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Archive for July, 2008

Floundering Fledgling

Phil and I were putting together some new outdoor rocking chairs in the lawn when I heard a noise in the lawn behind me. I turned around to find a baby bird, although alive for a change!

This little bird had feathers and was hopping around rather awkwardly and chirping.

Baby bird

Baby bird

While observing the bird and trying to decide a course of action, Phil spotted a mourning dove, perched on the lines above our fence. Could this be a parent, watching over the youngster from a safe distance?

Mama bird

Adult bird

By pure chance, I had recently read a couple of things about finding baby birds on the ground.

Number one, I knew that it was a myth that one ought not touch a baby bird because the mother will reject it if it smells like humans. I had read that it is better to scoop it up and put it back in its nest.

But I didn’t know where the nest was.

Plus, I remembered something about fledglings. Fledglings are young birds that have just gotten their feathers and are about ready to fly. They can hop around. This seemed to fit the description of my little friend.  It seems that one should NOT try to put a fledgling back in its nest (even if I knew where it was).  And the fact that we had spotted a possible parent so nearby made me think that the best thing to do would be to take the dog inside and let her swoop in and save the day. I don’t know how, but that’s what I thought.

According to a bit of research, I think I did the right thing. The tricky part is deciding if it was, indeed, feathered.  It looks a bit fuzzy about the face. I also don’t know if the young bird is the offspring of the adult or not. It’s hard to tell from the photograph. The more I study it, the less the youngster looks like a mourning dove to me.

We had to leave the house shortly afterwards, and both adult and baby were not to be found when we returned that night.

Here’s a bit about the mourning dove. Factoids of note include:

  • Mourning doves have the longest breeding season of all North American birds.
  • Both male and female mourning doves share in incubating and feeding their young.
  • When young mourning doves tap on their parent’s bills it stimulates regurgitation of crop milk, produced by both male and female parents, and the sole source of food in the babies’ first 3-4 days.
  • Adult mourning doves usually live to about 1.5 years old in the wild, but can live up to 19 years.
  • During migration these birds may fly over 1000 miles to reach their winter resting spot.
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Bee problem

As any reader can glean from other posts, a “bee problem” in our house means that we’re concerned about our honey bee colony, discovered living in the Big Tree.

Our bees swarmed in mid-June with little additional fanfare. (See other posts link, above.) They moved on quickly, left some bees behind in the Big Tree, and all returned to normal. Except that maybe it didn’t.

The bees swarmed again. So late in June that the incident, reaching epic proportions, actually stretched into July.

On Day One of the Bee Exodus, we noticed five different groups of bees just feet from the original hive in the Big Tree. I thought it odd that they would swarm again. I was worried that they were swarming not because of overpopulation but because of a disease or perhaps some other problem in the Big Tree.

Five Groups

Five Groups

The following video shows the groups of bees and pans to the hole in the Big Tree where the original colony resides. Hopefully you can get an idea of the short distance they had traveled.

The next video shows three of the groups, and gives an idea of the amount of activity surrounding the swarms.

On Day Two, the bees had made one larger swarm instead of the smaller groups.

One Group

One Group

Here’s a video showing the swarm on Day Two, blowing in a pretty good wind but holding on tight!

On Day Three, July 1, the bees moved to the nearby apple trees and started dropping like flies. (A swarm in July isn’t worth a fly!) I was really concerned. Why hadn’t they found a new place to live yet? Would they all die?

In the apple tree

In the apple tree

Dropping like flies.

Dropping like flies.

Dead bee

Dead bee

On Day Four, the death rate seemed to plummet but the bees were still in the apple tree.  I called the Boulder County Beekeepers’ Association. The nice man I spoke with calmed me down. It is normal for a colony to swarm several times in a season, and in fact it was good news because it meant that the bees were doing well enough to split many times. He said that since the bees fill up on honey, they can usually survive three or four days before they have to find a new place to live. I explained that it had already been four days, and I didn’t know if I could do anything to help them in any way. He gave me the names of some beekeepers who would probably like a free swarm.

I thought, well, at least the bees would have a good home! But I waited one more day.

On Day Five, the bees were gone. That is, except for about dozen who seemed quite attached to the apple tree. I couldn’t quite tell what they were doing there, but Phil and I could see a few bees in the same spot for many days afterwards.

There are still bees in the Big Tree. All’s well that ends well. Whew!

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