Western Bluebirds in my Backyard

February 02, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

A couple of disclaimers: First, I am not a Western Bluebird (or any kind of bird) expert. Second, I am not an expert bird photographer.


Male Western Bluebird at my home made fountain/birdbath.

Everything I think I know about Western Bluebirds, I learned from the internet. I highly recommend the California Bluebird Recovery Program website, especially this page that discusses food and water for Bluebirds. I also recommend the Southern California Bluebird Club website. Other great resources include the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Wikipedia.


As far as bird photography, I can recommend the Bird Photography page from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Backyard Bird Photography page from Nature Photographers Online Magazine. Also, there are many, many great bird photographs on the internet if you want inspiration.


Ok. Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, let's get onto the topic of this blog. California has two kinds of Bluebirds. The Mountain Bluebird and the Western Bluebird. I have been fortunate to have a pair of Western Bluebirds visiting my home made backyard fountain/birdbath. Previously, I had photographed Western Bluebirds at Castaic Lagoon (part of Castaic Lake Recreation Area). When I found this pair visiting my backyard, I decided to see if I could photograph them at home.


First dilemma, if the birds don't regularly visit my backyard, I can't photograph them there. So how do I keep the birds visiting? I did some research and I found that a source of water is very important for Western Bluebirds. I found the birds drinking from my bird bath one day but I did not know if they were regular visitors. The sound of water attracts birds so I made sure that my home made fountain/birdbath was 'noisy'.


Home Made Fountain/Bird Bath


I also decided to try to encourage the Western Bluebirds to visit by offering mealworms. I bought a mealworm feeder with guard from Drs. Foster and Smith. Pricey but it turns out in my case to be worth. Keep reading. Before I bought the special feeder, I picked up some mealworms at my local pet store (buy the 'regular size') and put the worms out in a bird feeder I had laying around. A Black Phoebe found the worms and started regularly cruising the feeder for the mealworms. I realized that the Western Bluebirds would never get any worms if I did not do something. Internet to the rescue. Switching to the guarded mealworm feeder helped although I did see the Black Phoebe squeeze in and take a worm one day.


Second dilemma, when the Western Bluebirds do visit, I need to be present to snap the shutter. If I am present, the birds are likely not to be present. I solved that problem by using the Ameristep Doghouse Blind. I had purchased the blind a couple of years ago (probably the subject of another blog) but it has not had any use. Until now.


Ameristep Doghouse Blind and Home Made Fountain/Bath


Ok, so now I have water for the Western Bluebirds and food for the birds if they can find it (and will enter the cage to get the worms). I also have a blind so that I can get some pictures if (1) I am sitting in the blind when (2) they come get a drink. I say 'get a drink' because in the few times I have seen this pair of birds, I have never seen them bathe, only drink. Well I noticed that activity at the fountain/bath goes in cycles and I decided I would sit in the blind and get some pictures of the other birds that use the bath. Like the Yellow-rumped Warblers who regularly visit.

Yellow-rumped Warblers Bathing

So I was sitting in the blind waiting to photograph Yellow-rumped Warblers when the pair of Western Bluebirds appeared. I got a couple of pictures of the male and then he left and the female showed up. I got this picture of the male drinking water.

Male Western Bluebird

I got this picture of the female sitting on top of the shepherd's crook where I hang the Bluebird Feeder. It turns out the female has found the meal worms but I missed her actually inside the feeder.

Female Western Bluebird

Now that the female has found the worms, I think it is only a matter of time (and a little luck) before I get some pictures of these two birds eating in the feeder and bathing in the fountain/bird bath.

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