Wellfleet, I was told.
Willet, Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Wellfleet, MA
By mid-June spring migration is over.
Willet, Coast Guard Beach, Eastham, Ma
And the mid-summer southern migration of shorebirds hasn't yet begun.
Willets, Provincetown breakwater, Provincetown, MA
So you are left with the local breeders.
Willet, Provincetown breakwater, Provincetown, MA
Such as towhees, field sparrows, and prairie warblers (!)
Willet, Provincetown breakwater, Provincetown, MA
And willets. They may not be beautiful or musical but they certainly liven up a place.
Yellowlegs. Greater? Provincetown breakwater, Provincetown, MA
And what you see (and hear) is what you get.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bluebirds! Season 6. Episode 9. Empty boxes and refills

Tree Swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Last week the bluebirds and chickadees fledged. This week it is the tree swallows' turn.
Box 1. Tree swallow nest with chickadee base.
Leaving empty boxes requiring clean out.
Box 2. New Eastern Bluebird attempt.
Meanwhile, bluebirds have begun round 2 in box 2. Box 11 was snatched by tree swallows before the other bluebird pair could start again.
Box 12. Full of sticks.
In gloomier news, the tree swallow that was so stalwart in protecting its nest in box 12 last episode, finally succumbed to house wren stick mania. And the chickadees finally gave up on their next in box 14 (box 4 chickadees, a tiny clutch of 2, managed to fledge).
Box 13
And unpopular box 13, unused for the second year in a row, may finally be completely covered in multiflora rose this year.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Some June mornings

Foggy morning at Powisset Farm, Dover, MA
Grassland bird monitoring at Powisset Farm.
Tree Swallow, Powisset Farm
Just two bobolinks singing this year.
Tree Swallow, Powisset Farm
June bonus yellow-billed cuckoo song.
Wild Turkey families, Powisset Farm
Hidden turkeys.
Great-crested Flycatcher, Chestnut Hill Farm, Southborough, MA
Grassland bird monitoring at Chestnut Hill Farm. 12 bobolinks. Much better.
Hooded Merganser, Great Meadows NWR, Concord, MA
An early morning stroll at Great Meadows.
Hooded Merganser, Great Meadows NWR, Concord, MA
I wonder if we'll see baby hoodies this year.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bluebirds! Season 6. Episode 8. Satisfaction.

Box 2, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
The first bluebird broods have fledged.
Box 11, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
I pulled out the nests to give them a place to try again. But halfway through, this breeding season is already a success. Two broods of bluebirds fledged.
Box 12, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Tree swallow eggs are beginning to hatch. And the birds with smashed eggs last week are determined not to let it happen again. 
Box 4, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Chickadee eggs are hatching too. Two new eggs in the second chickadee nest.
Box 17, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
The house wrens have found empty spaces to fill with sticks. And there are no house sparrows anywhere. From here on out, barring catastrophic weather or vandalism, things should run smoothly. My job this spring is just about done.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bluebirds! Season 6. Episode 7. Brave birds and egg smashers.

Tree swallow, Box 7, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Breeding continues at Charles River Peninsula and tree swallows are getting bolder and bolder, less quick to fly away when approached (making for nice super close up photos like the one above)
Tree Swallows, Box 5
and moving decisively into house sparrow territory. I finally pulled out the nest in Box 5 after house sparrows retook it earlier in the week. The very next day tree swallows took over and the sparrows have vanished, at least for the moment.
Tree Swallow on nest, Box 1
Three weeks in a row I've been unable to count the eggs in Box 1 because the female has been on the nest and hasn't budged. Today I saw the pair outside the box--this was my chance! But before I could get there the female, seeing me and apparently knowing my patterns, flew into the box and sat on the eggs before I could get there. Note that most birds leave the box when I approach. I've never had one deliberately enter the box when I've come near. Remarkable.
Smashed Tree Swallow egg in Box 12
Though given the recent rash of egg disappearances at CRP, she might have the right idea. Three boxes with eggs last week had zero eggs this week, including the usually unproblematic box 12. The lovely eggs featured in Episode 6 are all gone, except for one smashed into the white feathers lining the nest.
Eastern Bluebird nestlings
The neighboring bluebirds are too busy feeding their partially feathered chicks to bother with this kind of thing and the house wrens are way on the other side of the property. I'm beginning to suspect chipmunks. Indeed...perhaps chipmunks will be the ultimate Bluebirds! villains.