This place looks good

Every spring we put out a number of bird houses and hope for a multitude of nests. You can always count on at least 1 House Sparrow nest plus at least one other random species. In the past we’ve had blue jays, cardinals (twice), Carolina wrens, house wrens, chickadees (twice) and robins. Plus we’ve had a number of other chicks who have come into our yard from nests elsewhere.

This year has been a bountiful one. We have the obligatory house sparrows, and we had an early cardinal nest that failed (we accidentally pruned away protective branches before we saw the nest). We’re pretty sure we have a titmouse nest in one of the border trees, and a downy woodpecker nest in a dead branch in our maple tree. But the highlight for me has been the chickadees for the 3rd year in a row. This year they nested in the box overlooking our garden instead of the one in the back yard.

I noticed them checking out the nest box in late April and was really excited to see 7 eggs in it just before the end of the month. On May 1, the first of the eggs hatched.

Chickadee Nest

Here Be Chickadees

Over the week and a half, I was able to get some really nice looks at the chicks without bothering the parents. I’d wait until the adults left the nest to go for food, and would take the quick opportunity to open the birdhouse and peek in (and get a picture or 3). The parents themselves were remarkably tolerant of us – and got even more so as time went by. At the beginning, my being anywhere near our garden would get mom & dad’s notice and a scolding.

By the end of the hatching, it appeared that 5 of the eggs had made it, which I guess isn’t uncommon. I would check on them over the next few days, enjoying their progress as they gained their feathers, and slowly got larger. At this point through the chicks’ growth, I had to get about halfway across the garden before they were comfortable going into the box. And they were working hard to feed these small chicks, constantly coming in and out with worms, insects and the occasional mealworm or seed when I filled the nearby feeder.

Chickadees Day 4

Below are the pictures taken on Day 4, Day 7 and Day 8:

Chickadees Day 4

Chickadees Day 7

Chickadees Day 8

By day 10-12, their feathers were starting to come in, although they really still weren’t opening up their eyes. At this point, I could be practically under the box when they returned and they would only quickly chastise me before heading in. Mom was looking pretty haggard and dad was ‘the enforcer’ who gave anyone who got too close – particularly our cat – the business.

Chickadees Day 10

Chickadees Day 12

When I looked in on the chicks on Day 15, I noticed that they suddenly had what looked like their real feathers and their eyes were open and looking around. They were much louder in the box when the parents returned and I was starting to wonder about them leaving the nest. From what I read, chickadees fledge around Day 16 so I suddenly knew that my time with them was limited.

Chickadees Day 15

Chickadees Day 16

On Day 18, I got one last look at these little birds, 2 days overdue to leave. They were miniature versions of their parents, practically grown up. One of them was flapping his/her wings inside the box and seemed more ready to leave than the other four. It would turn out to be the last time I would see them, as they would all fledge the next day while I was away.

Chickadees Day 18

Dutiful Parent

I was kind of bummed to come back to find them gone, especially when I read that once they leave they won’t return (I had thought that they would continue to use the box for a few days/nights). Instead, the whole family will move from place to place each day and roost somewhere new each night for 2-3 weeks before the young birds are on their own. It’s been relatively quiet without them around all day.

But yesterday I noticed a house wren going into the box and pulling out the chickadee nest – maybe we’ll get a second nesting out of that box this year?


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