GORGEOUS ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY OF A BLUEBIRD.

Kung Fu Bluebird?  Beautiful action shot–many thanks to Dave Kinneer for capturing this exciting action from behind the lens.  What confidence, grace, and pure beauty this female has.   I would love to ride the back of a bluebird and carry the sky with along me.   How about you?

“The bluebird carries the sky on its back.”  - Henry David Thoreau

Is this not beautiful?

GENTLE REMOVAL OF AN UNHATCHED EGG.

I successfully removed (v e r y  CAREFULLY, may I add!) one of the two unhatched eggs in week-old bludbird nestlings’ nest on April 3, 2012.   I use a clean plastic spoon to do so.   This photo represents size of egg to the spoon and my hand.  Through the Virginia Bluebird Society (VBS) and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VA DGIF), I have my name on the Federal Fish and Wildlife Permit for VBS County Coordinators (Wildlife Salvage Permit) to collect eggs and nests for certain protected cavity-nesting birds for displays for educational purposes and presentations.   Permits are required for all possession of migratory bird specimens.  I can’t tell you enough how helpful this is during my talks about bluebirds to be able to display these.  It is fascinating for people to see the eggs close up–their size and color and relation to the nest size.   If you’d like to read more about removing unhatched eggs, may I suggest the Sialis site, an outstanding website loaded with helpful information about cavity-nesting birds (thank you, Bet!):  http://www.sialis.org/eggsunhatched.htm

So delicate. There are various reasons why the eggs don't hatch. It is always best to leave the nest alone if you cannot remove unhatched eggs without disturbing the growing babies. Thanks to the Sialis site, I studied up before attempting this. I will use this egg for educational displays.

Here they are after I removed that egg. There is one more unhatched egg underneath these three. I'm not comfortable attempting to remove the non-visible unhatched egg. They are one week old--we have several days of colder, rainy weather going on; they are getting to an older age now that I might spook them; thus making it unsafe for the three. In other words, the risk is greater for these three at this point to try to remove the other unhatched egg than not removing it!

“THE EARLY BIRDS!” – FIRST BLUEBIRD CHICKS OF 2012 – 7 DAYS OLD

First egg was laid March 8.  They hatched March 26th.  Here they are — they are 7 days old today.   Three of the five eggs hatched.  We’ve had very windy days, and I’ve been waiting for calmer days to attempt to remove the unhatched eggs.  Sometimes Mama Bluebird will try to remove them or bury them deeper in the nest.  Since the eggs are still on top of the nest, it is better for the chicks to get the eggs out of there.  Now that the chicks are older and not as fragile and have some soft feathers developing, tomorrow I will go back to the box and use a small plastic spoon to remove CAREFULLY (gently!) what unhatched eggs I can reach without disturbing the babies and creating nervousness with Ma and Pa Bluebird.  I saw both of them in  the trees above me today, so I know both parents are caring for these little guys.  I have a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries permit to salvage (collect) nests and eggs.  I will use the unhatched eggs for educational displays.

 

MEALWORM FEEDERS ANY TIME OF YEAR.

I use three different mealworm feeders–not all at the same time and not at the same time of year–it will vary.   The photo below is a metal “jailhouse” style feeder with a glass cup in the center.  This is my favorite feeder because it keeps out larger birds that can dominate getting the goodies (jays, crows, etc.).  It does take some training for the bluebirds to find this, but when live mealworms are in this cup and placed not far from their nestbox (not too close!), they usually find this because they perch in the pine trees above it.   Carolina Wrens consistently feed out of this.  My other feeders are an adjustable Droll Yankees domed feeder that I can move around on a shepherd’s hook, and the other is just an open glass cup on a stake.   I like the domed feeder to train bluebirds to use it and then I can lower the dome to keep larger birds out later.   It is also one I can put out in the open–rain will stay out and keep the mealworms dry.  In the winter, sometimes I mix bluebird suet nuggets with soaked currants and freeze-dried mealworms to create a mixed “banquet”.   Live mealworms work the best if you are willing to pay for them and keep them in your refrigerator (not as complicated or squeamish as some might think it is) or just learn to manage raising your own.  That’s another topic another time.  I have no interest in raising my own at this point.  If you want to learn about growing your own mealworms, do check out the page on the Sialis site about doing so (Class 101–Raising Mealworms!):

http://www.sialis.org/raisingmealworms.htm

My next goal is to set up my camera on my existing tripod (needs some repairs and I need a bigger one to support another heavier camera and lens) and take photos of birds taking some good food at this jailhouse feeder!  I have already staked out where to do that so the birds can’t see me.

Bottom line, to keep bluebirds near you all year, do the following:

1.  Plant NATIVE ornamental (not invasive species) berry-producing trees and shrubs so the bluebirds have winter food sources

2.  Put out a nestbox or two and monitor them so the birds can successfully use them season after season

3.  Display and maintain a clean bird bath (water source) year-round

4.  Offer mealworms to entice them and keep them close (good for taking photos of the adults and fledglings which they feed for another month)

Additional important note about feeding mealworms:  I am a firm believer in letting the birds do most of the work in finding food, particularly for the nesting babies.   It is important that the growing nestlings get a VARIETY of food.  We don’t want the bluebird parents to be spoiled by having mealworms offered 24/7.  I look at mealworms as supplemental feeding.  A few in the morning and a few in the evening is about right in my opinion.   I whistle a tune when I fill up the cup.  That trains them fast you’re bringing them some treats.  I also enjoy watching the Chipping  Sparrows hang loose on the outskirts of the feeder watching for any mealworms that drop on the ground!

Suggestion on this feeder: It is rather lightweight. If you put freeze-dried mealworms in this, take it down in high winds as all the dried mealworms will fly out. This feeder will rock back and forth in winds. You also have the option to pole-mount this feeder which keeps it more stable. Since I have other stake-type feeders, I keep this as a hanging feeder. I like to move it around from tree to tree using a very large decorative S-style hook designed for tree branches. These are easily found at garden centers and hardware stores. If a raccoon knocks this down, more than likely, it cannot drag it off due to the size. Also the metal top keeps the glass cup of food dry and is somewhat difficult for a raccoon to pry it open. I hear crows quite a bit coming and going by our house, so I know they can't get inside this.