“We take this all for granted,” Bills Simms asserted as he gestured to his ranch and the multitude of feeders behind the house. Twenty-nine Thursday Birders were gathered under the portal, anxious to receive an update on his bluebird boxes. His ranch is located 5.5 miles south of Chilili in the Manzano Mountains.
Out of his 47 boxes spread around the ranch, 38 were active. Thirty-three were occupied by Western Bluebirds, two with Mountain Bluebirds, and three by Ash-throated Flycatchers.
He explained that while the bluebirds line their nests with grass, the flycatchers use animal hair that they glean from the barbed wire fences of nearby cattle ranches.
“All of these species normally will nest twice during the season,” he stated. “It would appear,” he continued, “that they decide early in the season whether they will re-nest. This spring was very dry and therefore, we only had five second nests, even though the summer rains started early.”
He lost four nests to predators this year. He has been trying to reduce predator loss by installing the boxes on metal poles, rather than wooden posts. “Snakes can’t scale the poles like they can the wooden posts,” he clarified. “However, I can’t weasel-proof the boxes.”
Bill continues to check each of the 47 boxes weekly and records his findings on a spreadsheet, noting the status of nest-building, number of eggs laid and dates hatched and fledged. He has over 10 years of data.
As we listened to his update, Broad-tailed, Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds flew in and out from the feeders hanging from the portal beams. In the nearby junipers and pines we saw Lark Sparrow, Canyon Towhee and Juniper Titmouse.
“Falcon,” someone exclaimed, and we all scampered out from under the porch to get a look.
“It is a Peregrine,” Bonnie called out, “I can see its cheeks,”
And then we piled into the cars and headed down the road to Bonnie’s house for a potluck lunch. The show was all about her hummingbird feeders, which were hanging from both porches and from trees surrounding the patio. Broad-tailed, Rufous and Calliope Hummingbirds swarmed the feeders and kept us enthralled as we ate and visited.
“Oh, look,” I exclaimed. ” the magenta feathers in its gorget flare as it feeds. I never noticed that before.”
We all agreed it was the most spectacular display of hummingbirds any of us had seen all summer.