Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Making the Rounds

Tuesday, April 4, 2006
Julie and Phoebe check a nearly complete nest at the end of our meadow.

Here at Indigo Hill this evening, while enjoying the benefit of an extra hour of daylight, Julie, Phoebe and I walked our bluebird trails to see what nest-building has started in our boxes. This is one of our many spring rituals (woodcock watching, spotting the first daffodil, burning the Christmas tree and dancing and howling around it, you know, the usual spring stuff).

We first headed out the driveway to re-hang the PVC baffle on a box with a full nest (but no eggs). Of course having walked the quarter-mile out our driveway, we did not have all the necessary tools with us. So while Julie and Chet went back for the equipment, I stood under the giant oak tree at the end of our drive, and pondered my day. The late-afternoon sun shining on this old tree cast an incredible shadow into the neighboring pasture. And though the air was cold and the wind was a bully, it was a nice 15 minutes alone, just breathing and watching the clouds float on their invisible paths.

Oak shadow on pasture as clouds float on to the eastward.

Baffle fixed, we headed back up the drive to check out other boxes. Passing back through the yard, we took note of the many buds that Sunday's warm sun had coaxed forth. Our forsythia, perhaps the only large plant left over from the previous owners, is in its full yellow glory. Looking at it just makes me happy. I hope the cardinals nest in there again this summer.

We have not forsaken this old forsythia.

Our volunteer peach tree, growing too near the fire circle, is also showing nicely. If I were a bee this is the first blooming tree I'd visit. It's just so lovely and alluring.
A peach pit tossed into our fire circle grew into a tree that gives us these flowers each spring.

Heading out the lower meadow path, we were shocked to find that bluebird nest building has been started or even completed in several boxes--including a couple that had gone unclaimed in years past. Could it be that our efforts to help bluebirds are paying durable dividends? If all of these boxes get nesting pairs we'll have an early spring record--9 pairs--on our hands.
Phoebe loves seeing the nest contents. These eggs were still cold because the female bluebird does not start incubating until the clutch is complete.

Julie dutifully recorded the data for each nest box and we repaired baffled, tightened screws on door latches, and clipped encroaching vines and saplings from the pole bases. We don't want a snake or raccoon to get a head start in trying to get past our predator baffles. There's nothing more upsetting for a nestbox landlord than to find one of your boxes emptied out by a predator. These early spring broods are risky weatherwise, but they can fledge young well before the raccoons and black rat snakes are awake and tuned in to the tasty contents of our nesting boxes.

Our mid-orchard box, the one next to our sweat lodge site, was not fully checked. As we approached it a downy woodpecker stuck his head out of the entry hole. He's been roosting in that box all winter, so we're sure there's no bluebird nest in it yet. We left him in peace. And we stood for a spell watching through the poplar grove as the western horizon burned with the sunset's final throes.
Sleeping inside this nest box, the downy woodpecker missed the beautiful sunset this evening. You snooze, you lose!