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Nesting Birds

Monday, May 11, 2009

Well, the spring flocks of robins are all gone, paired up, moved off to get down to business.

Everywhere I go I hear the tiny dry trill of nest-building blue-gray gnatcatchers. I know that's an unusual sentence, but I do. They say Prreeeeeep when they're gathering nesting material.

The inner bark of honeysuckle vines is great for gnatcatcher nests, and he tugs mightily to free it.
His mate has a plain face and an eyering, and she's grayer, but just as curious as he.

Out in the meadow, the tree swallows are well underway on their nest construction. They've started to line it with the white goose feathers we provide. Eggs won't be far behind.

They both try to sit on the same post near their nest box, with mixed results.

An angel lands.

Under the deck, the phoebes have been busy, making a nest on the little television relay box. They haven't nested here for two years, since a snake got the nestlings. This year, I built a better baffle, one with no toehold for snakes. Three large panes of tempered glass and a lot of duct tape were involved. She laid two eggs, then they disappeared, before I even built the new baffle. I am hoping so hard that they come back, but I haven't seen them for a couple of weeks. Why would a bird lay two eggs, then leave? There are questions I can't answer.

A billful of deer hair for the lining. She also added Hollofil from one of Chet's toys.

The finished nest.
Phoebes like a low ceiling.

The kids love to come with me when I check bluebird boxes. They especially love the road where Buck the Bull lives.

Hello, Ma'am. I made it through another winter.

So you did, Buck. So you did. Looking a little rough, but some new grass should take care of that.

Phoebe and Liam sit on Buck's gate, talking.
They love to peek in the boxes.
Sometimes there's a different surprise.
Phoebe holds a Carolina chickadee nest of moss, goldenrod stem fiber and deer hair.

The first egg. 

Chickadee mothers cover their eggs with fur and plant down when they have to leave the nest. It's very sweet. They make a little blanket that they pull over the eggs. I adore chickadees. I would love to tell you how many eggs the little hen has now, but she won't budge off the nest when I open the box, and I am not about to kick a chickadee out of her home just so I can know how many eggs there are. Still, it would be nice to know, because eggs are much easier to count than squirmers.

And what of Gouty, the female bluebird who overindulged in Zick Dough last winter and spring?
Well, she's fine, and her feet show no traces of swelling, but she does have stiff middle toes, which stick out in this picture. I've all but stopped feeding suet dough for the spring. Just a snack in the morning.

Gouty's got four daughters about a week away from fledging in the same box she used the last two years.

Here's Whiskers, named for her dark malar stripes, knee -deep in Zick dough. She's got five babies all but fledged in the box by our vegetable garden. 

And the chipping sparrows are trilling everywhere you turn.


Thanks Julie! Always a delight to see and hear about your birds and your family and friends - feathered or otherwise. I have you and your blog to thank for a year's worth of improvement in my birding skills. Last year I watched a gnatcatcher build a nest in one of our little pines and I worried and worried over whether I'd gotten the ID right or not. This year I'm less concerned about getting it right than stopping, looking and enjoying all the little details I used to miss. This weekend it was a grosbeak festival in our yard - what a blast! I've been peeking at the phoebe nest under one of our eaves from a distance. Any tips on how I can get a peek at the eggs and then the babies without causing too much stress for the momma bird? Like you said, there's very little ceiling room over these creations but I am so very curious!

Nice! We currently have a pair of Killdeer nesting right smack in the middle of our driveway. They've gotten pretty used to us coming and going and rarely get off the nest or fake injuries at this point, but they still yell at me whenever I walk out to my car.

Buck!! So good to see him again! I had actually wondered his fate, age, plans for his life...

My phoebe seems to be off her nest, too. And placed where it is, the highest peak of the barn roof, there's no way to check exactly what is going on with it.
The parents are still in the yard, but seem to have abandoned it--I wonder, as I so often do, what changed.

Love your blog.. Um. Do snakes have toes?

Nesting is going hot and heavy on my side of the state, too. I have tree swallow eggs, martin eggs, and a second bluebird nest (The first clutch of 5 fledged while I was in WVa.)

I caught a song sparrow with a bill full of nesting material in my foundation shrubs; she has molted all her tail feathers at once and looks quite silly. Her hubby is all decked out and singing from the top of my red maple.

I have had a phoebe singing on territory for 3 weeks now, don't know if he has found a girl yet. Barn swallows were checking out my barn rafters this week; I hope they stay. Never have had barnies nest here.


Loved your post. Guess I know where my chipping sparrows went. But have you seen the clay colored sparrows? And our resident barn swallows hatched 4 babies yesterday, just in time for Mother's day. I got a good picture of a nesting blue-gray gnatcatcher while at South Llano River State Park-a wonderful birding destination in central Texas. It is at

And the most exciting find was the verdin I caught building a neset. I found it, then went back to camp and brought other birders and was able to catch it working on the nest. The nest was in a tuff of vegetation at the end a Texas Persimmon tree branch and she was using single leaves and little white twigs to build a nest.
One of the best reasons to live in Texas is all the birds we have.

You have so much going on there I'm envious. Your bird photos make me hoot and smile - specially the swallows - ya know I love 'em.

I have about a pound of Zick Dough left and I'm waiting for a cold night to treat them one last time.

Good to see Buck again! He's a handome dude.

Aw, Buck! I'm glad he's still kickin'. After a long winter, he looks as soft and boneless as the humans in 'Wall-E.'

I think there's no nest more beautiful than a Chickadee's; the mossy outside and the downy middle make me wish I could sleep in one just once -- it must feel awfully safe and warm. I tried counting squirmy babes last week, but it felt too intrusive, so I backed off and closed up the box.

My bluebirds laid 2 eggs in the other box, but a few days later, they were gone. I pinned it on the newly-arrived House Wren, but the local raccoons are also enterprising enough to have done the deed. Mister Bluebird's still singing near, perching on and showing the house, so maybe they'll make a go of it this year. He's got moxie.

And I won't be sweeping the porch any time soon -- Carolina Wrens have built a nest on top of the push broom. At last check, there were 3 eggs inside the tunnel.

I just found your blog thru the nature network.I love all of your pictures,now I have to go find pics of your macaw as we have 2 blue & golds...phylliso

Wow, it seems we all have some nesting stories to share! I hope your Phoebe nest hasn't been abandoned. We were lucky, it seems, and just had 5 healthy Phoebes fledge from a nest on our house last Thursday a.m. before we left for work. We've kept a video camera trained on the nest from the beginning, so it was wonderful to be able to watch them grow SO FAST and then fly away (which did not happen the way I expected, I might add). Hopefully some day soon I will post some of the vids up on my blog.
The titmice continue to gather dog fur for their nests (haven't found any of them, though). I'll have to listen for that Gnatcatcher nest building noise you mentioned. They seem noisier than ever in our trees this year!

Julie, I swear you live in heaven.

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