Enjoy this video I made of the bluebird adults and their juveniles eating LIVE mealworms. This is during a second brood, so the first brood juvies are now feeding themselves at this point. Enjoy.
This nestbox is installed on a utility pole in the town where my bluebird trail is. It is at a local school. I have permission to monitor it. PLEASE NOTE: I am not recommending this method as a replacement for installing nestboxes the proper way that is safe for the nesting birds. When a native bird chooses it, I add this pronged out Noel Guard and see what happens. I always wait until the egg clutch is completed, do my count of the eggs, puff in some organic diatomaceous earth inside the nest, close up the box, and then add this Noel Guard held sturdy by washers and screws. I cannot open the box after installation, unfortunately, since it’s a front-opening nestbox, hinging at the top and the observation door swings up. What I do after is surveillance on the box for bird activity, mark my binder notes, and count the days. This is a video I shot of the male bluebird investigating their nest about 5 minutes after installing the Noel Guard. I have done these four times in the past two years in various locations where nestboxes are on fences, wood posts, utility poles — without any predator guards — and with permissions from the homeowners (in this case, the school staff). I do tell them the proper way to install the boxes to deter predators (on a conduit with a stovepipe wobbling 8″ Ron Kingston stovepipe guard under the nestbox) and add a Noel Guard, like this, pronged out (helps deter the snakes better). The ending of the story to this video is the male and female bluebird accepted the guard within the hour of it being added, she continued incubating her clutch, and the young finally fledged this July. I removed the Noel Guard today. See photos below. I would prefer to add these guards on nestboxes where I am not free to change the setups for the safety of the nesting birds. SOMETHING to deter predators is better than none! However, I did do this where I could not change the nestbox installation and conducted my 2-times a week monitoring, surveillance, and note taking. The video was shot on June 19, 2015. Bluebirds had not occupied this nestbox before this nesting season. I hope you enjoy a moment watching Mr. Bluebird figure out his nest is OK and all is well, so you can tell Mrs. Bluebird to go back to her clutch of eggs. She was watching him do the check while she perched nearby on the chainlink fence. I reiterate: I DO NOT recommend nesting boxes installed unprotected on tree trunks, fences, wood posts, utility poles, and on the sidings of buildings…ever. This recommendation comes from all bluebird societies, affiliates of the North American Bluebird Society. This is have learned from them. http://nabluebirdsociety.org/PDF/FAQ/NABS%20factsheet%20-%20Predator%20Control%20-%2010Sep12.pdf
Greetings to all.
The 2015 nesting season started later than in past years, but that is not a bad thing at all. It tells me the birds waited for a reason. We had a harsh, cold, frigid winter late in the season 2014-15; and our early spring also was cold and dreary. There appears to have been a few losses of bluebirds roosting in nestboxes — many reports are coming through to me of dead adults found inside the nestboxes this early February and March when the monitors were opening the nestboxes again. The location of my trail, being in the Southern-Southwestern end of the state, has shown some results of some of my most successful nesting boxes not getting occupied thus far. I have 42 installed setups on the trail now; of those 42, I still show at today’s date six nestbox setups not used by birds at all. I am not disappointed, however; the rest of the trail is all good news. I have nesting Eastern Bluebirds, Carolina Chickadees, and Tree Swallows. I have had no House Sparrow attacks on young or adults and no havoc from the House Wren species. As a matter of fact, I have NO House Wren sticks dropped inside any of my nestboxes – none! This makes me wonder if this species, a migrating bird species, has had some issues this year. Strangely, the past 3 years shows results of House Wren havoc on the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail. This year, I show NO House Wrens. I am not saying they won’t nest anytime soon. I have heard them singing in the trees attracting mates. I find it interesting the troubles housing this native species is not causing the usual concerns and worries I have had in past years. We will see as time goes on for the rest of May and June this season.
For the followers of this site, my postings will be more few and far between as a blog setup as I try to maintain and keep this site going as an informational space about the joys of a bluebird trail, and all the challenges faced each year. It has turned out the communications of my trail activities are going very well on Facebook, so if you want to see more weekly, even daily, postings of happenings on the trail, you can view the Facebook page, which is public, anytime, whether you are a Facebook user or not. May I invite you to see the photos, videos, and challenges there in a more regular basis. This page will be used as a “blog” with interesting reports that will come through from time to time. Did you Know? … this blog started when I was telecommuting to my McLean, Virginia, position? Something clicked when I worked from home, and what was happening outside my window made me realize the difference of working in an office—which I loved—to seeing the great outdoors. I appreciate your support through the years. The trail is celebrating its existence of fledging birds since my introduction to bluebirding in 2005 when I found an old weather nestbox in the back yard of our new home. This box was on a 4×4 wood post without any predator guards. As you may know, both bluebird broods failed miserably in that nestbox soon upon my arrival to the home. That is how bluebirding with that fiery passion started for me. The first of the bluebird trail of the first 14 nestboxes commenced with the planning during summer of 2007. The boxes were built in the workshop (locally) during December and January 2007-08. The 14 were installed February 2008. Today, I have 42 nestboxes — many I install myself with no assistance. I really think a total of 50 nestbox setups, all with two efficient predator guards, are not far-fetched. I have three active builders I work with throughout the state who do marvelous work and who I give credit to for allowing me to utilize their wonderful artistry and craftsmanship of creating super housing and the predator guards consisting now of 8” wide stovepipe baffles under the box and the Noel Guards on the entry holes to input successful results on my trail every year. Thank you all for your assistance to make the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail a special place the native cavity-nesting birds enjoy rearing their families. Many thanks also goes to the local homeowners who host the nestboxes and allow me to access the caretaking and monitoring required to make them work. The best reward for me is seeing this nesting action so close-up and being involved in seeing the young fledge into our world.
I am now a Certified Virginia Master Naturalist – received this honor in February 2014 by completing the requirements, including the volunteer hours to get certified. Basic Training began August 2013. This is giving me two naturalist course attendances and certifications during the last 3 years. This is coming very handy in me educating others on conservation of all of our natural resources, not just bluebirds. I have many more things to learn as I continue on in my endeavors. I am retired and I’m using my new time of choices to the max. Taking care of cavity-nesting birds is just one of the many things I love in my life. There is no such thing as boredom. I have more time constraints than ever, it seems; and I’ve picked up even more hobbies, such as macro photography. My favorite subject for macro is the wildflowers. I have three field guides in wildflowers in the Southern Appalachians. I also want to learn more about one of the oldest creatures existing in my region – those magical salamanders. Life is precious. I vow to do the best I can to take care of myself first, and then do all I can to take care of others, human or critter. For some reason, the natural calls me. For sure, see the Virginia Master Naturalist main website to see all the great works the volunteers do — yo may want to consider training in your own State’s naturalist organization and become a Master Naturalist yourself. http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/
Wishing you a beautiful season as spring is turning soon into summer. Feel free to use the Contact page to send me a private message, or reply to this blog with questions—better yet, if you want a faster response to questions, come to the Facebook page. Best wishes to all.
~~ Christine, Owner, Manager of the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail, Southwest Virginia’s Blue Ridge Highlands ~~
Scheduled this year to meet on Saturday, June 27, 2015. Main presentation begins at 10:00 a.m. Please try to arrive before 10:00a.m. Scheduled activities end by 2:00 p.m. The 2014 event was a huge success with 140 attendees from six states!
I plan to attend the 2015 event– will be my first time. What is not to love about cavity/colony nesters? We humans can do plenty to help them. It is more than just putting up housing for them and leaving it. Monitoring and caretaking is required for success year to year. See what it’s all about.
SEE FASCINATING VIDEO on YouTube! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcD8LXQn8nQ&feature=youtu.be
In Virginia, it’s that time again for the Annual Purple Martin Field Day, Louisa County, The 21st Annual Event … please come and bring all your birding friends and family or anyone you think might like to see what Purple Martin colonies are all about! This special gathering is always a huge success with a gathering of approximately over 140 attendees from four states. So here is the scoop for this year–it is coming up–don’t miss out:
Mark your calendars for this fascinating event about those amazing Purple Martins! If you find bluebird nestboxes fascinating, you’ll love seeing a strategically built Purple Martin colony in action! You’ll meet expert birders at this event, hear lectures, get free materials, learn what creates a successful colony of Purple Martins and why they need to be cared for and monitored–why the use of predator guards towards their breeding and fledging success of a colony, and how to get them to return and bring joy year after year. This is located in central Virginia–in Louisa County. Take a look at this website for more info on this event, maps and directions, and more! Look at these beautiful birds live and talk to great bird people dedicated to this marvelous cavity nesting bird, the Purple Martin. http://www.purplemartinfieldday.org/
No registration. Event is FREE, but donations will be appreciated to help cover expenses. Bring: Lawn chairs, binoculars, notepad, camera, lunch (feel free to eat on the grounds). Drinks and snacks provided. The hosts request that guests do not bring pets. Thank you.
For more information, contact (434) 962-8232 or email@example.com
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT PURPLE MARTINS see:
Woolwine House Bluebird Trail Final Results for 2014:
All 36 Nesting Boxes Occupied (Written Summary Essay Forthcoming) … more details forthcoming on challenges, successes, and disappointments … what was different this year from the past years … etc.
Eastern Bluebirds: 38 Nest Attempts; 221 Eggs Laid; 161 Eggs Hatched; 148 Bluebirds Fledged
Carolina Chickadees: 4 Nest Attempts, 19 Eggs Laid, 16 Eggs Hatched, 16 Chickadees Fledged
Tree Swallows: 4 Nest Attempts; 18 Eggs Laid, 13 Eggs Hatched, 12 Tree Swallows Fledged
House Wrens: 8 Nest Attempts; 41 Eggs Laid, 22 Eggs Hatched, 22 House Wrens Fledged
House Wren Predation: 6
House Sparrow Predation: 2 (broken eggs only)
Snake Predation: 1 (6” wide wobbling baffle/unprongedNoel Guard)
Raccoon Predation: 0
Human Vandalism Predation: 0
Unknown Predation: 2
Dead Adults: 0
Missing and/or Dead Young Combined: 11
Missing and/or Destroyed Eggs Combined: 49
Unhatched Eggs Found in Nest: 31
The nesting season is starting to wind down. Of 36 nesting boxes, I still have 9 occupied presently with Eastern Bluebirds finishing 2nd broods. I have not seen 3rd broods started (yet). Since they started a month later last year and again this year (due to the colder weather), I doubt I’ll see 3rds this year. I have two nestboxes finishing up on House Wrens. My nesting boxes have had these species enter and attempt to nest. Only the House Sparrow was not allowed to reproduce in the boxes: House Sparrow, House Wren, Tree Swallow, Eastern Bluebird, and Carolina Chickadee. I was hoping to see this year at least once a White-Breasted Nuthatch, Brown-Headed Nuthatch (rare in our location but they are coming closer to our area in search of their specific habitat which is the Southern pine forests), or a Carolina Wren (sometimes will nest in nestboxes). Of all 36 monitored, not one nestbox went unoccupied. I’d say that’s “success” for housing 4 native cavity-nesting species of birds this season. The work to install them for occupancy has been tweaked just right by strategizing and accessing the usages year after year–always a work in progress when you start a bluebird trail. I will report back final nesting data in late August to early September.
This Eastern Bluebird is one of 6 eggs….only this one hatched. I removed all 4 eggs you see next to this little one. The other unhatched egg is slightly buried in the nesting material underneath the nestling you see here in this picture, so I left that one so as not to disturb this little guy any more than I already did. It’s easy to remove the unhatched eggs when the young are at this age….once they get bigger, it’s difficult due to the nestling’s size. 2-3 days after is even more ideal, if you can. That is not always possible if you monitor the standard once a week at a nestbox. This bluebird should get plenty of food, don’t you think? Any questions on removing unhatched eggs? If so, fire away here! I’m happy to help.
They are nesting in a larger number on my trail for 2014!
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.
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?
“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
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.
Here they are–the first! In spite of two nights in a row with a freeze of 20 degrees overnight, they made it, at least these three. I will check tomorrow to see if the other two hatched. The brooding female was on the nest when I arrived. I bet she sat on this and kept them warm in our coldest and longest spring snap I can remember in a long time. Here we go! More on the way!
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!
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!
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).
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”:
1 cup peanut butter
4 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup unbleached or whole-wheat flour
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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)
Unknown Winged Insect: 1
Blowfly Larvae: 10 (some WITH and without hardware cloth risers–more on this in detail soon)
` 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)
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:
– Twin Baby Bluebirds are born 7-1-2013
President of The Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania
Butler County BSP Coordinator
Previous box opening and observation was approximately 9:30 am:
Events of the morning 7/12/13:
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
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
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” 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.
I always give the nesting birds warning when I approach–I speak softly or whistle my favorite Snow White tune, even tap lightly before opening. When I open, like I did at this box, and she does not fly off the nest, I will NEVER force-flush her off just so I can count the eggs! Look at her expression–determined and brave girl! She is doing what comes naturally to her–even put her own life on the line (such as a predator attack which can end in tragedy) to protect her clutch. Who am I to tell she has to leave? I will close the box and leave her be to do her motherly care as she incubates her eggs. I will try again next box visit. Afternoons are good during incubation periods–she is more apt to leave the nest to take a break and find something to eat.
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!
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
Sitting quietly and comfortably awaiting me to finish my monitoring task at their nest. I’m sure they are hungry and waiting for Mom and Pop Bluebird to bring them some good things to eat!
First set to hatch for 2013. Three of six NEW bluebirds in my world. Look at that big feather in there.
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.
This gal did not want to budge at TWO VISITS. Finally, I got the egg count yesterday — 5 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
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/
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.
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.
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.
Get some live mealworms–great fact sheet about them: http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/PDF/FAQ/NABS%20factsheet%20-%20Mealworms%20-%2024May12%20DRAFT.pdf
Many thanks to NABS (the North American Bluebird Society) for putting together these great Fact Sheets. Want more fact sheets about other topics relating to bluebirds? Well, you’ve got them!
Get them here: http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/Fact/bluebirdfacts.htm
Great photo of bluebirds at their designated mealworm cups taken by photographer, Mr. David Kinneer.
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
March 19 – 2013: Nestbox checks searching for new nestings has official commenced for 2013 season. I visited all boxes on the trail. Out of the 33 nestboxes I am care-taking, four (4) had new bluebird nests started. I am thinking they are one or two days into building time. You know, when Mr. Blue does good husbandry and helps find nest materials and drops them inside the box, it is faster for her. I am waiting to see tree swallows and chickadees (really hoping for those swallows this year). I am expecting some house wrens in another location. Here are two new photos. The first is the one nestbox that has the most materials–grasses being dropped and arranged by Mrs. Blue in that circular design. The other photo is the latest addition to my trail–the last nestbox (#33). You will note the 8″ width, spray-painted stovepipe wobbling snake/ground critter guard on the conduit and the extra predator guard (original called the Jim Noel Coon Guard) made of hardware cloth over the entry hole. So, here we go, folks! Wishing everyone a blessed bluebird year! “May All Your Blues Be Birds” ! by B. Zimmerman
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 here: http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/BB_Guards_12-11-2012.pdf
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:
Here is photo of the same nestbox below (moved from that location):