[Mnbird] Nesting Update #3 Cavity Dwellers Edition, Success and Failure Report, Dakota Co

Miller Johnson johnson-miller at msn.com
Thu May 26 19:07:34 CDT 2022

As the nesting season has progressed, the successes and failures are mounting.

Red-bellied Woodpecker Nest #1:
03-18-2022 First observed a male hanging around a dead tree with multiple old holes, just across a small clearing from their 2019 nests. Observed excavation on 03-19 and multiple copulations from 04-21 through 05-06. On 05-07 the pair was much quieter than usual, which is a noticeable difference for the drama-queens/kings of cavity nesters. I suspect egg-laying or incubation. By 05-10 the pair is swapping in/out of the nest regularly. Incubation has begun. By 05-22 the eggs have very recently hatched and the adults are taking small bits of food into the nest and remaining inside for a while after their delivery. Success... so far.

Hairy Woodpecker Nest #1:
04-09-22 A hole I'd been keeping my eye on since last summer started to show some fresh wood around the edges. It was about 15 feet from the Hairy Woodpecker nest in 2021, so it was easy to check. On 04-29 I observed copulation. By 05-07 incubation had begun as the male and female repeatedly swapped places in the nest. By 05-22 the eggs have very recently hatched and the adults are taking small bits of food into the nest and remaining inside for a while after their delivery. Success... so far.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Nest #1:
04-19-2022 Heard sapsucker calls from near a cherry tree that they have been tapping since at least 2019, when I first found them nesting in our yard. On 04-21 I saw the male digging at an old hole in a poplar that was about 12-15 feet away from their 2021 nest-hole tree. Finally saw the female on 04-25; she has a striking black cap. Observed copulations from 05-10 through 05-16. On 05-13 the female seemed to be working on the entrance hole. I'm not sure if she was enlarging it or smoothing it out (although it looked very smooth already), but it's the first time she's shown an inclination to work on the nest in any way. On 05-19 the female was inside the nest but poking her head in and out, like she was testing the size of the hole. By 05-23 the male and female began swapping places in the nest; incubation has begun. On 05-24 the female came up, looked out and squeezed out of the hole, whereas the male easily pops out! She might need some SPANX. Success... so far.

Eastern Bluebird Nest #1:
03-19-2022 Heard a bluebird singing, then continued to hear or see at least one male most days. On 04-29 the nest inside a wooden Troyer nest box had a deep and beautiful cup. On 05-07 there were four blue eggs, with a total of six being laid. By 05-24 the eggs had hatched; it could have been as early as 05-22. At least five chicks made it, but I'm hoping the sixth kid was hiding under the mass of downy bodies. Success... so far.

Downy Woodpecker Nest #1 (renumbered in order to make sense):
04-09-2022 Female excavating a hole down and on the other side of the tree in which they nested in 2021. By 05-03 the male was inside the hole up to his butt. The pair took turns excavating. On 05-07 I ended up watching the tree for an hour as the male put on an impressive display of fortitude. He went inside the hole at 10:45 and I could see lots of movement inside. He brought up beaks full of "sawdust" and popped back down. Repeatedly. At 11:01 the female came to the nest hole, looked in, and flew to a nearby tree. The male came up, tossed sawdust, and went back down. At 11:15 the female returned to the nest tree, hitched up, looked inside and flew off. Male continued tossing out sawdust. At 11:21 female returned again, male looked out at the female and went back down and continued tossing out sawdust. At 11:24 the male came up, stuck his upper body out and looked down at the ground, but returned to excavating. At 11:30 the female returned, the male looked out... you know the drill. At 11:45 the female returned to the tree, popped over to look inside their 2021 nest hole, and then went to their new nest hole. The male finally emerged, and flew off. The female went inside the hole and began excavating and tossing sawdust. On 05-15 I observed the pair copulating, and saw no more excavating activities. On 05-17 the female looked out, backed down, and then came up. 05-20 no activity. On 05-22 the female went to the hole and hung out for a while. Eventually the male popped up and then backed down again. The female flew off. The male continued to pop up and back down. On 05-24 the male was inside again. Incubation has begun. Success... so far.

Downy Woodpecker Nest #2:
This is our east-side property pair. I believe this is the pair that originally started making quarter-size holes in a really dead poplar--that came to nothing. On 05-03 a male and female were working on a nest in a dead poplar south of the earlier attempt. On 05-10 the male continued excavation despite the previous evening's storm blowing the tree a bit off-kilter. It cracked about two feet from the base, but was being held up by a nearby tree into which it leaned. It didn't tip far, and on 05-12 the male continued excavating as the tree survived another storm. Have not seen any additional activity since 05-13. It's hard to know when cavity nesters are laying eggs or incubating, but I believe this nest is a failure. 

Black-capped Chickadee Nest #1:
03-19-2022 First observed a pair excavating at a knothole in a dying tree. They were still excavating on 04-21. Have observed no more activity at the nest site since 04-23. On 05-13 a pair was in the area scolding me, but I haven't encountered that since. There is a gouge in the tree below their nest hole. They may have dug too deep and run into the gouge below them, leaving a bottomless nest. Also, this nest hole is approximately 15' from Downy Nest #2. I don't think it has anything to do with the apparent abandonment of this nest, as last year the chickadees nested in a stump about a foot away from a Downy Woodpecker nest. I believe this nest is a failure.

BCCH Nest #2:
04-09-2022 First observed a pair excavating inside an existing hole in a very dead snag. Still excavating on 04-19. On 04-29 an adult came out of the hole. 05-06 one adult out, other adult quickly in; although some literature indicates that only the female incubates, I don't think that's what I'm seeing. 05-10 an adult came out. It has gotten very difficult to see this nest due to the foliage around it. As of 05-15 a House Wren took up residence very near this nest causing me great anxiety. On 05-22 the adults were going in and out quickly. Definitely feeding! Success... so far.

BCCH Nest #3:
04-10-2022 First observed a pair excavating a hole in a very dead, small poplar. Still excavating on 04-19. On 05-07 an adult went into the nest with a bit of fur. On 05-10 an adult looked out and backed down. On 05-24 an adult went inside; about 15 minutes later another adult came to a nearby tree. The adult inside came out and the other immediately went inside. From my experience, I believe that means they are incubating. Success... so far.

BCCH Nest #4:
04-19-2022 Observed a chickadee inside a wooden Troyer nest box, looking out. Aha, on 04-23 there was no nesting material inside the Troyer, but there was plenty of moss inside a nearby Gilbertson PVC nest box. On 04-29 there may have been a bit more moss and cedar shavings in the nest, but I'm not sure. Can easily feel the bottom of the nest box. By 05-02 it appears this nest was abandoned. It was fairly close to the bluebird nest box, and in the past I've observed some pretty tough battles between the species. Definitely a failed nest.

BCCH Nest #5:
04-29-2022 Observed two chickadees quickly excavating a hole in a dead tree next to a dead tree in which chickadees nested last year. (The 2021 nest survived through hatching and feeding for a while. It ended up failing, I believe due to House Wrens.) On 05-03 the adults were both excavating, with the nest being deep enough that only the tip of their tails showed. On 05-10 a pair was in the area around the nest, but were not excavating. They may have dug down too deep and hit a hole in the tree below their hole, giving them a bottomless nest. On 05-24 I watched the nest for about 30 minutes without seeing any activity. I believe this is an failed nesting.

BCCH Nest #6:
05-02-2022 Observed two chickadees excavating a hole very high in a poplar tree, on the underside of a thin branch extending from the trunk. 05-05 an adult looked out the hole, a second nearby. 05-06 an adult inside looked out, backed down. Observed no activity until 05-24 when an adult popped out of the hole. I believe they are incubating. Success... so far.

BCCH Nest #7:
05-02-2022 Observed two adults going in and out of a Gilbertson PVC nest box. On 05-05 an adult took fur inside. 05-07 an adult took coarse white hair inside. On 05-10 one egg was nicely buried under the fur "plug." 05-16 six warm eggs. On 05-24 an adult entered the nest. Incubation appears to be ongoing. This pair may be the owners of the abandoned Nest #4. It's not far away, but is farther from the bluebird pair. Success... so far.

BCCH Nest #8:
05-20-2022 Observed chickadees coming out of our neighbors' mailbox "house wren" nest box. I thought I had seen chickadees flying from it as I drove past, but finally stopped to watch. Due to the location it's possible that this pair is the same couple which seems to have abandoned BCCH Nest #1. Or it could be ANOTHER pair. I'm relieved to see that the wrens didn't take over this nest box. Hopefully, the chickadees will be able to fledge before the wrens attack. Success... so far.

House Wren Nest #1:
05-13-2022 a wren sang from the opening of a hole in a dead poplar tree. I was watching this tree because it had a "duplex" situation going on and fresh wood had been exposed around the openings. There are two holes, one higher than the other, separated by about two inches. The wren had taken in twigs that are visible as vertical sticks in the bottom hole, reminding me of prison bars. I think if enough twigs were added and a nice nest cup woven, the eggs could be protected from falling out. A few additional twigs were added in the following days, but I believe the bluebirds probably successfully chased away this threat. This appears to be a failed nesting attempt.

American Kestrel:
04-23-2022 Observed the male for the first time this season, scanning from a pole that he used frequently last summer. He dropped down and got something to eat. Later I heard kestrel calling and went to see what was happening. The female had come in from the northwest, which is where they nested last year. After quite a bit of calling, they copulated. Last year they brought at least two kids to our yard to hunt. Looks like they are setting themselves up for a repeat this year. As of 05-26 I am seeing the male infrequently, and he is hunting a bit farther west of our property.

Northern Flicker:
The pair that was spending a great deal of time in the woods north of our house moved on. On 05-01 the female was in the woods on our east side checking out holes in the trees, but the male sapsucker went after her hard. Whose woods these are I think I know... the sapsucker's evidently. Since then I've rarely even heard the flickers calling.

Pileated Woodpecker:
I watched the male decimate one of our dead trees as he hunted for food. A male and female came to our feeders over the winter, and really stepped it up this spring when both would be in our yard at the same time. The male continues to come to our suet feeder, but I haven't seen the female in a while. The male drums loudly on a pole with a metal plate most evenings. Can anyone tell me what's going on with him? Last year I think they nested north of our property and I was hoping to figure out where they were nesting this season. I believe all is lost on that hope.

Great-crested Flycatcher: 
One has been calling from different trees with existing holes, but their calling is less frequent and more distant now. I think I've missed the boat on catching them nesting this year--again.

Red-headed Woodpecker:
The morning of 05-09-2022 a Red-headed Woodpecker appeared in our yard, perhaps blown in by the gusting winds. By the end of the day there were two adults feeding and hanging out in our yard. Several wild chases occurred between the birds before things calmed down. The second adult appeared to eat the morning of 05-10 and then move on. The other one seemed very comfortable here and I had high hopes (as I'm sure all the other Red-headed Woodpecker hosts this spring had) as it appeared to be caching food. Their behavior is so different compared to my other "yard" woodpeckers, that I'm afraid I ended up watching them/it for hours and neglected everything else. The last time I saw the woodpecker was the evening of 05-12. I was glad I had "wasted" my time watching it for hours during that short window of opportunity.  

Hope everyone else is also having an exciting birding year.

Molly Jo Miller
Inver Grove Hts
Dakota Co

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