This was my last peek on these 5 Eastern Bluebirds at 14 days old (yesterday). 13-14 days is the age I use to stop opening the nestboxes to check the young. I will not open the box again until after fledging. This is an excellent example of behavior when opening the nestbox and to see healthy, on-target development. I had a piece of cardboard handy to hold in front of the nest in case I noticed any “nervous” movement from them at this age—I use it for my last box checks. I slide the cardboard up to use as a temporary barrier or wall since this observation nestbox hinges at the top. Nestboxes that hinge at the bottom are easier to manage. I make this last check a fast one with my auto visor mirror to look first and then snapping the photo quickly (just the one picture and then close the nestbox and secure it). Because I made it a fast effort, the photo is not perfect. I will not open it again because it’s too risky for the young (predators can smell the older young, especially those rat snakes) and the parents will really dislike me standing there—who wants to stress them out? I only recommend this to seasoned monitors. If you’re new at monitoring nestboxes, make your last check at 12 days old. Keep good notes for accurate dates. Careful monitoring is key.
So, aren’t they just so gorgeous? Those spots on their plumage will serve to help camouflage them in the next 6-8 weeks as they get fed by Mom and Pop bluebird in the tree foliage and will learn to hunt for their own food. Mom will start another nest; so as soon as they fledge, I will remove the old nest and scrape it and brush all leftover matter out (in a bucket, not on the ground!). I also remember (on average) about half–give or take on that percentage rate–of fledged bluebird young will live to be one year old. We cannot have too many bluebirds in our environment. This could be very true of our other monitored cavity-nesting birds–those insect eaters. Think about the ones that only have one brood per year–such as the chickadee. How about all the other bird species? I think about the American Robin, the Northern Cardinal and other non-cavity using species that nest in the shrubs and low trees. Imagine how easy it is for those predators to get those nests. I keep thinking other birds, snakes, mice, raccoons, squirrels, and roaming cats. Cats are a big predator, even to my nestboxes because they ambush the adults while searching for food on the ground, as thrush species do when they find food to eat and feed their young. We all know by now It isn’t easy being a bird.
The pictures represented here are my cardboard piece, the nestbox and pronged Noel Guard, the egg clutch, Hatch Day, at 8 days, and at 14 days old taken on May 11th, 2014. I treated this nest with Diatomaceous Earth — puffing it below the nestcup carefully in three sections and above the wood floor. I DE the nests while the egg clutch is being laid or in incubation. She has to fly off the nest for that to happen, so afternoons are best for me to do this — NEVER after hatching. All 5 eggs hatched. This box has a wobbling 8″ x 24″ stovepipe Kingston design guard with the hardware cloth center under the nestbox and a Noel Guard that has been “pronged” out safely for the birds. Since I have had losses due to snakes, the pronging of the Noel Guard is one of my newer experiments on my trail this year. Not all nestboxes, but some, have been adjusted for extra protection in this way. I keep records on all of my experiments. The prongs look a bit intimidating to some. All species enter this without any complaints. That is good enough for me.
Also, in my cardboard picture which is sitting on my monitoring binder, you will note I am logging in May 10, May 11, and May 12 — perhaps May 13, so it’s now a daily record. On the May 12 entry, which is today, my notebook will reflect observations from OUTSIDE THE NESTBOX, such as the parent birds coming to the live mealworm feeders and also what I observe outside the nestbox via binoculars or my camera lens.
Pretty eggs nestled all nicely. Note the white marks on some of the eggs. Either she did that with her claws when they were freshly laid or as they passed through her oviduct, the coloring did not completely cover the egg perfectly. What do you think on this?