Monday, May 22, 2006

Here for the Season

A few days of winds from the west, cold temperatures and very unsettled conditions has stopped the flood of migrants into the yard. I haven't heard how things have been the last few days at Prince Edward Point.

Since things are quieter, I've been able to spend more time thinking about the birds that are already nesting here, or at least getting ready to.

The laneway down to the beach here goes through an area of coniferous plantation on one side, fields on the other. Whenever I get to a particular point on the lane a female Red-winged Blackbird flies up to near the top of a tree on the other side, where she is joined by a male. They chatter and watch me from the treetop until I'm once again a safe distance away. Yesterday I finally got to see the nest, in a low crotch of a shrub some 3 metres from the edge of the lane. In the same field, and the field across the road, the meadowlarks are not only singing, but also appear to be "on territory"--acting kind of nutty in their meadowlark way. A flyover by a crow or raptor causes a great deal of fuss.

This morning there was a pair of Blue Jays sitting in a tree looking pensive, one was carrying nesting materials.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived here on May 8 was that the American Robin I had seen sitting on eggs the week before (I normally come down here to Prince Edward County, to this spot, for the day about once a week, to work) now had young in the nest. I could just see their little beaks above the edge of the nest.

A few days before fledging--Four nestlings

By the 16th all four had fledged. Interesting, because starlings were also feeding young in a nest who were so noisy I could hear them from almost anywhere in the yard when a parent flew in--and yet the robins fledged first. The grackles' nestlings have just become audible in the last few days--I know where their nest is roughly, but can't actually see it.

It's the robins that have me feeling some regret that I'm leaving here today. Almost as soon as the chicks left the nest, the parents began renovations. Then a grackle started checking out the empty nest--there were a couple of skirmishes--I don't actually know whether there were any new eggs laid, but the robin wasn't sitting.

American Robin

Now a pair of robins are building a new nest high in a tree. Ironically, perhaps, very near to where the grackles are nesting. Same pair of robins? I think so--but can't say for sure. Another pair of robins has a nest on an air conditioner on another side of the house. They were building when I arrived, and are sitting on eggs now. The net result is a lot of robins in the yard--it's hard to tell if there're two pairs or three. A few weeks before I came down to stay, i.e., on a day trip, I noticed a pair of robins building a nest high in a tree on the other side of the yard (near where the starlings are nesting now), but that effort seems to have been abandoned. All the time this is going on the fledglings are still being fed. They are spread out through the woods below the house where I can hear them, but rarely see them. I do see the busy parents tracking them down to feed them in between getting ready for the next batch. I'm curious about just how soon these robins will be sitting on eggs again.

Chickadees are busy, a pair of Northern Flickers are working their boundaries every few hours, Song Sparrows, Belted Kingfisher, Mourning Doves, and more are clearly here for the season. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks will almost certainly nest here--maybe the singer of the last few days (and the female I finally saw) will stay. I think that the American Redstart is on territory, as is the Common Yellowthroat, and maybe the Yellow Warbler. There are still too many orioles, both Orchard and Baltimore, for me to be able to say with any certainty if anyone is here to stay. I'll be back down here in ten days or so, for the day, and will catch up to who's nesting then.

Later today I'll be back home in Thomasburg--I can't wait to see what changes these two weeks in May have brought.

American Robin Update:
Later the same day

I finished writing the above post and went outside only to see that there is now a robin sitting on eggs in the new nest in the tree, and a robin sitting on eggs in the renovated nest from which the first fledglings emerged. So now there are three robins on nests (two on air conditioners, one in a tree) all of which can be seen from the centre of the yard. That's a lot of robins! I wondered about the fledglings, still dependent, that belong to one of these sitting robins. And I found this:
The nestling period lasts from 13 to 16 days. The next clutch is usually started about 40 days after the first egg of the year, but females often start the second nest, including laying the eggs, before the first group of young is independent. Sometimes the overlap is extensive, with the second clutch begun before the first nestlings are out of the nest. When this happens, the male cares for the first nestlings.
At Hinterland Who's Who's American Robin page.

So I guess daddy will take care of the fledglings for the next several days--then new nestlings will be wanting to be fed, and it's only May. The page linked suggests that three clutches is possible--I'm thinking it's probable.

1 comment:

wolf21m said...

Thanks for the story. I learned a great deal more about Robins. It sounds like a beautiful place for birdwatching.