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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Humans and birds in annual seasonal search

The calendar says spring, and as always, this season stimulates the housing market. Like people, birds are on the hunt. To help us help the birds, longtime friends Sky and Di (Schuyler and Diana Rector) joined Lyn and me for lunch, bringing a brand new house that Sky made for bluebirds.

After making some 50 houses during the past 15 years in the Peterson style favored by bluebirds and watchers alike, Sky's dwellings have become professional grade. A stockbroker for 30 years, he retired in 1995 and now embraces bird-watching with a passion; one of the three houses on his property is a gift from his children and has a camera that allows watching from a monitor in the kitchen. "They're so fascinating to me," he says of bluebirds. "I just love them."

As do many of us who appreciate birds for their connecting us to the natural world, their beautiful looks, along with the movement they bring to the garden – flitting, zipping, swooping and diving. And singing through it all.


Before lunch, Sky got busy, installing the pole, mounting the coated-pine house and giving a tour inside and outside, including the peep hole with a sturdy hinged door.


A welcoming entry, just the right size and shape.

Good-sized side opening allows watching up close – through plexiglass. 
Obviously we weren't the only ones impressed by Sky's new house. It was on the market only a few days when the first looker wanted to see the inside. Thing was, this was not a bluebird. In sailed the early prospect, not bothered at all by the man installing doors at our home as he went back and forth, his plastic sheets and materials laying on the ground just  few feet away from the bird house.


I popped an e to Sky, reporting the non-bluebird. I could just hear Sky chuckling as he answered: "Congratulations! You are the proud birdfather of a Carolina Chickadee!" He added that he has two at his place and that he's heard stories about their flying up to people and eating out of their hands.

That could happen, but not at this bird house, I think. A short while after the chickadee left, in came a pair of bluebirds. Traditionally, the male finds a prospective home, and the female decides whether it's suitable.

Says Sky: "Ive seen males start building to attract females," but after they move in, he lets her do the rest of the building. The pair played out the house hunt by that script, with the male showing up, followed by the wife a couple of minutes later:

"Hon, it's great. Come look while I take your place on that Japanese maple."
"It's nice. Brand new. But I'm telling you, if you think I'm doing all the work again, you got another think coming."
Who knows what will happen next. I've seen the bluebird couple both morning and afternoon, but I haven't seen them gathering pinestraw or other nesting material. Still, the season is young; they may be moving in as the season does.

As do my first hesitant, winter-wearied but unbowed cherry blossoms on my my first spring day in Marietta, Georgia.

If you're interested in bluebirds, the Website sialis.org is chockful of useful information.

34 comments:

  1. Lee, I have always loved blue birds but have a hard time attracting them. A few years ago I had a very fancy one built and it attracted everything but blue birds. My friend and Garden Designer Brooks Garcia said he would build me a country blue bird house. He did and it attracted everything but blue birds.

    The next day my neighbor asked me if I had seen the blue bird nest in her chimney.
    I gave up.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Talk about luck of "the draw," Rose Lady; you drew all but the ones you built for. That may be my fate, too, but there's good fortune in having *some* birds. Imagine if none wanted our hospitality. One more thing: You have a chimney?

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  2. You are so lucky to have either bird use the box. All that uses this size box here are house sparrows. BAH HUMBUG. It will quite the treat to have bluebirds in your box. It will be fun watching the action. What nice friends you have. You are mightly blessed.

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    1. Absolutely, Lisa. All my birds have been "good" birds. Can you believe the goodnesses of good friends. They're a big help as I build my still-newish garden.

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  3. Wonderful post, Lee.

    You're making your property truly welcoming to all sorts of critters :)

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    1. Thank you, Aaron. Critters R Us. As long as we like 'em.

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  4. A sweet way to celebrate spring with the new birdhouse. Looks like all the bird activity can be viewed from the writing room too.

    Your observations on house hunting were given "read aloud" status here at my house.

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    1. Ha! Shirley, you keen observer, you; you know my vantage point well. Birds seen from my writing room are entertaining and thought-provoking. (You know that, too.)

      Read aloud status! Now *that* is high praise. Thank you.

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  5. Hey, Lee,
    This is an enjoyable post and your pictures are great.

    The Eastern Bluebirds, my favorite, have arrived at my place also. They come every year and build their nest in the box at the edge of the pool. It faces East. Most of the time they will rebuild and a second group will fledge. Listen closely, their song is the most beautiful, as with all thrushes.

    Years ago I was a member of the Sialia organization a group devoted to the bluebird preservation. Members receive a publication by the same name with lots of information. Glad to know it still exists.



    ReplyDelete
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    1. Hey, Barbara,

      I'm glad you like the pictures and the words, and I can tell how much you love bluebirds; you certainly know a lot about them. If I get them to show up at this new home, I'll listen for the beautiful music.

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  6. It seems like only in the last few years I've SEEN bluebirds, but apparently everyone (at least in this neck of the woods) is seeing them more frequently -- what a joy. Now I have to get one of those wonderful houses. Great photos, Lee.

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    1. Hey, that's good news, Elizabeth, that bluebirds are making a comeback in your neck of the woods. Here's to getting them into a house on your property. Thanks on photos.

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  7. Awww, sweet! I would welcome either the chickadees or the bluebirds! Chickadees are my favorite bird and they love our backyard. But bluebirds are beautiful and not as common. Lucky you! How fun to watch them come and go. Your friend is very talented. And, wow--Cherry blossoms! That really gives me hope!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yep, any of my first visitors would be welcome to live in the neighborhood. I think all my fellow residents in the cul would agree.

      Keep hope alive; spring can't be long in getting to you.

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  8. There's a gentleman in our area who has installed and cared for about 250 bluebird houses. He visits them all regularly and checks on all the details: who lives there, how many eggs and survivors, etc. He puts in hours of effort and lots of mileage on his vehicle! We have two houses on our property, and ususally have swallows take over. Nevertheless, there are bluebirds around and I see them on the wires above me as i mow. (Not yet this year though.)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Whoa! Two hundred and fifty. That's got to be a full-time job. I wonder if he has a technique for evicting swallows – and getting those wire-sitting bluebirds down into their rightful homes.

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  9. why are they shaped like this?

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    1. Shapes vary. This one, the Peterson style, is one of the popular ones. Want to know more? Here' a link:

      http://www.sialis.org/nestboxproscons.htm

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  10. Love the bluebird house...especially the plexiglass...on the side for viewing. Do you think your friend would share this unique house plan? I have lots of chickadees, and the other morning my yard was covered with robins...we had a couple of tree go down in the storm. Guess they were eating the bugs that fell out! Also, I have a woodpecker that comes to my bird feeders...never had seen that before. Your yard is coming along nicely! Have you been to Gibbs Gardens to see the daffodils? Outstanding! Beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I'm sure he would share, Beverly. If you want me to deliver your ask, send me an e (eleemay@gmail.com), and I'll send it to him.

      Thanks on garden progress. I've seen the Gibbs Japanese garden, but I'm so busy building my own garden that home is the only place I see the daffs. Cheers.

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  11. Great birdhouse! I have a bluebird house too. It's been home to Carolina Chickadees and Carolina Wrens only - no bluebirds have managed to make it past the gatekeepers. But hey, it's a dog-eat-dog world.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. If you're like me, you're happy with just about any winged creature that shows up and gives movement to the garden.

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  12. How fortunate for you to have such nice friends. What a wonderful gift. I checked out the website you recommended. A terrific site, thorough and informative. The Peterson house reviews on the Audubon site tell why it is so successful in attracting bluebirds.

    I have fond memories of watching fledglings leave the nest, one by one many years ago. That was my only success. Ambitious swallows drove the gentile blues out, squirrels chewed the opening and mice nested in the winter. I had the task of removing pink newborns from the box that spring.

    Having said all that, you and your friend have inspired me to try again. Just ordered two from Audubon. Too bad they don't have your viewing window. I just put an order in for one on George's *honey-do* list!

    Will be living vicariously through you for awhile. Love your buds and blossoms. We have a ways to go here up north. Keep those posts coming. Cheers on spring.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Carol, those memories clearly loom large and powerful. I'm glad you're rekindling your bird-watching love. Your previous experience (lovely descriptions) is greater than mine and will serve you well in the coming seasons. Also, you're fortunate to have George to help improve your viewing pleasure. I'm pulling for a sudden spring in New England. You Nutmeggers certainly deserve one. Bird on!

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  13. That box is a piece of architecture. I hope your bluebirds settle in -- sometimes they build three or four nests before settling on one of them. We had bluebirds in boxes we built the first year here and watched them through to fledging -- what an excitement! But in subsequent years the house sparrows out-competed all the bluebirds and chased them off. We finally got rid of the boxes as it was only encouraging bluebird massacres. I'll watch yours online now. Love the peeping door on the side.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Architecture fit for fine feathered friends. I see the house as garden art and hope some interesting birds agree that it would be a good thing to live in a show house.

      Your bluebird massacres show how birds, like humans, can't just . . . get along.

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  14. How lucky you are to have these birds in your garden, bluebirds don’t exist over here so I have never seen them before – or heard them, but we have many other birds around, even in a big city like London.
    I have a bird house in my garden too, although it is more a bird feeding station shaped like a bird house. It is hanging on a obelisk high up, facing outwards - and many times every day it is visited by a squirrel doing intricate acrobatics in order to get to the house and eat the sunflower seeds inside. The seeds were of course meant for the birds, not the squirrel, but what can I do….the squirrel can manage to jump, crawl, eat upside down and just about do anything to get to the food!

    I hope your bluebird couple settle in and produce chicks, looking forward to lots of nice photos :-)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Helene, if you get a chance to see bluebirds, you'll have a treat for eyes and ears.

      Your squirrels' acrobatic determination inspires all kinds of efforts to thwart them; for example, a friend of mine in Connecticut wrapped his cedar poles with copper sheet metal, making it impossible for the rodents to get traction enough to reach the bird feeders. Score one for the humans!

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  15. Happy spring, and enjoy your new bluebird house! It is so much fun watching the bluebirds in the house located down from our patio and visible from the kitchen. But a camera to watch the activities up close? I am totally jealous of your friend!

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    1. Hey, Deb, happy spring back on you. As we speak, I'm looking at another Carolina chickadee going inside the house. I wouldn't be surprised if the bluebirds got squeezed out of the market.

      You might want to check into that camera setup.

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  16. I hope those birds aren't insisting on "stainless and granite" like those unappealing couples on House Hunters.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Ha! So far, their tastes seem to run toward plain ol' country. And I haven't heard even one saying, "Seems kinda dated" or "Not much closet space."

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  17. Cute post with the lovely bluebirds. That is quite a birdhouse. I am glad you have cherry blossoms. Nothing here yet and the cherry blossom festival has been pushed back two weeks because of the cold and snow.

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    1. That's amazing. What festival got pushed back? One in Virginia?

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