It’s been a while since I’ve posted because I’ve been so busy lately! On either May 22nd or early May 23rd, the Black-capped Chickadees in my nest box fledged. There were either 2 or 3 nestlings based on my observations on May 22nd.
On the 22nd, I watched both parents feed at the entry hole every 5 minutes or so and often fly off with fecal packets. Between parental visits, one nestling, noticeable as a nestling by its fleshy gape, kept sticking its head out of the hole of the nest box and looking around as if it was ready to jump out at any minute.
When I checked the next morning, the birds were gone. Next year I’ll try and rig up the nest box camera to see if I can’t capture the whole show. Since the box I’m using is pretty small, I may need to develop a false roof to attach the camera.
Jackson Reservoir, for which Jackson Lake State Park was named, was created over 100 years ago in 1901 and 1902 to serve as a place to store water for irrigation. The lake sits in the middle of farm country out on the plains. It wasn’t until 1965 that Jackson Lake was designated a Colorado State Park. Now, in addition to providing a thirsty area with water, it serves as a draw for boaters, waterskiers, swimmers, and birders. The lake is regularly stocked for fishermen with species such as rainbow trout, large and small-mouth bass, and walleye.
Jackson Lake comes alive in the spring. In addition to the aforementioned human users, the park is an oasis for shorebirds and waterfowl as well as a draw for songbirds. My last trip, though early in the season, was filled with birdsong. I primarily saw and heard American Robins, but the highlight was the mass of Cedar Waxwings giving off their shrill whistles among the Russian olive. Impossible to glimpse, but with their outsize voices on full display, western chorus frogs were also trilling in low-lying swampy areas beside the beach.
Jackson Lake boasts 260 campsites and 3,303 acres for recreation. In addition to watersports, there is an off-road vehicle track for dirt bikes and atvs, a volleyball court, and several trails for hiking. The park even maintains a couple of geocaches.
Admission to the park is $7 a day or $70 for an annual parks pass that admits you to all Colorado State Parks for the year. Senior Aspen Leaf annual passes are $60 if you are 64 or over. Information on camping costs and facility or vehicle rental (jet skis, boats) fees are available on the park website.
When I went, the park wasn’t very busy, but I suspect now that the weather is warm and school is nearly out, that’ll change so you may want to visit sooner rather than later!
On March 29th, I finally got around to putting up the chickadee nest box I bought last year. Like with my flicker box, I targeted the Black-capped Chickadee as a potential yard tenant based on the fact I had a handful of them already hanging around and eating from my bird feeder. Well, on March 30th, I noticed a chickadee going in and out of the box and on April 6th, the pair already had a complete nest!
There are 7 chickadee species in North America and all are cavity-nesters. When I lived in Virginia, my backyard chickadee was the Carolina Chickadee, which tends to have a more southerly range than the Black-capped Chickadees I now encounter. Like the Northern Flicker, the Black-capped Chickadee will readily use a nest box. Of course, the chickadee is much smaller than the flicker, so it needs a smaller box. A good idea to keep birds like European Starlings and, especially, House Sparrows, away, is to buy or make a box with an entry hole too small for those birds to enter. I bought a hole guard made of metal to screw over the entry hole. The guard is 1 1/8 inches in diameter, which is perfect for the chickadees to squeeze through, but too small for those other bully birds.
Also unlike the Northern Flicker, which lays her eggs directly in the wood chips at the bottom of the cavity she’s chosen, the Black-capped Chickadee will build a nest inside her cavity of choice on top of the wood chips. The female constructs the nest using mosses, evergreen needles, bark, and other coarse materials as a base, which she then lines with softer material like animal fur and plant fibers like milkweed fluff. Only the female chickadee incubates the eggs.
Because I didn’t realize the chickadees would be so quick to start nesting, I didn’t get a nest camera installed beforehand, but I’m planning on putting one up next year. In the meantime, I’ll try to document the nest attempt as best I can. Chickadees are more sensitive to monitoring than bluebirds, so I probably won’t be checking the box too frequently lest I cause them to abandon it.
On the ground info about Colorado nature and wildlife.