Thursday, September 20, 2007

LBBS, Bluebirds and Woodpeckers

We have become active in the LA Bayou Bluebird Society and are now one of the board members. This is a wonderful association that is trying to preserve Louisiana's population of Eastern Bluebirds by promoting bluebird trails and providing information about bluebirds and also nest boxes. Bluebirds nest in natural cavities like old woodpecker holes, but will quickly use a man made bird house of the right size. Natural cavities are hard to find these days with contractors and over cautious homeowners removing both live and dead trees because of development and Hurricane Katrina.

We leave dead trees of all sizes up all over our property for woodpeckers and other cavity nesting birds and animals. We've never had trouble with woodpeckers bothering the other cavity nesters. Only 1 time did a young red-bellied use a bluebird box for a winter roost. Last year we had bluebirds nesting in a box located less than 50 feet from a dead tree with a red-bellied woodpecker's cavity and they coexisted just fine. There are also Pileated, Red-headed & Downy woodpeckers, Northern Flickers and Brown-headed Nuthatches nesting all through our woods along with Great Crested Flycatchers, Prothonotary Warblers, Carolina Chickadees, C. Wrens and Tufted Titmice. The wood ducks use the Pileated's cavities (as well as houses) and the other secondary nesters use all of the other woodpecker's cavities (along with houses). We've never observed any discourse between any of them.

The only altercations we have seen were between Red-headed and Red-bellied Woodpeckers who were fighting over the same tree. And another time when the Blue Jays were hassling a Red-headed woodpecker.

To read more about nest box trails and cavity nesting birds visit our Building a Bluebird Nest Box Trail at Squidoo and Our Nest Box Trail on our Little Tchefuncte Habitat Page.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Peace & Quiet Resumes

Our habitat is quiet again. The heavy equipment is gone and many of the animals have returned. A Red fox was caught on the Wildlife cam as he visited the log feeder in the clearing near the river one night. The wildlife cam also captured photos of 3 different sets of baby wood ducks that we think were raised in our 3 wood duck houses. The deer finally return after the devastation and are using our property as a safe haven. Five young Eastern Bluebirds fledged in early May and the parents begin building a new nest in mid May. By May 22 they have laid 4 beautiful blue eggs in the cypress box on the south end of the pond. At least 3 pairs of Great Crested flycatchers begin nesting in the area. One pair may be using the owl / kestrel house in the vegetable garden. The Carolina wrens and the flycatchers are keeping the vegetable garden almost insect free. The Carolina wren pair built a 2nd nest on the potting bench shelf and fledged 4 more young. A pair of Prothonotary Warblers began building a nest in Evelyn Cooper’s bluebird house that hosted a family of Carolina Chickadees earlier in the season.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Katrina Debris Removal Continues

For the past 3 weeks, since April 4th, we have been enduring another Katrina debris removal project on the Tchefuncte River. We have been cooperative by letting the sub-contractor use our little road through the woods, but we have still lost some healthy native trees and shrubs as well as some things that we planted. The Tchefuncte is protected under the Louisiana Scenic Rivers Act as well as a Federal Clean Rivers Act, but the parish council has renewed an emergency order each month since it was enacted soon after Hurricane Katrina.

The NRCS representatives assure us that the project is completed on our property and will soon be completed on the rest of the Tchefuncte River. What concerns us is that all of this noise, disturbance of the vegetation and felling of dead trees during the spring nesting season will have an adverse effect on the wildlife which was already decimated by Katrina. The Prothonotary Warblers, whose numbers have been decreasing due to habitat loss, are beginning to nest in hollow trees and nest boxes all along the river. The 6 different species of woodpeckers that nest on our property have already hollowed out their nesting cavities and are raising young. We know that some damage must be done when heavy equipment is used, but the timing of this project is terrible. Why couldn't this have been done during the late winter?

Near the end of April, it all comes to a head. We find out that the contractor in charge of all of the crews wants to destroy our land like he did the neighbors, so we go into action and call the NRCS. The damage is revealed and a cease & desist order is given for the whole project, but first for our property. Penalties & criminal charges are being discussed. Click here to see photos of some of the damage that the riparian areas of the Tchefuncte River sustained.

Mean while in the habitat, Carolina chickadees fledge about 19 young in 5 successful nests. A pair of Eastern Bluebirds raised 5 young. A pair of Carolina Wrens fledges 4 young from the nest they built in the large flower pot near the front door. The male wren is very distinctive because of his white tail and wing feathers. One pair of Prothonotary warblers build a nest in a box near the river and lay 5 eggs.

Saturday, March 31, 2007


We purchased a couple of Wildlife Cams that take photos automatically day and night and we’ve been able to see the variety of animals that visit our property. So far we have photos of: Wood ducks, deer, raccoons, flying squirrels, banded hummingbirds and a variety of resident and migrant song birds.

The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds returned to their breeding grounds here in Southeastern Louisiana much later than normal. The returnees that have been caught are birds that are only 1 year old. No birds that bred in previous years have been caught yet. Carolina Chickadees are building nests in 5 of the nest boxes on our trail. Flying squirrels are using 3 others. Carolina Wrens hatched in the nest in flower pot by front door.

We discovered 2 mature Wild Olive (Osmanthus americana) trees by the river. Many native plants are in full bloom such as Silverbell, Parsley Hawthorne, Mississippi Wake-robinTrillium, Honeysuckle Azalea, etc. A seasonal list of St. Tammany’s blooming native plants can be viewed on the FNPS website. As representatives of the Folsom Native Plant Society, we donated and planted 2 trees, a Live Oak (Quercus viriginiana) and a Red Mulberry (Morus rubra), in the school yard at Folsom Elementary. We also gave a “Gardening to Attract Wildlife” presentation and helped man the FNPS (Folsom Native Plant Society) booth at the 2 day St. Tammany Master Gardener’s Plant Show. Our club has been invited back next year.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Suet & Native Trees

Our homemade suet is a hit with a variety of birds including Ruby-crowned kinglets, Orange-crowned warblers, Pine warblers, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees and Carolina Wrens. The recipe is simple. Just mix equal parts of the wet ingredients (animal fat (lard) & chunky peanut butter) with the same amount of dry ingredients (oatmeal, cornmeal and flour). For example: mix 2 cups of the wet with 2 cups of the dry mixture. I press it into a pan lined with wax paper & put it in the freezer to harden. Then I cut it into squares that will fit into the wire feeders. I keep the extra squares in a zip lock bag in the freezer.

We recently purchased some native Mayhaw (crataegus aestivalis) and Crabapple (Malus spp.) seedlings from the LA Forestry Department . Most of the seedlings were quite large this year and we were able to plant many of them out in the ground on our 9 acres. The others were planted in pots until next fall so they can grow a little. Both small trees have beautiful spring flowers and edible fruit that makes excellent jelly and that is also food for a variety of birds and mammals.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Black-chinned Hummingbird Recapture

Though we are still without a wintering hummingbird (except for the rufous that stayed a week in September), we can enjoy one vicariously. Linda Beall, our good friend and the local hummingbird bander has recaptured a female Black-chinned hummingbird in her yard that was first banded in our yard on January 14, 2005. We first observed the bird on January 12 of the same year. Linda first observed the bird in her yard on January 12, 2007, exactly 2 years to the day. In 2005 we saw the female off and on (more off than on) throughout the winter. She had a unique white primary covert wing feather in 2005 and a slight bump on her bill. She still has both the white feather and the bump in 2007. Apparently this female winters in the Covington area and keeps a regular schedule. Click here to see photographs of the 2005 banding session.