Recently I met my friend in Area One. We planned to tag the boxes in the main field.
We started our trek by stopping at the Chickadee nest box. If you didn't catch my recent update about Area One, I was pretty stoked that we had this bird species using a nest box. They had 7 eggs and 4 already hatched. We tagged the nest box and had a peek inside. I was hoping to see all 7 little ones now hatched. To my shock, all were gone except one egg, which was lost in the mossy material. What happened?
We can only guess. Raccoon? Red Squirrel? Chipmunk? We will never know for certain. The pole was greased so whoever it was, had determination to get to the nest. We looked for signs of greasy paw prints on the box but none were to be seen. Weird. I should have taken a couple photos with my phone but didn't. I think I was too in shock and upset at this discovery. I made my notes. My friend closed up the door. We talked briefly about this and then carried on.
That's the thing with monitoring nest boxes, or watching anything to do with nature, it's harsh out there and things happen. It's a constant fight for survival with all animals, and most often there is always something bigger and hungry they have to be on the look out for. I know this. I accept this. It was a defeating moment nonetheless.
A few days later I returned. I cleaned out the box. That last egg had since become a snack to some creature as it was broken open now.
I attached a metal ring to the entry hole, this would reduce the size of the hole to allow a Chickadee getting in, but not a bigger bird. It may also deter some mammals too. I probably should have done this ASAP instead of days later. I don't live that close to Area One where I can go back and forth as much as I would like with my spare time. I'm not faulting myself here but I can't help but feel a little bad about what happened. There is some responsibility to putting up nest boxes. One of the reasons I do a nest blog is to help educate others. It's surprising to me how many are following my nest blog. I've met a number of new people this Spring who talk to me about it almost immediately. I have much to learn still, finer details which I may share in time. It's cool that maybe a few followers will learn from me and with me throughout.
Lastly, this box is one of a couple that did not have a screw locking the access door in place. It was only a bent nail one could slide back and forth. I put a screw in. I don't think that had anything to do with what happened but it's always been a bother to me, knowing anyone could easily open these boxes and peek inside (or do who knows what). I've since done this to a couple other boxes I monitor.
I highly doubt the Chickadees will come back and try again. We can hope. If nothing else, it will be ready for another pair, another year. We were more than happy to give up this box for them. We may add a couple new boxes more suiting for Chickadees than the Swallows next year.
A few years ago we had Black-capped Chickadees nest in a box in our backyard, actually it happened three times. I was lucky enough to be home the one morning when 5 young Chickadees fledged. It is something I will never forget. Even now as I key this last paragraph, I can see them coming out, I can hear them all. I blogged about it, and you can see it here if you have time for one more read.