Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Battle for the Bird House

Earlier this spring I had put up my favorite little bird house in the hopes that the house would attract bluebirds as it did the spring of 2011.  Obviously going back a few years but I can't help but hope!  Failing the bluebirds, I was hopeful the house wrens who nested there last year would return.

Unfortunately, the not so welcome house sparrow instead started setting up shop.  Here is a picture from March.  Shortly after this was taken I took the house down.

male house sparrow starts setting up in March

Away went the box, and I thought that was the end of the bird house stories for the year.

I couldn't predict how I would feel when I saw house wrens return to the yard later in spring.  I imagined at least one of these wrens was born in that bird house last year, and I had the feeling the bird was looking for the house.

So I put it up again.

I never imagined a battle for the bird house would ensue!

Fast forward to a week after I put up the house again.  The house sparrows had again started filling the house with nesting material.  Meanwhile the house wrens hung around the house chattering excitedly.  Once the house sparrows left the box unguarded, the house wrens made their move.

They started pulling out the nesting material the house sparrows had put in!  See the soft nesting material hanging from the outside of the box?  That little wren with his butt out the window had just pulled all that out!

house wren rifles through house

Here he is looking proud:

house wren removes sparrow nesting material

Shortly after this episode I came home one afternoon to see a bunch of trash on the grass under the birdhouse.  There were tissues and what looked like pieces of paper.  The neighbors carelessly throwing their trash away again I thought.  I was about to go pick it up when I realized the sparrows poking through the trash.

whats all this stuff on the ground

I realized the trash was house sparrow nesting material the wrens had thrown out of the house!  The sparrows were not to be deterred.  Here the male checks out the damage.

male house sparrow assesses damage

Then the sparrows took action.  First the male picked up some tissue:

male house sparrow picks up tissue

Then the female, and up she went!

female house sparrow flies with tissue

Back up to the house!

female house sparrow brings tissue back

And finally the female pushed the tissue back into the house:

female house sparrow stuffs tissue back into house

Ok, I said to myself, the sparrows are back in, the house wrens are out.  I made a mental note of their status and moved onto other things, thinking the matter settled.

But then, a while later....

house wren pulls tissue out

The house wren had returned and pulled the tissue back out!

It's been several weeks now of constant battles between the sparrows and wrens.  The sparrows for a while seemed to have the upper hand.  The male would sit perched outside the house, and the wrens would insistently sing and dive at the male.  The male for the most part was unmoved, and the sparrows are bigger than the wrens, so I figured the sparrows would win.  Lately though it seems the wrens are getting their way.  Maybe because they sat right outside the house, all day long, every day, singing at the house sparrow, the sparrow finally decided all this racket was not worth it, and moved to a quieter abode!

Tonight the house wrens were putting sticks (their preferred nesting material) into the house.  Sometimes wrens build "fake" nest sites, so too soon to tell if they are really going to nest in the house.  For all the sparrow activity, I never noticed any baby birds, so maybe right now the battle is a draw, with neither species successfully nesting in the box.

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Black and White Warbler

Wrapping up recent migration visitors to the yard.  The last of the warblers was this one, Black and White Warbler.  One day I spied her creeping along a branch of the pignut hickory tree.

I believe her to be a female, the mature adult male is more heavily marked on the face and neck with black.

black and white warbler

Here is one picture of her right out of the camera.  You can barely see her against the bark of the tree.  She's under the green leaves on the left hand fork of the trunk.  Easy to miss!

where is the bird

Luckily these birds have a distinctive song, "teesi teesi teesi".  Helped me this day in finding this bird.  I don't know if there was also a male in the tree, I didn't see him, or if both males and females sing.

black and white hiding

I remember when I first learned this bird, I learned the song before ever seeing the bird.  That first day I heard several of them singing in the trees, I couldn't find even one of them.

That's because I didn't know what I needed to know - these birds creep along tree trunks and branches, and look similar to a nuthatch.   I was looking for them perched on a branch in the leaves.

Now I know!

black and white upside down

They're pretty funny to watch.  They go up, down, and sideways.  Once you pick them out you can watch them for a while, they tend to wander around a tree for quite some time.

black and white into the light

This was the last look I caught of her, heading onto the backside of the tree.  A fun bird!  Black and Whites do breed in this area, but I have never noticed them around the yard except during migration time.  I'll continue to watch for them in summer to see if they actually breed nearby.

Enjoy the day - Cheerily