I typically make a check of all six bluebird nest boxes on our bluebird trail on Tuesday mornings. I took time off from the Museum last week and didn’t inspect the bluebird nest boxes as I would have had I been here. In my absence, the local birds had been busy. Each of the nest boxes has been worked on to some extent.
Although the boxes were installed with bluebirds in mind we often have other species using them. Most often, chickadees use the boxes. Two boxes in particular, due to their location, are less attractive to bluebirds, the nest box next to the Bungee Jump and the nest box behind the Sailboat Pond. In my nest box inspections on Tuesday, March 22, I discovered five nests had been started by chickadees, one by bluebirds. Chickadees always seem to get a jump start on the bluebirds, but I’ve already seen evidence of a takeover in more than one of the chickadee nests.
Here’s the lowdown.
The nest box at the Cow Pasture, near the train tunnel, with an obvious chickadee installed moss base, at first looked to be all chickadee. But look carefully at the photo below. Can you see the three pine needles? They were most surely placed there by bluebirds, on top of the moss.
Moving along to the next nest box in line, the Bungee nest box. A chickadee scalded me as I approached the box. I expected to see a nest full of moss as I peered into the box. But, looking inside, there was only a scant billfull of moss, just the beginnings of a nest. Although this box has been used by bluebirds in the past, it has successfully hosted more chickadees than any other species.
Just across the path and behind the Sailboat Pond is nest box number three on the trail (below). It too, has historically hosted chickadees. I believe it will again. There’s no sign of bluebird interference inside the box, and, the birds have placed fur and other soft material on top of the moss. This nest is nearly, if not totally, complete. If the chickadees work hard, get eggs in the nest quickly and feed their nestlings well before house wrens, those diabolical, nest usurping, troglodytes arrive on the scene, we may see a successful brood of chickadees emerge from this nest box.
A little further down the path and across from Into the Mist is the Amphimeadow. It contains the fourth nest box on the trail. This nest box traditionally houses bluebirds. There is currently moss in the box. As you may have noted, moss means chickadees.The chickadees, though, may not be able to hold onto this nest. The site is much desired by bluebirds which like open spaces, and the meadow is, by definition, an open space.
Nest box number five is along the path leading to the Woodland Classrooms on the south side of the Museum’s 84 acre campus. It was recently moved from another location which is currently experiencing construction, a new road. It, the nest box, has been taken over by bluebirds. As if the pine needle sticking out from the entrance hole wasn’t indication enough that bluebirds had been in the box, a male perched on a snag nearby as I approached the nest box, cemented the impression. Inside, a genuine, still under construction, bluebird nest.
Finally, the last nest box on my inspection route each week is the Butterfly House nest box. Another historically bluebird hosting nest box, it had the unmistakably chickadee, moss lined base, but with a nice swirl of bluebird placed pine needles to top it off (below). There’s little doubt who will be using this nest box for the next several weeks.
In conclusion, all of our six nest boxes are being used at this time. Five nests have been started by chickadees and one, the Woodland nest, by bluebirds. Two of the nests started by chickadees, the nests at the Cow Pasture and Butterfly House show signs of being taken over by bluebirds. We’ll have to wait to see what develops, but I anticipate that we’ll end up with two chickadee and four bluebird nests.
See you next week.