The Homesteads newest residents have finally arrived!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Friday, April 12, 2013 10:52 AM

I've had a couple of nesting boxes in my Orchard since I planted it.  Each year, I regularly check the boxes to see if there has been any activity.  Nothing.  Not even a sign of interest.

Last year, when I put up my electric fencing, I had to remove the boxes from their existing locations.  I sat one up on a railing and the other at the far end near the water barrel on top of some miscellaneous stuff that I needed to haul out of there.  And then I promptly moved onto my next project and completely forgot about remounting them somewhere.

To my utter surprise this spring, when I realized I hadn't put them back up and decided it was time to do so, low and behold, there was the beginning of a nest in one of them!  I guess it's location, laying sideways on the railing, was the perfect spot after all.  It took a while for me to actually figure out who was nesting it it.

And then one morning, I saw them.  Dusky Warblers.  Well, actually I heard them first.  But they were in my garden gathering cobwebs from the trellises for nesting material.  Note:  Don't always be so quick to knock down those winter webs that have gathered along your fence, roof line, etc.  Lots of birds, including hummingbirds, use the soft material to line their nests.  I try to provide the wild birds with plenty of nesting materials of various sizes in order to encourage them to nest nearby.  

So back to the garden.  I realized that I had not seen this species in my yard before.  So I pulled up iBirdPro6 on my iPhone, did a quick search, and identified the little beauties as Dusky Warblers.  Nice!  I love it when new birds find their way to my property.  It means I've done a good job setting out the welcome mat and providing them with food, water, and sheltering opportunities.

Shortly thereafter, I spied one of these birds in my orchard and managed to catch a glimpse of it as it popped inside the nesting box.  Bingo!  Now I knew who had moved in.  So I watched the box and their activity each morning and night when I feed my poultry in the orchard.  I talk to my birds so I knew the wild ones would get used to my voice.  And then very carefully, when it appeared neither parent was home, I would peak inside.  Quickly, mind you.  Three seconds, tops.  Open lid, look, close, done.  Not very often, either.  I didn't want to scare away the potential parents.

Finally, I found five beautiful little tiny eggs inside.  The wait was on.  Incubation for this species is 11 to 13 days.  I started counting.  But I didn't inspect / disturb the nest box again.  Each day while in the orchard, I would continue with my routine and talk to my birds so that the expecting couple would continue to be comfortable with my presence.  And each time, I would gently lean my ear against the box to see if I could hear anything.  

I was just out there and I heard it.  Tiny little peeping noises.  I knew the glorious moment had arrived.  I had seen the parents flitting in and out and around the yard, so I knew they were being active.  It was now or never.  I grabbed my iPhone and my step ladder.  I reminded myself thirty seconds tops!  I readied the camera and gently opened the lid.  Out flew Mom just as I had expected.  I snapped 4 photos and then a quick video, then shut the box back up and went back out the gate.  

I waited with my fingers laced into the chain link fence and in less than a minute I was rewarded.  Mom was back.  Inside she went.  I waited some more.  And waited... and waited... and watched... and waited.  Dad flew up and bopped inside as well, but only for a moment and then he was off.  So I watched and waited some more.  Once Dad had come back several times, I knew the coast was clear.  No damage done.  Mom wasn't going to abandon the new hatchlings.

Here they are, in all their itty bitty little glory.  To give you an idea of scale, the nest box is only 4" wide.  The nest itself is perhaps half that.

I can't tell you how happy I am.  These birds are normally ground dwellers.  For them to take up residence in a nest box in my orchard is amazing.  Spring is definitely here.  Oh, Happy Dance!!!  

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