Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Second Look--July 15, 2015

Ask me what I did last Sunday. Well, I spent most of the day running back and forth to one of nest boxes watching some house wrens hatch. It was one of the most interesting things I've seen in a while and I'm going to share it with today's Second Look. There are great videos all over YouTube showing this kind of thing, but I did it the old fashioned way. I stood on a chair and peered into the top of the box and then did a point and shoot picture. As you'll see below, sometimes they turned out well and other times they didn't. The camera was very good at focusing on the nest and not as good on focusing on the birds.

During all of my peering, which lasted over several hours/days, the mother was very attentive--usually on a nearby branch giving a loud warning call when I got close to the box. However, when I got about 10 feet away from the box, she would stop. Luckily, she didn't dive bomb me, but I wore a hat anyway. I really don't like it when a bird swoops by my head close enough to give me the wind blown look.

Here's this week's Second Look.

When we last saw the nest, there were five eggs in it.

A few days later when I checked, there were 3 hatchlings one of which had not quite freed itself from its shell. I watched as it wiggled and shook its wing trying to get the shell off. It was quite active. What you are seeing: In the picture above, there are two intact eggs in the lower left part of the nest with one chick draped over them, and two parts of a recently split egg above them that the chick was trying to get out of. There are three chicks in the above picture, but one of them is in the lower part of the nest hiding under a feather.

The next time I looked, half of the recently split egg was missing. The mother usually eats the egg shells both for calcium and for protection. When not in a protected box, the newly hatched shells could fall to the ground and alert predators that there are some tasty baby birds around. What you're seeing: In this picture, it's a little easier to make out the three hatchlings and eggs. Note the half shell at the upper right of the nest.

A little later, the other half of the shell was gone, and things had been neatly rearranged in the nest. The two remaining eggs were off to the side and the chicks were neatly around the edge of the nest. The chicks move around a lot on their own, but this has the look of a mother's work.

This time as I approached the box, the mother flew out. When I looked inside, I saw what she had been doing--feeding. What you're seeing:  At the top of the nest is one of the chicks with a grub in its mouth. (To me, it actually looks like it choked to death). It slowly was able to work this grub into its gut.  Pretty amazing to watch because this grub was almost as big as its head.

The instinct to beg for food seems to be working well in these hatchlings.

The next peer into the box found four hatchlings and no partial shells. Maybe because the mother was a afraid of me, she was cleaning things up quickly.

I checked several more times on Sunday and the last egg had not hatched However, sometime during the night it hatched and I found all five chicks Monday morning. Note that the first two hatched chicks already have more "fur" on their head than the later three. Your job is to see if you can find all five chicks in the picture.  Hint: In the lower part of the nest, one of their heads is covered up by another and you can only see its bottom.

Now after you've gone blind trying to make out the wren pictures, here's one that a little bit easier to see. These are baby bluebirds from another nest. Besides starting out a lot larger than the wrens, they are about a week older. You can see that they are starting to get their pin feathers.


  1. That definitely sounds fun! We didn't get any bird nests on our front porch this year and I missed it (but not the bird poop that comes along with it!).

    1. You know, we don't any nests on our house. I guess that's because there are lots of other good places for nests of all kinds. Although, now I remember that we did have a sparrows nest in the garage for a couple of years. However, we tried to discourage that because we didn't want to leave the door open all the time so the mother could get to her babies.

  2. I decided to sneak in some computer time this morning and am so glad I did. When I saw your second look post in my in box I knew my granddaughter would enjoy your pictures, but I had no idea you would have hatching pictures. She had so much fun examining each and every picture. Thanks for giving us the opportunity to discuss the hatching process this morning.

    1. I'm glad your granddaughter found the pictures interesting. Some of them really do take a lot of studying to know what you're looking at. I always enjoy stories about what your granddaughter discovers outdoors. Reminds me of when I was her age and spent what seemed like hours watching ants crawl around or picking wild food. Luckily, I was smart enough not to eat all of it.

  3. That is so interesting and must be exciting to have this happening before your eyes.

    1. I found it very exciting. I have seen newly hatched birds, but had never seen one wiggle out of its shell.

  4. Replies
    1. I had such fun watching this. And while not nearly as excited as I was, my husband and son like watching the progress throughout the day also.


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