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Posts Tagged ‘nesting box’

A couple of weeks ago I spotted a colorful Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) building a nest in a nesting box at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The warbler made multiple trips to the nest carrying a variety of materials in its bill. Each time that it got ready to leave the box, the warbler would stick its head out and look around. Although I tried repeatedly to capture the bird in flight as it left the box, the last image was the only one that was partially successful.

I am finally catching up on a backlog of photos—normally I post my photos within a few days of shooting them.

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Usually it’s the female Wood Duck (Aix spionsa) who is most interested in a nesting box, but during a recent trip to Huntley Meadows Park, I spotted a male Wood Duck who also seemed pretty interested. Maybe he had been watching a lot of home improvement television shows and was thinking of the renovations he could do.

Wood Ducks

Of course, the female Wood Duck also had to check out the nesting box. After all, she is the one who has to lay the eggs inside of it. Judging from what I have seen in previous years, she will have sole responsibility for taking care of the little ducklings—the male seems to disappear after they are born.

Wood Ducks

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have moved into at least some of the nesting boxes at Huntley Meadows Park as they get ready for babies. The accommodations are spacious and comfortable, but the views are undoubtedly much better from high atop the trees.

Strange as it sounds, it is unusual for me to get shots of Tree Swallows in a tree. Normally they are zooming about in the air when I see them and it seems rare for them to stop for a rest. They seem to weigh almost nothing, so they can perch on the flimsiest of branches at the very top of trees. As I learned earlier this week when observing them, however, those perches can become pretty precarious when the wind starts to blow, but that’s a story for another posting.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Why was this wren perching on the nesting box just prior to entering it? It’s not nesting season, is it? Was it seeking shelter on a cool, windy day? Were there insects inside to eat?

As I noted yesterday, bird activity was low on Monday—we didn’t even have any Canada geese or ducks passing through. I initially noticed this small bird, which I think is a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), when it was checking out the underside of this nesting box. The box itself is pretty big and was placed there, I believe, for ducks to use. Eventually the wren perched on the edge of the entrance and peered inside and then looked all around before going inside.

wren_box_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although I never saw the Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) enter the nesting box, she poked her head inside of it and was checking it out as a prospective home.

box1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Today I got this shot of a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) gathering materials for a nest. I suspect that the swallow is using the nest that is attached to the metal pole on which it is perched, although I never actually saw the swallow enter the box.

nesting1_blognesting2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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One of my fellow photographers identified some newly arrived birds as Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) and yesterday I spotted them checking out the nesting boxes at my local marsh. I felt like they could have used a real estate agent to point out the advantages of the different styles of houses available. The first one has the charm of a log cabin and the second one has enhanced security features to discourage intruders. I don’t think that the swallows have made their decision yet—for now they seemed to be checking out the neighborhood.

swallow1_blogswallow2_blogswallow3_blogMichael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This past weekend I was fortunate enough to see a female Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) again enter a nesting box at my local marshland park. If you want to see some photos of my first such incident, check out my previous posting.

It is proving to be quite a challenge to capture this fascinating encounter in photographs, even with my camera trained on the nesting box. I think I get my best shots when the female chooses to land on the box prior to entering it. At that moment, the subject is relatively stationary and I can refocus my camera on the duck itself, and not on the box. When she flies into and out of the box, my camera and lens have trouble maintaining focus and stopping the action, even at exposures of 1/1000 and greater.

She paused a moment when exiting and I was able to get a shot with her head sticking out of the nesting box. I also got a photo of her flying out of the box, which is pretty blurry, but I thought the shadow was pretty cool.

The last two shots are aspirational shots for me—they give you an idea of what I am trying to shoot, even if I have not yet been able to do so successfully.

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have often wondered if birds actually used the nesting boxes scattered throughout my local marshland park and yesterday I got a definitive response when I saw two female Hooded Merganser ducks separately go into one of the boxes.

As I was looking across the beaver pond, one of my favorite spots for taking photos, a Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) couple flew by and landed in the water. They were out of the reach of my lens at that moment, but a fellow photographer alerted me to the fact that the couple had been using a nesting box that was somewhat closer to where I was standing.

I set up my tripod and trained my 135-400 telephoto lens on the nesting box and waited.  Eventually the couple swam behind a cattail patch and came into view near the box. Without warning, the female lifted off and flew straight into the box. It happened so fast that I was not able to get off a shot. A short while later, the male took off.

I continued to wait, confident that the female would eventually have to emerge through the hole in the nesting box. As I was watching and waiting, a bird landed on the roof of the nesting box, as you can see in the second photo. I did not immediately realize that it was another female Hooded Merganser, but I had the presence of mind to take some shots.

She seemed uncertain about whether or not she should go into the box and tried to peer into it, as you see in the first photo. Satisfying herself that everything was ok, she flew into the box, which by now was getting a little crowded. My photos of the entry were completely blurry.

I waited some more and eventually one of the females flew out and I managed to get the third shot. I was hoping that she would linger with her head sticking out of the box before she started flying, but that didn’t happen. I waited for about 45 minutes longer for the second female to exit the box and finally my patience gave out.

The incubation period for the eggs that the female presumably is laying in the box is about a month, so I will keep returning to this location, and with a little luck will be able to see some ducklings.

merganser2_blogmerganser1_blogmerganser3_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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