MY PLAN: COMBATING the BLOWFLY PROBLEM FOR 2010

You know the saying for many years, probably from a well-known homemaker magazine’s monthly column:

My Problem and How I Solved It!

I have ordered and received Diatomaceous  Earth.  (It took me a while to learn how to pronouce it.)  Here is info on this wonderful organic product that is going to help me combat the problem I’ve had in years past of the blowfly larvae attacking nestlings at night and thus causing anemia to those nestlings and potential death to them in the nestbox.  I am anticipating no more nest switchouts with this product!  I learned at the NABS conference last September 2009–thanks to Harry Schmeider and his presentation there–that if I use a few puffs of this organic powder inside a nest prior to nestlings hatching– that the larvae cannot survive and cause harm to the bluebird nestlings.   What I like most about this product is it is NOT a pesticide and is an all-natural product.  Here is a photo of what I have new in my trail tack box below.  My plan is to insert CAREFULLY this powder just prior to hatchlings.   One thing to watch on this is to make sure none of this powder gets into the nestlings eyes.  I think this is the safest way to administer this very fine powder.  I will still inspect the nestlings anyway during my trail checks to be sure they are developing normally. 

Fascinating reading–read here first to learn more:  http://www.ghorganics.com/DiatomaceousEarth.html

The tools! This is a 2-lb. bag and pistol. You can also just use a plastic mustard or ketchup container that has the tip. I like this pistol. I ordered an extender for it so I can use it in the corners of the house behind appliances--all organic!

You can see how fine this powder is and the pistol I’ll be using to carefully administer the right amount at the bottom of a nest and in the middle inside the nesting material.   The second and third broods, if I have those on my trail, are the nests where the blowflies lay their eggs in birds nests.   I am really anticipating an easier way to deal with the problem for this season and forthcoming seasons.   I still keep a few extra natural clean bluebird nests on hand for emergencies.   I always try to be prepared on trail checks. 

Text on the bag. I also received a more detailed pamphlet on usage of this organic DE.

WHBBT (TRAIL) UPDATES: FINAL BLUEBIRD FIRST-BROOD EGG COUNTS, INCUBATION, and HATCHINGS!

NOTE:  This website’s header photos (used with permission) credit with my thanks go to photographer:    Mr. Dave Kinneer

The handsome fella above is doing his wing-waving dance to the female “aren’t I good-lookin’!   Be mine, be mine”!  By now the females have picked their mate for the first brood.  Nests are built, eggs are laid, and now those eggs are hatching on my trail as of April 27!   Both parents feed the nestlings.  Many times they remain mates for the whole breeding season and even family siblings from the first brood will help the parents feed the second brood! 

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Updated notes that are interesting along my trail are posted below.  See “Nestboxes 2010″ gray tabbed page  for individual notes on each nestbox.  This post will remain “sticky” so that it is always at the top of this site for quick reference and changes along my trail this season.  New posts will follow below this one, always with the latest update at the top.

April 29:  Hatchings of bluebirds have commenced on April 27 on my trail.  More occurred on April 28.  I expect more today, the 29th!

Pine needle nest at one of the boxes -- incubating female would not leave the eggs!

April 23, 2010:  On my trail check yesterday, two boxes could not be counted for final egg counts since incubating females would not leave the nest.  I will go back to those two boxes in late afternoon when I predict the females will be off the nest.   Egg count (with an estimate count included for those two boxes) are as follows for my small trail consisting of 16 bluebird nesting locations: 

FIRST BROOD for 2010:  30 eggs — 1 egg was dumped by a female bluebird in a one-day’s work partial nest and female did not return to the nest 1 week later.   The egg possibly may be infertile or abandoned.  That is theory only on my part.  I do not know why a female bluebird would lay one egg on a bare wood floor in a box with just a few pine needles circling the egg.  I will confirm the egg count in a few days at the two boxes that had incubating females that stayed on the nest when I opened the boxes.  See photos above trail notes here taken with my large SLR digital camera held in one hand while holding the box door open (April 22, 2010).

This is the other box where Mrs. Blue decided she was not afraid of me, even when I opened the box. She is protecting her eggs with her life! I managed to hold the door and mirror with my left hand and my heavy SLR digital camera with my right to catch this picture. She's even prettier when she's sitting on the nest. I was amazed at how blue she looked. This is another pine needle nest, which surprised me considering it's mostly field grasses and pastureland near this box. I believe pine needles are #1 choice of nesting material for the bluebird, if they can get them. Notice she is not looking at me in fear. This is how incubating females can get killed by attacking House Sparrows.

 April 21, 2010:  Tomorrow I will be back on my weekly box checks.  We have only bluebirds nesting with eggs.  I should get the first brood egg counts in total tomorrow.  I have no other cavity nesters so far, no Carolina Chickadees, no House Wrens.  Only one box, the Test Two-Hole Mansion test site, has continuous and relentless, never-giving-up, House Sparrows wanting to nest in that box.  I am removing the nests (no trapping) as part of the test.  See my Two-Hole Test page for more information.   I will be back on on Friday to update my trail notes here.  I am adding a picture of a redesigned wren house that is doing extremely well for bluebirds.  It is posted below this post (two photos of the altered wren house)!  This is not a standard NABS or VBS approved box.  It is a built-at-home box that bluebirds really liked for the past three years and have bred and fledged young successfully.  They roost in the box in the winter.   Bluebirds are “opportunists” and will use what works!   Who can argue against a bluebird?  

April 12, 2010:   OK, we’re having bluebirds nesting, eggs are being laid….we are on a roll now!   I’m so exited!  A detailed update will be posted on or around Saturday, April 17th, when I have more details of nesting bluebirds on the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail.  By then, I should have some first nest egg counts.  I have revised the photos today on the gray tabbed page titled “Nestboxes 2010″.  

April 8, 2010:   I am pleased to report the trail has bluebird nests….some with perfect cups.  A week ago, April 1, no eggs were laid yet.   I expect to see eggs later today when I check my trail.   NOTE:  This site is presently in update mode.  Please check back in a few days as I update the new photos and text on The Nestboxes gray tabbed page.   Some of the box locations have changed.  The new header photo above is endearing to me as I anticipate the first baby bluebirds this season taking on their new life with wings.  This is always the most exciting part of bluebirding for me…the first egg laid, the first hatching, and the first successful fledging of nestlings.  When monitors keep trail notes, it makes it even more fun.  Mrs. Bluebird above is feeding her baby in the trees and will continue to do so for about 4 weeks after her nestlings fledge.  Once the nestlings are “outside the box”, they are no longer nestlings but then called fledglings.   They remain a camoflage grayish-blue with spots until they develop their adult plumage.  They are still very vulnerable to predators until they attain adulthood later.

As I watch the weather report, there is a possibility in my area for a cold snap coming.  This can be dangerous to chicks, but if eggs have not hatched, I’ve seen Mrs. Bluebird delay incubation until she feels comfortable to continue the incubation in warmer weather.  She just seems to know the best safety for her hatchlings and does what she can to make it work!   Weather makes a big difference in results.

March 11, 2010:  The trail results have begun this week!   The two-hole test site had a partial HOSP nest built and nest was removed on March 10.    Other boxes will be checked again, predator guards secured, and boxes soaped to deter wasps.   This was a problem on the trail last year during sudden warm temperature surges.   Soaping is easy–I use a pastry brush to “paint” an Ivory soap paste I make with a small amount of water.  This is primarily added to the surfaces on the inside of the box on the box walls and near ceiling. 

February 23, 2010–Sunny today and 45 degrees–more snow coming tomorrow!    The bluebird males have been sighted in our area in the past two weeks.   This is about two weeks later than the past four years that I’ve seen in my own bluebirding observations (usually around February 1st in SW Virginia).  The males are enjoying the sun and warmer weather, establishing their territory, and looking for eventual nesting sites and mates.   This is the time of year food sources are challenging.  It will be interesting when the first observation of attempted nest building will take place in my boxes this Spring due to the severe winter snows we’ve had in our area.   I keep dates of all activity for my permanent notes.  We still have snow on the ground; however, it’s starting to melt now.  I’m seeing grass and pine mulch again.  I’m hearing new bird songs out the windows.  My nestboxes will be modified in some locations for this year–I hope within the next two weeks or so as the ground softens up.   I usually have this completed by the end of January each year.  We’ve been snowed in at home a few times this winter.  I am really looking forward to seeing my first bluebird egg this year!   I hope some of our resident bluebirds flew down to NC for food sources this past winter.   This has been the harshest winter our county has seen for many years; certainly the harshest I’ve seen since I moved here in early 2006.  I plan to visit my winterized boxes on my trail early next week and see what birds have been hopefully roosting in them and look to see what repairs need to be done to the boxes and baffles.   Some of my stovepipe baffles have fallen down in some high winds.   I will leave the ventilation “plugs” in until sometime after the first eggs are laid, depending on the temperatures.

This site will be updated again sometime in late March for the 2010 breeding season after I have some activity to report.    

Happy bluebirding!

INTERESTING TRAIL PHOTOS — INCUBATING and HATCHLINGS: APRIL 22, 27, and 28th.

APRIL 27th ANNOUNCEMENT–WOO-HOO!

We have hatchlings on the WHBBT!   On my trail check dated April 27, new nestlings have emerged.   I checked again on April 28, and more hatchlings have come into the world.  I am waiting for 4 more locations to hatch bluebirds.  Here is a photo I took from one of my boxes on April 28.  I had to use a mirror for this picture since my boxes do not open at the top.  Note:  I only have bluebirds nesting in these boxes — no Carolina Chickadees yet.   The Two-Hole Test Site still has House Sparrows attempting to nest there.  So far at 16 locations, 3 have hatched bluebirds.  I am still waiting for 4 more to hatch any day!

UPDATE:  APRIL 29th:  I am still waiting for two boxes to hatch.

Photo taken April 28 using a large mirror. One must be quick and careful photographing nestlings so as not to stress out the parents too much. After a few trail checks, the bluebirds come to trust careful monitors more.

Below are the larger pictures I posted below of two boxes that had incubating females that would not leave their nests on my box checks on Thursday, April 22.  

She is telling me, "I'm not leaving my eggs!" She graciously allowed me to take this picture, a bit awkwardly, I admit, but I managed to get this as best as I could.

This lady is not leaving her eggs -- no fear at all. I took this photo to show how the pine needles are used for the inital nest. Before the eggs are laid, it's amazing to see hwo perfect the deep cup is made in the center before the eggs are laid.

 

ALTERED WREN HOUSE FOR BLUEBIRDS equals SUCCESS!

NOTE:  This website’s header photos (used with permission) credit with my thanks go to photographer:    Mr. Dave Kinneer

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This box, along my trail, is a REDESIGN (alteration) of a hanging wren house. It was built and hung; instead of wrens using it, bluebirds moved in. The house was then changed by removing the perch and resizing the hole to 1.5 inches. This box consistently does well every year at least two broods. It is hung on a front porch in perfect bluebird habitat. A plum tree and a high wire are not far from the porch. Because it is hung like this, no ground predator guard is needed. There have been no avian predators at this box. This box is monitored by watching activities, including nest building, incubation, and fledgings. It cannot be monitored weekly as the box has to be taken down and opened with a screwdriver. After each fledging, however, the box is cleaned up and hung up again. It was reported to me this box had winter-roosting bluebirds, as well! Cavity size is 6.5x 6.5 inches. This box has been approved by the VBS to me to include what stats I can on the WHBBT. In this circumstance, my philosophy is if the bluebirds like it and are safe and successful…bring it on! I would like to hang one of these but make it a standard rectangular style box but hung from our front porch. A Black Rat Snake, if inclined, could still get to this box, but I’ve been told so far in three years, that has not happened to this box.  Carl, who helped me build my nestboxes for the WHBBT built and altered this wren house.  Good job, Carl!  …. And many thanks to Carl for sharing this on my site!