Posts Tagged ‘mockingbirds’

Mockingbirds Make Five

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

As I was walking around the far end of our property, I happened across a small neat nest in a Cocoplum bush. The bush has grown quite tall and wild and is home to an occasional rabbit or two. The mockingbirds either didn’t notice me wander so close to their nest or they didn’t care. I have had mockers nest right outside our. Front door and it seems they have come to know me. They pretty much ignore me and go about their business knowing I will do them no harm. It’s a wonderful feeling to be trusted in that way by a wild animal. The nest only has 2 eggs so I am sure it is not a complete clutch. Perhaps in a couple of days I will see her starting to incubate.
These mockers are now the fifth species of bird to nest this year in our yard. First was our Screech Owls, then our Purple Martins returned (of course), then a Red-Bellied Woodpecker took up residence right outside our window, then a pair of Greater Crested Flycatchers took up house in the (now vacant) Screech Owl box.
Our yard has become quite the haven of late for all sorts of wildlife. The vanishing waterfall is a favorite of the mockers, doves and a multitude of Common Grackles for a drink and bathing. The sunflower feeder feeds the woodpeckers, cardinals, bluejays, grackles and occasional Red-Winged Blackbirds.

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Afternoon Storms and Brutal Heat

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

With the heat index in the 100′s the fierce thunderstorms are ALMOST welcome. I say almost because with each of these storms severe winds of upwards of 45 MPH that would last past sunset, have inflicted some damage.

The nest of mockingbirds right outside our garage was blown down and the 2 partially feathered nestlings had perished. The large Sabal Palms lost a few fronds and the seed pods that the mockingbirds had made their nest in was woefully inadequate for the punishing winds.

The purple martins hung on to their perches well into the night seemingly afraid to detach themselves. I suspect an attempt to find protection within their nests would have had them blown away at some point during the storm. Fortunately the storm died down and all seemed quite but the previous week had these storms coming in almost on a daily schedule.

The winds were no problem for the martin poles. So other than the mockingbird casualties, all is well. Unfortunately the same can not be said for the laptop which ran the colony cam, so no live web cam at the moment. A new laptop is on the want list…any one???

Mockingbirds Return

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Some time ago I blogged about the unfortunate mockingbird nest that was discovered by the neighborhood crows. The nest was picked clean by a large grim reaper of the bird world, the American Crow. I was sad as the mockers had given up a small roebelenii palm a foot off my pool deck, that they nested in twice last year for a small bush in the neighbors cat infested, unprotected yard. Perhaps they learned their lesson. Perhaps it is a different pair, but they have a young fledgling making his way out of another nest in a Roebelenii palm just outside my front door. They go berserk when my dog goes out the door for his “work” but are nonplussed by me going outside to check on them. As I went outside the door one morning I heard the parents giving their little worried call to the fledgling. The parents were up on the rain gutter looking down at me. It sounds like a soft short moan. Not an alert call at all. I looked around and there in the palm a foot from my head was the baby. Looking at me. I got my camera and took some pics of the little guy and remembered the mockingbirds of my youth and how they would have scalped me in short order if I had ever wandered so close to their baby. I am sure they know that I am a protector not a threat.

A recent study by the University of Florida that was reported in the  Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences showed that the mockingbirds DO recognize individual people, after as little as two encounters! Read about the study here. My thoughts of course ALWAYS travel back to the Purple Martins and I am sure that the same science can be applied to the martins as well. My only question is when will that ASY male martin STOP dive bombing me? I am starting to have my feelings hurt. Me? A threat?

Crow vs Mockingbird

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

The daily trials and tribulations of birds is always a fascination for me. I look at them and see the challenges they face and it always seems to put my life’s issues in perspective. For being birdbrained, as they say, they sure put up with major issues.

Take the mockingbird pair, for example. The baby mocker is now fledged and the parents are now trying for clutch #2 in the same tangle of bushes in the neighbors yard. Far be it from me to suggest my roebelenii palms that they nested in last year. Even though I was a dedicated scarecrow, they just couldn’t handle the noise me and my brood produce. I was constantly telling my 2 boys to be quiet because the birds and that would just make them scream in naughty delight. Of course the purple martins could care less about the noise. The more noise we make, the safer from hawks they are.

 Well, the mockingbirds don’t agree. They prefer the quiet solace of an out of the way spot. Unfortunately, the nest has been made. An American Crow sniffed them out of their little spot. First I saw it land, cawing loudly on the wires across the street. It seemed to know the way, so I have a feeling it may have made this trip before. The mockers were frantic, of course. Dive bombing and calling out in alarm, the crow was not to be dissuaded from his target. Branch by branch it made its way closer to the bush. It landed atop the bush and started to weave its way down into the thicket that held the mockingbirds nest. The parent mockers continued the battle, to no avail. Eventually the crow sat, apparently in the nest itself and had its way with either eggs or nestlings. Of course I was outside running at this point. Jumping our fence, I knew how ridiculous this was. I mean, if the crow knows where the nest is there is no hope for it now. But it was painful to watch and to do something was the only option. The crow flew off and the mockers chased after it. I stood there about 10 feet from what once was a baby birds nursery and knew that now it was its grave. How sad.

Monday is another nest check. There are several nests that should have hatched in the last few days so I am eager

Random Thoughts and an Update

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

I was just outside letting my dog out for his last foray of the night. The air is perfectly comfortable and a perfect South Florida night. The neighborhood Chucks Will-widow is calling out in its haunting and beautiful call. My son who was up all night with a 103 fever seems back on the mend. All is right with the world. 

Friday I will be doing a nest check. Looking at my watch I see it IS Friday so this is not much of a heads up. Since several nests are due to hatch, I will probably do another check come Sunday. (Just for fun!) Sometime between 3pm and 5pm EST, the usual time.  Of course, you can watch me on the Birdcam and laugh at me, if you like.  Also, the nestcam has one egg hatched so far and 4 more eggs at any moment.

Their are several starlings that are regularly feeding in my yard every morning. I have made feeble attempts with my pellet gun, to no avail. My aim is ridiculously bad and every time I squeeze off a shot, I blush with shame. Both from my bad aim and the picture I make, out in the yard in my bathrobe, morning hair and a pellet gun. The neighbors at least have free entertainment. I even have put out my home made wire bait trap which I used last season as a holding cage for the starlings. It is even more poorly made than my repeating nest trap. The starlings have no interest however in the popcorn and cereal I have placed inside. I will persist though. Should I ever manage to catch something with the trap, my husband owes me a sushi dinner. Yesterday evening I saw a lone starling perched on the phone line stalking my colony. Fortunately I am using SREH (starling resistant entrance holes) so my birds are safe, for the most part.

On another bird note. The mocking bird fledgling is almost indistinguishable from its parents. It follows its parents in the yard. Silently doing their wing displays as they scurry from spot to spot on the lawn. I only see the one fledgling which speaks volumes on the survival rate of these brush nesting birds. The neighbors which have at least 2 cats are constantly on the prowl. My dog has chased them out of my yard and away from the purple martin poles on numerous occasions. I am not sure how I will address the issue come fledge time but if I have to chase cats, I will. Another reason to call me a crazy bird lady. All I need now is a little more gray hair.

Blog contents/photos © 2009 S.Halpin/PurpleMartinArt.com

Nest Check, Hawk and a surprise!

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

I have had a busy day so without further adieu-the nest check!

Gourd #1- 5 eggs
Gourd #2- 5 eggs
Gourd #3- 4 twodayolds & one pipping egg
Gourd #5- 5 eggs
Gourd #6- 6 eggs
Gourd #7- 1 onedayold and 3 eggs
Gourd #8- 4 eggs
Gourd #9 -5 threedayolds
Gourd #10- 6 eggs
Gourd #11- 5 eggs (on nestcam-due to hatch 4/16!)
Gourd #12- 4 eggs

Gourd A- unable to find any eggs (previously had 1)
Gourd D- 1 egg               Gourd J- 2 eggs (had 1 egg on 4/7)

Excluder gourd -5 eggs

Natural horizontal gourd - 5 eggs

Sunset Inn compartment A – 6 eggs            Compartment F -4 eggs

AND the shepards hook gourd (located some 35 feet from the gourd racks about 5 feet off ground) with 2 eggs

For a grand total of 69 eggs and 10 young.


The Hawk

purplemartin attacking hawkAs usual, the red tailed hawk continues to make lazy attempts at catching one of the martins. I am not very good at raptor ID, so for all I know, it is a immature hawk practicing. The attacks always frighten and always send the martins up in a flurry of purple. He sat on the top of the purple martins favorite slash pine and was punished for his impudence! Martin after martin dove and harassed till he eventually flew off in disgust. He almost seemed embarrassed. Unfortunately, I am sure he will recover and visit again. Come fledge time, I am already making plans to sit out on a lawn chair and babysit. For today perhaps the hawks are busy chasing down mockingbird fledglings that keep finding their way into our garage…much to the chagrin of their parents.


The Surprise

close up eggI had a series of firsts for today. I witnessed my first pipping egg, which is simply put, an egg in the process of hatching. It is pretty amazing and very slow. The nestlings little beak is just visible through the small hole that it has pecked through the shell. The nestling will have to slowly chip at the egg, the entire circumference of the egg. Since this is the last egg in this nest, there is no danger of the shell becoming encapsulated. An encapsulated egg can cause the death of the nestling inside and should be watched for. During nest checks if portions of the shell remain in the nest, you should remove the pieces. These egg shells can fall over unhatched eggs and trap the nestlings inside-encapsulating them within.

My other first was 2 eggs discovered on a Shepard’s hook gourd. The first year I put up housing for purple martins, the first birds that landed on it were Tree Swallows. Now at the time, I did not know that the Tree swallows were only migrating through, as south Florida is a bit too far south for them. I put up the shepards hook as a “just in case”. I placed it about 35 feet from the purple martin housing and every year I get a male who claims it. Last year a pair built a nest but no eggs were ever laid in it. I think it was just an extra nest built by a pair that nested in one of the other gourds. This year appears to be different. I checked the shepards hook, more as a courtesy, not really expecting to find anything, and lo and behold!!! 2 shiny white eggs! The Shepard’s hook is not more than 5 feet in total height. It has an aluminum stovepipe predator guard, that I wax every year. And now it has 2 eggs! Time will tell if the eggs will be tended to. Perhaps they were just dumped there. A female needing to lay eggs but not having a mate, nest, or the inclination to tend to them. But there they are. I hope they will be OK. It does go to show how martins will overcome many “imperfect” site issues for the sake of being within the safety of a large colony. As most people will tell you that the ideal height for a purple martin nest is at LEAST 10 feet, 12-15 even better. So a 5 foot Shepard’s hook is a stretch.

As I did todays nest check I looked up at one point and saw well over 45 birds flying about. I was dumb-founded and I must say it was an impressive site. As always, my heart skipped a beat.

Blog contents and photos © 2009 S.Halpin/PurpleMartinArt.com

Woodpecker in the Trap! April 14, 2008

Monday, April 14th, 2008

Another innocent catch of my home made Nest Box Repeating Trap!!! A red bellied woodpecker must have decided to check it out as the flicker box is home to a pair of Screech owls. It had shown much interest in the Owls nest box but the owls would have nothing to do with such an intrusion. So there it was, very mad and very noisy. My mockingbirds, whose nest is about 2 yards away from the trap, were not happy and calling out in protest. Of course I went straight out and released it…a few nips with a woodpeckers bill. That was a first! At least I got a picture before we parted ways.

My martins seem happy. We have been sick in the house so I haven’t been on the patio too much. Its hard to get an accurate count. It seems as though there has been a slight musical nests that has taken place. My only hope is that it is due to the Martins simply changing their minds; not due to hawk attacks. A ASY pair that had built a nest in my gourd on a shepherds hook is no longer there. It is now occupied by a lone SY male who is very vocal in trying to attract a mate. It may prove difficult as he is only about 4 1/2 feet off the ground and about 60 feet from the main housing.

Blog Contents Copyrighted 2008: S.Halpin / www.PurpleMartins-R-Us.com

Nest Sitting and Nest Building

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

martininnest.jpgThe morning broke cool in the low 60′s but is pleasantly warming and turning into a spectacular spring day. The pair of mockingbirds that is building a nest about a yard away from my lawn chair is happy, despite my 2 children running and screaming a few feet away. The birds quietly slip in with twigs and sticks much to my delight. Apparently the Mockingbirds have also come to appreciate my lawn and the “no hawk” zone that, together, the martins and I provide.

Another nest is being built in a natural gourd and it would seem that the 4 nests that I checked are being incubated.

When I did nests checks the other day, the most curious thing happened. I lowered the pole and was going from one gourd to another. I began to open Gourd #2 (which I knew to be an active nest) when I looked inside to count, I found myself face to face with the ASY female who refused to give up her eggs. She had moved to the side enough for me to count but did not fly out. She was, literally only inches from my face. It was one of the most spectacular things that I have ever experienced. She must be quite experienced at nest checks, is my conclusion. She could have easily flown away at any time. I closed the gourd, continued to check all gourds the raised the house back up. Only when the house was almost completely up, did she dart out-very quietly. Off for a snack, then she returned a few minutes later.

On the business side of things, www.Purplemartins-r-us.com is making small baby steps towards launching and I hope to have some inventory and items by end of month.

Blog Contents Copyrighted 2008: S.Halpin / www.PurpleMartins-R-Us.com