Sunday, June 1, 2014

Thoughts on birdhouses....

In our travels we often find cute things for the garden.  I don't remember where we bought this rustic birdhouse but it was painted like a U.S. Post Office and we've had it a few years.  My husband installed a new post next to this wiegela and nailed the box to it.  There is no way to open the box to clean it out and it hasn't been used to my knowledge.  Until this year.  Chickadees took up residence in the early spring.  I watched the nest making process and just recently the babies hatched.  You could tell they were feeding from the increased activity at the birdhouse.

A few days after this picture was taken, I was watering in some newly transplanted flowers in the raised bed and something just looked 'off' to me.  While I was trying to figure out what it was, I noticed the bare post.  During my investigation I found the remains of the birdhouse in the catmint bed, the interior was scattered all over the lawn, the house was in pieces and the babies were gone.  We never saw the parents again.

We have been lax landlords.  We delight in the entertainment the birds bring to our yard.  We watch with interest their courting, territorial battles, nest building, baby feeding and we delight in seeing a fledgling or two once in a while.  And for all that, all they ask is a secure place to raise their next generation.  This box was old, nailed to the post with a single nail and no baffle provided.  A baffle keeps predators from climbing the pole and getting into the box.

This is the replacement box.  It it capable of being opened through the roof and on the side.  The baffle is called a 'stove pipe baffle' and just sits on top of the post held in place by the pipe between the house and the post.  Any predator like a snake or raccoon, or even a squirrel, can climb the post but always ends up under the baffle which is too big around and too slick to climb.  The wiegela is too weak to be climbed by raccoons or snakes, the branches are fragile and would just bend, perhaps break.  This box was purchased at Wild Birds Unlimited but I suspect if my husband had time, he could build an equally sturdy one.  Our new rule is no 'cute' boxes unless they are very sturdy, can be opened and cleaned and are baffled.  It was heartbreaking to lose the chickadee babies; next to bluebirds they are my favorite.  They always seem to be in a good mood and can brighten my day.  The nest box was destroyed several days ago and I haven't even seen any chickadees in the bird feeders.  I wonder if they will forgive us?

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