Chickadees are starting to build a nest in an unused Bluebird box in the corner of my yard. Here's my first report of their progress. I'll also report this nest to NestWatch, which is one of Cornell Lab's fantastic citizen science projects that relies on folks like us to help scientists understand what's going on with the birds across the country.
The helpful NestWatch site identifies Black-capped Chickadees as a "focal species" and provides good information on what to watch for as far as their nesting habitat and site, nest type, egg numbers, color and size, as well as timing.
The site also has important nest-watching etiquette - what we should do to watch a nest in a way that won't harm the birds in any way. Whether you are "officially" monitoring a nest or just checking in on it to observe one of nature's wonder, it's a good idea to know the do's and don'ts about looking in on nests.
The first sign of nesting activity in my yard was seen on May 11th, when I saw chickadees entering the nest box carrying a mouthful of moss.
Chickadee nests have a moss base so this was a good sign! I had put a layer of wood chips on the bottom of the box. Sometimes the birds remove some of those chips early in the process. If you observe chickadees carrying wood chips in their beak, landing on a perch and then releasing them, that's also a good sign that nest preparations are in process nearby.
On top of the moss base, they will then line their nest with material such as animal fur. On May 13th, I saw the chickadees pulling wool from a ball of alpaca wool I have hanging in my yard.
It seems that they seldom take the nesting material straight into the box. Instead, they carry the material to a nearby perch and sometimes rearrange it within their beak. They'll look around, then fly off, slipping into the box as if they don't want to call attention to their entry.
They have continued to gather wool and take it into the nest. I'll check inside the box again on May 18th giving it 4-5 days between checks to minimize disruption.
So that's report #1; I'll continue to report what I'm seeing in future posts. Even if this is an unsuccessful nest, I'll let you know. Chickadees are amongst those species that might build a nest and for whatever reason don't use it - I've had that happen before (like last year!) And I'll still report the nest to NestWatch (as I did last year) since they're also interested in failed nest attempts. Stay tuned!