I've been watching the nestbox in the corner of my yard since April, when chickadees started clearing out the wood chips I placed in the box. They were busy then, and frankly I got my hopes up.
Chickadees working in nestbox April 18th
Chickadees will remove the chips they don't want (almost like excavating a natural cavity in a tree) and then start building their nest from there. Only in my case, they cleared the chips and did NOTHIN'! Hopes dashed!
I shouldn't have been too worried though because April is still fairly early here in upstate NY. And sure enough, in May I started seeing a renewal of activity around the box. Chickadees were gathering nest material from my doormat and then pulling alpaca fibers from the nesting ball.
I checked inside the box a few days later and what had been totally emptied out in April was now filled with an almost complete beautiful chickadee nest! I recorded my notes for my first NestWatch check-in.
I was hearing a lot of what the Stokes call the "tee-ship" call, given by either male or female during the courtship and breeding period. My hopes are back up, though it is quite common for chickadees to start or even complete a nest and then not use it. (Source: A Guide to Bird Behavior Volume 1, Donald & Lillian Stokes)
Gathering nest material May 17th
They continued to gather nest material on the day before my next check-in on May 18th. I saw what looked like a completed nest but no eggs.
NestWatch protocol has you check in every 3-4 days, so on May 23rd, I looked in again. My noise making and box-knocking failed to flush the female, and she flew out as I opened the side. She'd been busy incubating 7 eggs!
I hastily took a quick picture and closed the box so mom could return to her incubation duties.
Birds typically lay one egg a day, usually in the morning. So when I last looked in on May 18th, I must have missed the egg laid on the 17th and looked in before the egg was laid on the 18th (a good reason to do checks in the afternoon!) That's the only way we would've gotten to 7 eggs on the 23rd. Take another look at the May 18th picture (click to enlarge); there just may be an egg just on the front side of the picture!
I'm so excited to be monitoring another active chickadee nest. My next check-in is in 4-5 days so stay tuned for my next NestWatch report.
If you are observing a nest and would like to report what you see, join Cornell Lab of Ornithology's NestWatch citizen science project. Talk to us in store if you have questions about NestWatch.