What have YOU seen?

Hey, all of you Stearns Mill Pond denizens and users, what have YOU seen on the pond or brook? Contribute your info - what great sightings, what birds, what animals, what sad things, what changes (good and bad), what wonderful moments have there been? Let's share what we know and love about our pond.
Live on the pond or brook?
Become an author on this blog; send me a message and I will add you to the official author list. Or, if you prefer, just click on the word "Comments" at the bottom of the entry to get a comment box up so you can add your sightings and thoughts. Email me pictures from our pond to post - I will credit them to you.
Click on the picture to see it in a larger format (all photos by D.Muffitt unless otherwise credited)

Sunday, May 20, 2018


Fledge Day has arrived!  May 20, 2018

Today is the nestlings' 15th day in the nest (robins usually fledge between 12-14 days), but yesterday, day 14, was really cold, 37˚ in the morning and never got above 59 - with rain. Smart to stay put. In general, these nestlings have not seemed as restless as last year's brood. 
Mama Robin with all four nestlings - fledge is tomorrow!
Although, there was some jostling in the overcrowded nest on pre-fledge day!
The blurry one (it was wiggling and I was using a handheld iPhone over my head!) with the wavy gape was the first to go.

Fledgling #1 left the nest at 6:34 AM: Like last year's birds, it was yelling all the way! (“Mom. Dad, I’m flying!!”) 
It was a very sudden departure, none of the wing flapping that we saw last year. Fledgling #1 was sitting outside of the nest, while the other three were hunkered down with their beaks on the edge of the nest (“No way I'm going!“).
Wavy-beak outside of the nest, sitting very quietly just before he flew
 Last year's first to fledge had quite a bit of bravado about it and then when it flew, it glided to the ground.  This one seemed more confident and collected, and when it took off, it was flying, not gliding!  It went straight out under the porch roof and then up to a branch on the hemlock, but it didn’t land (perhaps thinking, “Yikes! I don’t know how land!“).  Instead of landing, it glide it down into the rhododendrons, with an adult following close behind.

No adults are feeding the remaining three birds and they currently show no sign or interest in leaving.  It has been 45 minutes since #1 left and we haven't seen the parents at the nest at all.

#2 starts to get ready to go:

#2 getting ready!


6:23AM, #2 leaves the nest and fledges :
Mama came and fed the other two, not feeding the one on the right (below), who was about to leave the nest.  
Right after mama flew off the nest, #2 followed her.  

This one flew over Linda’s car and to a branch in a pine tree! Mama came and joined the fledgling on the branch, encouraging it to fly down to the ground. Both adult and fledgling hopped around the ground, with the adult leading the fledgling somewhere to safety. 
The other two nestlings, having been fed and their fecal sacks taken, hunkered back down into the nest.

As of 10AM, they remaining two were content to stay put although one was showing some interest in departure. 


 The other nestling is the lump of feathers in the nest (right)!  For a long time, I thought the one standing was the last bird in the nest!

It is now 11:45AM and there are still two birds in the nest.  More later...

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


There is a lot of life around here this spring!  We are usually gone for these weeks and we and miss it, but this year we feel like we are right in the middle of everything!  

FOUR great-blue herons flew overhead this morning as I was walking the dog.

Yesterday afternoon on our walk, I had just crossed the brook on Moore Road and there was this VERY CLOSE, and VERY LOUD, shrieking "GRAAACK", right over my shoulder!  I am not particularly jumpy, but I jumped at this!  My first thought was, "Fisher in the tree?"  But it was a great-blue heron chasing a red-tailed hawk!!!  I wonder if there are nests back in those wetlands and the hawk was after the heron nestlings!  Gotta check it out. 

The house wrens are very busy moving more twigs into the nest box.  I was puzzled because it also seemed that there was a fledgling around, asking for food (smaller than the adults, some fuzzy down-like feathers, inside of mouth still a bit red).  I did some research and read that house wrens frequently have more than one clutch and sometimes while dad house wren is feeding the fledglings, mom runs off with another male!  Then dad finds another mate and they refurbish the nest.  I guess this could be the scenario... they haven't confided in me.


 AND, on Sunday we spotted a grey catbird nest in the Rhododendron bush right under our window - perfect viewing place!  Very hidden - can you find the nest in the bush below??
(It is right smack in the middle of the bush, 
just below and left of the yellow leaf.)

Monday morning we spotted one, gorgeous blue egg!  

Tuesday morning, I checked as soon as it was light enough so that I could see into the nest and there were two eggs, but one was blueish-white with brown spots!  A brown-headed cowbird egg.  We have seen a lot of cowbird activity around here this fall.

I checked again around 6:30 and there was another blue egg - you can see that it is still damp from just being laid!  The nest is very deep and it is hard to see any eggs that are close to the edge - I believe the other blue one is just out of sight, perhaps behind that leaf.

Grey Cat-bird egg (left) and Brown-headed Cowbird egg
The catbirds are among the birds who can tell when there is an egg that isn't their own and by later in the morning, the cowbird egg was no longer visible.   Most likely mama catbird rolled it out of the nest.  We couldn't find it on the ground, but on the other hand, the way the ticks are this year, we were NOT interested in crawling around under the bush! 

This morning (Wednesday), by 7:30 there were three blue eggs and no sign of the cowbird egg.  

For those of you who don't know, brown-headed cowbirds always drop their eggs in other bird's nests (possibly up to 30 from one female in a season).  The cowbird usually hatches before the host bird's eggs and is often bigger than the host bird nestlings, so it claims more food.  Often the host bird's nestlings don't thrive. 

But this mama catbird is quite happy on her nest!


Our robins are getting ready to fledge - should be this weekend!

 Otherwise, not much going on around here... 

Saturday, May 12, 2018


Mama Robin incubating four eggs

We left the robins' nest (see last post) on the porch light over the winter - partially laziness and partially curiosity.  On April 18th (2018), we noticed that the robins were refurbishing the nest!  Cool!  They didn't rebuild, they just brought in some new grass for the nest cup (as you will see, this turned out to be a problem...)

I am not keeping as much detail as last year, but there are definitely some interesting happenings in year two with the same Mama bird.
Below is the journal I've been keeping on my phone.  (Closeup pictures are fuzzy because they are taken with iPhone in rather low light - don't want to use flash in their eyes).

April 18
Robins renovating the old nest on the porch.
April 21
We didn’t see an egg in the morning, but mama Robin was on the nest most of the day. The next morning we did see an egg, so we are assuming it was laid on the 21st. 

April 22
Two eggs today, but not early this morning. We are thinking she is laying more mid morning. It has been cold for the last several days and low 40s at night.
April 23
Only two eggs in the morning, but when I looked at two this afternoon, there were three beautiful eggs. I haven’t seen mamma on the nest much today though, but she is there now, 7:29PM

Ap 24
We now have four eggs in the nest, as of afternoon of the 24th (above). We are waiting with bated breath to see if a fifth will be laid this afternoon, or if there will be just four. The nest was awfully full with four last year, but she could lay up to seven.
Ap 25
The nest keeps sliding around and almost falling off the light.  I put a piece of rubber drawer liner under it, but the mud they put there last year to anchor the nest to the light has dried up and is acting like little ball bearings under the nest and rubber piece.  The nest was really hanging off precariously yesterday.  Today I took a wet paper towel, lifted the nest and wiped off most of the loose dirt.  Leaving it wet (hoping it would make a sticky mud again), I put the nest back.  We'll see.
Ap 27
No more eggs have been laid, so four is it. Mama sits on the nest and is mostly not bothered by us. If startled, she flies off, but mostly she’s content to stay there even when we are on the porch. It must be the same bird as last year or it would be more shy of us. The first egg could hatch as early as Thursday next week, May 3. According to the book, it takes 12 to 14 days.
May 3:
No hatching yet; this is the first day that the eggs could have started hatching. Mama is very attentive and doesn’t mind us being around.
May 4
No hatching as of 7:15 in the morning. 
Still four eggs, no hatching yet. 6:45 PM.  But good news - the nest isn't sliding!
May 5
This morning (day 14 after the first egg was laid), 7:20 AM, two eggs have hatched, one looks like it is just hatched! Papa Robin came and delivered worm to mama which she then fed to the hatchling. 
NOTICE in the picture - the top nestling has some downy feathers (hatched a few hours before).
The bottom one has just hatched! It is still between the egg shells and the parent bird usually
removes the egg shells immediately.  Also, the just hatched bird still has pieces of egg shell on its rear.

May 6
Three eggs have hatched this morning. It’s a dark drizzly morning, so difficult to get a clear picture.
As of last night, all four eggs had hatched. One nestling was cheeping and gaping.
May 8
Mama is dutifully keeping the nestlings warm on this cold morning (41.5°). Papa brought some food, and mama flew off; I saw two beaks peeking up over the edge of the nest as papa was feeding them.
They are starting to look like little birds. Look at those little wings!  Eyes are still closed (the big black things above the beaks are their eyes.

May 9
Parents back and forth with food!

May 10
This morning there is a little beak sticking up over the edge of the nest, chin resting on the nest. Amazing that these little blobs with a tiny bit of down will be flying in a bit over a week.

May 12 
Yikes!  there are feathers on these birds!  Starting to look like robins, well... if you have a good imagination. Eyes are open now, too.

So, some time in about a week, we should have a fledging!  Hmmm... seems like last year fledge day was also on a Saturday when we were at yoga class!  Harumph!  Maybe they will hold off one day.
Also, good news - the nest no longer slides at all!  It has been stable even with both parents landing on it and pushing off from it!  Yay!  It is always a tough call as to whether or not to mess with nature.  Mostly I err on the side of not doing anything, but am glad I did this time!

Friday, July 28, 2017


July 10, 2017, 7:09 AM.  The last robin leaves the nest.  Above is the final picture taken of this little guy, the "runt" of the nest.  Two of its siblings left in the middle of the afternoon the day before and number 3 left an hour before this picture was taken.  

The robins started nesting on top of the light on our porch around June 7th or so.  A pair nested on the other porch light several years back.  It is a safe place, safe from predators and weather.  (Other robins around our house haven't fared as well: last year the nest was in the dogwood tree and blew out in a storm.  A few years before that, there was one in the bush next to the porch and the nestling and unhatched egg got eaten.)  This nest was as safe as possible.

**The following pictures are not the best quality, because the porch is covered and shady and I didn't want to use flash in the nestlings eyes.  Also, many were taken standing wobbling on a stool, holding my iPhone above my head!**

June 13, three eggs in the nest:                        June 14, four eggs in the nest!

Mama incubating the eggs.

Incubation happens for about 12-14 days for the robins, so we anticipated the hatching could begin as early as June 23.  Meanwhile, the parents got used to us being on the porch, as we always spend time every morning watching the world go by from our perch on the porch!  Papa yelled at us sometimes, but usually mama would stay on the nest when we came out.

As predicted, the eggs started hatching on June 24, 13 days from the last egg laid.  Three of them hatched that first day!

June 25, in the morning
The egg shells had been removed and 
there was one egg left, still unhatched.

By afternoon on June 25, there were four hungry nestlings!  
Little blobs of protoplasm...  
(After this pictures, I stopped using flash picture for fear of injuring their eyes.)

June 26 the blobs of protoplasm seemed to be all eyes and beaks!

June 27
I tried shining a light above the nest, but decided that probably wasn't a good idea, either.  We'll just have to live with the dark pictures.  I don't want to upset the parents (who were being very good about me around the nest!). At this point, we weren't sure if we had three or four nestlings.  
We were concerned about the survival of number four. 

Noontime on June 28th
Big changes from the day before. Notice the beginnings of feather shafts on the "wings".  In a few days, feathers would grow out of the shafts.  These birds have to be ready to "fly" and leave the nest in 10 days!

June 29 
The changes seem to happen rapidly.  But, we still don't know if there are three or four birds in the nest.  Hard to separate them out.

Three?  Four?  Still mostly eyes and beaks.  Feathers obvious down each bird's back, and more down on their heads. (June 29)

June 30

Papa isn't sure about my presence...


July 1
Morning: eyes still closed.  Getting bigger!

Getting more downy.  Look closely and you can see a slit in the eyelid. 
This is an afternoon shot on July 1; they seem bigger than in the morning.

July 2 (AM)
Four hungry mouths

Eyes open and wing feathers on the lower left nestling!  
Sure are ugly!  

"The Mouth"

 Look at that wing!  (No clue which bird is attached to it!)

July 3
 Crowded nest...

July 5
Big change in two days.  Look at that wing!!

They are starting to look like birds.
 And getting big! But they have to be ready to fledge in four days!

July 5, around noon
Much more movement and restlessness.

Notice that there is still a lot of bare, red skin, 
even though we are seeing more feathers

At rest
 Amazing that they can still fit into this nest.

July 6
The middle bird is the first hatched (I think).  Notice how different it looks
compared to the left bird (who is probably the last hatched).
The bird on the right has its eyes closed.

July 7
When a parent arrives with food, s/he stands on the edge of the nest, feeds one bird, then waits for that bird to offer its rear end and expel a fecal sac. (Instead of making a mess all over the nest, the nestlings' excrement is contained in a small white "fecal sac".  A lot easier than diapers...)  The parent bird takes the fecal sac and either eats it, or drops it somewhere away from the nest (probably on our cars).  

In the sequence below we see the parent bird arriving and in the second shot waiting (the nestlings are calm as they know there is no more food right now).  In the third picture, the parent is taking the fecal sac and the fourth shows the nestling's anus returning to normal.

July 8
Food is coming!

Who gets the worm??  Look at those spotted breasts!

Sorry!  All gone.

The Big Guy is getting ready to leave the nest!

July 9
Morning: Parents visit nest.  They have been doing a lot of encouragement from the railing or the top of the ladder (which is why we put it there - there are no branches available at this nest site!)

This one has been restless and seems ready to go...

"Go away and leave me alone!!!!!"

We did... later that afternoon, Linda had been on the porch watching, came in and 10 minutes later I went out.  In that 10 minutes two of them flew and only these two were left in the nest!

A parent on the railing

Number 3 is getting ready to go, but it won't happen until tomorrow

July 10
We came out onto the porch early in the morning and the two remaining nestlings were restless.  We sat down, turned to look at the nest, when suddenly a blur of feathers flew past us, yelling all the way.  We thought it was a parent bird, perhaps annoyed that we were there, but no, it was number 3!!!
We have always read that the robins tend to jump out of the nest and glide to the ground, but not this little show-off!  It was like it was yelling, 
"Look at me!  Look at me!!  I'm flying!!!"

Now there is only one left.  It took another hour for this one to get up the courage to go, and when it did, it was a jump and glide descent to the bushes.

We had hoped that we would see the parents and fledglings looking for bugs and worms in the yard, but we never did.

The nesting process is messy, but fun to watch!!

It was funny, for the next few days, every time we went out onto the porch, we were looking to see if the babies were there.  Empty nest syndrome, I guess.

I have some great video clips of the last day, but haven't had time to edit them  into a decent video, but when I do, I will post that in a separate posting.

Happy birding!