A Peek at a Chickadee Nest

The baby chickadees have fledged. I suddenly realized I should probably clean out the nest box.

This is my first experience hosting a bird nest! I watched the Black-Capped Chickadees build their nest in my birdhouse. I watched as the adults flew to the box with something in their mouths. I assumed they were nest building. I left mounds of cat fur for them and apparently, they used it.

Weeks went by, as I watched the adults flying to and fro. After a while, I realized I hadn’t seen any activity coming and going from the birdhouse and wondered whether I had missed the young fledge. I watched and listened in my yard for baby birds. Sure enough, I began to hear what sounded like baby chickadees begging. It’s not hard to distinguish the sounds of the young from adults. They were still close to home!

It was then that I wondered whether the pair would have a second clutch. I did a little research and learned that it was possible, but not certain, and that if they were to start another nest, it could be pretty soon. So I decided to clean out the birdhouse.

I was eager to see the nest. I carefully removed the back door and peered inside. It was not what I was expecting. For some reason, I was expecting to find the standard round nest, a perfect circle. But instead, there was a thick bed of moss, lined with bits of fluff and fur. This is typical chickadee nest material. What a plush, comforting, supportive bed for eggs and chicks!

I lifted the nest out and took some photos.

chhick nestDSC_0427chick nestDSC_0429chicknestchick nestDSC_0430

The Giving Tree

DSC_0181About this time of year, I start to notice the activity around my neighbor’s large cherry tree. Some of its branches arch over my backyard, though not low enough to pick any of the fruits now. I have tasted a few in the past and they aren’t bad.

This is a tree of many gifts. In the spring it graces us with its soft pink blossoms that have the effect of making the tree glow. After a couple weeks the petals loosen their grip and float on the air like pink snow.

Months later, after the tree has become a uniform shade of green, its true destiny begins to emerge. Tiny green fruits appear with the promise of a summer bounty. Weeks later, they slowly transform from green to a yellowish pink and pale reddish. During this time, I watch the ripening progress, knowing what is to come.

DSC_0182Then one day, some berries are fully red. Several years ago, I stood on my deck and watched a raccoon, at eye level, happily munch away on the cherries. This year I’ve seen no raccoon, but now that the fruit is ripe, the birds are wasting no time.

Robins fly into the tree and grab cherries, swallowing them whole. I’ve seen Cedar Waxwings do the same with Oregon grapes. How astonishing that a tiny mouth can open far enough to take in the berry, and then, even more astonishing, swallow it whole! It’s akin to a person swallowing a football! The cherries, however, are not as huge as the Oregon grapes.

DSC_0210 - CopyDSC_0214 - CopyAll gone!All gone!

Chickadees, Black-Capped and Chestnut-Backed, peck away at the fruits. I’ve also seen House Finches and House Sparrows partaking of the free repast. But the Steller Blue Jays, with their huge bills, don’t appear to eat the cherries. I would think they, of all the birds, would be devouring more than anyone else. We have hoards of the great, raucous birds.

Black-capped Chickadee
Black-capped Chickadee

I would also think woodpeckers would like the fruit. I once observed a Pileated Woodpecker in Maryland that was perched amusingly on a small spicebush shrub, eating its dark ripe berries. But I have seen no woodpeckers in the cherry tree.

When all the cherries have been eaten, I wonder what the next adventure will be for the birds.