Archive for April, 2009

Bluebird and Phoebe Nests

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds are feeding babies in the bluebird house at the edge of our yard. Both male and female go in and out steadily with food. Twice this morning as I watched, the female flew in with food, and the male flew right behind her and perched on top of the nest box, waiting while she was inside. When she came out, he flew away with her. At other times, he went in with food by himself.

Once they flew to the box together, she ducked directly into the entrance and he perched on top to wait for her, and waited – and waited. When she had not come out after what seemed like a very long time, he finally moved toward the front of the box, leaned over and peered down toward the entrance, then stepped off and fluttered in front of the entrance hole for a couple of seconds before flying away to a nearby branch. I also got tired of waiting for her to emerge and looked away – so I don’t know when she finally came out.

Meanwhile, there’s an Eastern Phoebe sitting in a nest in the curve of the gutter pipe just below the roof, pretty high up from the ground. Her sooty-dark head can just be seen rising above the nest. If I stand and look up at her for more than a few seconds, she flies out of the nest and away. The male sings frequently, and hunts from low branches all around that area.

And this afternoon a Carolina Chickadee fluttered around the entrance to a ceramic nest we’ve hung from a branch of a pecan tree in the front yard – so maybe a pair will adopt it, too. We’re not sure this nest will work very well, because it’s designed to be hung, and seems to swing a lot in the wind, but we’ll see.

A Blue-headed Vireo Singing

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

It’s been a beautiful spring weekend, with blue skies, off and on some clouds, and lots of birdsong, especially early in the mornings. I still have not seen or heard many returning migrants, but both yesterday and this morning a Blue-headed Vireo sang from the edge of the woods. It stayed frustratingly just a little too far away to see among the new-green leaves of water oaks and sweet gums.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers called speee all around the yard, and a Northern Parula continued to sing its buzzy song nearby in the woods. At least three or four Chipping Sparrows trilled from perches in shrubs and trees, and their songs are among my favorites right now. Although a Chipping Sparrow’s song is usually described as a monotone trill, it seems to me that no two of them sing quite alike at this time of year. Some are looser, some faster, some lighter in quality, more airy, some more forceful, some even almost musical.

Phoebe, Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Titmouse, Chickadee, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Brown Thrasher, Robin and Ruby-crowned Kinglet have been among the other morning singers, with the calls of Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Brown-headed Nuthatch, and the cries of a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks. The Mockingbirds in our yard sing now and then, but not much yet.

And we still have a good many winter residents. One female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker continued to tap into the pecan trees around the front yard all day yesterday and today. Yellow-rumped Warblers creep through the branches of the trees, gleaning insects from the catkins and small new leaves, calling check! and now and then singing a few loose, pretty notes. Dark-eyed Juncos feed quietly around the bushes, only making soft jingles when they are startled into flying up into a tree.

About a dozen Cedar Waxwings still come back to visit the Savannah hollies for red berries every day. They must not eat many of them at a time. They move in silently, one at a time, materializing like shadows above me, lurking in the branches for a while, then whispering tzeeeeee calls before moving into the hollies.

Six Trusting Pine Siskins – Disappointed

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

This morning when I stepped onto the back deck – into a sunny, colorful, very windy day – I heard a familiar low chirping, looked around – and there were six little brown-streaked Pine Siskins in the bare branches of the white oak that hang over the deck, in the same area where a feeder hung until about two weeks ago. They chirped in a quiet but insistent way, and one by one came a little closer and closer toward me, as if hoping that I was bringing food again.

I was surprised to see them. I thought they had all gone – though one morning last week I did hear the zhrreeee calls of several in the pines again, so apparently a few are still around. These six chirped and studied me for three or four minutes, then abruptly flew away, disappearing into the wind and the trees.

After a lot of rain the past few days, it felt good to see blue sky and sunshine again. The woods are turning green with new young leaves and white sprays of dogwoods. A Northern Parula continues to sing in the trees around the house, and there are the wheezy spees! of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and the songs of Phoebe, Chipping Sparrow, Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Chickadee, Titmouse, Towhee, White-throated Sparrow and Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

Two Louisiana Waterthrushes now sing in different directions along the creek, in their usual territories, though it’s been hard to hear them the past few days through the rain, wind, and the rushing of very high water in the creek.

A Red-tailed Hawk circled and soared in the strong wind. A female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, with a pure white throat and crimson crown, tapped on the trunks of the pecans. A Dark-eyed Junco flew up from the grass into a tree, with a high, thin jingle of notes. And a Brown-headed Cowbird perched in the very top of a pecan tree and sang.

A Phoebe Nest?

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

In the crook of a gutter pipe just below the roof and beside the chimney, there’s a nest that looks as if it’s made of mud and something green. It’s neatly shaped and rather large, and we think it may be the nest of a pair of Phoebes. A Phoebe often wakes us in the morning lately, singing from just outside our windows, and there’s a pair that hunts all around the yard, close to the house.