Trail 2008 Report:
I had Eastern Bluebird families and Carolina Chickadee families in my nestboxes. One box was raided either by an avian predator or a Black Rat Snake that was large enough to get over my stovepipe baffle. Two boxes were infested with blowflies. One brood died but the other brood were saved by me by having a man-made switched out nest and the chicks got well and fledged at 18 days. All of my boxes were paired on my property for Tree Swallows to nest as neighbors with the Eastern Bluebirds so as to warrant off unwanted territorial fighting. No Tree Swallows nested, so I moved many of my boxes into other areas in Woolwine and left 5 on my acreage. I am featured on the Fall 2008 Virginia Bluebird Society’s newsletter on Page 6, “Lessons from a New Bluebirder”. Here is a cut and paste from the article from that newsletter below. You can also go to the Virginia Bluebird Society’s website/Newsletters: http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/
Fall 2008 VBS article:
“Lessons of a New Bluebirder”, by Christine
This is my third year of bluebirding. In my first year, 2006, my husband andI moved to our new home in Woolwine, Virginia, and found an old bluebirdnestbox in the back yard. To our surprise, there were bluebirds nestingthere upon our arrival that first week of March. But a week after we moved in, Ifound a big black rat snake hanging out of the box’s entry hole. I was horrified!
We cleaned out the box, built a hardware cloth baffle, and placed it underneath the box. The same pair apparently came back and tried again, but the second brood died the first day after hatching, from the 100-degree heat. After that, wetook the box down, and I started my studies about bluebirds.
My second year, 2007, our new neighbors dropped off a nestbox as a gift. Carl Rupprecht, who made the box in his woodworking shop, helped me install it behind our house on a pole with a predator baffle. We were able to joyfully watch two broods make it into the world that season.
This year, my neighbor helped me build my first bluebird trail of 14 boxes. I experimented by doubling up the boxes 15 feet apart, because we had seen Tree Swallows diving out of the trees and into our pond the year before. Some of theboxes on the trail were not occupied, but the ones that attracted Carolina Chickadees and Eastern Bluebirds. The first broods did well and fledged. I had no snake predation and no House Sparrows. The second nesting proved problematic. I noticed that one of my boxes seemed to be in trouble. I photographed the parents from afar in the field one morning and was wondering why the male came with food only four times within two hours. When I checked the box the next day, I found the chicks had died, all four of them. I immediately removed them and the nest and took them back home to investigate what happened. Blowflies! I was stunned. As I thought about it, we had three days of over 90-degree heat the week before. There was a lot of dust at the bottom of the box underneath the pine needle nest, and I saw the larvae in it as well. I found one live and one dead adult blowfly in the center of the nest buried in there, and more larvae. When I looked at the dead chicks on the underside, I didn’t see larvae attached to them. I then realized that I was not checking closely enough for any indication blowflies even existed – my first experience with this problem. I did look for insects and didn’t see any. The nest appeared clean, and I watched the parents bring food. Now I realize the blowfly larvae were hidden inside the nest underneath the babies, and I had missed them completely. I felt sad that the second brood died, but I also was on alert for blowflies on the trail. Sure enough, I found another nestbox with blowflies. The chicks looked anemic and weak at five days, and they had feathers only in stripes on their backs. This time I had to intervene! I quickly switched the contaminated pine needle nest with a homemade pine needle nest. I put the needles in, tamped it down with my fist, and added some grasses for softness. I carefully picked up the sick five-day-old chicks and placed them in the new nest while my husband stood by with an umbrella to shade us from the sun. Both parents were watching me in the trees and came back to the box a few minutes later. I left the nest alone for a few days. When I checked on Day 8, I was truly amazed! The chicks were larger, growing feathers again, and looking bluer and healthier. They fledged at exactly 18 days.
I’ve learned as a new monitor that there will be losses. However, with love and devotion and learning about these marvelous birds each year, the celebrations outweigh the losses, and monitoring is worth every minute of my time. I have a feeling of accomplishment helping the beloved bluebirds!
– Christine Boran, Blue Ridge Highlands, Woolwine, Patrick County Coordinator, Virginia Bluebird Society
BELOW: 12-Day Old Healthy Chicks photo below….they should fledge between 15-18 days. These were in the Mountain Rose Inn’s nestbox in 2008. Many thanks to Mike and Dora Jane for their continued support!
Blue Ridge Highlands, Woolwine, Patrick County Coordinator, Virginia Bluebird Society
Here is the Mountain Rose Inn’s website and their birding page where my photos are posted.