So last year, we had the very unfortunate incident happen. Devastating event really and I was very concerned about the likelihood of a repeat again this season. However, the blues seemed safe during the nesting and we did the tree trimming hoping to keep snakes away.
This year, I had no idea as to what to expect from the actual fledging process and in reality was fairly unprepared. We had a box full of chickadee babies that have already fledged, a Carolina Wren that has laid eggs in my watering can and a blue bird pair that have babies in my nest box (where the unfortunate event happened last summer). So pretty fun stuff…not fun as in Disney land or winning the lottery fun, but kinda fun stuff if you like nature. So on Sunday, Easter morning, I was drinking my coffee out on the patio because my eldest had crawled into my bed at 6.30 and woke the dogs up and they and me never were able to go back to bed (child #1 did however) – and heard some odd birding noises. I couldn’t really tell if the mom and dad bluebird were making the noise b/c it wasn’t a chirping noise, anyway, you could tell they were mad or agitated…so I ran to wake spouse up (who was none too thrilled) because I was afraid there was another snake in the nestbox. As he went over to the box, and the parents were dive bombing him, a little nappy headed baby bluebird poked his head out and sorta fell out of the box. So I figured this was part of the fledging process. Derek leaves the nestbox area so that the parents feel better and we watch the little guy sorta hop around the yard. It’s becoming obvious that he can’t really fly so I don’t know what this means. We watch the parents feed him and I dump some more mealworms (yes, I buy mealworms for the birds) out there and they grab some and find the little guy and feed him…but no other birds come out of the box. Meanwhile the little dude is hoping around the yard and any time another bird or squirrel goes anywhere near him (I have feeders up so we have a good bit of birding activity going on) the parents attack whatever animal is close to him. It was pretty stressful to me to watch…. So I get on the internet and start emailing bluebird contacts asking for advice. I’m told that if he fledged early I need to grab the baby and stuff (but stuff gently) him back into the box – put a towel in the hole in the bluebird box, wait 10 minutes and hope he doesn’t try to get out again. Some time earlier Derek went back to bed and so I have to wake him again to tell him he has to find the baby bluebird (who has since gone under our fence into our neighbor’s yard) and stuff him back into the box. Did I mention that Derek doesn’t really love birds all that much? So good sport that he is, goes and grabs the equipment (rubber glove and t-shirt) and chases baby bluebird around the yard – while trying to duck from both parents dive bombing him. He manages to do this for me and after a little while the parents calm down and start re-entering the box and feeding all the babies again.
So in the meantime I got the cutest response from one of the bluebird contacts…here is part of his reply…
I am really happy you contacted me. Any time I can help at all just ask. You sound a lot like me. My wife thinks I am too wrapped up in bluebirds for my own good. When the occasion happens that I open a nestbox and find a dead adult male bluebird with his eyes pecked out from House Sparrow I just fall apart. She tells me to Quit—get someone else to do it. Who? I am in my 70’s now, have given dozens of talks to scouts, etc, over the years and not one has asked to even help monitor the trail. I myself didn’t realize birds were human too (joke) until I got involved with them. The first year I ended up raising two abandoned babies in our guest bathroom…..and it has not been the same since. i can’t stop trying to help them out, and the miseries that sometimes go with it can really get you down. But when you open a box and see 5 beautiful blue babies, all with the beaks wide open, it’s worth it.
So now in addition to worrying about the bluebirds and the babies to come, I feel the need to keep this lonely fellow updated on the progress of my blues. He somewhat reminds me of my dad.
Anyway, if I do start to wearing birding vests out in public the next time I see you feel free to stage a birding anonymous intervention.