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Bluebird Update

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

It's time for an update on the three "abandoned" bluebird nests here on the farm. The orchard box, which has had three cold eggs in it for a couple of weeks, is truly abandoned. The eggs are addled--I can see the big gas space in each one, taking up half the contents. Too bad. I'll probably never know what happened there, but I suspect the female has been killed.
The driveway box, which had two cold eggs in it on July 17, had three cold eggs in it July 21. I was stunned. I'd never seen a bluebird leave eggs cold in the middle of the summer. I even touched them to my lips to make sure. (Mothers know that our lips are finely calibrated instruments, able to tell a child's fever within a half-degree. We put digital thermometers to shame. Might as well throw them out.) Yes, they were cold. What to make of that?
On July 28, I checked the nest again, and a female bluebird flew out! So! She had finally started incubating! I couldn't wait to see whether any of these eggs would hatch, and how long she'd have to incubate them. I checked the nest again on July 31. And all three eggs were pipping. Well, I'll be a monkey's uncle. She must have started incubating July 18, right after I found the two cold eggs. It had been an entirely normal 14-day incubation period. Perhaps her inattentiveness was due to the high ambient temperatures. She could get away with leaving them for long periods. I stood there, grinning foolishly, glad to be duped again. Just when you think you know a whole lot about bluebirds, they pull the rug out from under you.
On to the oilwell box, where I intervened and fed the starving nestlings. Lost one, but three survived, and both parents came back, doubtless encouraged by the dish of mealworms I kept refilling on the roof of their box. Here they are on July 31.

Three little girls, 13 days old.You can tell by their brownish-gray their flight feathers that they're females. There'd be a lot more cobalt blue in a male's wings by Day 13.

And here's the same clutch at Day 16. The others are hiding behind her. I wouldn't normally peek in a box with chicks this old, but these are developing more slowly than normal due to their early deprivation. And I just had to see them one more time. I've been schlepping mealworms out to them for 10 days, for crying out loud. I do believe they're going to make it.
When Chet and I take our hike out to the oilwell box, we pass the box turtle nest, now well overgrown, but still armored against all comers. I love to think of the porcelain treasures developing just below the surface of the earth.


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