ProfessorRoush took advantage of a mid-January warm spell yesterday to put out and mount the new bluebird houses that I made after my "check-and-clean-the-nests" weekend in November. I haven't blogged about it, but I needed to replace several older bluebird houses after my inspection and I went a little crazier than normal and had made eight new bluebird houses (per the Roush NABS-approved plans) in a single 3-hour span on the weekend of Thanksgiving. And yesterday, knowing that Eastern Bluebirds normally start looking for suitable nest lodgings in February in this area, I thought I'd better be getting the new birdhouses up for the early arrivals while the weather was nice.
I found, however, that the bluebirds are already back (if in fact they ever left) and they were thumbing their noses at the new houses, in effect saying to me, "we don't need no new stinking houses!" On my back hill, I ran into this pair (which I have denoted by arrows if you click on the photo or look closely), clustering around one of my older, more run-down houses, and I was most delighted to see them. As I took this single photo from a distance, they decided I was close enough and they flew away, ahead of me, to the next house on the fence line, so I'm quite sure they've been checking out the neighborhood and already have a good idea of property values and proximity to water and food sources. This Mrs. Bluebird seems to be pretty happy with the home that her male picked out. Maybe "new" isn't as appealing to bluebirds as weather-beaten and old? Maybe they don't like the smell of new cedar? There's no accounting for taste, especially when it comes to the nest-warmer of the couple.
I continued to place out new houses and reposition some older houses on my walk. I have probably overbuilt the neighborhood, since bluebird pairs don't like to nest within sight of others, but I want every azure visitor to my 20 acres to have a home, even if some end up being homes for wrens. At least the carefully-sized entrances seem to keep the ubiquitous sparrows out.
While traipsing around the bottoms, I also needed to check on the donkeys, who hadn't been seen in several very cold days, and I found them to be fine. I was amused that this hay bale, deposited in the bottom for their eating convenience and for better nutrition than the dry prairie grass, seems to be hollowed out, the better preserved grass on the inside eaten first. Who would have thought that donkeys, as well as bluebirds, could be so particular about their homes and food? Certainly not their gardening landlord.