Archive for the ‘Robins’ Category

Robin Territory: Part 3- Fledging!

July 12, 2020

Part 3 – Here I’ll give you a shot of the knarly old tree where the robins built their nest. Follow that lower limb out and you see the nest lit up by the sun where the limb forks.

 

Can you see the nest?

This past Thursday I captured this photo of the two nestlings.

Thursday, July 9, 6PM – nestlings waiting for their evening snack!

Yesterday about 11:30 am one of them decided to hop up out of the nest. Maybe the other nestling was as surprised as we were.

Hey, I’m gonna go for it!

The fledgling stood there a long while, mustering up the courage to venture further, while the parents, uh, flew up and fed the one still in the nest.

I’m sure they wanted both of them to gain enough strength to leave the nest.

Maybe if the one out of the nest flew further away, his parents would feed him too!

Yes!

Our daughter Megan, her friend Olivia, and I spent the better part of yesterday watching the robins. I didn’t go grocery shopping, clean the house, do laundry, or help with dinner. I had other important business – to make sure the robin fledglings made it to a safe place! I was so worried about our little fledgling that I visited our next door neighbor. “Hey, there’s a robin fledgling in your east hedge!” making him promise me, “I’ll keep the cat inside tonight.”

Here’s the two baby robins at 2:30 pm. Who are the parents going to feed first?

Which one looks the most comfortable?

Maybe the baby in the nest assessed the situation and decided to stay comfortable, because as the day went on, he sure didn’t seem particularly motived to go anywhere. (Okay, maybe the first fledgling is a ‘she’ and this one is a ‘he’ – or vice versa – or maybe they are both of the same sex, in any case I’m calling them both “he’s’)

By late afternoon into evening our little fledgling had found a roosting spot in our back lilac hedge by the bird bath.
His parents took good care of him!

Here I took a photo of him. Look carefully and you will see him in the air space at the center of the photo just above the wall. He roosted there for several hours.

Saturday, July 11, 3:40 pm

Can you see him in this photo I took four hours later? He’s still there, at 7:40 pm, after one of his parents enjoyed their evening bath.

There’s the baby, in the light in the center, just above the wall

At 5:30 pm it looked like the other fledgling might go for it. Do it now little one, while there’s some daylight left!

Yes! You can do it!

But then mom came to him. Fed him

and seemingly told him a bedtime story, and tucked him in for the night, because after she left he hunkered back down into the nest. One does have to wonder, who’s the smarter bird here? Cuz’ he’s got mom and dad and the nest (which now offers a kingsized bed) all to himself now.

Good night little birdies! Be safe and sleep tight! The little fledgling had now disappeared from his perch in the lilacs. Where had he gone?

Along about midnight I heard the back sprinklers going. “You turned on the sprinklers?” I turned and said to David in bed. “Yes, each section for an hour, you know, to keep the grass alive…” Geez! Well, surely they won’t saturate or drown that little fledgling. Oh the thought of it! Although the sprinklers might just keep the cats and other stalking predators away …

This morning Megan and I checked on the nest, first thing. The baby robin in the nest was awake and mom and dad were feeding him!

Oh look! The fledgling made it too! There he is! At 10:30 this morning we heard him first, then spotted him perched on our old cedar fence, where he blends in quite nicely. I took a video:

After he ate he flew up into the bushes a few feet away.

Here is my last photo of him:

Sunday, July 12, 11:30 am

As for the other robin, he’s still in the nest. And he’s hungry. Here’s my last video of him:

Where are mom and dad? I dunno. They may have changed their strategy with him. You starve, son, until you are OUT of the nest! Surely it will happen today. His parents can only hope!

Robin Territory! – Part 2

July 5, 2020

To pick up from where I left off, a week ago, we haven’t seen the fledgling since!

I hear what I think are young robin chirps, and hope that’s our little fledgling, that he’s survived the various neighborhood threats – cats, dogs, raccoons, cars, fireworks (ha).

Meanwhile this past Wednesday, July 1, David and I were sitting on the patio, and spotted a robin with a worm dangling from its beak.

Wednesday, July 1

Where are you headed with that worm, Mr. Robin?

To the nest! The eggs have hatched!

Here I captured a video.

Hungry little buggers!  Now both parents are running themselves ragged, feeding their brood.

A robin flew down I thought, to scavenge for food, hey, see how hard they work!

Showing you how to bathe after a hard day’s work.

I’m guessing that the eggs hatched out on Tuesday, June 30, and (with some luck) they will fledge on July 12-14. They have to survive in the nest 7-9 more days. I check on them several times a day. There is danger lurking in the trees around us. You hear them first, the magpies. They are no songbird!  A cousin of the crow, they hover over you from high up in the trees making a loud distinctive ‘wock, wock, wock-a-wock’ noise. They are smart though, and it’s hard to capture a photo of them – they hear the front door open and off they fly … Here’s one in the yard across the street:

Magpie! I heard the ‘wock, wock, wock-a-wock’ first.

We also have a large murder of crows in our neighborhood. Murder? Yes, did you know a  group of crows is called a murder?

Met this murder of crows in a neighbor’s yard, July 3

As in, they murder hatchlings, or eat the eggs in the nest even before they hatch. Crows, ravens, magpies and blue jays are all members of the Corvidae family of birds – loud, rambunctious and very intelligent. Crows are among the smartest animals on the planet. Here is an interesting link about crows. They live all over the world, except for Antarctica. They will eat practically anything – road kill, frogs, snakes, mice, corn, human fast food – yeah, keep a strong grip on your next take-out order. According to the article they are actually very social and caring creatures.

U-huh. Tell that to a robin. We had a nest with fledglings last year – as the fledglings grew bigger they also chirped louder and disappeared from the nest, about the time I spotted three magpies on our deck. You tell me …

Yesterday was the 4th of July. Our local fireworks, parade, and other large group festivities were canceled due to Covid-19. So of course people all around us were shooting off their own illegal fireworks, sky high. Our neighborhood felt like a war zone. I worried about the robins, with the loud BOOMS!, screeches and flashes all around them, over several hours. We came inside, closed all our windows and were able to drift off to sleep. But what about the robins?

I checked on them this morning, and all is well. Whew! Mom and dad are busy as ever. I refreshed the water in the bird bath.

I suppose it being  Sunday, July 5, still the weekend of our Independence Day, our neighborhood will turn into a war zone again tonight. Okay, I’ll admit that we bought fireworks too. For sensitive ears, mind you. I wasn’t thinking of our back yard robins when I bought them, but I’m pretty sure, the robins didn’t mind them much. This one was our personal favorite, and, well, if you ever find yourself at a fireworks stand contemplating the ‘Sir dumps a lot’  firework and wondering what it does

here’s a video from beginning to end:

‘He’s like our dog. He just keeps pooping and pooping …’

Look carefully again, you will see a robin flying across the yard in the background. Those parents were keeping a close watch on things.

Although watching those pooping doggies in action may have made the robins wonder what size brains humans have to compel them to create such a ridiculous thing. I’m sure there’s a lot of things humans do that confuse and confound the robins.

All I know is, this human is channeling the robin’s spirit and energy the next time I take a bath.

Robin Territory!

June 28, 2020

I have a thing for the American robin. Sure, it’s a common bird of North America and who hasn’t seen a robin’s nest, a robin’s egg – a fledgling? Do you ever have a summer pass where you haven’t had robins foraging for food in your front yard? Discovered a nest?

They disappear in the fall and as winter passes into spring I start watching for the first sign of robins.They are a migratory bird, but some do stay through the winter, high up in the trees, hidden out of sight. I never see robins here in the winter months. It’s such a thrill when you first hear one in early spring and to experience that first sighting – which, this year, happened for us on March 17. The robin was high up in our May tree and I captured a photo of it from an upstairs window.

First robin sighting! March 17

We enjoyed sitting on our patio watching for the robins. One robin would perch on a high limb in our honey locust tree and break out into a sharp lilting song – as if announcing the official arrival of spring, yet a new season of hope and rebirth!

Or maybe to lay claim to his (or her) territory – to announce to the world that this robin has found a place to nest and raise a family, possibly two or three broods – in our back yard. (We are careful not to use any lawn chemicals or pesticides – I literally claw the pigweed out between the cracks in our brick walk, to avoid using Roundup.)

Well, sure enough, on May 21 we discovered a nest with at least 3 eggs. Yay!!

Discovered it May 21 – Yippee!

The female was roosting faithfully.

Look carefully and you will see her tail. Female robins build the nest and sit on the eggs.

Robins can produce 3 successful broods in one year, but only 40 per cent of nests successfully produce young. We were hopeful for this nest.

Then on Saturday, May 23, Memorial Day weekend hit. Literally. We woke up to snow on Saturday. And it kept snowing through the morning.

Our back yard, Saturday May 23

We felt like we were living a live scene from the Twilight Zone. I took a video of our back yard. (Notice on the patio table the bubbles we had been playing with the day before with our grandkids):

Nature delivered a cruel blow. Several branches of our blooming lilacs snapped from the weight of the snow

Good thing lilac limbs are flexible

and our front magnificent maple tree lost two large limbs. (Aren’t we used to this? Why don’t we own a chain saw?)

I checked on the robin’s nest. Can you see her tail?

She was faithfully roosting, and, yes, covered in snow. Poor thing.

By days end, though, the skies had cleared and the snow was melting away. And sadly, the nest was empty. Had the mother robin just given up? It was a vicious storm.

I read that 40% of robins’ nests successfully produce young. Tough odds! Would they try again?

Sure enough, on June 9 we discovered a new nest. The female was just finishing it when we discovered it.

New nest! June 9

We kept an eye on the nest for several days, but so far no roosting. Then this past Monday June 22, there she was – sitting on it. Dang! These robins are sneaky. The incubation period for eggs is about 14 days. Will we be hearing the peeps of hatchlings by … July 4th? Maybe. One can hope.

I checked on the nest yesterday – lookin’ good …

I was sitting on our patio when I started hearing what was surely the cries of a hungry robin fledgling, coming from the direction of the large spruce by the shed in our back yard. I wandered closer and, there it was perched on an outer branch about 5 feet off the ground, peeping away. I watched that little bird for a long while and captured some photos and videos. Here’s the first one:

Daddy takes charge

After the robins leave the nest, it’s the dad who takes over their care, feeds them for about two weeks, while they learn how to fly, groom, hunt for earthworms and ripe fruits, how to signal a cry of distress. It’s an extremely vulnerable time! Only 25% of fledged young survive until November. And from that point on, only about half the robins alive in any year will make it to the next year.

A lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, but robins live on average only 2 years in the wild.

Getting back to our little fledgling, he stood quietly for a good while, waiting for daddy to return. Magpies, cousins of the crows, were squawking nearby, and I’m sure this little one knows to keep quiet …

Well, until he got really hungry. Here comes daddy to the rescue.

Our daughter Megan and her friend Olivia were out on the patio with me now, witnessing this little fledgling. It turns out – it could fly – a bit – which I caught in the next video seconds after I took the last one.

I wasn’t sure exactly where it landed, but it was obviously in those tall bushes.

You can see the weather had turned blustery. Yeah, well that wind ushered in a 25-degree drop in temperature and pouring rain overnight, with much cooler weather forecasted to persist through today and tomorrow.

Haven’t even tried to find our little fledgling or checked on the robin’s nest today. I’m all bundled up in layers inside our house made of brick, with the heat blasting. Just glad I’m not a little fledgling, to be honest.

Baby Robin on the Premises! – Part 2

June 25, 2019

Part 2 of 2 – To continue where I left off … You might be wondering about the fate of that baby robin in our back yard that fledged about June 1. We discovered him on June 2, on our back compost pile with both parents close by. We woke up every day after that looking for that little guy, so tiny, vulnerable and dependent! He didn’t fly at all. He hopped a bit, behind his parents, begging for food, and hopefully would learn quickly to hop up onto tree branches for safety. My previous blog followed him through his first four days as a fledgling – my last video of him was on the evening of June 6, finding him safe and sound (whew!) after a huge thunderstorm.

But then the next day we didn’t see him at all. And the next day after that. Oh no! Both neighbors to the west of us have cats. Our neighbors to the east have a fenced yard with three big dogs!

Meanwhile, Rudy continued to keep the back yard safe from strangers.

And we kept a close eye on Rudy

Rudy demonstrates how to relax in a patio chair

Other birds were busy making nests – helping themselves to inventory from our hanging pots. Hey, glad to help!

The irises were out in full bloom

Blooming snowball bushes graced the whole town,

The horse chestnut tree blossoms are my absolute favorite. The tree blooms in red or white:

Nice try, Rudy, but you missed the shade. Stop dilly-dallying!

Here’s the blossom up close.

horse chestnut

There’s a giant white horse chestnut tree in nearby Tautphaus Park, blooms in early June. I have missed it some years…

Ancient horse chestnut tree!

“Hey David – stand by that tree and let me take your photo!”
(Ugh. If I must …)

June 4, 2019

There, you get a little perspective on how magnificent that tree is.

Close-up – the blossoms stand over 6″ tall!

Okay, but what about your little robin? you ask. Did you see him again? Why yes we did! On the morning of June 12, 8:49 AM, we could hear him chirping. Then, looking out our upstairs bathroom window, we spotted him!

See him in the lilacs! His light round breast (between the limbs)

“Chirp, chirp, chirp!”

Here. I’ll zoom in …

Yes, that’s him! Between the limbs. He’s hungry!

He disappeared into the corner of our yard behind our giant spruce tree but then was back out that afternoon pecking around for food (but mostly still begging from his parents). At 3PM I captured a video from inside our kitchen through our back door window. You don’t hear chirping on the video. What you hear is Rudy whining to be let out, and Megan’s friend Amber disciplining him to stop whining, which he does. I believe Amber to be some kind of dog-whisperer.

That video was taken Wednesday June 12 at 3PM. Yeah, so our little birdie has survived as a fledgling for at least 10 days! And he’s certainly not a strong flyer. I did see him sort of flit up into the lilac bushes once today. He was back out in the lilacs along our back property line again at 8:40 PM. Chirping away. “Daddy I need my bedtime snack!”

The next afternoon the robin family was back in our backyard. The baby still looks tiny but he can surely hop and run faster! I captured this video about 5 PM. June 13 – the baby fledged at least 12 days ago. He looks so tiny still!

Meanwhile the slugs have devoured the hostas.

Yes, I’m sure it’s slugs. We go through this every year.

This year I didn’t use slug bait (is it really safe for birds and animals just because the package says it is? …) I know for sure now that robins eat slugs – and we are surely laying out a feast for our robin family through the slug orgy taking place in our southwest corner garden.

And, well, our our hanging flower basket is looking a little ratty. My, the birds have been busy!

On the evening of June 13 I glanced out our front dining room window. What? Is it snowing? I stepped through the front door into a magical spring atmosphere of birdsong and drifting down

The poplar trees are shedding all over town.

Black Poplar

Saturday, June 15 – 10 AM. There he is! – hopping in our back yard along our landscape curbing. Two weeks after fledging and surely he’s a pretty strong flyer by now. But I haven’t seen him fly. Robins forage for food on the ground and I suspect he has to do most of his own foraging by now. He still looks so young!

Well, he did fly up into a tree. Several days have passed and we haven’t see him. I guess the little birdie has flown away – has he joined the larger flock of robins? Are his parents raising another clutch by now? Do we have some hidden bird nests up in our giant honey locust trees somewhere? Huh. If we do, the wind did its best this past Wednesday and again Thursday (June 20), to knock them out!

I just read today that 90 percent of baby robins don’t live through their first year. I am happy to report though, that our little robin was busy foraging for food just this morning in our back yard – Monday, June 24, a full three weeks after he fledged. I took a couple of photos of him. He still has that distinctive round light belly.

Monday, June 24, 2019

I watched him forage for bugs, worms, slugs and berries for several minutes. Then he flew off. I’ll keep a lookout for him!

David has resumed his game of frisbee with Rudy in the back yard. They have both perfected their technique to where they’ve got a smooth thing going – David with throwing, and Rudy with catching.

Not bad for a 11-yr-old dog and a 73-yr-old man. Yes, I’m capturing it in photos and video … this magical spring in the autumn of our lives.

Life is good!

Baby Robin on the Premises!

June 9, 2019

This story begins on my husband David’s 73rd birthday, June 1, 2019. We’re relaxing on our back deck, basking in the wonders of spring, the fragrant breezes, the chirping of birds, when our tranquility is interrupted by a crow ‘caw-caw-ing’ through the quiet calm from a high tree limb above us. What?

Yeah, I know about crows, and their close relative, the magpie. They prey on the smaller songbirds, the robins, in particular (they clearly don’t prefer starlings, based on their ballooning populations). We experienced the preying magpies three years ago, the last time we knew of a robins’ nest in our back yard. I was so happy to see the nest, then hear the hungry chirping of hatchlings, for a day, maybe. The discovery that the nest was empty occurred on the same day I chased several magpies off our back deck. I did some research on magpies and blogged about the experience (link here). Yes, magpies and crows are smart, dominant birds, higher up on the food chain than robins and other songbirds, and they eat baby birds for breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, and dessert, pluck them right out of their nests.

So imagine the ruckus caused by that large black crow perched above us in our giant honey locust tree. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it because I captured a video of the moment it was chased off by a flock of robins.

Way to go, robins!

The very next day, June 2, we discover a baby robin perched atop the corner compost pile in our back yard. Whoa! The baby bird hardly moves or startles when we approach. So I capture a pretty good photo of him (I’m calling it a ‘him’ – I just am) .

Baby robin adopts a new nest

His chances of survival? He barely hops, much less fly. Is he injured? Why is he here all by himself? What happened to this little robin family? Did that crow’s presence yesterday have anything to do with the fate of this lonesome little one – where are his siblings? Was he driven from the nest prematurely? He’s lucky to be alive!

Here is a link to robin facts. Most robins die their first year. Robins lay one egg a day for the average of 3-5 eggs in a clutch. They hatch 12-14 days after the last egg was laid. Robins jump from their nest (fledge) when they are about 13 days old and they all fledge within two days.

It takes fledglings about two weeks after they leave the nest to become strong flyers and independent birds. (!!)

In August 2014 (5 years ago already, whew!) I blogged about the last robins’ nest we had – where I captured the three babies on video when they fledged and we watched them hop about the yard for a few days (one of them died the first day). Here’s the link! (There are three parts to the story and when you open the link you scroll to the bottom to read them chronologically.)

Bird banders have found that only about 25% of young robins survive their first year. If they do, most wild robins live to about the age of 5 or 6.

The mother builds the nest and sits on the eggs. She builds a new nest for each brood. Both the mother and father feed the babies. The babies beg for food, even after they fledge.

Speaking of begging baby birds, let’s get back to our baby robin that we discovered in his ‘new nest’ on June 2. I had a good view of him on our compost pile from an inside window, and yes, he basically stood atop that compost pile and begged, and both parents seemingly spent their entire waking hours scavenging for worms, insects and berries to feed him.

He stayed atop that compost pile, begged, and was fed for most of his first day. But then, toward evening, Hey! Where did he go?

Empty nest!

He had mustered up the courage to fly – about three feet where he was now perched on our backyard fence! Here you see him – his tail that is, sticking out the backside of the fence.

See his tail sticking out?

So of course Megan and I sneaked out front and sure enough, there he was, perched on the fence.

See the little guy!

Begging away, calling for his parents, who were scavenging just a few feet away. I captured a video at 7:07 PM:

The parents were always just a few feet away in our front yard as that little guy stayed perched on the fence.

Daddy duty

Finally about 8 pm the little one hopped through the fence back to his ‘nest’:

The end of his first full day and he is learning to hop to safety!

We ended the day happy – he had survived his first day and returned to his nest!

He seemed sated, as well. Good night little birdie! Stay safe!

Monday morning, June 3, Day 2: Megan announces, “Mom, he’s on his nest!” And sure enough, I was able to capture a photo.

Monday, June 3, 8:36 AM

Of course, he was hungry and now hopping after his dad and begging!

Look out little birdie. You’d better take shelter! I am happy to report he made it safely through the whole day, and that evening, there he was back on his ‘nest’, our compost pile.

Whew! Made it safely through another day!


Tuesday morning – June 4 – Day 3! There he is right in plain view on the edge of our neighbor’s driveway:

Beware the cat, little birdie!

Oh boy, he’s getting braver, but still not moving much. Hey little birdie, those neighbors have a cat! But, he makes it through today, and sure enough, he’s back on his nest by bedtime.

Wednesday, day 4 – 11 AM – he’s in the back yard, with his helicopter parents!

Wed, June 5. Yay! See them in the shadows?!

We watched him hop along our back row of lilacs, and peck for food himself. But that night he didn’t return to the nest.

Thursday, Day 5 – We hear thunder through the early morning hours. Why of course, we wake up to a huge thunderstorm. I captured a video of the storm out our back door:

You have to learn to survive little one! Where is he?

The storm has blown over and the sun is out. We hear him, from inside the house, the distinctive hungry chirp from that baby robin … Step outside! There he is!!

Our backyard is so beautiful after a rain!

Storm has blown over – here comes the sun!


Life is good. We took our last video of him that evening at 8:40 pm. – from our upstairs bathroom window:

Good night little birdie! Stay safe! Where was he roosting now? Hopefully up on a tree limb?

It is Sunday now. June 9. We haven’t seen our little birdie since Thursday evening. We’ve been watching out for him though. We keep an eye on our poodle, Rudy, as he did grab a baby bird in his mouth one spring. Rudy, for now, gets his own seat at our patio table.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

And keeps the back yard safe from strangers.

“BARK-BARK-BARK-BARK-BARK-BARK-BARK” Stop it, Rudy. You’re driving the whole neighborhood nuts!

Tho, can’t do much about the hungry raptors hovering above …

Photo taken from our back yard Sunday, June 9

Plus we have issues with squirrels, who are also known predators of baby robins. These rascals are always out frolicking:

The squirrels are certainly happy

But no worries. Rudy keeps them in tow:

I am hopeful that our little birdie is still alive, practicing his flying and other survival skills. A week has passed since we first met that little fledgling – is it seriously going to take him another week to become a strong flyer?

We still spot adult robins in our yard. So that’s a hopeful sign. Although, this little birdie’s mother has likely already built another nest and is possibly sitting on a second clutch of eggs. So it’s daddy who is feeding and watching over him.

The families stay together for at least three weeks after the babies leave the nest. This is such a dangerous time for baby robins as they need time, and nurturing, and safe places to practice flying, away from cats, dogs, predatory birds, snakes, squirrels, cold, storms …

Take care, little birdie. You gotta grow up smart and fast to beat that 25% chance of surviving through your first year.

Robins – Part 3

July 16, 2016

On Sunday, June 26, I watched a female robin building a nest in the honey locust tree in our back yard. I captured a video of it and blogged about it in Part 1 of this series, meanwhile, of course, getting distracted, and down right obsessed, with the yellow warblers pooping on our front door step (Part 2)…

I kept watching the robins. Sure enough the mother was still brooding through this past Tuesday, July 12. I would usually just get a view of her tail above the nest:

Her tail is hard to see

Her tail is hard to see

Since eggs hatch after 14 days I thought maybe they were hatched by this past Tuesday. A few minutes after I took that last photo, I saw mom fly off the nest, shake herself off, hop around with the dad a bit, and then return to the nest:

Mom takes a break

Mom takes a break

Get the circulation going!

Get the circulation going!

Dad was hopping around just a few feet away from her.

IMG_2295

Back to the nest now!

IMG_2274

IMG_2272

We’ve been listening for the ‘chirp-chirp-chirping’ of baby birds. This morning I watched the robins in the back yard, Dad maybe, hopping around. But I didn’t see any activity on the nest. No brooding mother, no adults flying with worms to the nest. No chirping. No activity at all. Oh boy.

I got a ladder and climbed up to the nest – captured this photo. Awwwww.

IMG_2323

Come to think of it, I did run 3 magpies off the deck this morning. They hang around here a bit – fly into the top of our giant spruce and make a racket. Thought I’d do a little research on magpies. Sure enough, they regularly prey upon the eggs and nestlings of other birds, especially song birds. (Of course, magpies are regularly preyed upon in turn, by hawks, owls and ravens.)

Magpies are part of the the Corvid or crow family. They are super common throughout the northwest, however, mostly absent in the eastern US. Here is a link with a photo of a magpie and more interesting information about magpies. They mate for life. They are considered one of the most intelligent animals in the world, the only non-mammal species able to recognize itself in a mirror test. (So those warblers pecking at our reflective front door kick plate thought they were pecking at … another warbler??)

Oh and by the way, according to the article in the above link, the longest-living Black-billed Magpie on record was at least 9 years, 4 months old and lived in Idaho (near our back yard, perhaps?).

Magpies walk with a staggering strut and will band together to mob a raptor. They can also kill small mammals such as squirrels and voles. They are nest predators although eggs and nestlings make up only a small portion of the birds’ overall diet. They eat berries, seeds and nuts, and lots of insects too. They use scent to find food, an unusual trait for birds, which generally have very little sense of smell.

Another interesting trait of magpies is that they have been known to grieve and hold funerals for fallen friends. In this article, animal behavior expert Dr. Bekoff, of the University of Colorado, reports an encounter with four magpies alongside a magpie corpse – individually pecking at it, flying off, returning with some grass and then laying it by the corpse, then standing vigil together for a few seconds, then flying off one by one. This ritual has been seen repeatedly in magpies, ravens and crows.

So did those three magpies mob that robin nest? Hmmm. Seems like a good explanation. Are the robins grieving their loss, too?

So, no baby robins after all. Oh well. Haven’t seen the yellow warblers around lately, either.

Although there’s ample evidence in our flower garden of a thriving slug population.

IMG_2328

There now. Doesn’t that cheer you up?

Robins, Warblers and ‘Herbert’

July 9, 2016

Two summers ago, in 2014, we had robins nesting in a honey locust tree in our back yard. I took lots of video on August 3, 2014, the day the hatchlings fledged, and blogged about it. Here is a link to the blogs.

This summer the robins are back! Nesting in the same place. I was out in the back yard on June 26 and witnessed robins building a nest, in the exact same location, at the intersection of two low hanging limbs. I shot a couple of videos:

The female chooses the site and builds the nest, while the male might help gather nesting materials (depending on his mood?).

Or lead the female to a resting place when he sees she needs a break …

Who's got the beer?

Who’s got the beer?

A new nest is built for each brood, and in northern climes the first clutch is usually placed in an evergreen tree or shrub, while later broods are placed in deciduous trees (this must be this family’s second clutch?). It takes from two to six days to build the nest, with an average of 180 trips per day to find materials.

Building a nest is a lot of work!

Meanwhile, a cutesy chatty pair of yellow birds shows up. I think we just have one pair of these, but they surely have made their presence known. At first we’re like, “Oh, cute!’ when one would flutter up against our back kitchen window. Then flutter up there again, lingering, as if admiring it’s reflection. Then over the course of a day or two the window gets all mucked up – the birds were fluttering, lingering, and then apparently puking on the outside of our kitchen window. It became creepy and Megan started banging on the window to scare them away. I was out there with windex scrubbing off the mess.

Then we were hearing this ‘peck-peck-peck-ing’ on our front door starting first thing early morning. It was creepy too. One of those dumb yellow birds again! I’d quick!, open the front door, but of course, it was gone. Now the birds were fluttering, pecking, puking and pooping – right at our front door.

I went out there with a bucket of soapy water and scrub brush and scrubbed it off. But then within a day or two it was a mess again. Here – I took a photo:

Yuk!

Yuk!

The little yellow birds were standing on our doorstep admiring themselves in the reflective kick plate, pooping and regurgitating on their reflection. Hey, whatever floats your boat, birdies. Noooooo! We had to do something.

I was constantly complaining to David about it – “Look, honey, there goes one of those yellow birds!” as it flits past the front window.

A while later I notice our vegetable scrub brush quarantined in a glass by the sink:

IMG_2177

“What’s this doing here?” I ask David.

“Oh, I used that brush to scrub the bird poop off the front stoop…”

“Ewwww! I scrub potatoes and carrots with that brush!”

“Yeah, well thought I’d help you deal with the bird problem …”

I walk to the front door and open it. Ahhhh! You’re kidding!

Hello

Hello

“The snake just might scare the birds away,” says David.

He had brought that wooden jointed cobra snake we bought in Mexico about 8 years ago, up from the basement.

It startles us every time we open the front door.

Hi again

Hi again

As for those yellow birds, I did finally capture a couple of photos of them. At the back sliding door, since that snake did scare them away from the front door:

IMG_2192

IMG_2196

My sister Lisa, an avid bird watcher, identified them. ‘Yellow Warblers‘. I did a Google search on Warbler behaviors and couldn’t come up with anything remotely matching our experience. It’s simply ‘be as annoying as possible to the Caraher’s’ behavior.

As for the robins, David captured a photo of her yesterday – roosting on the nest.

July 8, 2016

July 8, 2016

You guessed it. The female sits on the eggs too. (While the male checks out the local bird baths? I dunno…) The eggs hatch after 14 days, and the chicks leave the nest, fledge, two weeks later. While the chicks are still young, the mother broods them continuously. When they are older, the mother will brood them only at night or during bad weather. (You know, out of sheer exhaustion.)

As for the front door situation with the warblers, ‘Herbert’ seems to have solved the problem. I pulled into the driveway the other day to witness a neighbor backing away from our front door. She had come over with her granddaughter to deliver some cupcakes and I heard her say “Honey, I don’t think it’s alive.” Luckily I was able to explain the situation as to why we have a life-like cobra roosting on our front doorstep.

IMG_2252

I guess I should consider us lucky that we still have mail delivery. Although we haven’t received any UPS packages recently.

Overall, we’re one bigger happier family with the robins, warblers, Herbert and all. Although Herbert still startles me when I open the front door.

I'm your Huckleberry

I’m your Huckleberry

He’s pretty much going to stay there as long as those warblers are around. I’d like to preserve our vegetable brush for scrubbing vegetables.

Hoary Winter, Omega Spring!

April 29, 2016

I took a bunch of photos this past winter, it being so cold, snowy, and, well, hoary. For several weeks through mid-January into February, southeast Idaho experienced a persistent weather phenomenon known in meteorology as a “temperature inversion.” Colder air gets trapped over the valleys under a cap of warmer air, which settles over the higher elevations. For a while, it was warmer in West Yellowstone than here. We’d wake up in a cold fog, which froze like baklava in layers over tree branches.

IMG_0153

IMG_0152

Magnificent hoar frost! Also known as ‘rime.’

I’d step outside as if through a wardrobe, into Narnia.

IMG_0151

I had to admit, it was beautiful.

It seemed we were always shoveling. We don’t own a snowblower, but most of our neighbors do.

IMG_0165

I developed a severe case of snowblower envy, watching our neighbor through our dining room window, whizzing through snow drifts, blowing the snow sky high in great arches that settled into huge crusty ridges along his walks and driveway. He’d be backing his truck out at full speed before we could fully contemplate our own laborious snow removal plan.

Who's going to shovel?

Who’s going to shovel?

Simple. David shoveled. Or in our case, scooped.

First the front walks and driveway:

IMG_0167

Then the back deck:

IMG_0022

While I … took photos.

IMG_0171

IMG_0170

But then a few hours later we (myself, eventually, out of guilt) would be out there shoveling again. Three inches of fresh snow at a time was about the max either one of us cared to deal with.

IMG_0161

We shoveled paths in the snow for Rudy to navigate so he could take care of business –

IMG_0032

“Rudy, go potty!”

Don't pussy-foot around with David

Don’t pussy-foot around with David

Alas, like the meltdown in Narnia, the inversion lifted, warmer temps settled in and the snow melted away.

March 3. 2016

March 3. 2016

Check out the back yard. Hey – look! Pine cones?

Those aren't pine cones

Those aren’t pine cones

NO! DOG TURDS! EWWWW! You’d think at least some of them would have dissolved in the snow pack. But Noooo. Every single turd dropped over the past 4 months is perfectly intact. I plucked them out of the grass one by one.

Rudy, you messy dog!! You must have left us 600 “twerds” to pick up in the back yard! (‘Turd’ with a French accent since he’s a poodle.)

Making a mess in the house too

Making a mess in the house too

Oh boy, now you’re destuffing Lambchop.

March winter squalls … Not so welcome. We want to put the shovels away!

March 9

March 9

IMG_0394

Several spring storms blow through – bringing hail, snow, and sleet, sometimes simultaneously…

March 14

March 14

But then, bird nest sightings!

IMG_0460

Robins appear. Some are fat with eggs

IMG_0542

My photo is pretty lame, but let me tell you, that was one fat robin I spotted from our kitchen window.

Then, in April, we experienced another extended weather phenomenon known to meteorologists as an “Omega weather pattern.” We were shown a Satellite/radar visual of it about every night on our local news – I finally took a picture of the ‘Omega Pattern.’ Here you can see:

IMG_0558

A giant ‘high’ settled square over Idaho and the west, which locked in a persistent ‘low’ over, uh, the mid west and Texas. The Omega pattern hung over us for 8 days or something, bringing sunny temps 10-15 degrees above normal, while Texas and other areas east of the Omega rim got pelted, soaked, deluged and flooded out. (Sorry, Houston.) I think it is still raining there. The Omega pattern shifted slightly east, then flipped upside down or something, still locking Texas and the lower mid west in a low.

So…spring popped! All of a sudden everything is in bloom. You want to see those same snowy shots of our front yard I took in January? Can you picture my neighbor with his snowblower?

IMG_0625

That’s a giant May tree. Here you see the blossoms up close

IMG_0635

Remember Narnia?

IMG_0628

Our big ‘ol giant Maple is about out

IMG_0626

Flowering crab and plums adorn about every street

IMG_0615

Then there’s the tulips! Bunches of perky yellow tulips bloomed on the west side of the house:

IMG_0617

In our back center garden:

IMG_0629

They just started blooming this week in front of our house, facing north

IMG_0632-2

Turn on the sprinklers!!

IMG_0505

Oh joy. Never fails. A busted sprinkler head.

David has already mowed once. Dig out the dandelions! Pull weeds! What flowers to plant this year?? …

“Uh, Where’s Rudy?”

WUh?

WUh?

“You stay out of the gardens!!”

A Robin’s Nest – Part 3

August 10, 2014

Sunday, August 3. All three baby robins fledged yesterday. The nest is empty!

IMG_8882

Here is a photo of the east end of our back yard:

IMG_8866

You can see the nest – about 4/5 the way out on the lower limbs of the nearest honey locust tree.
We don’t know where the first robin found refuge, but the second robin hopped into the peony bush next to the bird bath along the left end of the fence and the third bird hopped into the lilies of the valley on the right end (the area behind the hanging pot).

Here’s a bottom view of the nest. You see the knot next to the nest? That’s where the last baby bird got caught before she fell.

IMG_8868

Anyway, maybe feeling a bit of the empty-nest blues after all the excitement of the past week. But I am determined to keep these three baby robins safe! Our back yard is surrounded by three cement block fences so I’m pretty sure the babies are still back there.

First order of the day on Sunday, August 3, is to post a sign on the back door to remind all of us – to watch Rudy with the birds!

IMG_8873

Yeah, well, Little Lord Fauntleroy has a history. I’ll never forget the summer a few years ago when I let him out in the morning to do his business but then he didn’t come back. I called him and finally went out to see what was holding him up. Well, it was a fledgling – in Rudy’s mouth! He was using it as a flip toy, grabbing it in his mouth and then flipping it around. Well, of course the fledging died.

But that’s not going to happen to our little bird family this time!

I hear Rudy barking outside – oh-oh. I run to the back door – oh good! Megan is out there policing him.

IMG_8876

Sunday – the day after the birds have fledged- is hot – 90 degrees again. We see no sign of the babies but we do see busy adults – crisscrossing the trees, sitting on the back fence, hopping in the gardens.

Then on Monday, it started raining. A weather pattern of heavy thunderstorms settled over southeast Idaho. By Tuesday noon there were flash flood warnings. Cruel weather for baby birds who can’t fly! Well, the third bird, the little one, the runt, didn’t survive. It was Megan who discovered his tiny little body – sprawled out dead on the sprinkler cover next to the lily of the valley’s – just feet away from where he had initially found refuge. I wonder if he ever did get a worm from his parents after he fletched or had they already abandoned him even when he was a nestling?

It rained for four days. The young birds had to be strong enough to hop up onto tree limbs to escape the saturation on the ground.

The sun came out again on Friday. We’ve been watching for the babies. Megan and I are pretty sure we saw one with dad yesterday (the fathers take over training the young birds to fly, forage for food, recognize dangers and roost in trees with other robins). Back along the lilac hedge a speckled young one was hopping about two feet behind the dad, imitating his every move, foraging for bugs.

It’s been 8 days since the baby robins fledged. I believe the remaining two have joined the flock now – roosting together in the trees at night and feeding together by day. They will grow stronger over the next few weeks – fill up on fruits and berries to build up their body fat as fuel for migration.

Check out this link from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to learn more about robins.

Also, in my online search about robins I came upon this incredible robin blog – put together by a bird lover in Kentucky who planted cameras by several robins nests, captured fantastic photos and videos and kept a running day-by-day account of events starting with mom building the nest up to the time the birds fletch. Really cool!

Sunday, August 10 – 9AM – present time. I just now had the back door open and heard chirping. I saw two little robins frolicking along the lilac hedge at the back fence. I stepped outside and captured this video.

Methinks the babies are doing fine!

But did you know that up to 80 per cent of young robins die each year? Only the strongest, and the luckiest, survive and go on to raise young themselves.

So, I’m keeping the sign posted on the back door to remind us to watch Rudy, you know, in case he tries to turn one of the precious babies into his latest chew toy.

Rudy and David have resumed their Frisbee fetch game…

It’s just a matter of time before that Frisbee slices the empty nest out of the tree.

A Robin’s Nest – Part 2

August 9, 2014

It’s Saturday, August 2. All day we have been watching the robin’s nest in the honey locust tree in our back yard. Two baby birds have fletched – left the nest today (that’s what Part 1 of this robin blog is about). It wasn’t until the first two birds were out of the nest that the third bird – definitely the runt- stuck his little beak up.

Oh my goodness. I had seen this third tiny little beak earlier in the week, but only once – I thought maybe he had died or fallen out of the nest. Here he is (could be a she):

IMG_8761

It’s already 2:20 in the afternoon. We have not seen the adult robins feed this little bird today. As far as we could tell, the other two birds got all the feedings, and only when they fledged and were out of the nest completely.

So what of this little guy? It would be just hunky-dory for him to stay in the nest for another day or two, get some one-on-one nurturing from mom and dad, don’t you think? Then he’ll be ready!

But where are mom and dad?

Oh, look at him now! 4:25 PM. He’s up on the edge of the nest!

IMG_8801

IMG_8803

Oh my. He’s so little! He doesn’t have much day left to work his way through this process. It took the second nestling three hours of exercise to work his way from the edge of the nest to finally jumping off the limb into the grass.

Couldn’t this little guy just check out the scene from the edge of the nest and then drop back into the nest and hunker in for the night? Does he really have to fledge today, like the others. Did the robins just declare, “Fledging Day – everyone out! – all of you!”

We keep checking on the bird.

No change.

At 5:02 Rudy came out with us. By accident. Here he is rolling around in the grass practically underneath the bird.

IMG_8858

“Hey! Get back in the house!” Megan reprimands him.

5:20 now – the bird has been standing on the side of the nest now for at least an hour. Has he inched away from the nest, just a tiny bit? Does he look like he’s mustering up some courage?

IMG_8860

The next step is to jump out onto the limb where he can exercise and practice some important skills, and maybe mom and dad will feed him!

I went back into the house and for some reason, after another 20 minutes – felt compelled to come out and check on the bird. Megan had been standing watch the whole time.

I get under the nest and … oh no! The bird decides it’s time to jump onto the limb. But he stumbles and gets caught between the two limbs that converge under the nest (caught right where that knot is – caught between a knot and a hard spot, you could say). Not pretty. Crap! He flutters his wings and … falls into the grass 8 feet below.

IMG_8862

Geez! What happens now? He’s so tiny. Is he hurt?

I zoomed my camera to capture another photo of him sitting there stunned, where he fell.

IMG_8861

Megan, the bird, and I were all stunned…

Suddenly the little bird perked up, and hot-tailed (more of a ‘hop-tail’) it toward our west fence, mustering every morsel of strength he had in him. I took a 3-min-45-second video of his journey – it took him that long to make it 30 feet across the grass. I clipped the video so I can post it – the video here starts when he was about half way there and had pooped out. Dad or mom had been perched on the back fence – watching – and swooped down to prod him on ….

After that 3:45 minute marathon across the grass he struggled to force his body over the landscape curbing and then flopped into this bed of lily-of-the valleys…

IMG_8895

Whew!

Grow strong, little one!

Do you think he has even a hair’s breadth of a chance for survival?

Maybe?…