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Bluebird Church

Thursday, May 15, 2014



Because I was already jogging at a snail's pace, listening, I decided to check the bluebird boxes on my route. Fulla meat, as my Dad once said. "I checked those bluebird boxes you put up for me at the Chicken House, Julie, and every darn one of 'em was fulla meat!"

He had a way with words, a country boy's way. I loved that. Bluebird meat.


These are eight days old, a fourpack. I find my bluebirds lay smaller clutches in the tiny slot boxes. First clutch should be five eggs, but they know not to try that in these little boxes. I don't know if that's good or bad. The invasive house sparrows don't like small slot boxes. That's good. So, fewer chicks, but more likely to make it and not get pecked on the head by house sparrows. It's a tradeoff, I guess.

By now, it was raining, and the birdsong had pulled me almost three miles from home. (I was hoping to hear a red-headed woodpecker on this road, but it was not to be). The rain began to pelt down, and Bacon put on his irritable rain ears. But I stopped to clean this bluebird nest of blowflies. There were about twenty big larvae in there, but the nest was small and I held it up and easily sorted through it and flicked them out, with babies still riding in the cup. The babies will sleep much better tonight, not getting punctured and bled. I put the nest back in the box and asked them to smile for the camera by whistling like Mama. I like taking care of my bluebirds.


 I was at a staggering 69 species for the 3-mile leg of this jog. I had jotted some birds that I should have already heard, and failed to. Pileated woodpecker and Carolina chickadee. Imagine hearing 70 species in Appalachian Ohio, and having neither of those on your list. That's nesting season for you. Normally garrulous birds go silent. But a pileated drummed and cried out almost as soon as I finished the thought. Next to scold was a Carolina chickadee. 70 and 71. 

We took a turn down to the Newt Pond. Maybe there was a solitary sandpiper poking around down there. Nope. But # 72: Acadian flycatcher!! PitSEEK! 

I stood and stared into the water, looking for newts. Found none, but it was cool. The next day, Phoebe and Liam rode their bikes there and found lots writhing in the shallows.

I saw a motion out of the side of my eye. A huge-headed warm brown raptor took soundlessly off from a big white pine. I got the binocs on it. No discernible barring on the tail...huge head...soundless flight...oh my gosh, a great horned owl! 73!

I was perilously close to smashing my all-time record for a day, 77 species, attained on and just adjacent to our property on May 7, 2014. 74: yellow-throated warbler, singing an aberrant song with a trill at the beginning. I recorded it, and got it in the binocs. Far as I could tell, a normal YTWA with a fillip on its song.

The upward spiraling gurgle of a Swainson's thrush, the thin pee-seeeee! of a broad-winged hawk. 75 and 76. I had to beat that record now! 77 was a warbling rose-breasted grosbeak. Finally! The feeder regulars had skunked me.

A quartet of chimney swifts stormed over chittering: 78!

It was raining pretty good by now. I decided to check the peonies at the Waxler church. Were they open yet?
My stomach fell when I saw evidence that the cemetery had been weed-whacked just that morning. Please, please please let it be by a person who knows a peony from fleabane. Ahhhhh!! Still there!
The buds were covered with ants, but still tightly closed. I'm dying to see if they're anything special, different from the three varieties I have at home. If so, I'll take an eye or two in the fall, take it home and pass it along, too. For all I know these could have been planted 150 years ago. Peonies are like that. Queen of the Garden. Long may she reign!! 


I was a little cold, so we sat in the sanctuary to dry out. My phone and notebook were still intact. I made a mental note to carry a folded Ziploc as part of my stripped down running kit. There is only so much you can put in the pocket of running shorts, if you can even find them with pockets. 

I realized that this church smells exactly like my grandmother Ruigh's house in Meservey, Iowa, used to when we'd visit there in summer. I think that's partly why I love coming here so very much.
Old dry fusty wood, a hint of mildew, a tinge of mouse. Not bad, just venerable and mysterious. We wait out the worst of the rain and leave feeling warmer and drier.


There were birds yet to see. There are always birds yet to be seen.

4 comments:

I feel I repeat myself too often -- but I so enjoy your posts. It is as though you and Chet take me along on your adventures. Thank you yet again ! Darlene Shamblin

Posted by Anonymous May 15, 2014 at 5:20 AM

Thanks for the App Ohio adventures! What kind/brand of bluebird boxes do you use? thanks!

I use Gilbertson-style PVC boxes which are made by Merlin Lehman, an Amish gentleman who can be reached at 60026 CR 35, Middlebury, IN 46540. I also have some slot boxes which were made for me by my neighbor Jeff. Those are the ones to which I refer.

Love this one, Julie.

Posted by Anonymous May 17, 2014 at 7:15 AM
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