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Nature Notes

Written by Tolly Beck
Tolly Beck is a horticulturist at Lasdon Park and Arboretum in Westchester County. She was formerly a horticulture educator for New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland, NY.


The Birds at Lasdon

Sixteen baby bluebirds were banded and fledged at Lasdon this summer, as part of Sandy Morrissey’s Eastern Bluebird Project. There were four more bluebirds that fledged, that were not banded. So the grand total of new fledglings this year at Lasdon is twenty. It was a difficult start to the nesting season for the bluebirds as well as other nesting birds as the weather remained cold for an extended time. The bluebirds were looking the nesting boxes over well before their chief competitors for the boxes, the tree swallows, arrived. There weren’t sufficient insects around, however, to feed themselves as well as their future nestlings.

Many of the bluebirds disappeared for a while as tree swallows took over nesting boxes. There were fewer tree swallow nests and then nest box monitors began to find dead tree swallows. Sandy who oversees all the monitors collected twenty-six dead tree swallows and six dead adult bluebirds and sent them to Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology for necropsies. No report has come back from the lab as yet. Fortunately, healthy bluebirds returned to Lasdon’s nest boxes as the insect population was growing. So although the nesting season was late, it turned out to be very successful.

On a visit to Lasdon these days you may find a few more bird feathers on the lawns, trails, and pathways. Many birds, especially those that migrate further south for winter, begin to molt shortly after their nesting season ends. During a molt, all (or many) of a bird’s feathers are gradually replaced with new ones. Their new feathers sometimes replace bright breeding plumage as well as worn feathers and better equip the birds for their winter migrations and provide increased warmth if they are year-round residents.

Many of our local birds do remain in the area. Cardinals, titmice, chickadees, woodpeckers, goldfinches and many of the bluebirds can be seen at Lasdon throughout the year.