Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis
and Supporting Cast
Waterloo County, ON
6 May 2014
The Eastern Bluebird has been celebrated in song (and Western and Mountain Bluebirds also) perhaps more than any other species. There are countless songs in North America extolling the beauty of bluebirds, and one of the most memorable songs from World War II is Vera Lynn's song about there being bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover - and Britain doesn't even have bluebirds!
It seems that this species has somehow always had a certain resonance with humans, and its return was eagerly anticipated by First Nations people in times past as an augury of good times ahead. Their belief was that the Great Spirit sent the sky on its back and the earth on its belly, and that as long as the bluebird returned there would not be famine.
Bluebirds are cavity nesters and since humans have an apostolic zeal for destroying old forests and removing snags, natural cavities are in short supply, with much competition from other species for them. Some twenty to thirty years ago, Eastern Bluebirds were in serious decline and were a cause of great concern. Champions of bluebird conservation started to spring up everywhere and there now exist a great number of bluebird societies, established for the express purpose of providing habitat for the species. Legions of volunteers erect and maintain nest boxes, with some dedicated enthusiasts maintaining bluebird trails of several hundred nest boxes.
Miriam and I are no less enthusiastic about bluebirds, and though we do not maintain a trail, we eagerly await their arrival each spring, and from early April onward start to check the locations where we regularly find them.
I blogged recently about the Conestoga River and it is close to its banks that we often see our first Eastern Bluebird of the year - always an event of great joy.
When coupled with the pastoral tranquility of the river valley, rarely does the exquisite quality of nature impress itself more resolutely.
This lone Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator had somehow become separated from other members of its kind and was cruising along the river.
A pair of Brown-headed Cowbirds Molothrus ater were feeding on seed left by some bird lover. It is amazing to us how often we see seed left on walls, stumps, fence posts, or simply strewn on the ground. People obviously do this from a deep-rooted love of wild creatures for they do it without
obvious reward and as far as we have observed do not even tarry to see what species come to their bounty. Perhaps this is altruism in its purest form.
Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe is always one of the earliest flycatchers to arrive back in southern Ontario from its wintering haunts in warmer climes, and we were delighted to see this individual. Phoebes will sometimes nest in the same location year after year, constantly adding one nest atop the previous ones, until a veritable tower is constructed.