Eastern Bluebirds are starting to nest. They are vigorous insect eaters and are good birds to have around. It’s not too late to get up a bluebird box. A cedar box with a one and a half inch hole is needed. Avoid boxes with metal decorations as this will help cook the babies in the hot summer. Place in a sunny open spot with the door facing south. Placing near a tree or fence comes in handy for the young when they fledge.
I like to put mine on metal fence posts to prevent snakes from crawling up to the box like they can do with wood posts. You’ll need to drill a larger hole through the box and the post and use a carriage bolt long enough to go through both. I don’t tighten the nut down all the way due to a frustrating experience sawing the bolt and nut lengthwise trying to remove a box. You want to leave enough space to get a hacksaw blade between the post and nut, as it will rust or corrode. If you are a city slicker who has never driven in a metal post, the little triangular part on the post needs to go all the way into the ground. Use a small sledge hammer to beat it in. Using a hatchet even though it has a bigger head than a hammer can be kinda dangerous if it accidently slips out of your hand. If you have problems with grackles a door guard to prevent them from reaching in and killing the young may be needed.
I have a couple I need to replace. Last summer while in a hurry to get my three acres mowed with a finishing mower I accidently popped a couple of them off of the poles. The wheels on a finishing mower will turn 360 degrees, so if youback up near something and go forward, sometimes the mower will shimmy. This one day I was in a big hurry and backed near a box and shot forward. The mower did a big shimmy and swung around and popped the pole. The bluebird box minus the back wall shot off the pole like a missile and broke apart when it hit the ground. I turned off the tractor and hopped off and ran to the box hoping there weren’t any babies in the box. I lucked out. They had just finished building the nest and hadn’t laid eggs yet. I threw the box in the front end loader and continued mowing. When I came back around, the angry birds were sitting on the fence near the empty pole fussing and glaring at me. Another box was lost at the end of the season when I cut around too short and popped it off. I seem to do the same thing around curbs with my truck. The white lettering has been rubbed off.
This past weekend was going to be nice and I have plans to transplant tomatoes into larger containers, start seeds, haul off limbs that I had trimmed back in February that the Hooligans considered chew toys and drug all over the yard and driveway, cut or dig out volunteer hackberry trees out of my flower beds and get up a new bluebird box, and put a new back on another and re-hang.
Friday afternoon I got home late and decided to separate two varieties of daffodils in one of the front flower beds that I somehow overlapped when planting. While moving mulch to dig a hole, I tumbled up a small rat snake about 8 inches long. By the time I saw it, it was very irritated and reared back in the striking position. I shoed it off and finished up my work.
Saturday before getting to yard work I took pictures of some new gerber daises, daffodils, cat’s eye iris, Summer Wine Ninebark, and Almon bush which were in bloom. I decided to divide transplant my Cherokee chocolate tomato seedlings into larger containers. I’ve found the front end loader of the tractor parked under a shade tree makes a good mixer and potting bench. Bad Hooligan Blackie was rooting around in the grass a couple of feet away. When looked to see what she was after thinking lizard, she grabbed up a small corn snake popped it like a whip and off she ran. I tried to save it, but it was toast when she whipped it. Ed, one of the Editors of the Quad Cities Daily posted a comment on my Facebook page that “Blackie turned it into a good snake!” After dispatching of the snake she wore herself out trying to catch bumble bees, while Patches and Levi slept. Levi sleeps until I turn off the tractor and he joins me up on the seat. I used to think it was cute.
I purchased one cedar nest along with some gerbers in new colors. I was planning to repair one of the broken boxes and re-hang. When I went to the shed to get it, a Carolina wren already had laid claim to it. I decided to replace the one by the fence for the angry birds and take the back wall board off of the other pole getting it ready of a box. The horses next door decided to supervise while I worked and also tease the Hooligans.
Right after I got the box up and was working on the other pole, I noticed the bluebirds were already checking out the new digs. Growing up on the farm, we rarely saw any bluebirds. When I was in college, I put up a couple of nesting boxes; now I have them everywhere. Because of territorial claims, place boxes around 75 feet apart.
Bluebirds will lay 4 to 5 blue eggs which won’t be incubated until all are laid. All eggs will hatch at the same time in about 13-14 days. The young will remain in the nest around 15 days and will be fed by both parents. After fledging they will be fed by the parents for another 7 to 14 days. Another nest is built on top of the old one and the cycle starts over. As many as three broods may be raised each year. Chickadees will also use bluebird boxes using moss as nesting materials. Allow these to stay. Sparrows will use straw and fill the box up. Wait until they start laying eggs and throw the bums out, nest and eggs. They aren’t native birds and were partially responsible for the decline in bluebirds.
Another birding note: according to the migration maps and friends, hummingbirds are in the Shoals area.