Life is full of dangers for songbirds and their young. Wednesday afternoon our bluebird babies were alive and well. Thursday morning, I found the mounting pole and nest box laying on the ground.
Looking closer, I saw nesting material out of the box and no sign of the babies, dead or alive. Due to all the rains we have had lately, over 12 inches in April and nearly 5 inches already in May, the ground was extremely waterlogged. Our silty soil was saturated, and it didn’t take much effort to topple the mounting pole.
Not far from the nest box site, I had a raccoon caught in the Havahart trap I had set out to try and catch a rascally rabbit, using apples for bait. The rabbit has been getting into the vegetable garden and eating on the goodies in there. After being caught, the raccoon had been digging in the grass and mud through the mesh of the cage, and was covered in mud and barely recognizable.
Both cats and raccoons can get into nest boxes and wreak havoc, reaching in and pulling out the nest and young. We have several feral cats around our place, but this time I am blaming the raccoon on the predation. It makes sense to me that the raccoon dined on a meal of bird, then got in the trap for a dessert of apple.
Sometimes one of the parents are killed in these attacks, but fortunately I saw both the female and male yesterday flying around. So that’s a bit of good news. They do have plenty of time to start another brood, maybe even two more this season. It’s possible their survival instinct will lead them away from HA for the next nest sight. We will see.
I took the raccoon out to a rural area several miles from here, to join others that have been relocated from Happy Acres. It was happy to be released from its confines. I wasn’t very happy with it, but after all, it was just doing what a raccoon does. I am looking into predator controls for the nest box. I did not photograph the masked (alleged) perpetrator, who was admittedly NOT having a very photogenic day anyway.
In the past I have greased the mounting pole or used Tanglefoot (or Tangle Trap), which is a sticky substance that prevents crawling insects and snakes from climbing a pole. Now I am leaning toward making a baffle type guard like some of those recommended by the North American Bluebird Society, using either stove pipe or PVC pipe.
At any rate, we will keep on trying to make our backyard habitat friendly to wildlife of all kinds. Hopefully we can also keep from turning it into a buffet for raccoons, rabbits, and deer. Stay tuned, I’m sure this isn’t the last chapter in this ongoing saga about nature and our struggles to peacefully coexist with all God’s creatures.
I know the feeling. I have had to learn feeding the birds also means feeding the hawks. I don’t like it. I still go outside with my super-soaker water gun whenever I see a hawk.
I’m so sorry. That’s the trouble with a wildlife friendly garden, it doesn’t discriminate against any wildlife in particular, as we know all too well. It is still very sad seeing an empty nest. It happened to our nestlings on the porch last year, but alas it is the circle of life. Hopefully Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird will succeed with another clutch this spring. I must admit, it would have been rather amusing to see the bandit, it sounds like he’d turned himself into quite a muddy mess!
Oh how sad, but it is the natural order of things.