Friday, June 28, 2013

Bluebirds and Tree Swallows

With our late spring, we had a very slow start to the season along our bluebird trails, but the nestboxes are full of life now and our first bluebirds of the season are fledging. Along with the late start, we've noticed that the average clutch size is down from last year; we've typically been seeing four bluebird eggs, whereas last year five was the typical number. Below you'll see a clutch of three tree swallow eggs that were warm to the touch, indicating that laying was complete and incubation had begun. In another nestbox, we had five tree swallow eggs and two or three weeks later when we expected to see hatchlings we suddenly had a total of nine eggs; we're guessing the first set was abandoned and another female decided to lay her four eggs in the same nest. Tree swallows typically have larger clutches than bluebirds; last year we usually saw six in a clutch. Here are a few photos from the past couple of weeks.

Four bluebird nestlings within a few days of fledging

Bluebird nestling - siblings have apparently fledged

Bluebird nestlings, just a few days out of the egg

The gaping reflex shows parents where to deposit the food!

Tree swallow eggs - a small clutch, if it's complete

Tree swallow adult is watchful from the nestbox

Tree swallow nestlings - we counted six

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Yellow-headed Blackbird

The yellow-headed blackbird isn't a bird I've seen much. It seems to be much more numerous further west in Minnesota, although it is certainly present in marshy areas in much of the state, along with the more common red-winged blackbird. I only remember spotting one in Northfield once, quite a few years ago now, right after I had seen many of them on a family trip to the Black Hills and Yellowstone.

But we spotted a couple recently at the marsh near the gravel pit south of town a couple of weeks ago and again last weekend. I see from eBird that others have reported them there this year as well.

If I saw yellow-headeds all the time, as we do the red-winged blackbirds, I suppose I wouldn't continue to find them all that exciting. But the gold and black are so striking that I do love to see them. A friend described them thus: "As if its jet black feathers were dipped headfirst into a golden pond."