Saturday, April 20, 2013

Update No. 2 on Parc Perlière's Nesting Bluebirds!

Papa and Mama Eastern Bluebirds -- Parc Perlière, Charleston, SC -- April 13, 2013

         Hatching of the 5 eggs should occur tomorrow if my calculations are correct!  This week has been quite interesting as we have watched our Eastern Bluebirds defend their territory against 1) the neighboring bluebirds from across the street who ventured into the yard, 2) a curious Carolina Wren who peeked into the box and 3) that pesky squirrel every time he gets too close to the box.  Papa Bluebird is relentless when he takes up chasing the squirrel!  A squeaky Cowbird suffered a team attack when he dared to posture and strut his stuff on the cypress tree nest to the box.

Mama Bluebird -- Parc Perlière, Charleston, SC -- April 13, 2013

           Knowing that feeding our bluebirds mealworms while they are raising chicks in the box allows us great photo ops once the chicks fledge, we invested in mealworms, just as we have in the past.  Each morning and afternoon, we place a few worms in a specially designed feeder that allows access to cavity nesters of a certain size, but not other birds.  Yes, our bluebirds are spoiled!  No worries!  Our other birds have plenty of seed to eat.  There is a bit of a learning curve for the bluebirds as they must figure out how to enter and leave these curious feeders.

Papa Eastern Bluebird leaving the feeder -- Parc Perlière, Charleston, SC -- April 13, 2013

        The photo above shows the feeder -- wooden with 2 entry holes on either end and clear plastic on the sides.  While the female was incubating eggs, Papa Bluebird learned first and became quite proficient rather quickly.  The female took a couple of extra days before she became comfortable with it.  I missed an opportunity to film her on her first day's attempt.  She was very uncertain about how to and whether to enter the box.  I watched as the male bluebird entered and exited several times in quick succession as if to show her how.  She did eventually tentatively get inside that day and quickly left.  The next day, I determined to film her learning.  The video, narrated by Carl and myself, is below.

Female Eastern Bluebird learns to enter a mealworm feeder -- Parc Perlière, Charleston, SC -- April 14, 2013

      Well, not only has this perky Mama Bluebird learned how to access her feeder, she is also very well aware of who brings the mealworms and where we live!  She now flies to the seed feeder -- and this bird does not eat seed! -- at our dining room window in the mornings and late afternoons to let us know that she deems it to be feeding time! Princess Bluebird!  I have seen her watching the window when perched on the mealworm feeder.  I believe that when she perceives movement inside the house she then flies to the seed feeder to show us she's ready for more.  

Mama Eastern Bluebird visits the window to alert us to her empty mealworm feeder -- Parc Perlière, Charleston, SC -- April 18, 2013

Mama Eastern Bluebird visits the window to alert us to her empty mealworm feeder -- Parc Perlière, Charleston, SC -- April 18, 2013
        This morning, a couple of hours after feeding them, she brought along a reinforcement.  Papa Bluebird was perched on top of the seed feeder right along side peering in with her.  When she saw me watching her, she actually flew up and fluttered at the window!  I am sorry I missed that photo.  Sigh!  The camera was upstairs!

         So here is what I told Princess Bluebird.  Yes, I talk to my bluebirds. Hey listen, girlie!  Those mealworms are just a treat.  That is not your whole diet and you had better get ready to hunt up some bugs and grubs for a bunch of hungry mouths TOMORROW!!!!!  Fingers crossed for the hatching!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Update no. 1 on Parc Perlière's Nesting Bluebirds

          Parc Perlière's Eastern Bluebird family is expecting!  On Thursday, April 4, the female laid her first egg and we watched and recorded the event via a live video feed!  Watch the video below of Mama Bluebird laying her first egg.

Video by Carl Miller -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC -- April 4, 2013
            Monday, April 8, she laid her 5th and final egg and began incubating.  Eastern Bluebirds, like most songbirds and duck species, generally begin incubating on the same day when the last egg is laid.  This allows that all the eggs should hatch on the same day and also hopefully fledge on the same day and probably makes child-rearing easier on the parents.  With help from Birds of North America -- an encyclopaedic-like, online resource for birds' life histories sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the American Ornithologists' Union, we estimate that the eggs will hatch on the 14th day of incubation -- Sunday, April 21.  Then we will watch them for 17 days as they change from naked tiny, big-eyed chicks into fat, feathered, funny kids.  You can see the size changes from one day to the next -- truly amazing!  They are expected to fledge on either Wednesday, May 8th or Thursday, May 9th.  Does it show that we are  excited?!  We will continue to update you on the progress of this growing family with more video and photos as we are able to capture them.

Gowaty, Patricia Adair and Jonathan H. Plissner. 1998. Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Birdbox Battles: Eastern Bluebirds vs. Carolina Chickadees!

            In our yard, dubbed Parc Perlière, we have one bluebird box which has usually housed Eastern Bluebird families in the Spring but has also sometimes been used by Carolina Chickadees.

Last year's hungry Carolina Chickadee fledglings waiting on a meal  -- Parc Perlière -- This family did not use the nestbox though there was a Carolina Chickadee family in the box in 2011.

Last year's Carolina Chickadee family meal -- Parc Perlière -- April 22, 2012 -- This family did not use the next box though there was a Carolina Chickadee family in the box in 2011.

Eastern Bluebird family last year on fledging day -- Parc Perlière -- April 27, 2012

Eastern Bluebird youngster hoping for a handout from Dad who is trying to take care of Mom  who is sitting on a second set of eggs -- Parc Perlière -- May 30, 2010

Five Carolina Chickadee eggs -- March 23, 2013
               We thought that this would be the Spring for the Chickadees to use the box.  They had already built a nest. If this photo of Carolina Chickadee eggs looks familiar to my regular readers, then yes, you are correct, you did see this photo in my recent post, "Transitioning into Spring!".  Sadly, I must report that the eggs are no more!  Even before the Carolina Chickadees managed to lay these 5 eggs, we had witnessed a pair of Eastern Bluebirds showing quite an interest in the nest box, visiting it regularly, particularly in the early morning.

            What a crazy week!  How we would have liked to have provided another nestbox to prevent the conflict.  Unfortunately, our free time has been much limited by work and school obligations.  We only had a few moments each morning before leaving for work to watch the bird box disputes.  The Carolina Chickadees were able to fend them off for more than a week while they laid their eggs.  But alas, the female Eastern Bluebird became more and more persistent and aggressive. Finally, Wednesday a week ago, she entered the box, then came out, flew to the a perch.  We could not see if she was carrying anything in her beak.  I suspected she was attempting to carry out the chickadee eggs.  Three times she did this.  I stepped away from the window to finish preparing for work.  But Carl watched and reported the blow-by-blow fight that ensued.  As the female returned to enter the box a fourth time, a chickadee attacked her and knocked her to the ground where they continued to scuffle.  Then the male bluebird joined the fray!  The chickadee broke free and it was all over as quickly as it had begun.  Wow!

            That afternoon, when Carl and I checked the box, we found 3 broken eggs and two whole but cold eggs.  We were pretty sure that the Carolina Chickadees had given up but we left the nest inside just in case.  Carl also quickly installed another video camera as he had removed last year's camera for repairs.  Now we are back to watching the goings on much less intrusively now.  We saw the chickadees visit the nest box  and look in forlornly on occasion but it appeared that they realized that their eviction was a sealed deal.

            By Friday, a few pine needles had appeared -- a preferred nesting material of Eastern Bluebirds.  Saturday through Monday, we watched the female Eastern Bluebird bring much more nesting material and build her nest.  Here's a video showing her doing her jig to shape the nest bowl.

Video by Carl Miller -- Parc Perlière -- March 30, 2013

          Occasionally, the male entered and poked around a bit and would remove some of the Chickadee nesting material.  Honestly, he did not help much.  For Eastern Bluebirds, nest-building falls to the female.   I suppose his gestures were symbolic of wanting to feel useful but not knowing how.  No worries, he will work his tail feathers off once there are chicks to feed!  Here's his video clip!

Video by Carl Miller -- Parc Perlière -- March 30, 2013

         The nest now appears complete.  Over the last couple of days, the female has not brought in more nesting material but she has continued to come in to do her jig to perfect the bowl.  I am hoping for an egg tomorrow! 

         Carl and I will follow the events as they progress with our bluebirds and will share here in the blog our peeks into life inside a nestbox.  So stay tuned for updates!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Harlem Shake: Wildlife Style -- must-see video by the USFWS!

         Wildlife shaking their booties, or whatever, doing the Harlem Shake!  Wow!  This is a fun video posted to YouTube by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).   Thank you USFWS for this awesome clip!  By the way, USFWS has a playlist of over 340 cool videos.  You might want to check them out after watching the one below.  And quite frankly, I confess that I need to thank The Perch, The Audubon Magazine blog for posting it also as that is where I found it.  I did not want my PMP readers to miss out so I figured that I would share it with you, too.  I will bet that this one goes VIRAL!

Video by USFWS

I think that some of these critters have better moves and synchronicity than their counterparts on Dancing with the Stars! What do you think?