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It’s the time of year that brings such joy and activity to our homes in the foothills surrounding the Kittitas Valley. Nest boxes in sagebrush habitat that are designed for bluebirds are releasing newly-fledged chicks.

The mountain bluebird usually lays four to five eggs and after 14 days incubating, the eggs hatch. Once the chicks hatch, it’s another 14-21 days of feeding in the nest. When the chicks leave the nest, they become dependent fledglings. Then the longer process begins of parental feeding and helping the young learn to feed themselves.

It’s fascinating to watch birds and wonder at their activities. From nesting, breeding, feeding young and migrating, birds exhibit a variety of complex behaviors as part of their natural lives. Are these behaviors instinctive, or learned?

An important discussion to share is what it means to ethically approach birds for the purpose of photography. If you go online, search “Audubon’s Guide for Ethical Bird Photography and Videography”. This will give detailed, comprehensive advice. In brief, don’t disrupt the birds’ natural behavior. If the bird stops what it’s doing and looks directly at you, you’re too close. Back away and allow the bird to resume its normal activities. If the bird is looking at you, it may not see a predator approaching. A bird “alerted” like this can also cause it to become stressed. Stressed wildlife of any species can ultimately affect its ability to survive. Bird photography can be rewarding, but this hobby also requires patience and thoughtful, conscientious interaction.

Also be sure to keep your cats inside. Indoor cats are healthier for both the cat and your family. Free-roaming cats engage in their natural behavior, which includes predating for entertainment. Your feline friends may complain at the restrictions, but they will eventually get used to being indoors only.

In the fall, bluebirds will flock together. The fledglings are strong and ready to travel. They’ll continue to return to their nesting areas until eventually they migrate for winter living to the southwestern U.S. and into Mexico.

For more information, go to Audubon.org. For local news and events, go to kittitasaudubon.org.

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