Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Speaking of birds…

Posted on | April 21, 2012 | 15 Comments

…there has been a lot of activity in all the bird species around here.

This is the second year that we’ve had Eastern Bluebirds visiting our property.  They are prolific in our region but we never managed to draw them to our property.  Until this:

On the street that backs up to our property, someone sold a lot of their timber.  The land was scalped and the logging trucks roared up and down the street all day for weeks.  It was depressing.  Until the bluebirds arrived.

See, bluebirds prefer a habitat of open meadows or fields surrounded by trees for nesting holes.  Our property is far too wooded for them to find it appealing.  The only open, sunny patch of ground that we have is fenced in and used for the garden.  And it’s not that big of a space.  But after the neighbor cleared his land, the bluebirds had a huge open space for hunting bugs and insects, surrounded by the remaining deciduous forest for nesting.  It was a perfect setting for them and several pairs moved in. We know this, not because we spend a lot of time overlooking the depressing landscape left behind after the logging, but because they quickly found our feeders.

I have heard it said that bluebirds don’t visit birdfeeders.  But we have a few that just don’t feel like hunting insects all the time.  Not when there’s a feeder filled with the type of expensive wild bird seed that has peanuts and dried cherries in it.  (Do NOT, I repeat do NOT tell The Other Half what that type of bird seed costs.)  We were excited.  And confused.  Was clearing the land good because it brought the bluebirds?  Or bad because it destroyed the habitat of other animals?  Good thing they pay scientists a lot of money to figure that sort of stuff out.  ‘Cause I need bipolar meds just thinking about it.

Since we managed to attract a new species here without even trying, we got excited thinking about the birds we could attract if we tried.  So while perusing our local wild birds store, we stumbled across this feeder:

It’s for drawing orioles to your property.  Officially, we are in the range of Orchard Orioles and Baltimore Orioles.  But I have never seen one.  Oh, I suppose I could have confused a female oriole for a gold finch, but the male orioles are pretty distinctive.  So I’m pretty sure they’ve never visited our property.  We filled the feeder with blackberry jam from our own blackberries.  We had it out by January so that we wouldn’t miss any orioles migrating early.  I mean really early, since their migration north doesn’t usually start until April.

We’ve been watching very carefully.

No orioles.

But don’t despair, bird lovers.  There’s still some time left before the orioles have completed their migration and passed us by.  Besides, we did attract something else.  Something we’ve wanted for a long time but never had.

Blue jays.

Oh, I know the rest of you have blue jays all over your property.  We see them all over our town and our neighbors’ places.  We see them outside the library, and the post office, and the grocery store.  But we’ve never seen them here.

I always assumed that we had another bird species living here that competed with the blue jays.  However, most of our bird books state that blue jays are the bullies of the backyard and so it’s unlikely that something would be chasing them away.  Regardless, we’ve never had blue jays until we hung that oriole feeder.  Now we have a pair that nested in the white oak right next to the jelly feeder.  And they’re quite pleased with the seeds that drop to the ground from the regular feeders, too.

A friend was visiting when I gleefully pointed out our newest wild bird.

“You’ll be sorry that they’re here,” she said.  “They’re very noisy.  Plus, they’ll push the other birds around.”

“Please,”  I replied.  “I’ve never been sorry about any of the animals we’ve got here.”

Which is true.  I’ve been very, very, very sorry.  But never just sorry.

“If any orioles do come, the blue jays will probably chase them away,” she added.

Yeah, that sounds about right.   Eh.  There’s no point in fighting your place in the world.  If you’re the kind of person that tries to attract orioles, manages to attract blue jays instead, and then the blue jays chase the orioles away, what’s the point in fighting it?  Just enjoy the blue jays.

Which is exactly what we’re doing.

Of course, we’re busy doing other bird stuff, too.  We joined a citizen science project called NestWatch (  We have variety of birds that aren’t afraid to nest right under our noses.  We’ve found what looks like the nest of a Carolina Wren in the tack bucket in the barn (which tells you often poor C.C. gets groomed with the curry comb and the shedding blade).

We’ve witnessed another wren nesting in this heart shaped hole in a tree in the barnyard.

We won’t be able to look into her nest but we’ll be able to judge what stage she’s in by whether she’s carrying nesting material or food for her young.  Hopefully, we’ll get glimpses of the young as they fledge, too.

There’s a Northern Mockingbird nesting in the wild rose bushes that grow on the garden fence, too.

This bird nests here every year (or one that looks exactly like her) and she won’t hesitate to follow you around, screeching at you, when you are harvesting veggies too close to her young.  Every once in a while she loses her eggs or chicks to a black rat snake and has to start over.  Every once in a while a black rat snake trying to get to her nest gets tangled in the deer netting on the garden fence and dies.

Yep, sometimes you’re the bug and sometimes you’re the windshield.

But we’re not content to just sit back, watch, and report nest findings.  Oh, no.  We’re the type to jump right in and get our feet wet.  Or get soaked.  Or drown.  Whichever.  So, the incubator is full of guinea and Ameraucana eggs.

They hatch at different times.  21 days for chicken eggs and 28 days for guinea eggs.  That’ll be fun.

And Blackbeard’s eggs are hatching.

The first ones to hatch are the chicken eggs (again, 21 days) that some sneaky hens laid in her nest when she wasn’t looking.  Blackbeard is always very tolerant of this.  She will let the chicks come and go from underneath her until her duck eggs hatch (35-38 days).  But once the ducklings hatch we’ll have to take the chicks and put them in the brooder room.  Otherwise, Blackbeard will take them for a swim in the pond from which they won’t return.

Oh, and the feed mill is expecting Welsummer chicks in May.  Plus, I just talked to a woman who has Maran hatching eggs for sale.  Have you ever seen Welsummer or Maran eggs?

Maran eggs

Welsummer eggs

Wow.  I mean, wow.  Don’t I need chickens that lay eggs that color?  Don’t I?

And we’re still waiting on an oriole sighting.  I still believe it could happen.  Anything could happen.  That’s what makes birds so exciting.  If you haven’t noticed the birds in your backyard, you don’t know what you’re missing.  Who needs The Young and The Restless?  The feathered and freshly arrived are here.  Daytime drama at it’s finest!


15 Responses to “Speaking of birds…”

  1. Jill
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 5:50 am

    Good for you! Go Bluejays!!! My brother Jay always roots for the Jays of the world… I love the Indigo Buntings (pastel blue) when they happen by. I can’t feed too close to the house as the cats are very fast. No dragonfly stands a chance if they fly onto the deck.. 🙁

    Thanks for your writing Stevie. It gives me hope for the next generation that are interested in the world…

  2. Terry Golson
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 8:01 am

    LOVE my Welsummer. The sweetest bird, the prettiest eggs. Would trade all of my broody, grumpy Orpingtons for more Welsummers!

  3. Ferne K
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    Good morning, I loved your description of all the birds on your land, and also felt sad about the scalping of your neighbor’s land. Out here in Oregon we call it clear cutting and many of us have fought for years to get them to stop that kind of logging. There are better ways to harvest the timber. Anyway, it’s encouraging that nature eventually wins. When Mt. St. Helens blew, it stripped the land of all vegetation and trees, but now they’re all coming back. I also love the birds.

  4. Jo
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 9:20 am

    I enjoyed hearing about all the birds you have around your property, some quite different to those we have here. I too enjoy watching the comings and goings of our feathered friends and I’m always so excited when I see a bird which doesn’t usually visit my garden.

  5. Carolynn
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 11:14 am

    Those eggs are wild! I’m always heartened when I see evidence of the belief that God turns all things to good, even something as ugly as a wanton logging.

  6. lin
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

    I’ve never been one to pick and choose who comes to my feeder. Everyone is welcome–jays, squirrels, sparrows, grackles…whoever needs to eat, c’mon by.

    Blue jays will come if you put out nuts. They LOVE nuts. And yes, they make noise, but they also warn all the other birds when there is danger. So, they can be good or bad depending on how you look at it.

    I just put out food and see what comes naturally. I find that the birds all sort of work it out amongst themselves. The only thing I don’t encourage is nesting. I have kitties and it isn’t fair to them or the birdies to have them outside during baby bird/death season.

    LOVE the eggs! I can’t believe the colors of some of those!

  7. Kylee from Our Little Acre
    April 22nd, 2012 @ 10:02 pm

    Hi Stevie ~ I tried to email you with the address you provided when you entered the contest for the chicken books, but it bounced back to me! You won “The Fresh Egg Cookbook!” Please email me at gardengeek57 at gmail dot com with your mailing address so the publisher can send your book to you. Congratulations!

  8. Kim Irene
    April 23rd, 2012 @ 8:27 am

    HA ! Now you have to share some of the recipes from your cookbook! I know you weren’t going to mention it….so busted. You make my day when you post. Thanks very much for the entertainment…

  9. Lynda
    April 23rd, 2012 @ 8:45 am

    We have all sorts of birds here, even blue jays, but I have never witnessed them as bullies. (???)
    My Marans never laid eggs that chocolaty, and those speckldy Wellsummer eggs look beautiful!

    Q: Are the Guinea eggs from your flock or did you purchase them? If purchased, then from where?
    ~ Lynda

  10. admin
    April 23rd, 2012 @ 11:37 am

    The eggs are from our guineas. The ones in the garden are laying a community nest. When we found it, it had 32 eggs in it. Since we knew none of them could cover a nest that large and have a good hatch rate, we took some for the incubator. It’s always good to have a back up!

  11. Lisa Spivey
    April 24th, 2012 @ 6:30 am

    Hi Stevie! I’ve never heard of nor seen Maran eggs before! Wow! Bluebirds reside on our property and we do see them at our feeders. They seem to be extremely shy birds, like our woodpeckers. This was our first year to see Bluejays here too. Not sure they are taking up residence yet. Don’t think we’ve ever seen an oriole… that would be nice. Are you located in SC too? Thank you for visiting Shady Grove Journal this morning and leaving such a nice comment. Lisa

  12. Leigh
    April 24th, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

    Well, I’ve got Wellies but have never seen Maran eggs. Very interesting about the bluebirds. We usually have a pair around but never more. I’ve never seen a Baltimore oriole but we have tons of blue jays!

  13. Chai Chai
    April 24th, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

    Hatching some Maran eggs is on my list for next year. Do you like your Americaunas?

    Blue Jays are kind of bossy, but they are pretty and active.

  14. admin
    April 25th, 2012 @ 3:36 am

    I do like my Americaunas but they are not the greatest layers. I’ve always found that after their first year is up, their laying drops off dramatically. Either that or they are better at hiding their eggs than the other girls!

  15. Lisa D
    April 26th, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    I’ve watched a blue jay attack an owl in our backyard. Don’t mess with them!

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