Nest Box Season Begins

Top Photo: Eastern bluebird eggs from previous season.

Though the season hasn’t officially started, at least two of our six nest boxes have seen some sort of activity. One had a pipe organ mud dauber’s nests within. Another has the very beginnings of a bluebird nest.

It’s important to remember that it’s early and things can change quickly. If the weather remains good and the birds get an early start with few storms and cold, it’s definitely in their favor.

We’ll have to wait and see. But here’s some background and a brief report on what has happened so far.

Our nest boxes are checked each week starting with the Cow Pasture (near train tunnel). We then move on to the Explore the Wild nest box located on the service road on the back side of the Outdoor Loop between Explore the Wild and Catch the Wind. It’s then off to the Into the Mist nest box at the beginning of the service road of this popular exhibit.

Next, it’s to the south side of the 84 acre campus on the east side of the parking deck where this box is called Parking Deck East. There’s also a nest box labeled as Parking Deck West, you guessed it, on the west side of the parking deck.

And finally we, volunteer Sammie and I, move back to the north side of campus and check the nest box located behind the Conservatory at the Butterfly House, the Butterfly House nest box.

Here’s what’s going on…

The Cow pasture nest box is empty with no activity.

The Explore the Wild nest box too, is empty.

There were a mud dauber’s clay pipes in the nest box at Into the Mist from the previous season.

Mud duaber’s “pipes” (left) at Into the Mist.

Mud dauber’s divide the pipes into segments or chambers, stocking each chamber with a live but paralyzed spider. Before sealing off the chamber the wasp lays an egg in each. The larva that hatches will consume the spider, pupate and emerge an adult the following season.

Larva on top of spider from broken “pipe.”

I scraped the walls clean and replaced the berry basket in the box.

More exciting than the mud dauber activity, was the handful of grass stems and pine needles in the Parking Deck East nest box. I don’t know whether the birds will build upon this early beginning, but with the warm weather predicted for the coming days I expect to see at least a few more pine needles in the box by next week.

So, that’s it for this week. As I mentioned, it’s very early and things can happen quickly, or drag along slowly, but with good weather in the forecast ahead we should see the bluebirds and maybe even chickadees start claiming their stakes on the dwellings we’ve provided for them.

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