Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The joys and sorrows of breeding season

Tree swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
The excitement of migration season behind us, it is time to console ourselves with the thought that breeding season is somehow more deeply satisfying. And it has its own excitements--will this brood survive and fledge, will that tree swallow actually land a blow on the back of your head? At the CRP, one particular source of suspense--the lingering bobolink--is still developing.
Tree swallow nestlings, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
All the eggs, with the exception of one late nest, have hatched. Dozens of new tree swallows will be ready in a couple of weeks to fill the meadow with their unsteady wings. As for bluebirds, the present moment is not encouraging.
Eastern bluebird nestlings, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Last week when I took the above photo nothing was out of the ordinary. Five healthy chicks and a doting mother. Today when I checked all but one had died. I pulled the tiny dried bodies from the nest, leaving one long-legged chick with more room (and fresher air) but with no parents in sight I wonder if it will make it.

All is not lost. Bluebirds will nest again after the tree swallows are gone, maybe more than one pair next time. But right now it is a reminder that the joys of breeding season are balanced with sorrows.

[June 8 UPDATE: Both the last bluebird chick and the bobolink are missing.]

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