Date: 5/13/19 10:27 am
From: Lisa Larson <lisafaylarson...>
Subject: [MBBIRDS] The Completed Oak Titmouse Saga
Hello Birders,

As promised, I will share with you the outcome of the OAK TITMOUSE nest box
saga.

On May first, you may recall I was in a panic about having to leave home
for a 2-hour appointment when HOUSE SPARROWS were aggressively bullying
“our” OAK TITMOUSE parents by persistently landing on the nest box despite
my repeatedly chasing them off. I had been sitting on the 2nd floor deck
trying to protect them for over two hours. The male sparrow actually landed
at the hole when a baby looking out and waiting for food. Before I could
shoo him, he pecked at the baby, who subsided slowly back into the box.
Horrible! The titmouse parents were both consistently calling out their
alarms, but had stopped approaching to feed or protect the box as the
sparrows had overwhelmed them.

I came up with a temporary solution. Grabbing my fake coyote fur hat from
the closet, I weighting it down with a rock on top of the box. I also took
the life-size cardboard cut-out John Wayne from the laundry room and set it
near the nest box, facing outward. I hoped the Duke could guard the box and
that the fur would not scare the parents. But they know me and watched me
do the whole set-up.

It did the trick! My husband told me he did not see the sparrows come back!

The next day, however, I had to be away from 10:30 am until well into the
afternoon. The parents were still feeding the chicks—once again going into
the box and carrying out fecal sacs. The female was acting extremely
excited and anxious, twitching her wings from various loctions on and
around the box. I posted a video of her: https://youtu.be/gQTt9FFj1FE

I apologize for the squeaky motor in my older camera, which serves as my
tripod camera. Also I apologize for my husband scolding our kitten at the
end. (Quincy gets into *everything*.) BTW, all three of our cats are
strictly indoor, but we do have a catio that they can use when we choose to
let them. The board my husband had mounted on the north side of the box the
night before blocked a clear view from across the street, where corvids
frequently perch.

Upon my return, I immediately charged upsairs to check on the box. My
husband said he had not seen any titmice all afternoon! Oh no! Had they
fledged too soon? I walked around outside but couldn't find anybody as dusk
approached.

We opened the box to find one dead chick and one unhatched egg. I examined
the chick and noticed that a hole had been poked into its skull. I realized
that the damage was the work of the male sparrow, which I had witnessed the
day before! Had the chicks fledged prematurely, it was not by very much, as
I could tell from the development of the dead chick. I was heartbroken for
the baby and the parents. They had nurtured the chicks with such devotion.
Fledging time is a perilous time fraught with concern and a poignant
mixture of joy and sorrow.

First thing the next morning, May 2nd, I noticed the parents coming for
crushed peanuts and flying around the house to the neighbor's oak tree
behind us to the south. They did this consistently, so I went to
investigate. Sure enough, I found a couple of fledglings, but I was not
sure if there were any more than that. My neighbors allowed me to look from
their upstairs window, but the oak was too thick up there for viewing into
the tree. I did get a great view of the CHESTNUT-BACKED CHICKADEES bringing
food to the nest box in our back yard, though. That box fledged on May 5th.
But that is another story.

I resumed my efforts to find the fledglings by looking (practically
straight up) into the oak from underneath. I managed some “proof” shots of
one of the babies. The parents continued to feed them there throughout the
next day. One of the parents was showing up to our deck feeders looking
roughed-up—probably a result of trying to protect the fledglings.

I continue to see the parents daily, but have not seen a fledgling come to
the deck for food. I continue to hope that I will see one. I know that Oak
Titmice typically do not have a second brood, but that does not mean I
don't have hope. They do go to the box occasionally. I also hope for a
VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW nest in this box, as they have shown interest numerous
times. I know one pair are nesting down the street under an eave of a
neighbor's house. I also have been trying to find a BUSHTIT net in the
vicinity, as I witnessed the female gather nesting material on multiple
days. I offered feathers and cotton fluff from a wire cage and I have
wonderful photos of both the Bushtit and the female Titmouse gathering
these materials. I love to give our sweet birds all the help I can!

May there be many successes this breeding season!

- Lisa

P.S.
I posted some photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lisafay/

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