Thursday, February 5, 2015

"Bluebird Love"

Howdy Friends!
February is the time to start getting Bluebird nest boxes ready for the summer. Although in most parts of the country Bluebirds may, and often do hang around all year and use the nest boxes for nighttime huddling, as many as 6 or more snuggled in a box. February is when the males begin checking out and claiming boxes for the summer. Our daughter used to call those eager males the Bluebird real estate agents!
Bluebirds can and do bring real love and joy to us. There is an old saying they carry the blue of the sky on their wings. I like to say they have the magic to make every day, a Bluebird Day!

If you’ve never experienced the joy of Bluebirds nesting in a box you’ve put up for them, you’ve missed one of the sweetest treats a person can enjoy. They love their nest boxes and will reward you with much fun, tenderness and beauty. For over 20 years I had the pleasure of talking about on tours, and erecting and monitoring Bluebird Trails in PA State Parks when I served as a volunteer for the PA DEP. Oh the friends I made and the beautiful sights I saw. And the joy I had. That was some years ago, but her in VA I still maintain a Bluebird trail on our tiny spot of heaven.

Nothing much compares to the sweet sound of a male Bluebird singing his springtime tunes perched high on a branch or wire. Or the tender beauty of 5 little brand new naked babies snuggled in the nest box—or those same babies launching from the box a few weeks later on their first flight.

Friends, if you’ve never had the fun and thrills of welcoming Bluebirds into your world, I strongly encourage you to! It is really very simple. Nothing difficult or challenging about it.
There are really only a few basic guidelines that when followed will bring those sweet little beauties to you. The first bit of advice is, keep it simple. That’s important.

Now for the box, just a simple flat roofed box (about six inches tall and 4x6 size) with an inch and a half hole, no perch. Here is a picture of the plan I have used for over 35 years. Works like magic. I do recommend roughing up the inside of the front wall so the fledglings can get a toehold as they scurry up to launch. Also I make larger ventilation slots than the plan shows, just under the roof, on all four sides.
Click on picture to enlarge - This is all you need! One six foot 1x6 per box! Simple and inexpensive! I'll bet I've made close to 1,000 of these over the years!

Erect the boxes in wide open places at least 300 feet from woods, brush and buildings, on steel posts 4 to 6 feet from the ground. Closer to brush and buildings invite predators such as house sparrows and wrens, who will kill the mammas and babies on the nest.

If you are doing a trail, they need to be at least 350 feet apart—unless you also have Tree Swallows which are also a delight, then I recommend putting pairs of boxes. Two boxes about a foot apart every 350 feet. Tree Swallows and Bluebirds are great friends and Tree Swallows will defend both boxes.
4 little Bluebird eggs in a nest of grass
Monitor your boxes at least once a week. Keep a journal; you will delight in watching your broods grow! Yes it is okay to touch the eggs and nest, the Bluebirds don’t mind, and often sit right there with you. Best to do your monitoring early in the day, so your track is not there for predators to follow overnight. I once took part in a survey to monitor nest building and incubating and feeding and checked the boxes every hour in the daylight to record activity and nest construction. What a fascinating and learning time that was!
4 little babies about 5 days old. Look at those tiny blue feathers!
Clean your boxes after each batch of babies. You can usually count on 2 nests a year, but 3 is common and we’ve often had as many as 5! It takes about a week or 10 days to build the nest of soft grass or pine needles—though if in a hurry they will complete it a day or two! Another week to lay their 3 to 5 eggs, and about a week days to hatch. They will grow quickly and fledge in about 15 to 20 days. It can be great fun to sit and watch the busy parents feed their growing brood. I once placed a bowl of mealworms about 20 feet from the box and counted 50 trips to the box in half an hour!!

That’s about it. I hope you’ll give it try this year, you’ll love it. Takes little to no money, and the rewards are boundless! Feel free to ask me any questions and there are lots of books out there, and info on the internet ... But remember, “Keep it simple.”

You can find a wealth of information at THE BLUEBIRD SOCIETY OF PENNSYLVANIA  

I hope you’ll discover Bluebird love, if you haven’t already.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tom Named By Horse - Coming Soon -

Howdy Friends! ~ ... Tom let the horses stand where they were and ran into Red Cloud’s lodge. He found Buffalo Horn sitting with a weeping woman by a crushed and smoldering lodge. With no words, Tom handed him the scalp of the buffalo hunter. They allowed their eyes to meet, and while Tom could not understand what had happened in the village, he knew Buffalo Horn considered him a friend.

Tom walked, shrouded in worry and sadness, back to the horses, yanked the saddles and led them to the field where Sioux ponies grazed. He went in search of Soft Cloud. It was Soft Cloud who found Tom. ‘‘I need you to come to my mother’s lodge.’’... EXCERPT from Tom Named By Horse coming soon ~ I’ll keep you posted...Gitty Up, Dutch

Monday, February 2, 2015

"Edie Booth’s Tribute To Her Horse"

Howdy Friends,
Last week my friend Christine Cooper shared with me the tribute a friend of hers wrote of her horse. I was touched and thought I’d share with our Coffee Clutch friends. Our horses become more than partners, they become part of us. They make us better ... The author, owner, is Edie Booth of Antique Arabian Stud in Canton, TX, who along with her family has quite a legacy breeding desert bred Arabians. Her horse has achieved Legion of Supreme Honor in endurance from the Arabian Horse Association—Her fist sentence is what immediately grabbed my heart. ~ Gitty Up, Dutch

She was not my horse, but she let me ride, she loaned me her ability to fly... I was not smart enough or quick enough to do those mountain rides, much less if I were on my own with my two puny appendages called legs, which pale in comparison with the real legs... the legs of the conditioned superior equine athlete. She never thought much of me, but she took care of me. Perhaps my only importance to her was that I was her human's mother, and she was obliged to look after me with utmost care. At any rate she did that with only the slightest disdain for my mistakes... she almost always knew better

I knew how reliable she was, I knew her bit of arrogance, moving to the side to stride past the others who were turning the rough rocky uphill trail into baby steps of drudgery. She was so disgusted. (And they were so impressed.)

She was always responsible for any farm horse along for the ride, and sometimes had to shove youngsters into a creek bed or up a hill. She was responsible for all of us.
She was bold and courageous, but I never knew quite how fast until the end of the 50 at the Alamo ride. I had not asked her to run before, and when I did in that last 3 or so miles, it was unbelievable. I can feel it now. Me above that deep heart girth reaching, reaching so powerful. So strong. Fear gripped me when I saw ahead a couple on the dirt road who had come out to take pictures... not fear that she would hit them, but that they would cause her to leave the trail into the brush. I screamed, "Get off the road, Get off the road!" and they did in time and I have that fleeting vision of their faces frozen in astonishment for that brief moment, mouths agape, as we thundered past. So strong, and so courageous.... she would not have left her course. What an incredible privilege.

She was a 3000+ mile AERC mare, a war mare, descendent of only original Bedouin horses. Fly on AAS FAHD ALWALIDA+/, may you rest in peace. You were our queen.
Eddie and AAS FAHD ALWALIDA+/ followed by her son Thomas Booth on AAS AL SAKB+/  who is the son of AAS FAHD ALWALIDA+/

The "+/" behind her horses names is a Legion of Supreme Honor award that both the mare and her son achieved in endurance.