Tuesday, May 18, 2010


When the hummingbirds first showed up this year, they were intent on setting up their territories once again, which made them a bit, well, territorial. In addition to the one who had checked out the cardinal, I also watched one chase a Carolina chickadee who was minding its own business in and around the nest box in the front yard. Hummers don't use nest boxes, and chickadees don't drink sugar water. (Well, not typically, although I have seen them try.) If anyone should be picking fights with the chickadees for using that nest box, it should be the downy woodpecker who had dibs on it all winter. And whom I haven’t seen in at least a couple of months—she didn’t even come back when I finally bought more peanuts. (Which may not have been a bad thing; she really liked the peanuts and I didn't want any bird to get too addicted. Just about every avian species in the yard known to eat handouts had figured out how to get at the peanuts by the time winter was over—even the white-throated sparrows learned to cling to the metal-mesh feeder more than long enough to extract a tidbit.)

While outside photographing my kudzu, er, hoya (see previous post for my first experience with this popular houseplant) on Saturday morning, I heard quite a chatter so naturally I looked up to see what was the matter. A pair of tree swallows had found the nest box which has the now-well-established chickadees in residence. Not sure what the chickadee who was most likely in the box at the time said, but I bet the tree swallow got a real earful. It left somewhat abruptly after a brief pause (barely long enough for a lousy photo) on the box top to consider its options. Its partner had already winged away—part of the vociferous contretemps may have been that one lambasting its mate as well ("You idiot! That box is already occupied! Come on, let's try someplace else.")—and they didn't come back.

This is the same set-up (although with a box-style box) over at the Avalon house, and I have been chasing house sparrows away (and cleaning out the beginnings of their nest) once a week since I put it up. I haven't given up and brought it to my yard yet because the tree swallows are also checking it out there as well.

I admit that I was probably quite spoiled by having a pair of tree swallows move in to the very first nest box (one that I had built myself, no less!) I ever put up (at the Avalon house) almost before I was done nailing it to the post, so I may be a bit lacking in patience with them these many years later… Or perhaps I'm just trying not to succumb to the temptation (and expense—the boxes are quite inexpensive if you make your own, but I've had too many tragedies in the past due to lack of a good baffle not to put money into poles and protection) of putting next boxes up all over my yard so no one has to fight over them.