One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this LBJ? That’s shorthand for Little Brown Job, a term we squirrels finally figured out that you humans use to call birds you cannot recognize.

Give your guesses in the comments and I’ll check back later!

~~~

No guesses, but this is a tough little nut to crack!  Several woodland birds in our area have this brown back and speckled breast, so here’s another image of its back.

It has a uniform brown on the back and wings as well as the tail, which is a good identifier  along with the bit of white at the eye that this is a Swainson’s thrush. A similar thrush in size and coloring is the Hermit thrush, but he has a reddish tail, as seen here:

With this coloring, these thrushes hide very well, despite mainly feeding on the ground where they eat earthworms, snails and insects. We know that many humans find and identify them by song–and we squirrels have to agree that the Hermit thrush wins the singing contest!

Eleven different types of thrushes are found in Virginia, including two you probably know mush better: the American Robin and bluebirds! Want to see more thrushes in your yard? Here’s a great article by The Spruce on How to Attract Thrushes to Your Yard.

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Bare Branch Exposure

The leaves are coming down, which means our nests are exposed!

Before the wind blows it to pieces, this is an American Robins nest. Well, we squirrels don’t really want you humans finding our hiding spots, but we understand you find it interesting to see where we and the birds spent our summer. Hickory and I have been packing extra leaves in our leaf nests for weeks now. We’ve heard there won’t be much snow, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be cold!

One of Nature’s Mysteries to Solve

Hey there!

Recognize this late nester?

I’ll check back later!

~~~

We admit this is a tough one–only a dark-feathered back and a broad yellow beak. And maybe you can see a hint of her nest, made of twigs.

This little lady is a common songbird in our part of northern Virginia–an American Robin.

See the similarities?

Fun facts: robin nests are constructed of approximately 350 twigs and pieces of grass, each about 6 inches long. The robin uses mud, collected one beak at a time, to ‘cement’ the nest together, then lines the inside with more grasses.

Want more information? This American Robin page on Learner.org helped us with its good facts.

Bluebird Nestbox Invaded

Well, this is a hard story to tell, folks. Our reader friend, Nancy, wrote that the Eastern Bluebirds in her yard had laid a second set of eggs.

Eastern Bluebird female

Eastern Bluebird hatchlings 1-2 days old

They hatched, but twelve days later the parent birds were forced to abandon the nestlings.

Note: Nancy began documenting this local bluebird nesting and shared it with The Squirrel Nutwork in April. Search ‘bluebird’ if you wish to see the older posts!

First, we are pleased to say the fledglings from the first nesting  had continued to stay with the parent bluebirds, and were helping to feed the second set of hatchlings.

Eastern Bluebird with juvenile

Eastern Bluebird juveniles

Nancy reported it was wonderful to see all three return.

Eastern Bluebirds juveniles

Then one evening a raccoon tried to get into the nest box…

Raccoon stalking bluebird nest box

…including climbing the nearby fence. Lucky for the bluebirds, he got stuck and gave up.

Raccoon on a fence

But the next day, a House Sparrow was spotted entering the nest box. You readers may remember that the House Sparrow entered the nest box after the first set of fledglings left.

House Sparrow invading bluebird nest

These aggressive–and non-native!–birds must have been harassing the bluebirds all along. Despite the help from another male bluebird and the three juveniles, the female was looking thin and worn out the day the raccoon appeared.

Eastern Bluebird female thin and worn

All of the bluebirds disappeared, leaving the 12 day old nestlings.

Eastern Bluebird hatchlings 12 days old_1

Nancy and her family tried to feed them.

Feeding bluebird hatchlings

Mealworms, egg whites and soaked dog food were recommended by the Wildlife Rescue League–but with work, these humans couldn’t feed the same amount of food that six birds could, and the nestlings didn’t make it. Nancy and her family were quite upset when they wrote us.

As soon as the nest box was empty, a House Wren tried to use it, and in fact, was rather insistent!

Carolina Wren trying to use bluebird nest box_1

The solution has been to leave it open to discourage the other birds.

Bluebird nest box open

Unfortunately, this nature story isn’t unusual. Even with this much help from humans, wildlife have a tough time of it. The competition for food and nesting sites is fierce. The more docile songbirds like the Eastern Bluebirds can’t compete with critters who are more aggressive.

Nancy wrote us that even with the loss of the second hatchlings, the positive part of having the nest box in their yard was the success of the parent birds raising the first three chicks through to being able to fend for themselves. They will go on to raise families of their own next year.