Friday, May 9, 2014

Must Be Time for Orioles and Grosbeaks!

May 7, 2011 - First-ever visit of  rosebreasted-grosbeaks to our feeders. I wrote a blog post titled "Thought I'd Died and Gone to Heaven."
May 8, 2011 - First-ever visit of Baltimore orioles to our feeders (but they'd been seen in the trees the few days before) (Described in a blog post on May 15)
May 8, 2013 - Rosebreasted grosbeaks and Baltimore orioles show up at our feeders within 15 minutes of one another
May 7, 2014 - Orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks show up within a few hours of each other (and hummingbirds later that day as well). First-ever visit of orchard orioles to our feeders, and we see half a dozen each (or more) of orioles and grosbeaks at our feeders and in our big tree. Wowee! Photos below.

Male Baltimore Oriole, May 7, 2014

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, May 7, 2014

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak, May 7, 2014

Orchard Oriole, May 7, 2014

The grosbeaks really seem to like the gazebo-style feeder, which was new last fall. It is easy to approach and fits several at a time. I think that's why so many have stayed around these last few days.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

I didn't notice until looking at these photos just now that the photo below clearly shows an immature male grosbeak sitting toward the front of the gazebo roof -- he's developing his dramatic coloring but still has some of the streaks that juveniles and females share. I noted one last year, too, and wrote a little more about that then.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks - note immature male in front

The photo below does not show a romantic interlude: Rather, two male orioles had a competitive moment over the jelly.

Male orioles get feisty with jelly on their beaks

It's been a wonderful few days. Happy spring!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Enjoying White-throated Sparrows

Before they're gone again, I must comment on the wonderfully audible presence of white-throated sparrows over the past couple of weeks. They don't stay here long as they move through to preferred breeding territory, but we love hearing and seeing them while they are here. They are often to be found foraging on our front lawn or under our hanging feeders. They're so pretty, and their song is so sweet.

White-throated Sparrow, white-striped morph

White-throated Sparrow, white-striped morph

There are two color morphs of these sparrows. The two photos above show the white-striped morph. Below is the duller, tan-striped morph. They mingle freely, seem to prefer mates of the other morph, and thus occur in equal numbers throughout their range. David Sibley has a nice discussion of their characteristics here. One excerpt: 
Comparing like sexes, White-striped birds are more aggressive, sing more, and spend less time in parental care than Tan-striped. Regardless of sex, White-striped tend to dominate Tan-striped birds in the breeding season. Mated pairs almost always include one of each morph, and because of the chromosome arrangement this pairing always produces equal numbers of Tan-striped and White-striped offspring (Falls and Kopachena, 2010).

White-throated Sparrow, tan-striped morph

I last wrote about white-throated sparrows and their song in April 2011 (when in my enthusiasm I managed to mix up a white-crowned sparrow with the white-throateds, but then set the record straight).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Bluebird Report: 2014 First Report

We got out to prep the bluebird nestboxes in early April this year, our third year as bluebird monitors of two "trails," which now comprise 19 nestboxes. Though not quite as bad as last year's slow spring, still the cold, rainy weather has slowed things down. We have a few complete bluebird nests (also two chickadee nests) and several others have been started, but only a single nest has any eggs yet -- three eggs, as of yesterday.

When we first checked the boxes, we thought we already had a new egg in one, but determined eventually that it was an unhatched egg from the second brood last year. We should have done a final clean-out at the end of the summer. Our confusion at the start of this season is a good reminder of why it's a preferred practice to clean out the boxes at the end of the season. Some people take their boxes down; others close them up so nothing can get into them over the winter. We like the idea of leaving them accessible as roosting or shelter boxes, and we've seen some signs this year that they were used for that purpose.

Today we got some great views of a male and female bluebird at our prairie trail of four nestboxes, where we have three full nests but no eggs yet.

Male Eastern Bluebird
The many tiny scratches visible on the road sign suggest that it's a popular perching spot, as it was today.

Female Eastern Bluebird
We wish these two, and all their fellow birds, good luck as they embark upon the vital task of reproduction in 2014.

(Our bluebirding adventures began in 2012. You can follow the full story here: Bluebird Trail.)