Black-headed Grosbeaks new parents this a.m: Mammoth

Observers: Donna & Bob Willey
Date: 06/17/2007
Time: 07:35 PM -0400

Well, I haven't posted for awhile ... and this post is not on the Mammoth creek dippers (but they are doing well and continue with their 2nd brood)... Today, I was astonished to capture on camera what looks like several bald-headed black-headed grosbeak chicks (BHGR). I must give you just a bit of history on this pair of BHGR's. Last summer (or late spring) I had found the BHGR nest just as their chicks had fledged. As you know the BHGR's build a rather flimsy nest and in this area it is built out of pine needles. However, it is not so flimsy ... for their old nest made it through our winter and still sits where they placed it last year. Well, this year I believe the same pair came back to nest and chose another top of a small aspen to nest in some 15 yds. from their old nest. I remember the day clearly when I spotted the two in the forest surrounding the creek. Perhaps 6-8 wks. ago. I searched for, and found their nest 10 days ago. I knew they had been nesting awhile when I had found it, but I have not kept detailed field notes (unfortunately) so I could not calculate how far along the eggs were. They chose a much better aspen this time around; far more concealed than last year. I found them almost accidentally while I was watching courtship rituals of 2 house wrens that have chosen a cavity nest spot within 10 feet of the BHGR nest site. The BHGR's have chosen a small aspen and built their nest at the very top, which is broken off. The aspen tree they chose has canopy cover from other larger aspen & is situated on a slope above the creek. The ground cover is Wood's rose and other bushes; nearer the creek are willows and alder. Many old dead aspen lay rotting out on the forest floor. Above us, north of the trail is the coniferous forest, mostly Jeffries. The interesting thing about the BHGR's is the way they share incubation duties. The parent bird sitting on the nest will begin to warble and then pretty soon they will switch places and the other parent bird will come in and nest sit. They do this several times in one hour during my observation time. It has been a difficult nest to photograph d/t all the heavy aspen foliage but I finally found a very good observation site. I will send 2 photos, one of the female & one of the male at the nest site and you can just barely make out what looks like bald BHGR chicks' heads and maybe beaks...