Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bluebirds! Season 5. Episode 6. Looking through feathers.

Tree Swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
I like the tree swallows that completely stuff their box with feathers. It creates a kind of roof over the nest.
Tree Swallow nest, Box 14
It's not so good if you want to quickly count the number of eggs in the nest.
Tree Swallow hatchlings, Box 1
Today, peering through the feathers I spotted the year's first hatchlings.
Tree Swallow hatchlings, Box 9
And then, at box 9, the year's second hatchlings. It has begun.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bluebirds! Season 5. Episode 5. Wait for the Punchline.

Charles River from Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Last episode I reported how tree swallows had driven the bluebirds from nesting box 5.
Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Meanwhile, I had been working for weeks to discourage house sparrows from box 16 (historical favorite of bluebirds). Last week I finally succeeded. No more house sparrow eggs to remove. The female evidently grew tired of her mate's inability to defend the box... So I cleared out the mess of feathers, dried grass and trash.
Eastern Bluebird on box 16
This morning: bluebird song! At box 16! Had I succeeded in clearing the way for a renewed breeding attempt?
Eastern Bluebird at box 16
Almost immediately the male house sparrow (still hanging around) flew up to challenge the male bluebird. While the bluebird was able to chase the sparrow off, it seemed rather reluctant to enter the box, hovering outside the opening. Uh oh. I hadn't yet seen the female bluebird. Was she dead, in the box, the victim of house sparrow aggression? I slowly opened the door and

Black-capped Chickadee nest, box 16
Moss and fur? The chickadees had gotten there first!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bluebirds! Season 5. Episode 4. No Bluebirds!

Tree Swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Tree swallows are OK.
Tree Swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Total tree swallow egg count at Charles River Peninsula right now: 58.
Tree Swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Total eastern bluebird egg count at Charles River Peninsula right now: 0. Down from 6 last week.
Tree Swallow Egg, Box 5
We'll never know exactly what happened. All I know is there is a tree swallow nest on top of the bluebird nest and one fresh tree swallow egg.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Bluebirds! Season 5. Episode 3. Accounting.

Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Fourteen nests in seventeen boxes. One bluebird nest (five eggs).
Tree Swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Twelve tree swallow nests, two with six eggs already.
Tree Swallow nest, Box 1
And one house sparrow nest. I've already removed four eggs.
Yellow Warbler
And ten male yellow warblers, all fighting for a spot on the peninsula.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Intertextual Orioles

Baltimore Oriole
This fragment, heard yesterday amidst construction noise at the parking lot of Redwing Bay.
Baltimore oriole song. In fact, a fragment of THE Baltimore oriole song that's haunted Redwing Bay for the past three years.
I don't know if it's the same bird, a son, reproductive partner, or a neighbor. All I know is that it is the dominant SONG of this place. In fact, for the last three years two different birds have consistently sung it.
 But it has not always been this way. When I started listening a few years ago this was the song you'd hear at Redwing Bay. And hear the next year, and the next year. Until it died out. Or was defeated. I was able to capture this song battle victory one year.
But I wasn't around when the song finally lost, displaced by our new one.

I use the theory term, "intertextual," seriously. While songs flow from individual birds, they are learned and shared in communities. And they become connected to places. So much so that each place where Baltimore orioles breed has its own distinct oriole song, or perhaps more accurately a collection of motivic fragments, like the one at the beginning of this post.

I sometimes imagine a world where people are so in tune with the birdscape that they identify themselves and the place they live with oriole song, whistling "their song" to other humans as a badge of community.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Unexpected Nests

Bamboo Nest box
A present from my mom, a lovely bamboo nest box. I put it up a couple of weeks ago with low expectations. Maybe a wren would make a nest there instead of our planter...
Moss and fur
A couple of days ago Lily comes in the house, excited. There's moss in the bird house! She knows what that means: chickadees. More moss the next day. And then fur on top. (I limited her to one peek a day, which is still probably too much for chickadee nerves...)
A pile of fur
We get to chatting about where the fur comes from. Visions of chickadees landing on rabbits to pluck their fur comes to mind. I tell her about birds that will land on people's heads to pull out hair. At any rate, the mystery was short lived. We were doing yard work--bagging up leaves--and uncovered a big pile of fur, right in our front yard. I lifted it up and found....
Baby rabbits
When I found them last night it was dark and I thought it was an old nest and that they were dead. When I went to show Lily the "dead rabbits" this morning, she was overjoyed to find they were actually very much alive. The girls have set up "abandonment detectors" to check if our disturbance was enough to drive away the mother.

International Dawn Chorus Day

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Joining the dawn chorus for the first time this year: warbling vireos. As I get older I appreciate their meandering phrases more and more. I think age is also smoothing the edges of their raspy voices.
A male orchard has been skulking around CRP for the past week but not vocalizing much. This morning a reason to sing: competition! The visual that should accompany the recording below is two dark birds in the canopy flying from branch to branch, chasing and singing.
It is/was "International Dawn Chorus Day" today, and though mostly a British affair (and even more specifically a Birmingham affair), I thought I would join the celebration. So many voices joined the chorus today, including that bringer-of-chaos, the gray catbird. Tastes of rose-breasted grosbeak song among the yellow warblers (everywhere!) and red-winged blackbirds, northern cardinals, song sparrows, etc. The focal point, which I hope you'll hear in the recording below is a northern waterthrush, rolling out its choruses from deep in the brush.