Thursday, March 22, 2007

Nesting in Progress

The bluebird couple is working on their nest!
This morning we sat on the front porch and watched the female carry numerous bundles of dried pine straw into the box. She looked so comical, almost like she had a big handlebar moustache, when she turned to look at us with straw sticking out both sides of her beak. After she completed a few trips, we saw the neatest thing. The male joined her on top of the house and offered her a big, juicy bug. She accepted it graciously (after all, she is the one doing all the work) and they sat side by side for a bit. Such a gorgeous sight; I just love watching them and listening to their warbling conversations.

Hawk Dance
While we were watching all the birdly activity in the yard, we noticed several Red-tailed hawks soaring overhead. We could hear their vocalizations, which were very different from the usual shrill whistling cries; these calls sounded more like screams. Occasionally one would tuck its wings to its body and dive toward the earth; then, just as suddenly, it would pull out of the dive and soar upward again. Their feathers were so beautiful against the blue sky! I noticed that one of the hawks had a gap in its left wing feathers. That'll help me positively identify it if it comes by again, at least until the missing feather grows back.

Chickadee Update
Chickadees are spending lots of time going in and out of the little house in the tree. I can see if from my desk and often grab my ever-present binoculars to sneak a peek at the activity. I haven't seen any nesting material being carted in yet, but then again, I'm supposed to be working and can't watch them every minute. Those fascinating little feathered things make concentrating on my work so difficult!

The trees are in bloom, flowers and shrubs are covered with buds, and there is pollen everywhere! But you know what? I can't stay indoors! No matter how sick my allergies make me, it's worth it to be able to spend time outside. Until next time, stay well, stay safe, and try to watch a bird or two!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Housewarming gifts and red wasps

I made a housewarming gift for all the soon-to-be nesting wild birds! Yesterday I stuffed a handful of unscented dryer lint and a bunch of yarn clippings (none longer than 3" in length; don't want any birdies getting tangled up) into a suet cage and hung it from one of the arms of the garden birdfeeder. I'm dying to see one of them taking some of the offerings, but no luck. They're wiley, those feathered ones; every time I check on the nesting materials, the cage is swinging wildly and whatever bird was there is long gone. Maybe next time!

On an annoying and potentially dangerous note, I saw several red wasps going in and out of the garden birdhouse--the one the bluebird couple is interested in. The female chased away a couple of them yesterday and went about her business of sitting on top of the house and spending time inside doing who-knows-what. But this morning, I saw her stick her head inside and then hop on top of the house. Seconds later a big wasp exited the house. She chased another out, too, but I'm afraid the wasps are going to try to set up housekeeping. If things look the same tomorrow, I'll open up the box and try to do something to repel them. Natural, chemical-free remedies are most welcome, if anyone wants to suggest something.

Got to do a bit of gardening this morning! I trimmed all the dead stuff from the butterfly bush and was pleased to see how full of new growth it is and the fresh leaves sprouting all over it. If all goes well, I'll be mulching and trimming and working much more in the garden soon.

Be well, everyone!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Spring is Springing!

Or it is in Alabama, anyway.

The air was full of birdsong this morning! The music overpowered all other sounds and I stopped just to listen. There were the warbling calls of bluebirds, mockingbirds and brown thrashers competed with each other to see who could come up with the most imitations, Carolina chickadees scolded the dog, and there were so many other voices it was impossible to sort them all out. I can't think of a more gorgeous, absolutely perfect soundtrack for my day.

For the last couple of weeks, the wild birds have been busily scoping out the birdhouses we have scattered around the place. The box used by last year's bluebird couple is being checked out by another pair of bluebirds (or it might be the same pair that used it last year, dunno) and my husband saw a tufted titmouse sitting on top of it with a couple of sprigs of grass in its beak. A wren has poked its head in the door once or twice, too. So we'll see who ends up renting that unit.

A pair of Eastern bluebirds (I'm inclined to think it's the same pair mentioned above) is also constantly going in and out of a birdhouse in the garden. One day I saw the female messing around inside the house with a feather. She would poke her head out the door, feather in beak, look around, and then go back inside. Maybe she was doing a little spring cleaning. The couple has been busy around that house again today and they're also actively chasing other birds away from it.

Last Saturday, we hung a new house in a tree outside my office window. Already tufted titmice and Carolina chickadees are chasing each other away from it. That afternoon I noticed an Eastern bluebird, a cardinal, big sparrow of some sort, numerous chickadees and titmice, and a lone wren checking it out.

Then yesterday I spotted a chickadee going in and out of that house. It climbed beneath it to check out the bottom; next the little guy examined the back of the house. Guess he/she wanted to make sure everything is in good shape. Later, there were two chickadees looking it over. I think one of them was the one who was there earlier, determined the house was okay, and then went after its mate. ("Oh, Honey, you just have to see this house! It's in a good neighborhood, has lots of room for the kids, and access to water and a well stocked grocery store.") We'll see what happens from here.

Garden note: My Japanese magnolia is covered with beautiful purple flowers! These trees look strange with their bare, leafless branches all decked out in flowers, but I love them! They smell nice, too.