Saturday, August 12, 2023

Eastern Bluebird Neighbors

In 2018, we installed two bluebird boxes on the edge of our meadow and yard, and this year we finally had our first successful Eastern Bluebird tenants! The boxes have gotten plenty of use over the years, and they've helped to produce many baby birds: Tree Swallows have used one of the boxes almost every year (but not this year, sadly, and I've so missed having these birds around), Black-capped Chickadees successfully raised a brood here one year, and House Wrens nested in one of the boxes for a few years. Aside from a brief failed nesting attempt in 2019, though, bluebirds have declined our offer of housing... until this year! A pair of bluebirds showed up in April and stuck around, raising two broods and eight babies total in one of the nest boxes. I've so enjoyed the opportunity to watch these beautiful little thrushes while they were regular fixtures in our yard this spring and summer. What a treat! And yes, I took lots of pictures. :)

The first bluebird egg appeared on April 20, and we ended up with five eggs in this first brood. When I peeked into the nest box on May 6, the female had arranged the eggs into this neat little circle:

On May 10, the nest held five tiny bluebird babies, maybe a day or so old:

Here are those same babies on May 21, much bigger and so fluffy:

While the babies were growing in the nest, the parents did a whole lot of hunting in our yard to keep these little creatures fed. I was worried about this family when we had a late heavy freeze on May 18 (down to around 25 degrees F) that was severe enough that a lot of the emerging plants were damaged, but these birds made it through just fine. Good job, parents!

Here's the female bluebird on May 14 bringing a big brown caterpillar to the nest:

Big larvae like this seemed to be a popular food item. Here's the female again on May 27 with another big brown larva delivery:

On May 25, I sneakily peeked my camera lens through our open living room window and used the house as a blind while the male bluebird hunted from the small Eastern Redbud tree between our house and driveway -- my car is a not-so-natural backdrop here, but is this guy gorgeous or what?

(This redbud tree's emerging buds were all blasted in the late freeze, and it took a while for the tree to start growing again. The bare tree wasn't pretty, but it did make for a clear view of the birds!)

Bluebirds hunt by perching and watching the ground below, and then fluttering down on top of their prey. Here's one of this guy's successful catches during this hunting session -- it's another big brown caterpillar!

Soon enough, the baby bluebirds fledged, and we had a bunch of juvenile bluebirds in the yard! Here's one of the juveniles with the male on June 5:

And wonderfully, the bluebird pair went ahead and started a second brood in the same nest box, which meant that the whole family stayed around! (I didn't clean out the old nest, so I think the female just added a bit more nesting material and reused the old structure.) I think these young birds are so very pretty, with their blue-edged wings and tails, and their spotted backs and shoulders. Here's one of these juveniles on June 8:

And this same bird from another angle; so pretty!

Here's another of the siblings (or possibly the same one?) after I was able to sneak a bit closer to the tree where they were hanging out, also on June 8:

I especially loved seeing these birds perched on posts in my garden; this looks like a good spot to practice searching for meals in the plants below! This picture is from June 21:

And here's the female and a juvenile perched on top of my pea trellis on the same day:

OK, here's one more picture of one of the juvenile bluebirds, hovering above berry-laden Black Raspberry plants on July 10 (I have many more pictures of other birds and creatures enjoying the berries this summer, too, but that will be another post):

Meanwhile, a second batch of siblings was growing in the nest. Three of these five eggs hatched into brand new babies, pictured here on June 24:

And here's the second brood on July 5, with open eyes and emerging feathers:

Since the second brood fledged, the family of bluebirds hasn't been around nearly as much, and we see them only occasionally now. I'm really glad that this pair decided to raise their families in our yard this year! It's been so cool to have these lovely birds around for a few months. Good luck out there, little ones!