Saturday, April 15, 2006

Ten Signs That It's Easter

Our first bluebird brood hatched yesterday.
  1. A wood thrush sang from our north woods just after dawn this morning.
  2. There were no kids' dress shoes at the shoe store.
  3. I found a song sparrow nest with four eggs. It was cleverly located in the tall grass around our septic tank. No predator is going to find THAT nest by smell.
  4. Entire creaking cartloads of Easter candy were being wheeled through the Wal-Mart parking lot.
  5. Our neighbors across the valley are shooting skeet. This is an Easter tradition since we moved here 14 years ago. Later on, when I grow weary of the gunshots, I will play them some guitar with my amp set on 11.
  6. Every patch of lawn is flush with dandelions, spring beauties, and a lush carpet of green.
  7. The sound of lawnmowers fills the air. I find it's best to mow before the Easter egg hunt, rather than during or after. Last night I had a nightmare about weed-whacking.
  8. Our first clutch of bluebird eggs has hatched. Little pink squirmies--very unlike the yellow marshmallow chicks that kids everywhere will be gagging down tomorrow morning.
  9. I spied the first monarch of spring this morning.
  10. Our kids are already buzzed out of their gourds on sugar. It's only gonna get worse.
Wishing you a joyous and peaceful holiday weekend. BOTB.


At 4:43 PM, Anonymous KatDoc said...

Question on bluebird monitoring:

I noticed on a previous posting, and again today, that you take the nests completely out of the nest box when you monitor. I never have. Oh, I look - a lot - and even softly touch the nestlings from time to time, but I never take the nest out until the young ones fledge.

Any reason why you take the nests out? Or is this just something you do for blogging, since it is easier to get a picture with the nest in your hand?

Also, for the first time since I have been bluebirding (15 years) I had a clutch of 6 eggs this spring. How common is this in Eastern Bluebirds, do you know?

Kathi, who loves bluebirds more than any other bird

At 5:24 PM, Blogger BT3 said...

Hi Kathi:
This is a very good question.

We only do the nest removal a few times a season. Usually for photos or to change out the nest if it's too soiled or riddled with botfly larvae.Or to sex the nestlings once their flight feathers have started coming in. We're super careful when we do this. And since our boxes are all baffled, the risk of a predator following our scent trail to the nest is almost eliminated.

Normally, we just open the box, check things out, count babies, close the box and get away. Then make our notes.

I cannot take too much credit for all of this breeding success on our farm. Zick is The Bluebird Oracle. I am merely her humble manservant.

At 5:28 PM, Blogger BT3 said...


About your 6-egg clutch, Julie says we only get this in our larger boxes. If the inside floor diameter of your nest box is more than 5" x 5" the bluebirds may lay larger clutches of 5 or 6 eggs. This is just a hypothesis, but it's verging on becoming a theory on our bluebird trail.

Our bluebirds are our faves, too.

At 7:41 PM, Blogger LauraHinNJ said...

How can you tell if there are lots of botfly larva? Any pics or links? Are the larva on the baby birds or in the nest material?

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Susan Gets Native said...

Oh, yeah! Crank it to 11! It's fun to hear a good old Spinal Tap reference.

Congrats on your little blue babies. I am waging a one-woman battle against house sparrows, who have chased off the only pair of bluebirds we have ever enticed to our yard. But seeing the first purple martin boys come back today made me feel a bit better. Maybe better luck with them.

I couldn't find any kid's shoes, either.

At 10:38 PM, Blogger Julie Zickefoose said...

Science Chimp Weighs In:

It's a blowfly, not a botfly. (The bluebird blowfly, Protocalliphora sialia). Botflies dig under the skin and make big lumps; blowflies just suck blood. Around here, almost all bluebird nests have blowflies. You can smell them--funky. And you can find them just under the nest cup in the middle layers of the nest. They look like maggots. We use fresh dry meadow grass, gathered NOW, before it all rots down, to fashion new nests for them when the babies are a week old. We remove the infested nest and take it far away before throwing it out. Blowflies get worse as the season wears on, and they're worse in wet years, it seems. They can seriously compromise the health of the babies. A bad infestation can be as many as 150-200 blowflies in a single nest! Yuccch!I always feel good ridding the babies of that many parasites.I think about how good it would feel to go to sleep that night without having your blood sucked, for once.

At 4:10 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good morning from England, I'm a birder from the west of England,spring is late this year,Swallows,House Martins,Sand Martins,Redstarts etc are all moving north, or taking up breeding areas.I enjoy your blogs,its good to hear how spring is advancing where you are.I used to live in D.C. for four years.Keep up the good work.Chin Chin from good olde England.
regards Mark

At 6:32 AM, Anonymous KatDoc said...

Thanks, BT3 & Zick, for the bluebird info. I must be lucky - I have never had blowflies in my cavity-nesters, tho I did get a nasty mite infestation in a nest of tree swallows 2 years ago. I didn't do nest changes until I started with purple martins. All the PUMA people - PMCA, PMSNA, etc - recommended nest changes and so I tried it. Was very nervous the first time I did it, less so afterwards. I have pine straw for purple martin nest changes.

My bluebird box is a standard, commercial box, with 4.5 or 5 inch square floor, the same one I have used for years. Last year's first clutch only had 4 eggs, but other than that, I have always had 5 in the first clutch. I'm curious to see how this 6 egg clutch develops.

Mark from England: I have birded in Scotland a few times - at a hotel in Inchnadamph we had house martins nesting right outside my window. I enjoyed seeing them - they are beautiful birds.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger LauraHinNJ said...

Thanks for the info, Julie. Blowflies sound just as gross as botflies! Yuck!

Sounds like the babies are all in good hands.

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Endment said...

What a lovely series of signs of spring. Thanks for sharing and for the information on bluebirds.

At 9:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spring is here on Sanibel...young of all sorts being fed, the Easter chicks we saw here yesterday were mottled duck ducklings in the Bailey Tract and a wonderful bc nightheron youngun who was probably a Yoga master in his other life. He was preening and getting the sun on his belly by fluffing out the feathers and sun worshipping, he was a hoot to watch get into several very exotic poses. Spring having a small hiccup back home in South Dakota.
Caroline Stafford

At 7:49 AM, Blogger PK said...

Bill, I hate to be the one who posts the un-magic #12 comment on this blog (11 seemed appropriate. It is, after all, ONE louder). But, I wonder if you could save nests from the box from previous seasons, somehow sterilize them (maybe just seal them up for a few months with some dessicant??), rather than fashioning new ones. It seems to me that making nests might be tricky and time consuming.


Post a Comment

<< Home