By Anita B. Crisp, Palmyra, NE
Little did we know the joy that we would experience from two bluebirds that we named Ebert and Ellie. We were approached about membership into BAN and then asked if we were interested in purchasing a couple of bluebird boxes to monitor the nesting. We weren’t prepared for emotions that we would feel for these two little birds and their families.
When spring arrived we put up our boxes and waited. We have a large picture window that faces our front lawn so one of the boxes was strategically placed so that we could monitor any activity from the living room. With two sets of binoculars (his & hers) on the lamp stand at all times we could sit and watch…and wait. We waited and waited and finally my husband, Joe, spotted a bird we had never seen before sitting on the box. We were aware of their songs, flight patterns and colors so we knew that one of our boxes had attracted a bluebird. As we watched the male bluebird check the box he was joined by a female. We watched as they communicated and jointly agreed to build a nest in this box. We checked the nest frequently to watch the progress being made and then again we waited.
Soon Ellie blessed us with five little blue eggs. Again, we waited. As time passed the eggs hatched and we were able to monitor the feeding frenzy. We checked the box regularly and watched the little ones grow. Two days before they fledged, we opened the box and saw how much they had grown (there were four of them) and knew the time was close for them to leave home. When we got home from work on Friday we checked the nest and they were gone.
I can’t describe the emptiness we felt as we looked into the empty nest. Talk about the “empty nest” syndrome! We felt such a loss and just hoped that everyone was okay. Every once in a while Ebert would return to sit on the trellis or the top of the box. We would catch a glimpse of Ellie or one of the fledglings occasionally.
We so enjoyed the first brood that we hoped Ebert and Ellie would return again. We wanted to learn more about them and get “up close and personal” this time. We decided that the best way to do this was to try and video them. We went to Radio Shack and bought a surveillance camera. Joe built a special box to place it in to protect it from the elements. He then placed it a few feet from the bluebird box and ran a cable into the house and then into our TV. We could turn to a certain channel and watch their activity…LIVE!!
Again we waited. A few days passed and soon we noticed a lot of activity on top of the box…Ebert and Ellie were back! Ebert was desperately trying to convince Ellie that this box was the one to nest in. She was having nothing to do with that. We were able to watch them closely through the camera as they argued about where to build. We learned that they communicate a lot through body language especially their wings. Ellie was bound and determined that the other box was more conducive to nest in this time. It took a couple of days for a decision to be made, but Ebert won out. Of course, we were pleased with their decision. We could look out of the front window plus view them on video.
We watched as the nest was built and then Joe reconfigured the roof of the bluebird box so that the camera sat inside the top and we could see the inside of the box. Ellie knew something was different. We held our breath as she would enter the nest, settle down and then immediately look up. She came and went several times, but finally concluded that what was in the roof wasn’t going to harm her.
We were able to watch as she laid each egg (five total) and kept them warm by rotating them with her beak. We got into the habit of checking each evening before we went to bed to make sure that Ellie was in for the night and checked her first thing in the morning. We would set the video to run while we were working and then we would replay the video in the evening to see what progress had been made during the day. We were fortunate to see the eggs hatch and watch as Ellie picked away at the shell to help each bird break out and then eat the shells to keep the nest clean.
The eggs hatched and the little ones grew. We watched as their feathers grew and we learned to know the patterns of feeding. Ebert and Ellie were so diligent with their feedings. We continued to make sure Ellie was in every night and still there in the morning. You would have thought we were the parents!
As time passed the brood of five became a brood of four. We have yet to determine what happened to the fifth baby bird and what determines how many will occupy the nest. As the brood grew we were able to watch their progress as their restlessness to fl y became very apparent. We were able to watch as Ebert and Ellie enticed them with food outside the box and the little ones left the box one by one in flight. What a joy, mixed with sadness, to watch as they left their nest for a bigger world.
Again, we were faced with the “empty nest” syndrome. Ebert would return occasionally but we knew this time he would not return to build. The season was over and all we can hope for now is that next spring will bring “another season of joy.”
Originally printed in Bluebirds Across Nebraska Newsletter BANner Volume 11 Number 4 Winter 2004-05