June 10, 2011
This year, for unknown reasons, an unusually high number of native birds nesting in my yard were successful in fledging young. I have numerous bird boxes of a variety of sizes placed strategically to attract some of the wonderful bird species native to our area. I make my own boxes and some have entrance holes on the front while others have holes on the side. The side hole types are often much more desirable by both white-breasted and brown-headed nuthatches. Chickadees, titmouse, bluebirds and house wrens like the more typical front entrance holes. I also have a number of screech boxes but I did not have any screech owls this year. I did have a great-crested flycatcher nest in an owl box and I had southern flying squirrels nesting in a box that had been previously occupied by a titmouse. Also, new for me this year was a nesting pair of downy woodpeckers in a box fairly near to my pond. I spent quite a bit of time sitting on my deck watching the woodpeckers and prior to nesting the female used the box as her nocturnal roost. She always entered the box about 5 minutes prior to sunset.
Male Eastern Bluebird at nest box. White-breasted nuthatch.
Tufted Titmouse on box. Red-shouldered Hawk at nest.
Other species nesting in my yard, but species that do not use nest boxes, included: brown thrasher, cardinal, Eastern towhee, red-shouldered hawk, Carolina wren, house finch, song sparrow and American robin. Even though there were other species present at my feeders that nested somewhere in the area, I did not locate nests for the following species: Mockingbird, mourning dove, blue jay, red-bellied woodpecker and hairy woodpecker.
Depredation was noted on two occasions. Both song sparrows nesting in a hanging fern basket and Carolina wrens nesting in the end of a canoe in my garage lost full compliments of eggs from their nests. Due to the location of the nests, I believe a black rat snake satisfied some of its hunger by predating the nests. Earlier in the summer, I found two adult black rat snakes. One on my back deck (about a 5 footer) and one under my house that was just over 6 feet in length. I enjoy having the snakes and they are always wonderful to see but I am certain they take a number of clutches of bird eggs as well as nestlings through spring and early summer. Contrary to this, however, the red-shouldered hawks really impacted the water snake population in my pond. At the beginning of spring, I observed at least 4 different midland water snakes on my pond edge and a couple of others were often seen basking on exposed rocks along the creek that flows through our yard. By late June, all of the water snakes were gone and I feel quite confident that the red-shoulders predated most of the water snakes if not all of them. I also observed one of the adult red-shoulders carrying a black rat snake to the nest as well as chipmunks on a couple of occasions.
Black rat snake, one of two found in the yard / Red-shouldered hawk with a chipmunk.
The following is the list of birds that nested in my Marietta, Georgia yard this year:
- Eastern bluebird
- Tufted titmouse
- Carolina chickadee
- Downy woodpecker
- White-breasted nuthatch
- Brown-headed nuthatch
- Great-crested flycatcher
- Carolina wren
- Eastern towhee
- Brown thrasher
- American Robin
- Northern Cardinal
- Song sparrow
- House finch
- Red-shouldered hawk
I thoroughly enjoy observing wildlife and I keep a house journal on the species of wildlife I have observed in my yard over the past 25 years. I also record spring arrivals, fledging dates, departure dates as well as feeding and nesting behavior of birds. It is fun to check back to see what birds may be common one year and uncommon or non-existent during other times. It is also quite fun to involve children and or grandchildren in recording their observations and getting them involved in journaling, which hopefully will be a life long interest for them.