It is time to give you an update on the progress of the Naked Mountain Bluebird nest box. The new box was erected and discussed in the February 18th post, “Bluebirds Need Your Help.” On May 1st I took a picture of the beautiful nest and five very blue eggs that I found in
the box and published it in the post, “The Birds Have Arrived on Naked Mountain!” I had planned to screw a protective cage onto the front of the nest box the day I had my car wreck on Naked Mountain – see the May 11 post. I was waiting to do this until I knew the eggs would be about to hatch so that the mother bluebird would be less likely to abandon her eggs due to the new, possibly frightening, addition to the nest box entrance. The cage has bent-back prongs on the ends to discourage snakes from trying to enter the box; they will avoid the prongs to prevent injury. But, the tow truck arrived more quickly than expected to haul my wrecked vehicle off the mountain. And, I was scheduled to be in New York City for five days very shortly, so I drove to Northern Virginia in a rented sedan and did not get back to Naked Mountain, in my nicely repaired all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback, until May 23rd.
The day I got back, I hurried up to the small barren where the nest box is and looked inside.
As you can see, the nest is not disturbed at all as it would be if a raccoon had predated the nest, and there are no feathers, or fluff from nestlings and just some fecal droppings on side of the box that was likely left by adult birds. It has all the markings of a stealthy snake attack on the eggs with all of them consumed. The big concern I had was whether the mother bluebird was consumed as well, trapped while sitting on her eggs. Yikes!
I was very sad about this. But in the hope that the mother survived and would just try again, I left the nest in place and screwed the protective cage on tight. Then, a few days later, on May 28, I checked the nest box again. This is what I found:
Hurray!! The drive for survival within these beautiful, seemingly fragile, little birds is really impressive! I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this nest box throughout the season
In the meantime, here are some wildflowers in bloom now on Naked Mountain.
Can anyone identify the species of Penstemon in this photo?
I am guessing either canescens or hirsutus, but the leaf matches the Flora of Virginia’s description for hirsutus perfectly, while the flower matches the description for canescens. Can you help? If you click on the photo, the enlargement allows you to see all the pubescence.