For several years, George Kaye has been regularly monitoring the nest boxes along the Greenway. Check this post for the latest nest box news from George.
While checking nestboxes recently at the library and near the Community Garden, I also visited the Purple Martin house and the Cliff Swallow nests under the new Siler Road Bridge. I’ve attached a photo of each.
The House Wrens have taken over many of the nestboxes. Hopefully the older Bluebird and Chickadee nests had successful hatchings before the House Wrens took over and laid their stick nests on top of them.
I have a photo of a House Wren sticking her head out of the nestbox looking at the intruder (me.) Also I have a photo of the Tree Swallow poking her head out of the nestbox. They are common residents of the library nestboxes.
Yesterday, I checked my 20 nestboxes at Gibson Bottoms. It is a Mainspring property near the intersection of Route 28 and Sanderstown Rd. Birds have built nests in 17 of the boxes since March. Not all have successfully raised young. There is a lot of predation here from snakes, other birds, etc. The most common predator of other birds is the House Wren. They and the chickadees built a half dozen nests each.
The next most common occupants are the ants and wasps. I removed 5 wasp nests, and 5 ant nests. I had applied diatomaceous earth to the bottoms of the boxes to deter ants, but so far seems to be a weak weapon. The ivory soap I rubbed on the inside roof of the boxes also has not stopped some wasps from attaching their nests.
Of course, the bluebirds have built a few nests. My personal favorite is the brown headed nuthatch which built 2 nests.
My strangest discovery was the chickadee who built a nest in the bottom of the huge wood duck boxes that David Hinson, Dick Bargman and I installed here. The chickadee had to fill the bottom of the box with enough moss to make a nest 10 inches square!
What a hard working bird.
I’ve posted a picture of a nestbox occupied by 2 different birds. The bottom consists of a typical chickadee nest with several inches of moss. On top of that, the house wren piled sticks and twigs, which are it’s typical rough nest.
On 5/31, I intended to check the nestboxes at the library and along the Greenway below the library. However the heavy rains we’ve had cut short my effort.
There was standing water on the Walasi Circle pavement and heavy vegetation(including poison ivy) blocking me from checking the nestboxes installed by the Shelton crew. I’ sure the water will dry up in time for next Wednesday’s bird walk.
I’ve posted a photo of a black snake on the Greenway trying to get to higher ground, just like I was.
The boxes I did check had a tree swallow, house wren and chickadee.
Birds are busy raising young right now. This past weekend, I had a chance to check 22 of the 50 nestboxes that I check on the Greenway. I had been under the weather for the past 3 weeks, so it was great to get out.
Only 4 of the 22 boxes have been unused by birds, and that’s a pretty high usage rate to me. 5 bluebird, 2 chickadees and one house wren currently have eggs or nestlings. But the real champs are the tree swallows, who occupy 7 boxes. The tree swallows are late season nesters. They are very active at the Big Bear and the Rotary Circle area.
Birds aren’t the only nestbox users. I opened a box located half way up the Big Bear section, and found a 4 foot long black rat snake curled up inside. He was resting on a chickadee nest and had probably eaten the nestlings. It took a few minutes of poking with a plant stem to get him to leave. (No snakes were harmed in this process.) I plugged up the hole with some sticks to discourage him from reentering. This is one of several times I’ve had rat snakes in my boxes.
Ant eggs were competing with tree swallow eggs in another box. I couldn’t tell if the ant colony bothered the swallows or not. Mark Hopey told me that the birds may eat the ants in their boxes. However, I’d rather keep them out. I’ m trying to apply food grade diathemous earth to the bottom of the boxes this spring, and I’m waiting to see if it discourages ants.
One of the craziest nestboxes this year was at the Tassee Shelter. There is a poop bag box there for dog walkers to get bags to pick up after their dogs. I fill it with plastic bags. When I opened it this weekend, there was a chickadee sitting on 4 nestlings. She found her own box! Hope no one disturbs her. Thank goodness there is another container nearby to hold the poop bags. Anyway, it amazes me how birds go about their nesting with hundreds of people walking by.
For more baby bird action, don’t forget to look for the cliff swallows under the bridges above the Greenway. Also the purple martins returned earlier this month to their apartment house near the community garden.