Sunday, May 4, 2008

Irruptive and Interuptive

Some years Pine Siskins are not seen in western North Carolina. Other years (called heavy invasion years) they are here in great numbers. This is a heavy invasion year.

This post is actually about Carolina Chickadees, but the Pine Siskins play the role of the villains in my little drama.

We have several different types of birdhouses strategically placed throughout the woods. One of my favorites hangs near the house, between the upper deck and the lower screened porch. When we purchased it, I thought it might be appealing to the cavity nesters.

We hung the house and hoped someone would use it.

A pair of Carolina Chickadees checked it out and found it to their liking. The location was quiet and near food and water, so they started building a nest. They were such fun to watch as they carried bits of moss, dried leaves, pieces of mulch, and globs of dog hair (provided by our two Golden Retrievers) to decorate the nursery in their new home.

Enter the Pine Siskins. I mean, enter a huge flock of them. They stormed the trees and bird feeders in massive numbers. Their erratic and rude behavior was not fun to watch. They were everywhere, constantly bumping one another off the perches on the feeders. They gave no indication they might travel on.

The chickadees were clearly not happy. The neighborhood had really gone downhill since they moved in. So they decided to leave and find another spot.

After a week with no one entering or leaving the house, we took it down to see what was inside.

What a wonderful nest they had made. It looked so well constructed with a large mossy base.

A closer look shows the extensive use of golden hair for lining. What a soft bed it would make.

There were no eggs in the nest. The wise parents decided their paradise was no longer suitable for a family.

Upon advice from some experts, we took down all the seed and thistle feeders, leaving only suet for the woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, etc., and nectar for the hummingbirds. We haven’t seen any siskins for a week now, so we’ll put the feeders back in place tomorrow.

Still…I can’t help grieving for my lost chickadees. I had so looked forward to the fledglings coming to the feeders.

Never one to end on a sad note, I give you this picture of Ellie. She constantly carries two tennis balls around with her. She can carry three but prefers two. What a silly thing.

Ellie my dear, no matter what your pedigree, it's difficult to look regal with two tennis balls stuffed in your mouth.


Mary said...

NCMountainwoman, I sympathize with you, although I haven't had Pine Siskins in a long while. There is a nesting box on my campus at work with a beautiful Chickadee nest in it. No eggs yet. Because, the Bluebirds are challenging the Chickadees and I think the Chickadees gave up... Interesting, isn't it?

I'm finding springtime to be a difficult time to enjoy good birds. They are acting out and the gangsta birds are ruling the roost. Sigh...

Ellie is a regal girl, no matter the tennis balls! That's a true retriever! LOL! She's funny and has an obsession with tennis balls like Bella has with hula hoops?

Jayne said...

So sorry the chickadees moved on. :c(
I had pine siskins for the first time this year and enjoyed them, though my flock from hell has been the goldfinch. I am rather tired of watching them do the same thing as your pine siskins did to the feeders.

What a sweet girl, your Ellie!

NCmountainwoman said...

Mary: In spite of the problems we've encountered, we still have a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers, a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers, a pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and a pair of Downy Woodpeckers coming to our suet several times a day. They make up for everything. Yes, Ellie seems obsessed with tennis balls. She carries at least one almost all the time, "talking" as she carries it.

Jayne: The Pine Siskins and the Goldfinches blended into one humongous flock. I have no idea how the word got out.

Ruth said...

What a beautiful little nest. We had Pine Siskins for only about 10 days in the late fall and only in small numbers. The only annoying flock of birds we get are House Sparrows.

NCmountainwoman said...

Ruth - given a preference between those two evils, I'd take the siskins.
BTW, we put the seed feeders back out this morning. NO SISKINS all day. I think the seige is over.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I love the picture of your Ellie! Too funny!

I hope your chickadees come back. I have them at my feeder, I just love to listen to them.

Susan Gets Native said...

Oh, I love Ellie. She looks so silky! Is she as soft as she LOOKS????
We don't get siskins anywhere near as often as you do. We had our first and only siskins this winter.
Our chickadees use a neat sunflower nest box that I bought at a craft store....I've been too busy to go out and look in there to check on them.

NCmountainwoman said...

Robin - the chickadees are still coming to the feeders, but decided to nest further away. Maybe next year...

Susan - Ellie's coat is indeed very silky and every bit as soft as it looks. (I think that may be why Lucy uses her for a pillow so often.) I met a woman who combs and spins dog hair into yarn for knitting (beats me, too) and she wanted Ellie's hair for spinning.

ROBERTA said...

your dog is hilarious and precious - all in one! i'd love to see her carry 3 balls at take beautiful pictures too!

dguzman said...

Wow, I'm sooo loving your blog!

I have tons of Black-capped Chickadees nesting all around me, but I'd be thrilled to see a pine siskin. Of course, I wouldn't be happy either if said siskin chased any bird (except a house sparrow) away after he'd already built a nest. And what a beautiful little nest!

NCmountainwoman said...

Roberta - thanks. And I will try to get a snapshot of her doing a threefer.
Delia - I'm so glad you like the blog. It's a scary venture. There are so many of you really great bloggers out there, it's a bit intimidating.