I have some interesting new developments along my trail–first ever on the Woolwine House  Bluebird Trail that I’ve seen since I started my trail in Spring 2008:

1. Territorial Nestbox Wars between the Carolina Chickadee and the Eastern Bluebird — for a nestbox–back and forth–by our house–changing the nest material and reincorporating their materials and style of building over the other. The bluebird lays an egg; then the egg disappears two days later and chickadee nesting materials appears on top of the nest. The bluebird comes back and takes the chickadee material dropped in the nest, such as hairs and plant fibers the chickadee uses, and pushes all that into the nestcup sides again and lays two more eggs. The chickadee comes back with more nesting materials with two more bluebird eggs
found missing. Back and forth this went on for weeks. Today, I found 5 chickadee eggs in the nest. I believe the bluebird will leave the chickadee nest alone now. I’ve not known bluebirds to peck other birds’ eggs or kill other birds. The other box not far from this one appears to be a chickadee “dummy” nest of just moss materials. I have no idea what happened to the bluebird. I don’t hear them anymore singing and warbling away; perhaps they moved to natural woodsy habitat on the property such as an available woodpecker hole. I found this interesting, as this has happened at another location on my trail. It appears that the chickadee is winning the territorial wars over a nestbox. It has been my understanding that the bluebird is more assertive in winning those wars. I’m quite surprised the bluebird didn’t use the other box where the chickadee put some mosses.

2. Carpenter Bees — I stood one day and watched one spinning a hole outside a nestbox upside down and into the floor. I deterred him from continuing this by waving a cotton ball with some Hot Shot (a pyrethrin based insect killer) sprayed on it
around the spinning carpenter bee and then I backed away. He flew around and up and in some circles and acted a little confused. As soon as I felt I could, I took that same cotton ball and quickly wiped just the hole with it (again, this is OUTSIDE the box UNDERNEATH the floor and above the stovepipe baffle, not inside the nestbox), and it stopped him from continuing a hole on the nestbox. I sat in my car for a few minutes to see if he returned, and he did not. During my nest box check a few days later, still he did not return.

3. Bluebird Nest Building Materials Variances — usually it’s either soft grasses, neatly woven together, or pine needles. I have a nest with grasses and pine needles mixed together. This is the first I’ve seen this. It could possibly be more than one female bluebird attempted to build a nest, or the same female just used two sets of materials to build her nest. This is a first on my trail I’ve seen both materials together in one nest. It’s either one or the other. It will depend on the habitat and what’s available nearby the nestbox. Perhaps she found the pine needles later. I have found, if available, the pine needles seems to be Choice 1.

4. Finding Large Dead Uneaten Insects on Top of a Nest that Fledged Bluebirds — I’m not sure about this as I’ve never seen this before. Either a parent brought in the insect, but the babies fledged before eating the insect or the babies fledged and the parents were not aware of it until after they came with the food that the babies were gone already and then dropped the njured/dead insect in the nest and left the box to find their fledglings. I have found a full dead grasshopper and a large brown beetle on top of a nest. I can’t imagine why they would not take the insect with them, however, as those fledglings, if they made it to the trees as we can hope they did, would be hungry. Perhaps an expert bluebirder will read this and post a reply here. Please do so!

5.  Later Fledging Dates – in past several years, fledging dates averaged Day 15-17.  This year, it’s averaging 18-20 days.  Their development seem to be a little slower this year.  I also think all the prevailing and persistent rainy weather could delay fledging dates.  I’m thinking the parents are not encouraging their babies to make their maiden flight until the weather is more conducive to
the youngsters having safe travels the first time.  One other thought I have is a record of blowfly larvae infestation I’m finding on my trail—more than ever before.

6.  Bluebirds Taking Their Time To Lay Eggs — Perhaps one female wasn’t fertile and the male picked another femle or this couple just had a long romantic courting period.   This box is located at another residence along my trail.  They were observed moving around from location to location trying to decide where to build a nest.  This is the same location that chickadees took one of my nestboxes at that property.  The owner installed another bluebird nestbox on the back side of the property.  It took them a long time, but finally bluebird eggs were found, much later in the season for a first brood — not 4 eggs, not 5 eggs, but 6 eggs!   This same female is also extremely assertive.  She’s been observed constantly chasing a squirrel up the tree trunk over and over again.

7.  Strange Chickadee Nest (2 Cups) and Unhatched Eggs — This Carolina Chickadee built her nest but made TWO small cups in the one moss nest in one nestbox.  She laid 3 eggs in one cup and 2 eggs in the other cup–in the SAME nest in the nestbox.   Only 1 baby hatched and is developing quite slowly.   The only thing I can think of is either the female is slightly off on her judgement or perhaps (theory here) two female chickadees had been fighting over that use of that nestbox, both laying eggs in the same box–one female made a cup and laid and the competing female made a cup a laid a few eggs.  Also, perhaps because of two cups, the female chickadee could not incubate them properly; thus unhatched, unincubated eggs.  I’m hoping on my next trail checks, which is tomorrow and weather permitting….the baby chickadee will have developed and I’m seeing the color markings and feathers growing in.

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