Back in early May, I was having fun watching my chickadees all busy with nest preparations. One pair spent more than a week actively taking woodchips out of a box in the front yard. Then I saw chickadees gathering nesting material to take to the nest, including the alpaca wool I put out.
Though I've had plenty of chickadees nest in the immediate area, this would've been the first time they nested in a birdhouse I provided. They started a nest in a box in 2006, but didn't finish it.
But things were looking good this year! So I joined Cornell's NestWatch citizen science project, registered my nest site, read all the instructions and protocol to get certified and started monitoring the box on May 6.
I also set up my Wingscapes BirdCam aimed on the box to capture the comings and goings of mom and dad and hopefully to catch images of the babies when they would leave the nestbox for the first time.
Through two monitoring checks, the nest was actively being built and adults were around. But then a House Wren started hanging around, and around then, the chickadee activity slowed. From about May 18 on, the nest looked complete but adult activity essentially stopped. I'd occasionally capture an image of an adult on the box, but no eggs were laid.
I stopped monitoring on May 22 and removed the BirdCam. Here's the unused nest, with the woodchips base, a nice 1" layer of mosses, topped with animal hair including some of the alpaca.
Good thing I had re-read and prepared for what Don & Lillian Stokes advise in describing the chickadee nest-building process: "It is common that nests are started or even completed and then not used, so even if you find birds excavating a nest, be prepared to have them abandon it for a new site."
Needless to say, I was disappointed though not surprised. I knew I'd still see chickadee babies sometime this summer, just not from a nestbox I provided.
Well, low and behold, around the 12th of June, I noticed adult chickadees entering a nestbox I had set up in the backyard!
So I set up the BirdCam again. Unfortunately the nestbox is in deep shade which forces the camera into night mode so I won't be getting any motion-activated pictures of activity at the box. (On a side note: hopefully the soon-to-be-released next generation Wingscapes BirdCam will take care of that problem since it will have the capability to take nighttime shots. Stay tuned for more info on the new BirdCam when it becomes available.)
Back to the chickadees: An adult chickadee would enter the box, be inside for 15-20 seconds and emerge. (Unfortunately, although the box has a clean-out, it doesn't allow peeks for monitoring.) If the female was still incubating eggs, she would emerge from the nest to be fed by the male. If she was brooding newborn nestlings, she would likewise emerge from the nest to be fed. So based on my observations (though we always have to remember that there are no absolutes in the bird world!), I concluded that there are nestlings in the box, that they are older than just a few days old, and that the adult entering the nest could be either the male or the female feeding the nestlings. (Information Source: A Guide to Bird Behavior Volume 1 by Don & Lillian Stokes). Since the chickadee nestling phase lasts about 16 days, I'm going to estimate that the babies might emerge from the nest any day between now and June 24th!
Whenever I approach the camera, I am able to hear chirping noises in the box. Each day, those chirps are getting louder too. Here's a little-bit-out-of-focus image of an adult bringing a mouthful of insects into the nest, and another of an adult getting ready to emerge from the nest after feeding.