The house had been secured thirty feet up in a tall oak tree for years in the hopes a woodpecker pair would find it a safe haven. But it remained forever empty until the Great Crested Flycatchers nested in it.
We had mixed feelings as we observed the pair tending to the hungry chirps coming from the box. The box had been standing through yet another winter and there were signs the squirrels had tried to get inside. The hardy board reinforced entry hole had been gnawed apart. Yes, squirrels can eat concrete. The opening seemed too large to be safe from intruders. There were no signs of the snake skin often found at the nest sites of the GCF. Perhaps it was inside the box.
The Flycatchers were attentive parents and true to their name brought all sorts of insects to the nest. Both the male and the female foraged for food. They seemed to take turns flying off into the woods and returning with whatever was flying in their path. Unfortunately this story does not have a happy ending. It may not have made any difference if the hole had been smaller, but it was obvious some type of predator had been able to remove the chicks from the box. One little chick was left on the rooftop.
The Flycatchers returned two or three times that morning but did not go into the box. They sat on a nearby limb and seemed to listen for sounds from their chicks. Finally they must have realized there was no life in the box and flew away together.
The Woodpecker house has been repaired. It was taken down, cleaned out and a new Hardy Board opening fastened in place before securing it back on the tree. The welcome sign is out and we are hoping for new neighbors.
All text and pictures by Sharon Weaver.