As winter softens its grip, many of the birds return for a preliminary look at nesting sites. Bluebirds first appearance here is always exciting for us. They take a look at nest boxes then disappear south as winter takes another smack at us. In response to their early appearance, we clean out their rooms. We cleaned out the houses in the front the other day. The sight of an actual pair of Bluebirds peering into a nest box today resulted in our completion of this spring ritual. Last year's nests are usually buried with milk weed seed fluff as field mice convert these spaces to their foul weather homes. Sometimes these insulated homes are huge. Just how many trips were needed to carry in all of these pieces of seed pods from the field into the nest box? For this year the record number of field mice in one nest box was three. My challenge is to clear them out without having them hide inside of my clothes. With any luck the mice will fall into the plastic pail. None were seen today.
Different varieties of birds build different kinds of nests. The highly regarded Bluebirds primarily make nests from pieces of dried grass. Sometimes after their first brood are grown a second grass nest is placed over the first. Everything has to go right for that to happen. Some years dry days drive the birds away before the first eggs even appear.
Wrens build their nests using small sticks. It is a puzzle as to just how they modify the length of the tiny stick to fit inside of the nest box. Today these nests were found so tightly packed that it was difficult for me to remove them. This is hard to understand since I have hands and fingers while the bird uses only its beak.
We now have eleven nest boxes cleaned and ready. Our plan is to put a pair of them somewhat close together so that the Bluebirds can share the area with Tree Swallows, Wrens or a second pair of Bluebirds. When a damaged box is repaired and set out all will be ready.
This den with two visible entrances remains a bit of a puzzle. Woodchucks do not usually dig such an elongated entrance opening. The second visible hole near the bushes close to the right edge of the photo is more typical. The visible pile of dug soil is also uncommon just outside of the entrance. We had hoped that the pair of foxes seen earlier may have explored this den site but now see the possibility that a dog may have also found this spot. We have made several recent visits here but have seen no signs of new activity. We will continue to watch and hope.