Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Why we do nest checks

I don't pull chicks out of their nest just for photo ops.
Thank goodness Isabelle wanted to look at the tree swallows tonight. I knew they were near their fledging day, so I told her that this was the last time we would take a peek. And we got more than we bargained for.
MITES.
Lots of mites. As in crawling up both of my arms just by holding one chick.
(Following photos by Geoff Williams)

I took the chicks out and put them in the only bucket I could find...one of the girl's Halloween candy buckets. The whole family looked around for dry grass for the new nest.
I rinsed all the mites out of the gourd.

Five tree swallow chicks. I kept counting them...were there 6 before? I couldn't remember how many eggs there had been. As I was emptying the old nest far away from the pole, I found number 6... it had been dead maybe a day or so. It was at the same level of development as the others, but smaller. No picture...it was too sad.


I put the new nesting material in the gourd as the girls kept watch over the bucket.

Here you can see the little black mites on the outside of the gourd.

The girls and I take one last look at our babies before placing them back in the nest.

In a wilder setting, maybe these chicks would have made it without intervention. And maybe not. As long as we put up nest boxes, we also are putting ourselves to the responsibility of intervening when needed. Obviously the smallest chick would succumb to mites first, but I'm not willing (or able) to sit back and see if the rest could survive.

After getting the nest raised, I hustled to the house, threw my clothes into the washer and took the hottest shower I could stand.

It's been about 2 hours and I'm still itchy.


6 comments:

LauraHinNJ said...

Eeewwwwww!

That happened to me once when I was cleaning out a failed nest of house wrens.

I ran screaming through the yard when I realized what was crawling all over me. I'm sure I looked like a maniac.

Hope they'll be okay. Your daughters are just too adorable (and such good little tree swallow stewards)!

Endment said...

So --- are there things we can do to prevent this problem?

Blog Central said...

We demand an explanation, why was this post not titled: Out of My Gourd.

We've been out of ours for some time now.

We are so very glad you asked said...

As always, we're here to help you.

Want to know how to keep from being bothered by mites? I'm glad you asked.

We here at the Help Desk have been using RAID Under Arm Deodorant for several months now. Not a single mite has come near us (no, not any married mites either). Actually, I can't recall anyone coming near us since we switched to RAID!?!

Susan Gets Native said...

Laura:
Imagining you running and screaming actually made me laugh out loud.

Endment: Not much can be done about nest mites...except change the nesting material like I did. Pesticides would kill the babies and the parents.

It was sooooo gross! I tried to maintain a professional attitude, but if you look closely at the photos, I have a somewhat disgusted look on my face. That's the face of barely concealed revulsion.

MojoMan said...

This is very educational. I never knew mites were such a threat to the life of young birds.