HOUSE WRENS with HEAVIER FEATHER-LINED NEST CUP.

I am seeing more House Wrens using my nesting boxes this year– of course, this is a native cavity-nesting bird and protected by federal laws.  One thing I’ve noticed about this egg clutch is the nest cup lined with a larger amount of another species’ feathers.  I see a feather or two, tiny ones, in a house wren nest usually — but not this much.  Note the feather colors…could this be under-feathers from a dead bluebird which the wren found on the ground?   Your thoughts are welcomed always.  Another thought I have is it is from a dead bluebird, looks like a possible cat attack on the bluebird perhaps.

Check out the blue-colored feathers in the nestcup here.  If it was from a dead bluebird, well, let nature get recycled, right?  That's my thinking!

Check out the blue-colored feathers in the nestcup here. If it was from a dead bluebird, well, let nature get recycled, right? That’s my thinking!

TREE SWALLOWS!

They are nesting in a larger number on my trail for 2014!

This TRES couple took over a bluebird nest that had a cluth of 5 bluebird eggs.  Not sure if it was the TRES or a HOWR or a HOSP that broke the eggs in this area.   Some species did--and it was not mammal.

This TRES couple took over a bluebird nest that had a cluth of 5 bluebird eggs. Not sure if it was the TRES or a HOWR or a HOSP that broke the eggs in this area. Some species did–and it was not mammal.

Feathers!

Feathers!  VERY soft feathers.  Some might be chicken feathers–chicken coop is near nestbox location.

Not too m any feathers dropped on this clutch yet!

Not too many feathers dropped on this clutch yet!

 

LAST PEEK! WILL FLEDGE SOON. NEVER TOO MANY INSECT-EATING BLUEBIRDS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT.

This was my last peek on these 5 Eastern Bluebirds at 14 days old (yesterday).  13-14 days is the age I use to stop opening the nestboxes to check the young.  I will not open the box again until after fledging.  This is an excellent example of behavior when opening the nestbox and to see healthy, on-target development.  I had a piece of cardboard handy to hold in front of the nest in case I noticed any “nervous” movement from them at this age—I use it for my last box checks.   I slide the cardboard up to use as a temporary barrier or wall since this observation nestbox hinges at the top.   Nestboxes that hinge at the bottom are easier to manage.  I make this last check a fast one with my auto visor mirror to look first and then snapping the photo quickly (just the one picture and then close the nestbox and secure it).  Because I made it a fast effort, the photo is not perfect.  I will not open it again because it’s too risky for the young (predators can smell the older young, especially those rat snakes) and the parents will really dislike me standing there—who wants to stress them out?   I only recommend this to seasoned monitors.  If you’re new at monitoring nestboxes, make your last check at 12 days old.  Keep good notes for accurate dates.  Careful monitoring is key.

So, aren’t they just so gorgeous?  Those spots on their plumage will serve to help camouflage them in the next 6-8 weeks as they get fed by Mom and Pop bluebird in the tree foliage and will learn to hunt for their own food.  Mom will start another nest; so as soon as they fledge, I will remove the old nest and scrape it and brush all leftover matter out (in a bucket, not on the ground!). I also remember (on average) about half–give or take on that percentage rate–of fledged bluebird young will live to be one year old.   We cannot have too many bluebirds in our environment. This could be very true of our other monitored cavity-nesting birds–those insect eaters.  Think about the ones that only have one brood per year–such as the chickadee.  How about all the other bird species?   I think about the American Robin, the Northern Cardinal and other non-cavity using species that nest in the shrubs and low trees.  Imagine how easy it is for those predators to get those nests.  I keep thinking other birds, snakes, mice, raccoons, squirrels, and roaming cats.  Cats are a big predator, even to my nestboxes because they ambush the adults while searching for food on the ground, as thrush species do when they find food to eat and feed their young.  We all know by now It isn’t easy being a bird.

The pictures represented here are my cardboard piece, the nestbox and pronged Noel Guard, the egg clutch, Hatch Day, at 8 days, and at 14 days old taken on May 11th, 2014.   I treated this nest with Diatomaceous Earth — puffing it below the nestcup carefully in three sections and above the wood floor.  I DE the nests while the egg clutch is being laid or in incubation.  She has to fly off the nest for that to happen, so afternoons are best for me to do this — NEVER after hatching. All 5 eggs hatched.  This box has a wobbling 8″ x 24″ stovepipe Kingston design guard with the hardware cloth center under the nestbox and a Noel Guard that has been “pronged” out safely for the birds.  Since I have had losses due to snakes, the pronging of the Noel Guard is one of my newer experiments on my trail this year.  Not all nestboxes, but some, have been adjusted for extra protection in this way.   I keep records on all of my experiments.   The prongs look a bit intimidating to some.  All species enter this without any complaints.  That is good enough for me.

Also, in my cardboard picture which is sitting on my monitoring binder, you will note I am logging in May 10, May 11, and May 12 — perhaps May 13, so it’s now a daily record.  On the May 12 entry, which is today, my notebook will reflect observations from OUTSIDE THE NESTBOX, such as the parent birds coming to the live mealworm feeders and also what I observe outside the nestbox via binoculars or my camera lens.

Safety barrier I use when I open the nestbox on the last check.

Safety barrier I use when I open a nestbox on the last check before fleding (never after the 13th or 14th day, depending on their development).

 

Nestbox before pronging the edges of the Noel Guard.

Nestbox and pronged Noel Guard for 2014 season.   This box has been very attractive to the snakes because of the pond atmosphere, I think….keeps them cooler in hot weather to hang out by the water on the edges.   

Pretty eggs nestled all nicely.  Note the white marks on some of the eggs.   Either she did that wiht her feet or as they passed through her oviduct, the coloring did not completely cover the egg.

Pretty eggs nestled all nicely. Note the white marks on some of the eggs. Either she did that with her claws when they were freshly laid or as they passed through her oviduct, the coloring did not completely cover the egg perfectly.   What do you think on this?

Hatch Day!    I wonder what the first insect was?   I did have live mealworms out for them.

Hatch Day! I wonder what the first insect was? I did have live mealworms out for them.  Wish I knew–had to be chopped up for hatchlings.  They cannot take that much in the first day, such as a large grasshopper.

8 Days Old.

8 Days Old.

Day 14.  Last check!

Day 14. Last check!

Image

HOUSE WREN ABANDONED NEST

This House Wren nest is the first completed nest and laid egg clutch on the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail for 2014.  I found this nest and 5 eggs on March 21.   I can only guess the date of the first egg laid. On April 18, the nest and eggs were removed and will be used for educational purposes — my display cases on my state and federal salvage permits.  I also had the opportunity to move the nestbox, per the owner’s request, which was fine with me.  The homeowner removed many large white pine trees last fall due to issues with falling branches during high winds and storms.  This created a new opportunity, even more open habitat, so perhaps this will be better for this nestbox.   Note the pretty Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.   Though bluebirds used this box last year, so did the wrens.   The location was open but it was still attracting the wrens and causing some competition problems.  We’ll see how long it takes for this box to be reoccupied by a different species.  It is never too late to change a strategy as long as you are not disturbing nesting native birds.

Abandoned nest.   Was she taken out by a hawk?   This is a nice example of what HOWR eggs look like.  They are sometimes hard to find inside their nests when inside the nestbox.

Abandoned nest. Was she taken out by a hawk? This is a nice example of what HOWR eggs look like. They are sometimes hard to find inside their nests when inside the nestbox.

After removing the HOWR nest, I moved the box on their property to here.  I do like it better, how about you?

After removing the HOWR nest, I moved the box on their property to here. I do like it better, how about you?

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FIRST FULL CLUTCH OF BLUEBIRD EGGS IN INCUBATION FOR 2014.

FIRST FULL CLUTCH OF BLUEBIRD EGGS IN INCUBATION FOR 2014.

Date of first egg laid was March 31. As of yesteday’s date (April 9, 2014), the trail presently consists of 22 bluebird nests, some with eggs; 3 Carolina Chickadee nests in progress; a full House Wren nest with a clutch of 5 eggs (they beat the bluebirds for the whole season in nesting!); and a possible Tree Swallow nest.

Video

EASTERN BLUEBIRD WARBLE — NESTING SEASON 2014 HAS BEGUN.

My trail is finally in active nestings!   There were days of warmth, then snow.  Then very cold nights and more roosting birds without nests.  These guys know what to do.  Nesting and laying eggs is not one of them when it’s too cold out!   I think winter is over now.  Nest cups are formed and the first eggs have been laid in one of my boxes on March 31 as the date of the first egg laid.  However, the House Wren beat that, but I don’t have a date of that laid clutch, unfortunately.  Surprisingly, I’ve not witnessed ANY species competition among the nestboxes…yet, that is.  I expect to see those soon.  Fastest House Wren I’ve ever seen!

Presently, my early trail stats are as follows for the 2014 nesting season:

Eastern Bluebird (EABL):m 14 partial or completed nests thus far.

Carolina Chickadee (CACH):   1 with no eggs laid yet.

House Wren (HOWR):  1 with 5 eggs

Tree Swallow (TRES): 1 –  It’s either a TRES or EABL.  Need to go back to confirm.

 

Here is a video.  Enjoy.   Woolwine House Bluebird Trail First Eggs for 2014 Season

 

Hoping you’re getting some great action now. Enjoy your nesting birds!

 

TOOLS OF THE TRAIL: WHAT’S IN MY TACK BAG?

VBS Protocol New Install for 2013

Monitoring Nestboxes:  What’s In My Tack Bag?

Tools of the Trail, By Christine Boran – Contents of my 14” x 8” Stanley Tool Bag (with pockets inside and outside)

Check out all the tools and "stuff" that helps me on the trail.  Can you guess what everything is for?  This is pretty typical of my 1-2 x a week monitoring tools I take to each nestbox.

Check out all the tools and “stuff” that helps me on the trail. Can you guess what everything is for? This is pretty typical of my 1-2 x a week monitoring tools I take to each nestbox.

Qty.

What

Usages

2

1 pair of protective & rubber gloves (not shown)

Always use gloves when handling nestboxes and have backup pair available.

2

Ziploc bags, large & small

Anything needed along the trail.

6

Plastic folded grocery bags (not shown)

For removal of used nests or saving unused nesting material for nest changes.

1

Small lightweight thermometer

During extreme heat, I will use this to test out average temp inside nestboxes.

1

Roll of heavy gauge wire

For temporary repairs of fallen Kingston Stovepipe Wobbling Guards or other needs.

1

Medium size paintbrush

Brushing inside of nestbox.

1

Pastry brush

Soaping ceilings inside nestboxes to deter wasps and outside box for carpenter bees.

2

Medium & small metal scrapers

Scraping,/cleaning inside of nestboxes.

1

Small bright flashlight (Mini-Maglite)

Illuminating up into nestbox ceiling, if necessary, to see eggs or young with mirror.

1

Scissors and wire cutter (not shown)

Anything needed along the trail.

1

Narrow stainless wire brush

Scraping matter from corners inside nestbox.

1

Staple remover

To remove old staples during nestbox label replacements.

1

Pliers

For repairs and adjustments.

1

Dual Wrench – 7/16 and 3/8 inch sizes

For repairs and tightening of nuts, as needed.

1

Screwdriver with changeable bits

For repairs and tightening and removal/replacement of screws.

1

Regular Phillips screwdriver

To remove screws for opening and closing boxes–can be kept in pocket for easy access.

4

Extra nails and various extra screws

For repairs and if small hardware replacement of hardware dropped and lost on ground.

1

Small tube plain Vaseline (not Vapor Rub) To put on conduits about 2” wide underneath stovepipe guard to stop ants or earwigs

2

Antibacterial disposable wipes

For cleaning hands or tools.

1

Small First Aid Supplies

Band-Aids, antibacterial spray or cream, Benadryl cream for itching (for cuts, stings, etc.)

4

Pens, Highlighters, Sharpies

For use anywhere along the trail.  I use all for my trail notebook.

3

Mirrors of various sizes

Use for seeing eggs-young.  Auto visor side, small pocket with magnifier, telescoping

1

Small plastic spoon

To removed unhatched eggs.

2

Corks in 2 sizes

To plug up entry hole to deter HOSP and to plug up top of open end of conduit.

1

Tape Measure

Use on the trail when needed.

1

Cell phone and small digital camera (not shown)

For emergencies (keep in pocket and for any photo documentation needed at nest site.

2

Clean, soft facial tissues

For temporary hold of nestlings during hand-held inspections (for advanced monitors).

 
My rolling workshop -- always ready.  I like working from behind the car.  When I run some errands, I can always stop and check a box and be ready with my tools and supplies.

My rolling workshop — always ready. I like working from behind the car. When I run some errands, I can always stop and check a box and be ready with my tools and supplies.

Suggested items to keep in car.   Some are optional.

This will depend on the trail and individual needs.  For me, since I’m in all types of environments, I keep this in the back of my car unless otherwise specified.  What I have listed below will help me from having to make special trips to get items while on the trail.

  • Trail binder or notebook for the data.  Larger binder of reference materials, charts, previous year data, & contact information.
  • Cold or hot beverages/water bottles, a packed lunch, reading materials (to take a break!) or bring a friend along to help.
  • Complete first-aid kit.
  • “Deep Woods Off – Dry” or similar to deter ticks, chiggers, depending on environment.  NOTE:  If you use any chemicals, be sure to wash your hands completely after applications.  Use antibacterial hand wipes or soap and water at a sink prior to hitting the trail.
  • Fully-charged SLR digital camera & extra memory card.  This can also be placed inside your tack bag or pocket (my preference).
  • Ziploc plastic screwtop container with Ivory soap, bottled water, and a pastry brush to make wasp/bee “deterrent kit”.
  • Hand grass trimmer or weedwacker to trim around nestboxes, if necessary.  (I prefer the natural, quieter method around the birds.)
  • Extra clean, empty buckets and paper towels.
  • Extra hardware collection and tool box with a charged portable drill.
  • Food-grade Diatomaceous Earth for puffing inside nests and under nest for ants and blowfly larvae.
  • Extra hardware cloth pre-made risers to insert under nests for another method for help on blowfly larvae deterrence.

 Virginia Bluebird Society’s Recommended List (to start):

For trails monitored by a team, we recommend assembling the following equipment in a 5 gallon bucket and keeping it in a central location where team members can pick it up prior to monitoring.  FIRST, get a Bucket or tool bag to start… to carry supplies.  You can also turn upside down and stand on it to get a better view inside a nest box, but be careful.

  • Field Notebook… to keep an account of what is happening on your trail.
  • Pencil or Pen… to make notes in the field notebook.
  • Mirror… to aid in viewing inside nest boxes if it is difficult to see inside.
  • Gloves… oil on your hands may attract predators.
  • Screwdriver… for opening the box.
  • Alcohol Hand Sanitizer… to use on your hands frequently while monitoring to help prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
  • Plastic Bags… to carry away any sparrow or old bluebird nests. Don’t drop nesting materials on the ground near the box – this attracts predators. Encourage team members to bring new supplies.
  • Paintbrush… to clean out box. Many of us also include a toothbrush for rough spots and corners.
  • Small Bar of Mild Soap… used to rub on interior of next box to discourage nesting by wasps.

Note: You may also want to bring a small flashlight, camera and a pair of binoculars for your own use.

 More monitoring info can be found online:

 Sialis:                    http://www.sialis.org/monitoring.htm

NABS:                   http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/Fact/bluebirdfacts.htm

VBS:                      http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/about-bluebirds/monitoring-nest-boxes/

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BLUEBIRD TRAIL MONITORING — TOOLS OF THE TRAIL! WHAT’S IN MY TRAIL BAG?

Check out all the tools and "stuff" that helps me on the trail.  Can you guess what everything is for?  This is pretty typical of my 1-2 x a week monitoring tools I take to each nestbox.

Check out all the nifty tools and “stuff” that helps me on the trail. Can you guess what everything is for? This is pretty typical of my 1-2 x a week monitoring tools I take to each nestbox.  FYI, if you have a backyard nestbox, this won’t be necessary.  When I check my bluebird trail, I need everything handy in one place to save me time and effort.

I am posting this picture (above) to show you what’s inside my bluebird trail tool / tack bag — current from 2013 and for what I’ll use for 2014.   You can look at my contents, and I’ll repost in two weeks with the full list and what I use everything for.  HINT: This does NOT include what I keep in the back of my car, which is reflected in the picture below.  My trail bag is shown in the second picture–it is yellow and black and made by Stanley (top left of second photo).   I can tell you I use all items within one nesting season — March through August.   It is hard to believe all this can fit in a small bag, but it does.   If it helps you understand, it has taken several years to tweak what I need and what I don’t need.  This might be more than some would use–perhaps not enough for others.   This will vary on your own nesting boxes you monitor and how many and the problems you have to deal with.   Best to start small and add on as you get experienced.  What might be fun for you experienced monitors:  add your thoughts to this blog before I come back in two weeks.  What is missing here that you use often on monitoring your bluebird trails and why do you need that item?  Have fun with this.  I hope I spark some questions on this post!  See you in two weeks.  I will post the list of items and what I use them for.  See you soon!   Today is February 25th (2014) and I’ll be back on March 11th!

I have a rolling workshop!   This is the back of my car--the things I don't carry in my trail bag but have handy on the trail, if needed.

I have a rolling workshop! This is the back of my car–the things I don’t carry in my trail bag but have handy on the trail, if needed.

GEARING UP — BLUEBIRD NESTING SEASON FOR 2014.

Nestbox Installation on the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail - February 2014 - may be more soon!

Nestbox Installation on the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail – February 2014 – may be more soon!

Have you seen plenty of fluttering of wings on with those brilliant blue males establishing breeding territory and sitting on your existing nestboxes?   It’s that time.   Is it still just too cold for that and are you laden with snow cover and ice?  Are your boxes ready–cleaned, repaired, and ready for those new, fresh nesting materials and for the human monitoring we need to do?

I have been spending time educating others in public talks and in training others on the joys and sometimes challenges in monitoring nestboxes.  Now I need to get my own monitoring sheets ready and get my notebook updated.  I’m adding more nesting boxes this year–not too many more–I need to maintain weekly monitoring and keep those accurate records.

Thank goodness for the volunteers from the Virginia Master Naturalists, who will be getting some training in my local area to help me on my own bluebird trail and other trails in our area in Southwest VA on public lands!  I’m very grateful for such hard-working folks who volunteer their valuable time to help our natural world, whether it is birds, mammals, native plants, water monitoring so much more and whatever is needed.   I, too, am close to certification myself as a Virginia Master Naturalist by just a few more volunteer hours.   It’s a good feeling to accomplish tasks that is highly worthwhile and to keep learning!

I will do all I can to keep you up to date on the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail and also on the Facebook page, which is a very informative page for many who are active on social networking and can get updates to their News Feeds from my trail happenings.   As soon as I get my first egg, I’ll report in!   Thanks for your continued support.   All the best to you and your birds during our upcoming spring.   By all mean, let me know if I can help in any way.  I’ll do what I can to answer your questions on this site or on the Facebook page.   Happy Spring to all–whenever it gets here. We had 21 inches of snow a few weeks ago–unusual for our area–and we were snowed in for 5 days. Then it got up to 65-70 degrees for two days — the Polar Vortex has now returned!    The birds will pace themselves when they feel the time is right–the incubating female can hold egg laying until she’s comfortable doing so.  I’ve seen her lay a couple, and then delay a few days during very sudden cold snaps, and come back a few days later and lay a couple more to complete the clutch.

The photo is a recent installation I did this month (February).

BLUEBIRD BANQUET (Suet Recipe) – WINTER 2014

Of the many wonderful photo by Mr. Kinneer, this is my favorite icy scene.  Look how skilled birds are to hanging onto iced branches!   Thank you for sharing your beautiful photography on my site!

Of the many wonderful photos by Mr. Kinneer, this is my favorite icy scene. Look how skilled birds are to hanging onto iced branches!

How are your bluebirds doing?  Are you feeding them live mealworms, roasted mealworms, bluebird nuggets, or soaked raisins?   How about some shelled sunflower seeds or chips?  Easy eats!  What type of feeders do you serve your mealworms in?  Are other native birds enjoying your donations during this cold period of time?  Here is a good homemade suet recipe (crumbly mixture) specifically for the Blues:

“BLUEBIRD BANQUET” – SUET RECIPE FOR THE KITCHEN

Credit:  Audubon Workshop Online ListServe “The Bluebird Box”:

http://audubon-omaha.org/bbbox/ljrecipe.htm

MIX:

1 cup peanut butter

4 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup unbleached or whole-wheat flour

 ADD:

1 cup fine sunflower seed chips

1 cup peanut hearts or finely ground nuts

½ to one cup currants (preferred) or soaked raisins cut in halves

 DRIZZLE AND STIR IN:

1 cup rendered melted suet

 LET COOL.

Resulting mix will be crumbly and should have bean/pea sized lumps from the drizzling of  the melted suet. If too sticky after cooling, mix in a bit more flour. If too dry, drizzle in more melted suet.  Refrigerate any mix you are not using – to prevent suet from turning rancid. I use a commercial pure bird suet cake. You can render you own suet. Grind or cube butcher store suet. Melt over low heat. Watch carefully as suet is a fat and can start on fire with too high heat. A microwave can be used. Strain out the stringy bits (cracklings). Cool. Remelt a second time for the recipe.

Nutritional Analysis of Bluebird Banquet – One Recipe

Analysis by Felicia Busch, RD

Calories 7663.1
Protein 189.2 G
Carbohydrates 683 G
Fiber 87.5 G
Fat total 487.3 G
saturated 142 G
mono 208 G
poly 114 G
Cholesterol 223 mg
A- carotene 258 RE
A- preformed 0.5 RE
A- total 259 RE
Thiamin B1 7.68 Mg
Riboflavin B2 2.9 Mg
Niacin B3 74.5 Mg
Vit B6 4.88 Mg
Vit B12 0.001 mcg
Folacin 763 mcg
Pantothenic 9.82 mcg
Vit C 4 Mg
Vit E 78 Mg
Calcium 463.8 Mg
Copper 6.68 Mg
Iron 51.43 Mg
Magnesium 1585 Mg
Phosphorus 3350 Mg
Potassium 5002 Mg
Selenium 134 mcg
Sodium 1973 Mg
Zinc 25.9 Mg

The food mix is meant to be a dietary supplement to a healthy, free ranging bird. The food is NOT sufficient to be a complete diet. It is also not meant to be a food for abandoned nestlings. The food will not harm such a bird, but would require additional protein (ground dry cat food, dog biscuits, or monkey biscuits), additional calcium (finely powdered egg shell or oyster shell), and vitamin supplement (bird vitamins from vet or pet shop). Please consult an expert (Licensed Rehabilitator) in the care of injured or abandoned nestlings. Remember, nursing or caring for young or injured wild birds requires a Federal/State permit and special training.  A healthy, free ranging bird will balance its own diet.

I like to mix dried (or roasted) mealworms with soaked cut-up raisins and "bluebird nuggets".

I like to mix dried (or roasted) mealworms with soaked cut-up raisins and “bluebird nuggets”.  I boil water and let the raisins soak for a few minutes and then really dry them well.  I find some, not all, bluebirds WILL go for this if I don’t have live mealworms available.  The other native birds like this, too.  The Carolina Wrens go crazy for this!

My strategy to keep bluebirds hanging out around the yard and by the house without ordering live mealworms so far seems to be working--by serving a mix of the suet nuggets, dried mealworms, and soaked raisins (generic brand raisins). They like this domed feeder on a shepherd's hook underneath a big pine tree. Another open platform feeder has sunflower seeds added in for the other birds to enjoy, too. Raccoons are not accessing these setups below (yet). These are seen from the house windows, so I can keep watch!

My strategy to keep bluebirds hanging out around the yard and by the house without ordering live mealworms so far seems to be working–by serving a mix of the suet nuggets, dried mealworms, and soaked raisins (generic brand raisins). They like this domed feeder on a shepherd’s hook underneath a big pine tree. Another open platform feeder has sunflower seeds added in for the other birds to enjoy, too. Raccoons are not accessing these setups below (yet). These are seen from the house windows, so I can keep watch!

 Berries are getting scarce now.  This is a great time to supplment food.  I like to keep the mealworms handy through the at least the end of April because of the cold snaps and ice storms we can get here.

Berries are getting scarce now. This is a great time to supplement food. I like to keep the LIVE mealworms handy through December through at least the end of April because of the cold snaps and ice storms we can get here.

VIRGINIA BLUEBIRD SOCIETY STATE CONFERENCE – NOVEMBER 9, 2013 – ALL ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND!

Birders, bluebirders, backyard bird fans, and those curious and want to learn more about the passion about this beloved bird species and native cavity-nesting birds, monitoring nestboxes for fledging success, etc:  the Virginia Bluebird Society (VBS) has an awesome program lined up at the upcoming State Conference to be held Saturday, November 9, 2013, centrally located in gorgeous Charlottesville!   I highly recommend attending if you can, especially if you love bluebirds!   Program starts at 9:30 am.  $25 registration covers cost for breakfast, lunch, the program and speakers, and an optional birding tour at a lovely location after adjournment at 2:30 pm.  Come a little earlier and meet and talk to expert bluebirders.

AGENDA and PROGRAM: 

Speakers and program include:

1) Marshall Faintich, PhD, Birding Activity Manager, Rockfish Valley Trail, “The Birds of Wintergreen”,

2) Alycia Crall, PhD, Virginia Master Naturalist Coordinator, “The Virginia Master Naturalist Program: Opportunities for Volunteer Projects with Bluebirds”,

3) Awards Program for 4 outstanding volunteers for bluebirds,

4)  Maureen Eiger, Wild Bird Rehabilitator: “Bluebirds in Rehab: When They Should Come In for Care and How They are Returned to the Wild.”, and

5) OPTIONAL event:  “Birding at Secluded Farm”, led by Doug Rogers, President, Monticello Bird Club.  This conference is held every other year.  The VBS website and downloadable program flyer including agenda and driving directions can be found on the VBS website’s main page.

ALL ARE WELCOME TO ATTEND.   DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION:  Thursday, October 31.  For more detailed info, directions, agenda, and to register:  Go to the VBS website (see below), click on the “Registration Form” link under the Upcoming Events box on the main page:   http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/

VBS is a fully volunteer, non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable conservation organization.  Hope to see you there!  Feel free to cross-post and share this with others you think might be interested.  Thanks, and Happy Birding!

~ Christine Boran, State Coordinator, Virginia Bluebird Society

Fly like the wind with the sky on your back, Mr. Bluebird!

Fly like the wind with the sky on your back, Mr. Bluebird!

2013 TRAIL RESULTS ARE COMPLETED. ESSAY SUMMARY FORTHCOMING.

HAPPY AUTUMN!

I’ve finalized and 3-times checked my statistics for fledging numbers for the permanent records. I’m going to write an essay and a “summary” in near future with more details; in the meantime, here are the final numbers of the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail for Year 2013. 34 monitored nestboxes. Only 1 box was not used. 5 boxes had partial nests and no eggs laid. 1 box I could not monitor due to an unforeseen circumstance. You will note a difference of # of eggs laid to # of birds fledged. Bottom line: The birds had a tough year with issues to deal with–some on their own and some with my help. Some won over the issues; some did not. My last bluebirds fledged late, on August 29, 2013.  NOTE:  A nest attempt means at least one egg is laid.  Questions?  Leave your notes here on this post and I’ll answer!

Reminder, too….lots of interesting discussions going on through the Facebook page!  If you are on Facebook, join us.  Keyword on Facebook Search:  Woolwine House Bluebird Trail or go to this main page and click on LIKE.

2013 RESULTS:

EASTERN BLUEBIRDS: 43 Nest Attempts

Eggs Laid: 192
Eggs Hatched: 146
Young Fledged: 138

CAROLINA CHICKADEES: 5 Nest Attempts

Eggs Laid: 19
Eggs Hatched: 8
Young Fledged: 8

TREE SWALLOWS: 1 Nest Attempt

Eggs Laid: 5
Eggs Hatched: 3
Young Fledged: 3

HOUSE WRENS: 2 Nest Attempts

Eggs Laid: 11
Eggs Hatched: 6
Young Fledged: 6

INVASIVE HOUSE SPARROW: 3 Nest attempts

Eggs Laid: 9
Eggs Hatched: 0 (removed nest/eggs)
Young Fledged: 0

PREDATIONS:

Snake: 3 (all at boxes with no predator guards–I plan on changing this on these private properties for 2014)
Cat: 1 (at a box with no predator guard)
House Wren: 4
One adult death is unknown predator (My studies indicate an attack outside of the nestbox)

PESTS:

Earwigs: 2
Ants: 3
Wasps: 4
Spiders: 3
Unknown Winged Insect: 1
Blowfly Larvae: 10 (some WITH and without hardware cloth risers–more on this in detail soon)

OTHER HAPPENINGS:

` Thorny overgrowth up a pole (fastest growth I’ve seen yet!)
` Hypothermia to nestlings (wet nest–OLD nestbox on private property–nestbox should be replaced)
` Fallen stovepipe baffle (and repaired using galvanized wires–will replace before February 2014)
` Messy bluebird couple not cleaning nest daily (unusual but it can happen)
` White egg clutch (this is always a pleasure!)
` Bear knocking nestbox setup flat to ground (immediately after fledging – phew!}
` Roof needing repair (thankfully, the repair was before birds started nesting)
` Utility pole nearby with fresh creosote application. This is a long story.
` House Wren attacks on eggs and nestlings (worse year ever on this problem)
` Dead nestlings (not due to weather but other issues)
` Broken eggs (by House Wrens)
` Missing Eggs (this is the time I wish I had a live cam in every nestbox)
` 2 Dead Adults, both female (from a cat and one unknown attacker which was NOT House Sparrows)
` Several Carolina Chickadee vs. Eastern Bluebird competition (ongoing for several years)

RARE TWIN BLUEBIRD EGGS and HATCHLINGS – WHY AND HOW THIS HAPPENS – The Story from State College, PA – Photo Documention Starting June 21, 2013.

I meant to share this with you much sooner, but time would not let me do so.   I hope you’ll enjoy this story of the twin bluebirds hatched from one egg.  Read on below.   From State College, PA – 2013.   Nestbox and information is from monitor Gerald E. Clark:

Mr. Harry Schmeider notifed me along with a list of other bluebird people of this rare event–a double-yoked bluebird egg and twin hatchlings!  Mr. Schmeider is President of the Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania and has a website called Ambassador for the Bluebirds.  Some photos shared with me in the Email (with permission to post here) is below. The text with the photos were shared by the monitor who discovered the very large egg and watched the twin bluebirds hatch. Sadly, they only lived to 11 days old while the rest of the brood fledged.  Here is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s latest NestWatch e-Newsletter referencing rare bluebird twins in a bluebird clutch reported from State College, PA. Here is the Cornell article–I highly recommend you read it first and then view the photos below.  All pictures have captions explaining their development:  http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=b35ddb671faf4a16c0ce32406&id=7430f577ad&e=9005cae40e

Letter to me from Mr. Schmeider with the announcement:

Dear Christine,

- Twin Baby Bluebirds are born  7-1-2013 

Sharing a rare event with you. Twin Baby Blues were born on July 1 , 2013.  Gerald Clark listed in this email shared photos of 4 eggs in a nest, one egg much larger than the others. He ended up with 5 baby Blues.  Gerald Clark lives in State College , Pa. He has granted me permission to share this wonder.  If you post to your website please give him the credits to his photos. 
Sincerely,
Harry Schmeider
President of The Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania
Butler County BSP Coordinator
4 Bluebird Eggs - June 21, 2013.  Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

4 Bluebird Eggs – June 21, 2013. Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Upper Right:  there are the twins born on July 1, 2013 -- note their size to the other single hatchling with one more egg to hatch.  Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Upper Right: there are the twins born on July 1, 2013 — note their size to the other single hatchling with one more egg to hatch. Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Baby Bluebird Carousel - Quote by Mr. Clark:  "This shows all five babies  in a very neat carousel position that I have never seen before--truly amazing!".  Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Baby Bluebird Carousel – Quote by Mr. Clark: “This shows all five babies in a very neat carousel position that I have never seen before–truly amazing!”. Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Photo of the twins and the other three hatchlings on July 10, 2013.  Quote by Mr. Clark:  "Nine days old. Note the smallest is still ok but certainly has some catching up to do." Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Photo of the twins and the other three hatchlings on July 10, 2013. Quote by Mr. Clark: “Nine days old.
Note the smallest is still ok but certainly has some catching up to do.”
Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

BUT SADLY it was not to be–the twins didn’t make it.  Read on correspondence from Mr. Clark and Mr. Schmeider and return message from Mr. Schmeider:
_______________________________________
Harry,
This is a very sad day.  This morning, Friday, 7/12/13 about 8:15 am I went to the nest box to video the five babies per your voice mail request.  Picture 1 is what I found.  Shown are three live babies and two carcasses assumed to be that of the twins.    Needless to say, I am deeply saddened by this event.   Mother Nature can provide some very heartwarming moments but she can also bring us to near tears of sadness at times.   I know this whole event has been a true miracle of nature and I guess we should look on the bright side and consider ourselves very lucky to have witnessed this rare event. We have experienced a wonder happening this past eleven days.   Hopefully, the three remaining will continue to development normally and fledge as beautiful, healthy bluebirds.
 
Previous box opening and observation was approximately 9:30 am:
Thursday, 7/11/13 around the time I was making the YouTube video.  All five babies were alive but as I stated in my last email, I was concerned with the health of two (thought to be the twins).  I noticed that sometimes mama would go into nest box and be in there for as much as 10-15 minutes. This certainly was not her normal routine.  I even commented to my wife that this was not normal. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to view inside the nest box any more on 7/11/13.
 
Events of the morning 7/12/13:
8:15 am opened nest box and observed three live and two dead babies(thought to be the twins). Took pictures to document.   Contemplated what to do with carcasses.
Mama bluebird certainly was not her normal quiet self.  In the background I could hear her making loud chucking sounds that I had not heard her make before. Knowing she was upset, I decided to just close the box and wait before doing anything further.
 
9:00 am I had a discussion with neighbor about the sad event.
 
9:30 am opened box and observed that the smallest of the two carcasses had been removed.  Thinking mama was taking care of situation I closed to box. Mama continued to bring food to remaining babies.
 
10:30 am opened box and found that the second carcass had been removed from box.
 
10:45 am my neighbor return from walking dog and found what I believe to be the larger carcass at the end of her driveway.  This was approximately 100 feet from the next box. I bagged the carcass, took pictures and placed the carcass in freezer to preserve should it have any scientific value.
 
12:00 The second carcass has not be found.
  
Picture 1…Two carcasses and three survivors
Picture 2…Three babies only
 
In separate email I will attach graphic pictures of found carcass as they may have some scientific value.
 
Again, a sad, sad day
Gerald E. Clark
~~~
Dear Gerald, 

I sit at my computer lost for words, sadden by the death of the Twin Bluebirds today. I feel your anguish and sadness in this historical event. Gerald you did everything you could do for the twins, We all are so fortunate just to have  shared in your experience the last 12 days.  Bluebirding is very awarding but also can be harsh when experiencing death among these little wonderful birds. Landlords play a vital role in the success of fledgling birds but Mother Nature can be cruel at times. We do not understand all the mysteries in Life or shall I say; Life is but a Mystery  We do are best and that is all that is expected of us and the rest is up to the Creator.  I want to thank you Gerald for sharing your nest box journey with us and please keep us updated on the twins siblings and God Bless You!     
Sincerely, Harry Schmeider  

President of The Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania Butler County BSP Coordinator
The 3 survivors -- the twin carcasses below them.

The 3 survivors — the twin carcasses below them.  Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

The remaining three -- dead twins removed.  Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

The remaining three — dead twins removed. Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

“BLUEBIRD MAN” — ALL ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY

Male Mountain Bluebird

Bluebird Man, Al Larson

Bluebird Man, Al Larson

It’s easy to forget that not long ago bluebirds were rapidly disappearing from the landscape across North America. Today the Mountain Bluebird – Idaho’s state bird – is actually quite common in many areas. This was not the case when Al Larson – now known as the “Bluebird Man” – first started putting up nest boxes for bluebirds in 1978. Bluebird populations were threatened by decreases in nesting habitat, increases in nest competitors (primarily from the introduced starling and house sparrow), and increased pressure from nest predators such as raccoons (primarily in the Eastern US).

The large-scale citizen science program that was established by the North American Bluebird Society was a truly unique project designed to increase nesting habitat for bluebirds across the continent. Here in Idaho Al Larson got involved with this project right from the start, setting up his first nest boxes in the Owyhee Mountains that same year. Al had been looking for a retirement project and had never forgotten that first Mountain Bluebird that he saw in the Owyhees while working as a ranch hand back in the 1930s. For him, this bluebird trail was more than a fun side project; it was a return to the remote mountain landscape of his childhood.

Al is now 91 years old, but he continues to monitor and maintain his bluebird boxes. He now has over 300 boxes spread out across Southwest Idaho that fledge close to 1,000 bluebird chicks every year. This provides a substantial boost to bluebird populations in this area, a trend that has been universal throughout the bluebird’s range. It is the intensity and devotion of its volunteers that makes this citizen science project so unique. Al has dedicated his life to his bluebird trail, just as many other citizen scientists have all across North America.

Telling Al’s story and the story of the bluebird is hugely important to us. Through this film we aim to inspire the next generation of conservationists and bluebird enthusiasts by highlighting Al’s unique role in this conservation effort. Al, along with many other bluebird enthusiasts all across the continent, has developed a mutually beneficial relationship with this bird. The bluebird now relies on us to provide additional nesting habitat, but we also rely on the bluebird for the happiness and enjoyment that they bring into our lives!

Become a part of Al’s story by backing “Bluebird Man” on Kickstarter. You will be ensuring, not just that our film gets made, but that Al’s legacy continues.

Link to “Bluebird Man” Kickstarter page: http://kck.st/128GNK1il.com

“Bluebird Man” website: BluebirdMan.com
Wild Lens website: WildLensInc.org
“Bluebird Man” facebook page: facebook.com/BluebirdManFilm
Wild Lens twitter feed: twitter.com/WildLensInc

“THE TRAIL MONITORS” – A Poem by “Bluebird Bob”

Photo by Richard Hess.   What's not to love?   A successful fledging from a nestbox is goal #1.

Photo by Richard Hess. What’s not to love? A successful fledging from a nestbox is goal #1.

~~~

THE TRAIL MONITORS

A Poem by “Bluebird Bob” Walshaw

 Out they go, rain or shine, Checking on their Bluebird line. Helping out those birds of blue,  Walking in the grassy dew.

Opening nestboxes one by one, Reveling in the morning sun. Finding nests and eggs so blue, Spring’s promise coming true.

Another nest with little ones, Waiting for the parents to come From east, west, north or south, With insects for each open mouth.

One more nest -oh so sad! A roving Black Snake has been bad. Predator guards work in many ways But nature can have a different say.

Another nest with babies strong, Showing that it won’t be long Before their growing wings they’ll try And out into the world they’ll fly.

They continue to check nest after nest, Enjoying successes and fighting pests. Enemies with beak and claw, Sharing the Bluebird’s luck of the draw.

But they know from day to day That all their efforts lead the way  To bringing the Bluebirds safe and strong Back where all can hear their songs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A REQUEST TO MY SUBSCRIBERS: ADVICE NEEDED ON THE REVAMPING

 

Hey, subscribers and other viewers to my site.   Spammers, you may go elsewhere.   It won’t work you getting through thanks to WordPress’ excellent spam protection.  So………

The Woolwine House Bluebird Trail website is in improvements once again.  You, my followers are great—you make me feel inspired.  Thanks for all the support.  This website is in improvements.  I need for you, when you have time, to go into every tabbed page and check my work.  See the sidebar widgets, see the changes, and let me know if you’re having ANY issues and what they are.  Do you have a mobile device, like a Smartphone?  Does the site work there?   Is the site slow to open?   If it is, try to clean the cache file a bit.  Make sure you do a browser “refresh”.  Let me know what you think.  I’ve added music.   More photos are added, more text, and more details about bluebirding in general—the how’to’s.  WordPress, which hosts this site, is absolutely marvelous.  I’m happy with the results, but I’m still working on this.  Please send me your notes by replying here on this post.  You can also go to the “PURPOSE-CONTACT” GRAY PAGE and test out the contact form I inserted halfway down the page.  I thank you so much for helping me with this.   I have had feedback by a few people they were having trouble before either opening the main page or seeing photos on their mobile device.  I’m doing all I can to keep this site in tip-top shape.  Thank you again for your assistance when you have time.   I hope you like what you see thus far.  I’ve added plenty of new material!   Do you like the music variety?  If you are unhappy with any of the improvements, I need to know.  If you need technical assistance, leave your note.  I will attempt to help you figure out the problem.

Most of all?  I hope you find this site helpful on the topic of cavity-nesting birds…and bluebirds, of course.  A work in progress–it seems to never end.  One more note:  I will be adding more info about the success of my two-hole mansion and how it’s working for the bluebirds vs. house sparrow for 2013.  Stay tuned for more details about that!    Also, if you are on Facebook, my page for the trail there is an EXCELLENT place to ask questions and see discussions.   I hope to see you there.

All the best, Christine

Founder/Owner/Manager of the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail

State Coordinator and County Coordinator, Virginia Bluebird Society:  http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/

 

 

 

 

Video

ASSERTIVE BLUEBIRD EVICTS CHICKADEE. FUN VIDEO.

I found this enlightening….bluebirds will hold their own and protect their territory. The bluebird nest was started, so they were first. Upon returning, it was discovered this chickadee appeared “interested” in this box. See what happens. Who says bluebirds are ALWAYS kind and gentle creatures? Well, OK, usually they are. Enjoy seeing what competitors do to keep prime real estate–our manmade nesting boxes, of course! Humorous and educational material here. Good job on the video making, I say.

TREE SWALLOWS HATCHING!

All of these lovely feathers--such a cozy place to come out of the environment of a shell to this softness and caring of the tree swallow parents.  So tiny--so in need of care and protection of a nest.

All of these lovely feathers–such a cozy place to come out of the environment of a shell to this softness and caring of the tree swallow parents. Son tiny–so in need of care and protection of a nest.

Here is my first Tree Swallows on the trail–hatching started June 10, 2013. I’ve waited a long time to have this species nest on my trail. I hope they do well.

PAINTING POLES AND BAFFLES, DEALING WITH WEEDY GROWTH, AND FLEDGING BABY BIRDS.

I really like this setup--and so do the nesting birds.  This is an Eastern Bluebird nest in progress.  Wahoo!

I really like this setup–and so do the nesting birds. This is an Eastern Bluebird nest in progress. Wahoo!

 Like my paint job?  Once the weedy growth was mowed farther away from this setup, the bluebirds returned--a very successful nestbox again for 2013.

Once the weedy growth was mowed farther away from this setup, the bluebirds returned–a very successful nestbox again for 2013.  LIke my paint job?  Would you believe I painted the conduit and the stovepipe AFTER this nestbox was already installed?  How?  Very carefully, when birds were not using it, and taping small pieces of newspaper all over the nestbox, that’s how!  See this post on materials used, including the primer info.   Yes, I primed the galvanized stovepipe, and then spray painted.   I’m pretty happy with the results so far.

This second photo here was taken late summer (August) 2012.  That tall weedy growth grew suddenly (fast spreading in the South) in 2012 was a problem being too close to the nestbox that was installed in 2009.  This nestbox is usually very successful–consistent 2-3 broods until the weeds grew up around it.  The bluebirds did not like it and did NOT nest in it during the 2012 season–AT ALL!  It was tough stuff to deal with, let alone getting chiggers and ticks on me. This year, it’s being mowed down in a wider swatch around this nestbox–not all of it but a large circle around it is being cleared, thanks to my neighbor, Carl, using a weedwacker and also me using a hand-grass and weed cutter (I had to cover myself up in long sleeves and pants and camp hat and put some bug deterrent on my face and neck).  Getting chigger bites and ticks is not fun.   I don’t find this nestbox with two predator guards unsightly at all.   The Noel Guard seems to disappear in this photo.  What is most beautiful to me, however, is successfully fledging native baby birds–a big YES to bluebirds (as you can see in the first photo! Do you like my spray paint job on the pole and galvanized stovepipe baffle? I used Rust-Oleum Ultra Cover 2X Primer and 2 X Semi-Gloss spray paint: http://www.thepaintstore.com/ULTRA_COVER_2X_s/273.htm

In these photos, one Noel Guard is unpainted galvanized 1/2″ hardware cloth (looks grey) and the other is vinyl-coated green 1/2″ hardware cloth.  I like the vinyl-coated best.  Please also note I am experimenting with different designs of stovepipe baffles — the Ron Kingston (most effective (!) using hardware cloth inside the stovepipe and an 8″ width), and the less wide 6″ stovepipe baffle with a duct cap at the top.  I’m keeping notes as I see effectiveness for both designs.   I’m also trying the 7″ width on my trail.  Nonetheless, please USE something to deter ground predators.   Raccoons and Black Rat Snakes, even mice, can climb smooth conduits and even PVC slipped over conduits.   If you grease them, whatever the grease you use, becomes ineffective in time, so you have to keep that up.  I cannot keep that up with 34 nesting sites.  I do NOT grease any of these stovepipe designs.  I will check back at the end of the nesting season to report my findings if any predators got past any of the designs.  It can happen, yes…..they are not 100 percent foolproof…….but 99 percent isn’t too shabby of a record!

All bird species using the nesting boxes on my trail do not mind entering the nesting boxes and actually like the Noel Guard–this is what makes me the happiest (and gives me peace of mind using the guards).  I know the extra effort is helping them, but I don’t want to take the time to install nesting sites like this and monitor weekly and find failure–that’s wasted effort, in my humble opinion.  When I visit the boxes, I want to put in my notebook “FLEDGED” and then send on those records to the Virginia Bluebird Society, the North American Bluebird Society (gets the data from the affiliate bluebird clubs from each state), and Cornell’s NestWatch, which I participate, as well.  I’m pretty busy these days.   I need to be sure I get my rest.

Happy (and safe) Bluebirding!

Video

VIDEO: TESTING THE NOEL GUARD TO KEEP OUT RACCOONS.

We have completed first broods–I have had five species of cavity-nesting birds use my nesting boxes on the trail! Second nestings have started, some egg clutches laid.

I am sharing this fun video of the Noel Guard efficiency, in particular, in deterring raccoons from getting inside nest boxes and taking out eggs and nestlings. I just posted this to my Facebook page and want to share it on my website/blog. Raccoons are in rural areas and suburbs and can get inside back yards that are fenced. This is an excellent, humorous look at how crafty the raccoon is to getting inside nestboxes pulling out eggs and nestlings for a “midnight snack”. I keep this Noel Guard (made from sturdy 1/2 inch hardware cloth–note the length) on all of my nestboxes except my two-hole mansion (which is deeper). This guard also keeps out roaming housecats, feral cats, and large avian predators. I get all bird species inside nestboxes, including roosting birds in the winter, so I know they do NOT deter the birds. What surprised me on this was at the end showing the bluebirds figuring out the extra “obstacle course” that was installed inside the Noel Guard. Bluebirds are just as smart and just as agile as raccoons. Since my nesting boxes have two predator guards, I can attest I have 99 percent success on my bluebird trail from most predators. I do not care one bit that some people do not find them “pretty”. The bluebirds like them, and that is good enough for me. Also note that the Noel Guard does not keep out House Sparrows (also a predator) or House Wrens (a harasser bird to other cavity-nesting birds’ eggs and young). I am dealing with House Sparrows and House Wrens, however, so I’m not problem-free, for sure. Tip: When installing this guard, be sure it’s installed using washers and screws–raccoons are strong creatures. Staples are not strong enough. Fun 9 minute video–truly hope you enjoy it to some bluegrass music. Sharing from the Virginia Bluebird Society’s FB page (thanks for posting!). As far as I am concerned, I’m in enjoying cavity-nesters and in a conservation effort for species like the bluebirds and even chickadees that have only one brood per year. I feel by providing a safe nesting site for them using predator guards, they can succeed in a more stress-reduced place to raise and fledge their families.

Please share it with your other birding friends! How to make and install this guard? See VBS website for the PDF printable plan: http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/BB_Guards_12-11-2012.pdf

Image

First Eastern Bluebird Hatchlings for 2013.

First Eastern Bluebird Hatchlings for 2013.

First set to hatch for 2013. Three of six NEW bluebirds in my world. Look at that big feather in there.

THOSE CAROLINA CHICKADEES ON THE BLUEBIRD TRAIL!

This native species is very shy and stealth and sensitive to intruders.  However, check out how one female CACH laid all her eggs in the cup and left them wide open with no “blanket” over them and the other buries them under the hair and fur blanket to hide them from potential predators.  Even this picture I took is a result of my finger very carefully pulling back the hairs so I could count the eggs.  I put the hairs back over them the way she left them after I took this photo and quickly secured and left the area of the nestbox.

No blanket of fur and hair on this nest on a clutch of 7.  Photo of this nest was taken April 21, 2013, in one nestbox.

No blanket of fur and hair on this nest on a clutch of 7. Photo of this nest was taken April 21, 2013, in one nestbox.

This female CACH is very careful to cover her eggs.  There was more fur over them than you see in this photo.

This female CACH is very careful to cover her eggs. There was more fur over them than you see in this photo.  This is from another nestbox taken April 26, 2013.  When I opened the box, I could barely see the eggs.  

HOW ‘BOUT THIS? A CLUTCH OF SIX WHITE BLUEBIRD EGGS!

EGG-CITE FOR WHITE!

WHITE BLUEBIRD EGGS? It happens. Approximately 5% laying female bluebirds are missing the pigment gene to color the eggs blue as they pass through her oviduct. The eggs are just as fertile, generally, as the blue ones.  Note the slightly pinkish hue.  I’ve seen them before actually pure white.  When I first saw those feathers, I thought Tree Swallows.  But no, they are bluebirds.  There are not enough of the right feathers for TRES and I saw the pair in the tree above me anyway.   To read up more about white bluebird eggs, here is a great page for that: http://www.sialis.org/whiteeggs.htm

White Bluebird Eggs

NESTCAMS AND BLUEBIRDS IN SCHOOLS–PROVIDED BY THE VIRGINIA BLUEBIRD SOCIETY.

Grant money helps pay for these live video nestcam boxes to be installed for educational purposes in Virginia schools — thanks to the Virginia Bluebird Society.  Here is one I have worked with recently in getting installed at a local school.  To be continued…..this is really fun!   It will run nonstop for the whole school to enjoy!  Is that not the coolest thing to have a live nature cam at school?  All native cavity-nesters are welcome!  Wish I was a kid there.

Want to learn more about the grant program with VBS?  Click here:  http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/about-vbs/grant-programs/

Lots of thought went into making these!

Lots of thought went into making these!

Everything loaded in my car.

Everything loaded in my car.  Note the predator guards–a must.

CAROLINA CHICKADEE NEST READY FOR EGGS.

Photo taken April 16, 2013.

Photo taken April 16, 2013.

The Carolina Chickadee (CACH) loves nestboxes! That is the species of chickadee we have here. They only have one brood per year–many times they win over a nestbox with the bluebirds. But you see, that is A-OK….all native species are welcome. Manmade nestboxes; that is, those that are monitored and cared for, are prime real estate for the cavity-nesting birds!  Chickadees seem to struggle to survive.  Ornithologist are still studying why their numbers seem to be declining.  In some areas, they are thinking West Nile Virus is the culprit.  Loss of habitat, predators, and other reasons has been known–just like bluebirds. I’m waiting for the chickadee eggs to be laid.  The cup is in the upper right corner of this photo.  The chickadee can build a nest quickly but seem to take more time to get to the egg laying cycle.  Just look at all those plant and animal fibers!  Mosses, grasses, small dried leaves…so many interesting articles in the nest.

Image

MY PLACE!

My Place!

This Mrs. Bluebird says a big “Hiya! Do you see me?” along the bluebird trail. She’s liking her nesting digs and seems to appreciate getting some attention here. No fear at all, can you tell? This weathered box is about 15, possibly 20 years old. Painted white and looking rather pretty weathered, actually. Fledging young successfully will be priority this season. I will report my findings to the owners–adjustments will be made, if necessary.

Image

HEY, I’M INCUBATING!

HEY, I'M INCUBATING!

This pretty lady says “No way am I budging!” …. brave one she is. I took the photo and decided to count the eggs in this clutch on another day. I will not force her from her important Mom duties. When I left the box, I thanked her for her patience with me. This was taken on Friday, April 12, 2013, in a top-opening nestbox.

Image

FINALLY HERE…THE FIRST EGGS FOR NESTING SEASON 2013.

THE FIRST EGGS FOR NESTING SEASON 2013 HAVE ARRIVED!

First egg laid April 5, 2013. Compared to last year, the first egg laid on the trail was March 8, 2012! The birds waited for the weather to improve–much colder this spring. I can wait–no rushing these pretty blues.

WHAT’s IN MY BAG?

Coming soon…..”what’s in my bag?” upcoming post….photos and explanations of what I carry with me when I monitor the bluebird trail.  A work in progress–there will be three parts to this series on this topic:

~ Part 1 (first post) is the bag I use and what’s in the bag and why I carry the items on every nestbox check.

~ Part 2 (second post a few days later) will be what I keep in the car on most nestbox visits (but not always carried to each box when monitoring them).

~ and Part 3 (third and probably the last post in the series ) will be the extra stuff to keep on hand, if needed — what I found helpful to have around for different circumstances…and why.

Every monitor has tools they like the best–for different reasons.  Not everyone will be the same.  Some tools might be what every monitor will always have.  This will be mine–am happy to share with you what I like to use.  I started monitoring nestboxes in 2006 and 2007.  The Woolwine House Bluebird Trail started February 2008.  As the monitor and caretaker of this trail and after all these years and experiences, I’ve tweaked my bag.  Stay tuned!  Here is a sneak preview–the bag I’ve used thus far that really works for me!  It’s new–just purchased it this winter.  Bottom line:  use what works for you!  The point is:  MONITOR your nestboxes.  Use the tools to make it work for you.  The native cavity-nesting birds need you to do so to help them succeed in case there are problems with the manmade nestbox you put up for them.    Do you need more info on monitoring?  Here is a great place to start (North American Bluebird Society Fact Sheet on Monitoring) — PDF file is downloadable and printable!  http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/PDF/FAQ/NABS%20factsheet%20-%20Monitoring%20-%2024May12%20DRAFT.pdf

This Stanley-brand bag is perfect for me to carry what I need!   Not expensive!  It's about the size of a ladies handbag.

This Stanley-brand bag is perfect for me to carry what I need! Not expensive! It’s about the size of a ladies handbag.

Quote

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!” ~ Robin Williams

That party started on the bluebird trail a week ago with 4 of the 33 nestboxes getting some of those wonderful bluebirds building nests.  However, the creation of those nests have stopped (at least in one of the 4 boxes per a check yesterday) due to the spring party being postponed a tad.  We’re getting sleet, snow, and ice.  Heavy flakes floating here and there and sticking.  Indeed, it’s is very pretty.  The bluebirds and other nesters are saying, “we need to go back to roosting mode.  I’m not raising my kids in this cold weather!” 

…. and so we humans will wait until they are ready.   What the birds decide is A-OK with me!  

 

Spring is natur…

Image

IS THIS A PERCH? ABOUT THOSE FUNNY-LOOKING NOEL GUARDS…

It is recommend not to install perches on nestboxes for bluebirds.  You’ve seen them–the small cylinder pieces of wood added right underneath a birdhouse’s entry hole.   They are not really necessary, and the bad news about them is perches can serve the predators by allowing some extra leverage for them to sit by the entry hole and pull out eggs and baby birds!  Even wrens and chickadees and most cavity nesters don’t need perches.   Take a look at these two photos I took of this male Eastern Bluebird sitting and investigating this nestbox at — and on – this Noel Guard (made from hardware cloth).  Question:  is this a perch?   The answer is:  No….it’s a porch!   Do the bluebirds mind  these guards?   Not only do they like “mind” them — they like them!   I’ve had nothing but great results using them.   Same answer for the other cavity-nesting birds using bluebird nestboxes.  They have no issues with these guards.  This “cat and raccoon” guard (originally designed by a gentleman by the name of Jim Noel) are also guards to ward off some avian predators, as well — starlings, hawks, owls, jays, etc.  I’ve used the vinyl-coated hardware cloth–like the coated better than the plain galvanized hardware cloth — smoother for the birds’ feet and feathers and easier on human hands during the building process.  What you see in this picture is plain galvanized.  Once you’ve lost bluebird babies and adults to predators inside your backyard bluebird nestbox or on your bluebird trail, you will realize how this guard adds added safety and success to the occupants raising their young until they fledge from the box and into the world.

See how to make them herehttp://www.virginiabluebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/BB_Guards_12-11-2012.pdf

This male says "howdy do to you!"

This male says “howdy do to you!”

"Hmmm, wonder if my gal will like these digs?"

“Hmmm, wonder if my gal will like these digs?”

Video

UPDATE ON A PROBLEM NESTBOX.

The link below will connect you to a video of a nestbox on my bluebird trail that had a “critter” nest in it — turned out not be a mouse nest but a squirrel (could get in by using overhanging branches as a bridge).  Once a rodent-type mammal occupies a nestbox, the inside of the box has to be thoroughly scraped and “sanitized” using a bleach-water solution, rinsed again, and allowed to dry.  Birds will not use a nestbox that has been soiled by rodents.   Additionally, I had to move this once successful box to a new location.  Too much brushy plants from scrub trees and morning glory kept growing up near and around the pole and through the stovepipe baffle and into the nestbox!  It was too difficult to maintain it–too much energy to keep cutting back the overgrowth.  The first three years, this installation would have 2-3 broods of bluebirds.  The last three years had none.  It was time to make a change–the bluebirds did not like the brushy surroundings in spite of it being near an open field.   This is why we trail managers have to make periodic changes to the nestbox locations.  One time, a great location was lost due to construction of a parking lot.  That was a disappointment for me as that box was highly successful.    The good news is in a rural area like where I live, it’s fairly easy to find new places to install moved nestboxes; ther e are many wonderful property owners who support my efforts!  I am willing to work with the people and the birds to keep everyone happy — including myself, in there, last but not least, of course!

Video link –click below:

http://youtu.be/LF32BGvqpk8

Here is photo of the same nestbox below (moved from that location):

This is one year after installation.  Not too much brush is behind it when it was installed, as you can see.   I experimented with an artificial nestcup for a couple of years.

This is one year after installation. Not too much brush is behind it when it was installed, as you can see. I experimented with an artificial nestcup for a couple of years.

“BLUEBIRD” – A POEM BY JOHN BURROUGHS

BLUEBIRD – by Naturalist John Burroughs (1827-1921)

Copyright - Photo by David Kinneer

A wistful note from out the sky,
‘Pure, pure, pure,’ in plaintive tone,
As if the wand’rer were alone,
And hardly knew to sing or cry.

But now a flash of eager wing,
Flitting, twinkling by the wall,
And pleadings sweet and am’rous call,-
Ah, now I know his heart doth sing!

O bluebird, welcome back again,
Thy azure coat and ruddy vest
Are hues that April loveth best,-
Warm skies above the furrowed plain.

The farm boy hears thy tender voice,
And visions come of crystal days,
With sugar-camps in maple ways,
And scenes that make his heart rejoice.

The lucid smoke drifts on the breeze,
The steaming pans are mantling white,
And thy blue wing’s a joyous sight,
Among the brown and leafless trees.

Now loosened currents glance and run,
And buckets shine on sturdy boles,
The forest folk peep from their holes,
And work is play from sun to sun.

The downy beats his sounding limb,
The nuthatch pipes his nasal call,
And Robin perched on tree-top tall
Heavenward lifts his evening hymn.

Now go and bring thy homesick bride,
Persuade her here is just the place
To build a home and found a race
In Downy’s cell, my lodge beside.