Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bluebird Bonanza

Although my husband is the primary volunteer at Bernheim Forest and Arboretum in our family, I went to represent the Beckham Bird Club today at Bernheim's big Bloomfest event. The table next to ours hosted the Kentucky Bluebird Society, and Mr. Bluebird led a walk to check on the Bluebird houses. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity, since my backyard has absolutely no chance of ever drawing any Bluebirds. It was fascinating to see the baby birds in their nests.

We must have set some kind of success record, finding 6 of 8 nest boxes with Bluebirds successfully nesting in them. One had eggs only. Another had new hatchlings with their eyes still closed, which we counted by finding the yellow beaks. One little guy was completely buried under his siblings. Another box had one hatchling and a few unhatched eggs. Two other boxes had old nests, but were vacant now.

Bernheim installed a nest cam in a box just outside the education center. Unlike many online cams, this one has a live feed to a monitor in the education center so you can see every movement happening in the box. Mama Bluebird came with a juicy grub, but all the babies were napping, so she ate it herself. Can't let those grubs go to waste!

Another box held babies with their eyes open, and they showed no interest at all, either panic or joy, in the large hand entering their world and moving them around to search for a buried Bluebird sibling. Look at the blue tips on their developing feathers. Mr. Bluebird says that when they are ready to fledge they just burst out of the box and fly away. There is no room inside to stretch and exercise those flight muscles.

We discovered that the ninth box held a nest of Tufted Titmouse babies when the Titmouse mother scolded and cursed at us as loudly as she could directly over our heads. We finally took pity on her (and spared ourselves a dive-bombing) by leaving the box unopened.

As we walked up the hill a way, Mama Titmouse immediately entered the box with a tidbit for the babies, then hurried away to find the next serving.

Thanks, Mr. Bluebird, for a terrific afternoon learning about Bluebirds in wonderful detail. I greatly admire his skill in determining how to open each box, since each was different. His tool of preference? The handy, dandy Swiss Army knife, of course. I was also interested to see the various stages of development in the different nests. My favorite story was when he reached into the nest under a sitting mother, lifted her up to count the eggs, and she didn't move a feather. We didn't find any birds actually on the nest today, but we had a bonus with no House Sparrows in any of the boxes!

Harris Hawk

Our friends from Raptor Rehab of Kentucky attended Bloomfest with some of their favorite birds and mine.

Turkey Vulture

American Kestrels

Green Dragon Blossom

After the great birding opportunities, as the crowds started to trickle off, my flower buddy and expert, Tavia Cathcart, asked if I'd like to go hunting Green Dragons. Dragons? You mean the fire-breathing kind of dragon? No, this is a flower, one I've never seen before, and she was very excited about it.

Most Jack in the Pulpits are finished blooming by this time, but Bernheim's Jacks are in good shape. This one is a Jack in the Pen apparently. Can't imagine was sort of natural law it broke to land in jail!

Flowers and birds weren't the only attendees at Bloomfest. This insect arrived early in the morning, and seemed fascinated with leftover stickiness on the plastic tablecloth I brought from home.

Our favorite blossom is the Wren Flower--a unique forest beauty found only at Bernheim Forest and Arboretum!


dAwN said... cool to see those little grey blobs with eyes! My brother-in law built a few nest boxes..before I left i was able to see mom and dad building a nest..but I missed all the good stuff.
Thanks for sharing.

Mary said...

I'm also watching the Bluebird's boxes on campus at work. I love seeing them almost ready to fledge but I haven't been around to see them go out!

Enjoy the Bluebirds - they are so magical.

Your photos of the Kestrels made me swoon. My, they are beautiful birds!


Anonymous said...

Great recap of your bluebird walk with "Mr. Bluebird." Bernheim's bluebird population is growing year by year. I think it's the great habitat that is maturing that lends to the success. Many thanks for coming out to BloomFest.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Thanks for the "heads up" about your visit with the Turkey Vulture!! He's GORGEOUS!!

nina at Nature Remains. said...

I love seeing those first hints at blue on the tail. So much promise in little bluebirds, isn't there?!
Neat crane fly, too--that angle makes him look huge!

NCmountainwoman said...

I loved all the photographs, but especially the kestrels and the turkey vulture, up close and personal.

Carol said...

I really enjoyed the Blue Birds. I like the nest cam.

That Wren flower was pretty neat too.