Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
When someone asked me last week what is appropriate placement habitat for Eastern Bluebird nest boxes I told him large expanses of grass – meadows, pastures, golf courses, road edges, maybe a yard if it was big enough. There are exceptions to everything. Our back yard is smallish, surrounded by trees, containing trees, backed by a small pond that soon becomes a wooded swamp. It is as unlike the golf course where I tend bluebird nest boxes as can be. I was surprised then, four weeks ago, when a pair of bluebirds spent two days here, investigating a box at pond edge that I had placed for chickadees. Those birds disappeared, and that was not a surprise. I believe I refound the pair yesterday in a most unlikely place: they’re carrying nesting material to a cavity in a tree in our swamp, inches from the pond edge. Bluebirds are cavity nesters, using trees before there were power poles or fence poles, and then choosing those when cavities were available. Bluebirds don’t carve out their own cavities; their bills are not intended for heavy work. Instead, they rely on woodpecker construction or natural decay of wood. This is the first time I’ve seen bluebirds in a natural cavity. And it certainly is the first time I’ve seen these birds in a wooded swamp many feet from grass or dry land. In the photo, the male bluebird is circled above, the nest location circled below. We’ll watch this with interest.
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