At last, the first harbingers of spring have arrived and are showing keen interest in getting into the family way.
When we first moved to Charlie Brown Road in the late 1990s, there was an old, hollowed-out, locust fence post at the side of the yard where a pair of brightly colored eastern bluebirds nested every spring until their knot hole fell out and the nesting site became large enough for sparrows and flying rats to take over.
Whereupon I purchased half a dozen bluebird boxes from the 4-H kids and scattered them around the premises and gave some away. Only one of them has ever proven to be attractive enough to meet whatever rigid standards bluebirds deem necessary for raising a family.
One of them is in the backyard, attached to a walnut tree, and it is hard to see unless I walk around the house to go out there looking for it or take a notion to mow the grass and visit the purple finches that have commandeered it for the last several years. I even call it the finch house
The other one is attached to a telephone pole at the corner of our front yard and I can watch it from the front yard. It had hung out there, unused for a decade, until last spring when a pair of bluebirds finally decided to call it home.
Last Sunday ma and pa bluebird spent the better part of the day cleaning out last year’s residue and doing the things that bluebirds do to set up housekeeping.
Late last summer, my brother, Andy, was here and he pointed out that the new birds were not quite as blue as the ones he was accustomed to seeing and I had to admit that he was right. They are the same size and have the same reddish- brown chest markings, but their main color, including the male, is more like a blue-gray than the vivid sky blue of our previous fence post residents.
Furthermore, unlike the previous, much-bluer birds that were as one-and-done as a UK basketball recruit, this pair raised at least three broods, maybe four, and kept at the propagation process from mid-March until late summer. Not only that, but their juvenile off-spring have hung around all fall and winter. It has not been unusual to see as many as a dozen of them flitting about the yard and tree line adjacent to the nesting box all winter long even though they seem to be shy of the feeders we have hung about. I have no idea what they’re eating.
I’m also reasonably sure that ma and pa took an extended vacation between about Halloween and last weekend because ma sports a tiny leg band and she likes to take frequent rests on a shepherd’s hook flower pot hanger less than 10 feet from the swing when I sit outside to get occasional nicotine fixes. It’s easy enough to see the band when she’s up that close and I had not seen her on the perch, before last Sunday, for at least three months.
I am only assuming that this year’s pa is the same fellow as last year. Both are just a wee bit larger than their ever-present off-spring from last year who seem totally disinterested in all the current housecleaning fuss that ma and pa are making. It’s going to be interesting to see how long ma and pa will tolerate them hanging around when it comes time to commence catching moths and grasshoppers to feed new babies.
Last year ma and pa frequently chased away sparrows and even vermin starlings three times their size but I often saw them perched nearly shoulder with a pair of what I believe to be Acadian flycatchers. I know for sure that they are flycatchers but I’m not expert enough to swear that they are Acadians.
In the meantime, this is the earliest that I can remember seeing bluebirds show an active interest in nesting and I’m hoping they know more about the coming weather than I do.
Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Ike Adams at [email protected] or on Facebook or 249 Charlie Brown Road, Paint Lick, KY 40461.