True Blue Friends
Their springtime arrival kicks off her photo frenzy.
They're nesting in my yard again! Those heavenly blue, angelic birds that make me feel like one of the "chosen ones."
I've been anticipating the arrival of my prized tenants since late winter. I go over my to-do list. Buy cornmeal, put it in a plastic container and poke air holes in lid. Check. Add sliced apples for moisture and order 5,000 mealworms. Check. Look in the nest box one last time to make sure it's clean and empty. Check.
Finally, on a gloomy winter day, the sun momentarily pops through the clouds. I glance into the backyard and see brilliant blue flashes against a dreary winter sky. They flit and flutter, inspect the nest box and chat to each other in their soft, sweet warbling way. Then they land on the fence near my window and wait...for me!
It's no wonder bluebirds symbolize such hope and happiness each spring.
There's no time to waste. I hurry to the refrigerator, open the box of mealworms, use a strainer to scoop up a bunch and head out the door with a camera dangling from my neck.
"H-e-r-e bluebird, whoop, whoop, whoop," I call, as I plop the protein-packed treat onto the feeder.
It's the perfect arrangement. They get mealworms, I get pictures. But let me tell you, it wasn't always this easy.
My first pair of bluebirds nested in a huge willow tree that stood in the front yard. I was a young, naive birder back then. When the nestlings didn't make their debut, I got a ladder, climbed up the tree and stuck my arm down the hole to see if I could find the babies. Not a very smart move because, of course, I came up empty-handed!
That old willow tree fell during a storm, and about the same time I read a story about the disappearing bluebird habitat and the use of nest boxes. So I bought a box, put it up near the fallen willow, and the bluebirds moved right in. They've returned every year.
Coming Back for More
But it wasn't until I saw plans for building a portable bluebird feeder in the Aug/Sept 1997 issue of Birds & Blooms that my bluebirding experience skyrocketed to a new level.
My husband, Skip, made the feeder, and I ordered my first batch of "mealies." We put the feeder on the fencepost closest to our backyard nest box. Each time I approached the feeder, I used the same call. It wasn't long before I could offer mealworms anywhere, and the bluebirds would follow.
I started to think of fun new setups for photographing them and documenting their behavior. They're now so well attuned to my routine that when my bathroom light goes on in the morning, they fly to the roof and look toward my window like little blue beggars. And I can't resist.
Anyone can get close enough to take pictures worthy of a "blue" ribbon. Just remember to be ready when your bluebirds arrive. Offer mealworms about the same time every day and use the same call each time you feed them.
You'll soon find out for yourself why these friendly little birds are the heralds of happiness!