I’ve been volunteering this summer as a nestbox monitor on Bald Mountain, ostensibly for bluebird boxes. However, the bluebirds have been in the minority this year. Several boxes housed pygmy nuthatches, like the one investigating this box:
She went on to lay eggs small as your thumbnail:
Which hatched into a very full house of nestlings and fledged successfully:
Fast-forward to July, the end of the nesting season. Two boxes that saw bluebird tragedy earlier in the year—but happy feasting for the snakes who ate eggs and hatchlings—are now full of new families. Here is the first box a week ago with four tiny white swallow eggs:
Violet-green swallows like softer nests, so they remodeled the earlier bluebird efforts by adding feathers and down. This week their babies have all hatched. One is noticeably tinier than the others, maybe two days younger than it siblings. I thought at first it might have died, it was so transparent, but then it raised its groggy, naked little head, very much alive:
And finally another bluebird nest is nearing the finish line. This is what western bluebird eggs look like:
And here are western bluebird chicks from the last clutch of the season, just days away from fledging:
Notice how flattened the nest gets as the chicks grow. This nest held five eggs, of which only four hatched. But four more bluebirds will soon be decorating the trees with their rusty breasts and bright blue wings.
I’m reminded of a quote from an HBO documentary on birding in Central Park that will air in the coming week. The writer Jonathan Franzen was given a pair of binoculars to check out what he’d been missing. Gazing up into the canopy, he said,
It’s like the trees were hung with ornaments.