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Nest Check

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

On May 17, I hurried out in the afternoon and evening to get my bluebird boxes checked before leaving for Wisconsin. I thought you'd like to see the life springing and burgeoning from these little wooden containers on our farm. In a rare photoglitch, brought about by an overburdened laptop, I lost all my photos of feathered young--I was going to show you how to sex baby bluebirds. I had a bunch of pictures of Lang Elliott holding Chet that vanished into the ether, as well. And some great pictures of Buck the Bull, with Chet staring at him. Rats, rats, rats. There goes your Chetfix. And your Buckfix.
Well, then, a Phoebefix. The kids help me do nest checks every week. I pick them up at the bus stop and we head down the country road where I have five boxes strung along. Phoebe's holding the nest in our sideyard here.

Can you spot the runt? Runts in bluebirds are fairly common. This one is delayed--the center bird at the bottom of the picture, who has fewer pinfeathers--but I think it will make it. There are earthworms stuck in the hair of two of the chicks--a sign that there's not a whole lot of food around. Bluebirds don't generally feed a lot of earthworms to their young unless there's nothing else around. I find it interesting that baby robins can subsist on earthworms, and that bluebirds tend to avoid them.

There were feathered babies in most of the boxes on Buck's road, and I had gorgeous pictures of their blue wings...ah well. There will be more.

The box at the end of our orchard had two five-day-old babies and three unhatched eggs. Generally, if the babies are two or more days old, and there's an unhatched egg along with them, it's safe to say that egg is not going to hatch. I took the eggs and opened them to see what might be going on. All three, infertile--as evidenced by the yellow, not red, contents. No blood vessels ever formed because the embryos never developed. Two of the eggs (top and right) were disturbingly thin-shelled, cracking like cellophane, while the bottom egg had a shell of normal thickness. I see this occasionally, and it seems to run in certain females. Perhaps she has a pesticide load; perhaps she's just young. Ensuing years may tell. This is why I write everything down.
Jayne begged me to photograph the chickadees...here's a Carolina chickadee, Day 9. Pretty cute, but nothing to when he gets feathers! Their nest is so fragile I can't take it out to photograph them all. It's a little tower of soft moss and hair, and it threatens to fall apart completely if I handle it. So I'll drag a baby out now and then for its portrait.
I wrote this post in Ashland, Wisconsin, killing a little time before going out on a kayak trip. It was 62 degrees and still when I awoke at 5 AM. A wind came in off Lake Superior, and it's dropping precipitously through the 50's and into the 40's. Yeah, I knew I'd need that parka. And looking at the whitecaps, I decided to leave the big camera in the car. Just the point-and-shoot, and that one is in some peril, I think. Bring on my PFD.

The kayak trip was great, I'm home, doing laundry (Something Different!) and preparing to melt my computer with RAMloads of bird pictures from Wisconsin. The weather here is NOT 32 and snowing, and blowing a bitter blue gale. It is 80 and sunny, just right for drying softball uniforms and socks. Bill announced tonight that he has softball practice, so he can't come to Phoebe's game in McConnellsville, a mere hour away. So now there are three people in this house with practices and games, all at different times. Maybe I'd better join a league of my own. In my ideal sport, I would meet other women to lie in chaise lounges and drink wine and eat Gouda on AkMak crackers, while watching birds at selected hotspots. While I was engaged in my team sport, I would not be able to feed anyone, pick up after them, do their laundry, or drive them to practice, nor would I be able to sit on aluminum bleachers and cheer them on, because after all I would be engaged in my very own, highly important team sport. Nightly practices, and then competitions to see who could spot the most birds. Glug, glug, yak yak, munch munch. lookit that! Anyone?
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