Nests full o’ bluebirds


Eastern bluebird nestlings, ready to see the world

Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows have been active in the meadows this spring.

I’ve devoted some of my permitted outdoor exercise to keeping check on the nest box trail I have been monitoring for nine years. A quick, no-flash photo, examined minutes later and several yards away, gives me a chance to get an extra good look at each nest box interior in order to assess chick age and condition and see if any intervention is needed, with less stress to the nestlings and worried adults.

To date, I have five nests on my trail with bluebird nestlings. The first Tree Swallow eggs of the season appeared this week. Enjoy a look inside a few bluebird nests.


A full house of five Eastern Bluebird nestlings

Eastern Bluebirds lay clutches of three to five eggs and incubate the eggs an average of twelve to fourteen days. Chicks remain in the nest 16 to 22 days. Both adults care for the baby birds in and out of the nest. In Maryland, bluebirds may have as many as three nests each year, caring for a new nest while caring for recently fledged young.


Gaping is an instinct of newly hatched bluebirds


Eastern Bluebird eggs within a characteristic pine straw nest


Bluebird pair in mid-April claiming the nest box seen in the first photo above



All photos taken in the course of normal monitoring, without flash. All rights reserved.

Window wonderland

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

This week, two stunning long-distance migrating birds chose the yew right outside my kitchen window for a rest stop. (Excuse the through-a-window, cellphone-quality photos.) In spring, a variety of warblers and other magical birds pass through Maryland on their migrations to their breeding grounds in Canada and northern US states. Many fly at night and rest and fuel up during the day, sometimes remaining for a few days to rebuild strength for their long journeys and the immediate demands of nesting season ahead. 

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (pictured above) winter in Central and South America and the Caribbean and summer as far north as Canada. It is such an iconic species that it graces the cover of at least one of my favorite field guides.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

This Black-throated Blue Warbler rested here for at least four days. It wintered in the Greater Antilles and will breed in New England, Canada or the mountains of PA or NY. It was such a busy little bird; it took four days to get a photograph. 

There was a Black-and-White Warbler in the yard too, but no kitchen window stop and no photo to share. Both warblers are life-birds for me.

What a treat to see these special birds so close!

Flowers fleeting

Springtime in the woods means my annual search for wildflowers. Spring ephemeral flowers bloom early and disappear when the leaf canopy shades the forest floor. Enjoy them while you can.


Showy orchis is one of Maryland’s native orchids


Rue anenome


Perfoliate bellwort, not fully opened. It’s called perfoliate because the stem seems to pierce the leaves.


Virginia pennywort


Spring beauty


Trout lily


Dwarf ginseng (it does not share the properties of the much sought after American ginseng)




Star chickweed


Slender toothwort


Twoleaf mitrewort






Crowfoot buttercup


Early saxifrage


And then there were three

Our city-dwelling, city-nesting Yellow-crowned Night Herons have been featured on this blog before — this year and in 2018. There’s been a breeding pair returning to a used nest for several years in this leafy, residential city neighborhood. In the past couple weeks, two more pairs have built nests on this block. The lighting was poor yesterday, but I wanted to document the pairs’ nesting progress.


The newest pair of Yellow-crowned Night Herons on the block started building a nest yesterday

YCNH nest II

This is the pair that built its nest last week

YCNH nest Ia

The established pair returned a few weeks ago and likely has eggs in the nest

Yellow-crowned Night Herons, like other herons, often form nesting colonies, so the presence of multiple nests is no surprise. What is remarkable about this site is that it is not adjacent to a stream or wetland. Rather, it is over a residential street.

Welcome to the neighborhood!

Earth Day 2020

Earth Day 2012

May we rekindle the hope, resolve and goodwill we shared 50 years ago on the first Earth Day.


Eggs of blue

Nesting season has begun in earnest on the nestbox trail.


Eastern Bluebird nest and eggs

Staking claim in the meadow

On a peaceful Easter morning, Eastern Bluebirds hunted from shrubs for insects on the ground while Tree Swallows performed their high-flying aerial feeding. When the swallows descended closer to nestbox level, the Bluebirds and Tree Swallows staked their claims.

The Bluebirds flew between box A and box B in the three-box grouping. I’ll learn another day which box they’ve chosen.

EABL pr3

Eastern Bluebirds (female left, male right) continue hunting from a nestbox perch

TRES pr fly

Tree Swallows seem to have claimed this nestbox

EABL pr peek

He’s hunting while she keeps an eye on the Tree Swallows

TRES pr perched

Move-in condition

Our park’s 52-box nestbox trail is organized in groups of three to maximize nesting availability. Eastern Bluebirds need a 100-yard distance from other Bluebird nests, while Bluebirds and Tree Swallows will generally tolerate nesting close to each other if resources are sufficient, once they’ve sorted claims.


There are enough nestboxes to go around

Herons return to nest

Tall, majestic sycamore trees form a quarter-mile corridor into this leafy urban/suburban neighborhood. For several years, Yellow-crowned Night Herons have returned to nest in one of the trees. This pair returned this week.


Yellow-crowned Night Heron pair on nest used previous years

These Yellow-crowned Night Herons wintered in Florida or the West Indies. Pairs bond for years, so it is likely that this is the pair that successfully fledged young in this nest in previous years.


This Yellow-crowned Night Heron pair sport unusually yellow crowns

The Yellow-crowned Night Heron is less common and has a smaller geographical range than the closely related Black-crowned Night Heron. Both are wetland birds and feed largely on crustaceans and other aquatic creatures, making this neighborhood nest site selection a bit of a mystery — although this pair is known to raid a backyard ornamental pond and likely travel to streams and wetlands within a few miles. As the name implies, night herons feed at night; the Yellow-crowned also feeds during the day.

If all goes well, this nest will be active into June, with both parents sharing incubation duties for two to six eggs over three to four weeks. The young remain in the nest four to six more weeks, with both parents feeding and caring for the chicks.

What a treat for the neighborhood.

Blue birds of happiness

As the world yearns for beauty and normalcy, Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows return to a meadow to nest.

Eastern Bluebird pair
Tree Swallows survey the meadow from a hunting platform
Tree Swallow photobombed by a bee
Tree Swallows have keen eyesight

Tree Swallows chirp and swoop as they feed in mid-air. Click for video.

Enjoy nature, as you are able. Stay well.

To spring, with hope

While our minds are filled with concern, nature wants us to know that spring has arrived.

Spring ephemeral wildflowers are appearing in the woods.


Spring Beauty





And violets in our yards.


Common violet

Tree Swallows and other migratory birds are returning to their breeding grounds, searching for nesting sites.

Turtles are basking in the March sunshine.


Red-bellied cooters

Butterflies, like this Question Mark, are emerging from hibernation.


Get out into nature, if you are able. Stay well.

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