I’ve begun to check the bird boxes to make sure they’re in shape to satisfy any birds that are ready to begin nest construction. Wet weather and strong west winds have left this box with a little lean to the east. The birds won’t mind a slightly uneven floor.
The last 2011 tenants were a pair of Tree Swallows that managed to successfully fledge six youngsters. All Tree Swallows line the nest with a few feathers, but this pair has set a Blue Jay Barrens record for the number of feathers in a single nest.
Many of the boxes are used as winter roosts by the Bluebirds. Sometimes they choose a box containing an old nest, so I always leave a couple of boxes with nests through the winter. Since there were no signs that this box was being used as a roost, I cleaned out the nest material and brushed out the dust with a homemade Indian Grass brush.
This box was cleaned out in the fall and has been used all winter by roosting Bluebirds. I clean the droppings out every few weeks, so it’s easy to confirm that the box is still being used.
Bluebirds consume a lot of fruit over the winter, so their droppings are full of seeds. Seed coats were softened by the bird’s digestive juices, making the seeds ready to germinate. This is part of the reason so many shrubs grow up around the boxes. By germinating the seeds in pots, I’ve discovered that the birds feed heavily on Eastern Red Cedar, Wild Grapes, Poison Ivy, Japanese Honeysuckle, Autumn Olive, Multiflora Rose and Bush Honeysuckle. I see a lot of those species represented in this mess.
Besides the familiar seeds, there are a few that I don’t recognize. I think I’ll go ahead and pot these up and see what develops. It may be a good idea to do this every year. If there is a new invasive plant moving into the area, I bet the birds will find it before I do. Germinating the seeds may act as an early warning system of invasion by a new exotic species.