Cavity nesting birds are doing well, for the most part. Weather has been cooperative, and the insect population is up. Cicadas are a good food for the adult martins, but too big for the babies or for swallows and bluebirds, I would imagine.
The 4 Tree Swallow nestlings are 14 days old and hanging out of the front door, taking their first look at the world. I approach cautiously and don't get too close, for fear of spooking them out of their safe home too soon. They will fledge sometime this week.
The 3 Eastern Bluebirds are 8 days old today. This isn't the greatest photo of a bluebird nestling, but you do get a good look at the emerging feathers.
Several Purple Martin nests have hatched in the last 2 days. I currently have 19 young between the ages of 1 day and 12 days old, and 32 eggs. Here is a look into Gourd #21, which contains 5 newly hatched martins.
Adult Purple Martins are 8 inches long. The chicks come out of an egg smaller than a quarter, and have to reach their adult size in one month. Here is a photo of two halves of an egg from the hatchlings in #21.
It is rare that I find the shells, and especially rare to find both halves of one, as the adults usually either eat the shells for the calcium they contain, or discard them far away to discourage predators.
On the down side, I seem to be having more egg losses than normal. I had 1 infertile egg in the Tree Swallow nest and 2 bad eggs in the bluebird nest, one that she rejected and one that didn't hatch. Among the Purple Martins, egg losses are always higher than with my other cavity nesters, but I think this year is worse than last. I have lost at least 12 eggs to date - 5 pecked by House Sparrows and 7 to damage, infertility, or eggs that were lost (I think) during high winds in a thunderstorm.
This is my first attempt at uploading video. I thought you might like to experience a bit of what I go through during a nest check. This is about 65 seconds of me standing under the gourd rack after a nest check. I have just raised it, and the adult birds are returning to their homes. [Please ignore the paint peeling from my natural gourds. I put off doing my cleaning and repainting chores until it was too late.]
Unfortunately, I didn't capture the times when I was dive-bombed by martins. If you have ever been dive-bombed by a Tree Swallow, multiply the effect times 10 and you can begin to appreciate what it feels like to have an 8 inch martin swooping toward you at what seems like 90 miles a hour. The final "SQUAWK!" as the bird pulls up only centimeters from your head is enough to make you shiver. Imagine what it must be like to be a bird and have a peregrine diving toward you!