Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Katydids and Cuddles

This morning, Sammy was waiting on his feeder dish when we came outside at 7:15am. He was very hungry this morning, gobbling up about 15 mealworms in two visits to the dish.

He stuck close to the house for a couple hours this morning, alternating between sitting in the beech tree on the front lawn and a majority of the time under the porch roof on one of his ropes. It was raining and fairly windy, so I think he was trying to stay dry. The rope attached to the porch post is the perfect place as it shelters him somewhat from both the rain and the wind. I felt so bad for him having to endure the crappy weather, but he's a tough little guy and smart enough to "come in out of the rain"!

Hunkering down on his rope

The rain stopped by noon and while I was tidying up the deck and cleaning the tables, Sammy stopped in for a visit and hung out on the deck railing for several minutes. He watched wherever I moved and seemed very content just hanging out. He also kept an eye out for the big black ants that come out from under the deck boards...a tasty snack he quite enjoys!

When Sammy landed on me in the afternoon, I offered him a big katydid I had caught earlier in the day.  He picked it up and banged it around several times before finally swallowing it whole.  Quite a mouthful for a little guy, but he managed just fine.  Here's the video of him having his katydid, taken with my IPhone.

Katydids are a common food source for Eastern Bluebirds and I continue to try to introduce him to natural foods that should be part of his regular diet.  He may have already caught and eaten some on his own, as we know he hunts for himself and is very good at it. So, yes, I'm still out catching all kinds of bugs and moths for him to help him learn what to hunt and eat.  Sammy would have learnt hunting skills and types of prey from watching his parents, so I'll continue to be the bug lady! Sometimes, I give them to him as his parents would have done and sometimes I toss them on the ground below him or near him so he can hunt them himself.

Watching prey from above

Sammy flew in to the porch feeder around 7:15 this evening and had a couple mealworms, plus a spider and a couple of grasshoppers.  He flew down from the dish with the second grasshopper and landed on my arm where he proceeded to knock it around and eat it.  Sometimes he removes the legs from the grasshoppers and leaves them before he eats the rest of it, which I've read is common.   It makes me so happy to see him do the things wild Eastern Bluebirds do...reassures me that I haven't "tamed" or "domesticated" him too much.

After he finished his bedtime snack on my arm, he hopped onto my chest under my neck and nuzzled himself in.  I sat down in a chair and enjoyed our quiet time together.  He stayed on me for over half an hour tonight...the rain had returned bringing with it dark skies and thunder, so I think he was taking refuge from the storm and enjoying some comfort being close to me.  Sammy did some preening and chirped softly a few times while tucked up against me, but mostly he just sat quietly.
I offered him some more mealworms during this time also.  After eating, he hopped off me onto the backrest of the chair, turned himself around and pooped over the chair onto the deck, then hopped right back onto my shoulder under my hair.  To date, knock on wood LOL, Sammy has never pooped on me...several times he has hopped off or flown off a few feet away to do his business and then came right back onto me.  I seriously believe he is intentionally NOT pooping on me, it has happened so often it just can't be coincidence!

Sammy, just being beautiful!

Sammy stayed for another minute or so after that, then flew off into his beech tree for the night and settled himself in.  I felt so relaxed and content after this special, peaceful time with Sammy tonight.  I am completely amazed that he is still seeking me out and wanting to have these moments with me.  Every morning I wake up with happy anticipation of seeing him, he has filled my life with such joy and purpose.  This has been such an incredible journey being part of his life, I can't even express the feelings that course through me watching him thrive.

Today, Sammy is 62-63 days and is sleeping almost at the very top of his bedtime beech tree, all nestled in beneath some leaves.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Coordinated Hunting

Almost done breakfast

Sammy showed himself bright and early this morning at 7:30am, as is becoming his habit. He flew in to eat some mealworms out of dishes, then off he went to do some preening in a favored maple tree.

Blue feathers have begun to appear on the front of his crown, while the blue of his back feathers get more vividly rich every day.

Look for the blue crown feathers starting to grown right above his beak

His spotted fledgling breast is becoming more and more russet as he loses his "baby" feathers, making him look more like an adult every day.  I am in awe of his beauty each time I see him, he virtually changes overnight. Talk about "kids growing up too fast"...this "kid" of mine is literally growing up right before my eyes!

Russet breast feathers are taking over his fledgling spots

Sammy put on some marvelous territorial displays today, as he continues to try to keep the White-breasted Nuthatches out of his yard.  He chases them off the feeders into the edge of the woods, but they always seem to sneak back in within a couple minutes.  He didn't seem to mind the Black-capped Chickadees hanging around today, letting them fly in to help themselves to sunflower seeds.

Staring intently at prey possibly on the ground far below him

We have at least a couple of pretty little fledgling Chipping Sparrows using our yard, and one of them seems very interested in Sammy.  The little baby sparrow had followed him across the yard and has landed near him in a tree a couple of times now.  I wonder if he thinks Sammy might feed him, or if he's looking for a buddy to hang out.  Maybe he's simply curious.  The fledgling Chipping Sparrows are so cute with their lightly streaked breasts, especially when they do their begging wing quivers to their parent for a meal.

Pretty little fledgling Chipping Sparrow in our yard

Sammy's bath routine today was kind of funny...he had a quick little bath, barely getting wet before flying up to preen in the beech above the bath. Within a couple minutes, he was right back in the bath and had his usual saturating bath.  It was like he checking out the water first, before committing himself to letting loose in it.

Before dark, Sammy blessed me with a before-bed cuddle, nuzzling himself against my neck and under my ponytail for several minutes.  I so enjoy these quiet, close moments with him...I hope he gets as much peaceful comfort out of them as I do.

After flying off, I presumed to settle in for the night, I went to the laneway garden to turn over the rocks in the garden border to find bugs for Sammy for tomorrow.  I was surprised when Sammy joined me, stood on the rock beside the one I had turned over and proceeded to watch what I was doing.  He followed me all along the garden border, hopping down to the soil to snatch a bug after I flipped over a rock. He ended up eating 4 small black crickets and a couple of potato bugs.  I kept saying to myself "He's hunting with me!!  No, that can't be!!  Is he??"  It sure seemed like he knew exactly what I was doing and what the result of turning over rocks would be.  Sammy continually astonishes me with how intelligent he is.

Once we were done bug-hunting, Sammy flew into the small oak tree alongside this garden and tucked himself under some leaves, where I believe he stayed for the night.

Today, Sammy is 62-63 days old and continues to fill my life with wonder.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Leaving Sammy

I was away for the past 5 days, on a family trip, so there isn't too much to write. I was very worried about leaving and being gone so long from Sammy. Worried he wouldn't get enough food, even though my husband and wonderful friend, Katherine, would be putting food out for him. Worried he would leave if I wasn't around. Worried about whether he would be okay or not without me. If you haven't figured it out yet...I am a worrier in general.

But I needn't have been worried in this case, Sammy did just fine without me, lol. Which is great! I may not have been ready to "cut the apron strings", but Sammy is definitely doing well being free.

The morning I left, August 6th/14, I enjoyed some time watching him chase a White-breasted Nuthatch away from the feeders and into the woods.  These birds seem to his favorite to chase.  He ate well, enjoying mealworms, a couple of grasshoppers I had caught for him and a beetle.  It started to rain before I left, and Sammy surprised me by giving himself a thorough bath, in the pouring, heavy rain...silly boy.

Last feeding before I headed off on my trip.
His blue shoulders are so vivid and blue is starting to appear on his back also.

I headed southward around 11am, with a heavy heart, missing this beautiful bluebird already, but also looking forward to spending time with my sons, daughter-in-law, grand-daughters and my sister and her family. We are headed into New York for some shopping, amusement parks and other fun. 

Katherine texted me in the afternoon to let me know she left mealworms out for him, after waiting 40 minutes for him to show! What a lovely woman she is, spending so much time watching for him...she had wanted to send me a photo so that I could see that he was okay, but he didn't make a appearance.

Sammy showed up within 5 minutes of Frank returning home from work around 5pm and he offered him some mealworms.  He reported to me in the evening that Sammy also had another long bath, getting himself totally drenched. He also watched him settle in for the night in his spot in the driveway beech tree.

The second day I was gone, Katherine again came to feed him in the mid-morning. This time he flew right in and ate mealworms out of her hand and his dish. She enjoyed the experience of hand-feeding him and seeing the beauty of him up close.  She left more for him in his dish when she left and they were gone when she came back again in the afternoon.  I am so lucky to have a friend like Katherine...taking time out of her day to come over here to make sure one little bluebird has his mealworms.  Frank found Sammy waiting for him in the front yard when he got home.

Frank was home for the next two days and saw him several times - eating, bathing, hunting and chasing other birds - so all was well for Sammy.  I had so much fun being on a mini-vacation with family, but boy was I ever excited to get home to see Sammy.  And my husband and 3 little dogs, too!

Today, Sammy is 61-62 days old...and doing just fine without his momma!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

King of the Castle

Morning scratch

August 3, 2014

While I woke up early this morning, Sammy slept in, lol.  He didn't make an appearance until about 9am flying in from our front woods. He had himself a good breakfast of mealworms, then proceeded to check out the bird feeders. He picked up several black oil sunflower seeds, but promptly discarded each one.  I wonder if they look like black beetles to him?

This doesn't taste like a beetle...

Sammy spent part of the morning chasing away other songbirds from "his" feeders (that are filled with seed that he doesn't eat, lol), but he did let one Black-capped Chickadee stay and get a sunflower seed...once.  I can't get over how fast this little guy can fly, especially when he is zooming in and out around the trees at the edge of the forest. And it seems so effortless for him too, simply fascinating to watch!

Sammy, the male Eastern Bluebird fledgling, staking his claim on the bird feeders

Later in the morning, while I was picking beans from the vegetable garden in the backyard, Sammy landed on my bent-over back and sat there for a couple minutes, not minding the movement of my body. Frank walked past him later while he was perched on a driftwood post and Sammy chased him down to land on his head. I don't think he liked being ignored by Frank as he walked by, so I guess he decided he would go to him.

Another quick bath was enjoyed by Sammy this afternoon and he was in and out the yard the rest of the day.

Almost bath time

The russet on his sides is getting bigger daily it seems
and his beak is hardening up very nicely, only the corners are soft and yellow still

About an hour before dark, I was walking through our parking area when Sammy flew down out of a big maple onto my head. He stayed there for a few seconds before swooping down onto the laneway to do some hunting. I decided to help him out and dropped 2 small black crickets and a beetle on the laneway near him, one at a time. I love watching him cock his head to the side when he spies their movement, right before he pounces on them. I tossed down 2 more beetles and a potato bug, which he gobbled up.

After he was done hunting, he flew onto the side of a birch tree, then back to my shoulder nuzzling in for a few minutes.  I feel so priviledged to be offered these little cuddles by this beautiful, free Eastern Bluebird fledgling. Once cuddle time was over (way too quickly in my opinion, lol) Sammy flew into what has seems to have become his favourite beech tree beside the laneway and settled himself in for the night.

August 4, 2014

Another "typical" day in the life of Sammy. He had a good bath, visited us several times and sat on our heads or arms throughout the day. I tossed him some medium sized grey grasshoppers and a beetle, as well as his usual supplement of mealworms were in his dish.

In for some of his beloved mealworms

I watched him pursue a moth in the air, but couldn't tell if he caught it...he's just too fast for me sometimes!

Sammy chose the laneway beech tree to roost in for the night, in the exact same spot as the last few nights. It's a safe looking spot and he tucks himself in under the leaves from the little branch directly above his perch.

August 5, 2014

Two of my grand-daughters are here for the week - Audrina, age 5 and Jaelyn, age 2 & 1/2.  They simply love seeing Sammy come flying in and enjoy checking out the trees to try to find him.

One of Sammy's favourite perching spots is on his own personal "hydro lines" -
one of 3 ropes my husband hung between our trees for him.

He has landed on them a couple of times, which simply amazes them and their little faces light up like the sun! Once, our Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise cross dog, Brandy, ran over to near where Sammy was and he immediately flew up from the ground and onto Audrina's head.  I'll say it again, this is one smart little fellow...he knew to fly to safety out of Brandy's reach!  I'm pretty sure Brandy wouldn't hurt Sammy, but we keep a close watch on where our dogs are when Sammy is about or put them back inside until he heads off on one of his exploratory adventures.

We have 3 little dogs, 2 are Shih Tzu/Bichon Frise crosses - Brandy and Ginger and a tiny little Maltese/Yorkie cross, Mocha who is only just over 6 pounds.  I think they felt left out and ignored somewhat while I was still raising and caring for Sammy in the house, even though they get tons of love and are a little bit spoiled, lol.

Once again, Sammy slept in the same spot in the same beech tree by the laneway.  He seems to be a creature of habit.

Today Sammy is 56-57 days old and continues to amaze us.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

This Is MY Yard

Eastern Bluebirds seem to be early risers, just like their "cousins" the American Robin, both in the Thrush family.  Sammy was up bright and early yesterday morning waiting to greet Frank when he went outside with his morning coffee and a dish of mealworms for his buddy.  He was quite hungry and gobbled up about 14 mealworms in two short-spaced visits.  He was back 3 more times that I know of in the morning, eating another 15 or so mealworms and 3 moths I had caught for him.

Having an early breakfast

I've moved his dish to a hanger on one of the front porch posts so the other songbirds don't eat his food on him.  He comes under the porch to visit us often, so I think it will be a good place for it.

It's been quite interesting watching Sammy hunt.  He first locates a bug from a perch with his excellent eyesight, turning his head sideways staring intently at it, then quickly dives to the ground to capture it.  Sometimes his prey is consumed on the ground, other times he returns to the same perching spot and eats it up there.  Larger prey, such as beetles, grasshoppers and crickets, he smashes against the ground or a branch over and over again before he finally eats it.  The eyesight of Eastern Bluebirds is excellent and they can spot small prey from more than 60 feet away!

Scanning the ground for prey

Feather development is continuing..we can see the changes almost daily. The blue on his shoulders is becoming more pronounced, as well as the russet on his sides.  Only the edges of his beak near his face are still soft and yellow, as his beak is hardening and turning black.

Notice the blue on his shoulder, russet coming through on his sides
and just the corners of his beak remain soft & yellow

Throughout the day we hear Sammy's soft, low-pitched call and it is a beautiful, almost haunting sound. Sometimes I'm sure he's calling for us to locate him as he would have done with his parents in the wild.  He may also be calling trying to locate other Eastern Bluebirds, as this call is also sung for that purpose.

Another sign of Sammy's continued development is his territorial behaviour of protecting his yard. During breeding season, Eastern Bluebirds continually defend their feeding grounds from other birds, including other bluebirds, and sometimes this continues on into winter.  Sammy obviously isn't mature enough to be considering breeding, but he is definitely starting to show signs of being a strong, defensive bluebird.

Flying down to claim one of the seed feeders
Sammy trying a peanut..which he spit out

We have a juvenile Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker that frequents the trees in our front yard and today, Sammy chased the youngster into the woods out of "his" yard.

The cute juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker Sammy chased

An adult male American Goldfinch, who was eating at one of our seed feeders, was also run out of town by Sammy.  After he was done chasing it away, he perched on the feeder pole for a couple of minutes like he was the king of his domain. He is so comical to watch, constantly putting smiles on our faces and making us laugh.

Bathing seems to be one of Sammy's passions that he gets right in to.  He seems to have developed a little habit or ritual to his bathing.  He starts with a really quick little bath, with only a few splashes before he flies off to a perch to preen a bit.  Then he comes back to the bath and gets himself totally soaked, dunking his head and breast repeatedly into the water while shaking his head back and forth. Sometimes he spreads his tail out while fluttering his wings getting himself drenched.  Some of his baths last for well over a minute and even longer, like a little kid who doesn't want to get out of the tub! Here's a quick video of him splashing about, with my 2 year old grand-daughter, Jaelyn, talking in the background!

After his bath, Sammy flies up to a perch in the beech tree that seems have become a favourite spot to do his preening.

Male Eastern Bluebird fledgling preening after a bath
Preening after his bath

In this next quick video, Sammy is meticulously preening after his bath!

Forming habits seems to a trait of his, as he slept the last two nights in the same place again...on a sheltered branch of the driveway beech tree.  Looks like a good safe spot to me, it's really hard to see him once he gets himself settled in.

Today Sammy is 53-54 days old and doing splendidly!