Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A few breeding species at SpruceHaven

24 May 2016

     Yesterday, assisted by John Lichty, I did a systematic round of all the nest boxes to check their contents, as well as examining the known nests of other species thought to be breeding at SpruceHaven.
     The following account covers the morning's activity in the sequence in which we carried out our survey.
     We are very fortunate to have discovered the nest of a Brown Thrasher 
Toxostoma rufum, thanks to a tip from Dave Westfall, and a couple of pictures are provided below of the bird sitting tight on its nest. 

     The nest is deep in the centre of a bush and is so well concealed that it takes me a minute or so to relocate it when I check on its progress. I am not exactly sure how many nests of this species I have seen, but this is certainly not more than the third, and possibly only the second ever. I am looking forward to watching this pair of thrashers raise their young.
     We were on our way down to the pond to check on a Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus nest when we saw a half dozen Cedar Waxwings Bombycilla cedrorum in a pine tree - and any time you see a group of Cedar Waxwings you know it's going to be a great day. Two of them were billing and exchanging positions on a branch, possibly establishing a pair bond, but the nest time for this species is still a couple of months away. They are rare among frugivorous species in feeding their young primarily on this diet, so they wait until peak fruiting time to raise their brood.

     Red-winged Blackbirds have ample prime breeding habitat at SpruceHaven and their sheer numbers reflect this fact. This nest has had a very successful outcome.

     A pair of Green Herons Butorides virescens were observed in early May building a nest, but what has happened subsequently is a bit of a mystery. One day I witnessed the herons being harassed mercilessly by three Common Grackles Quiscalus quiscula, to what end I am not quite sure.  Whether the grackles have succeeded in terminating the herons' breeding attempt is an open question. However, I have not seen them subsequently at the nest and rarely do I see the pair together. In this distant shot you can see one of the herons with the stick nest at the lower right of the picture.

     No doubt this Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula nest will soon produce young.

     I had been watching a pair of Black-capped Chickadees Poecile atricapillus going in and out of one of the nest boxes we had installed and I was happy to discover seven eggs when I opened up the box. The incubating bird that flew out scolded me vociferously and I was anxious to close up the box and let it get back to the serious business of taking care of the eggs. The picture is hardly great but I was at the top of a ladder holding the nest box open with one hand and taking the picture with the other.

     Two of the three owl boxes we had erected were occupied by Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris, the third was unused this year. 
      In the first box we examined the young starlings are about ready to fledge.

     The second occupied box contained a contingent of very young birds, no more than a couple of days old.

     It's an impressive gape on this nestling. Perhaps it reacted to my presence by thinking I was delivering food.

     Recently I had observed a House Wren Troglodytes aedon carrying sticks in the vicinity of one of our nest boxes and an examination of the box revealed a typical House Wren nest, a platform of sticks filling most of the box with a soft, lined cup on top.

     Our bluebird boxes were unsuccessful in attracting Eastern Bluebird Sialis sialia this year and in fact four of the six boxes had no tenant at all.
      The first one we checked had a recently hatched family of House Sparrows Passer domesticus although the young were well down into a nest cup, not visible in the photograph.

      House Sparrow was not our most desirable species, but now that they have young we plan to let them raise their brood.
      The second box, pleasingly contained four Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor eggs and we look forward to watching this family hatch and fledge. Aerial insectivores of all species are in need of help so we are happy to see this pair using our box.

     Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica have been flying into the barn for a couple of weeks now and we went inside to check the status of the nests. It was too dark to take pictures, but we found three nests containing eggs and another four with soft, lined cups waiting for eggs to be laid.
     In addition we know of the nest of a pair of American Crows Corvus brachyrynchos high in a conifer, and a pair of Mourning Doves Zenaida macroura which had two eggs appears to have abandoned the nest.
     There are doubtless other species breeding; I am sure we have many more discoveries to make.


  1. Looks like nesting season is well underway, amazing how fast things move in spring........

  2. Hi David.

    Super nice and beautiful this.
    Birds still brooding, others already with little ones and others still with the eggs.
    Beautiful look at nature.

    Groettie frome Patricia.

  3. Beautiful photos, congratulacions! :)

  4. It is always interesting to observe who takes possession of the boxes... not always the species desired!!
    Funny enough, if my American friends on the other side of the hill have plenty of house sparrows, I have none!
    Lovely series, David!
    Huge hugs to share with Miriam :)

  5. What a great post, you are so lucky to see all these chicks. I put up one box in our garden but not a single bird has taken a look at it as far as I know. Our neighbours found a snake in there box so...... Keep well Diane

  6. Gran reportaje sobre los nidos, me ha gustado mucho. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

  7. Dearest David,
    A pity that none of the boxes got occupied by blue birds but you at least do have several residents. Hope they don't get disturbed by the visit and photo taking. It is always a very tricky thing with birds.
    Happy weekend,

  8. So sorry to hear your Bluebird boxes haven't attracted their intended occupants, David. Don't lose heart! A most interesting post, my favourite piece of information being that about the Cedar Waxwings.

    LOve to you both - - Richard

  9. Hello David,
    Beautiful pictures of the young birds in the nest.
    Always nice to see that new life.
    Best regards, Irma

  10. A succesful spring with so much nests filled with young birds. A great blog David.

  11. You've got some wonderful photo's here, so nice to see.

    All the best Jan

  12. Hi David,
    This is again a wonderful post full of nice pictures of the little ones. Great that you have a litter of a mockingbird Rosse discovered in the hedge. Funny to see that little head just above the nest :-)
    The other photos are very valuable with all the nests, eggs and young birds just born. It seemed wonderful to be taking :-)

  13. This was so interesting to me; until I began reading blogs, I really had no idea of how much true birders could do . There needs to be another word for people like you ( and Phil and others like you) to distinguish from amateurs, especially those like me who just like to watch birds and are lucky to even get a picture sometimes. Thank you for all you do! There is are so many dangers for birds in today's world, we are lucky there are people like you to help them .

  14. Hello David,
    Great pictures!! So very nice to get a look inside these bird's nests.
    So cute.

    Kind regards,

  15. Hi David,
    marvelous photos of the brids, the nesting and the young birds. Amazing !
    Best regards, Synnöve

  16. Fabulous photos of the precious babies and eggs.