“WARBLE” IT OUT FOR BLUEBIRDS: ANTICIPATION OF THE NESTING SEASON OF 2011


Greetings from the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail.  The photo seen above on my site’s header, which will remain through the month of March 2011, is a photo taken by Dave Kinneer of the male bluebird courting his lady love.  He is wing-waving to her, telling her how wonderful he is.   It makes me feel all fuzzy inside how romantic the male bluebird is.  April will soon be here—a very significant month for me as I prepare for the nesting season once again.  Last year, 2010, and interestingly in 2009– my first egg laid on my trail was April 8–both years the exact same date!

This will be my 6th year of my interest in bluebirds  and my 4th year of having a bluebird trail of my own.  I want to be sure I don’t have more boxes installed that I can be a responsible “landlord” to and that I’m able to monitor what I have at least once a week. Sometimes I do it twice a week, depending on activity or if I’m fixing a particular issue or problem along my trail, or if bad weather delays me to monitor on a fixed schedule.  I have to drive to all my boxes—they are spread out.   To install more boxes than I can physically monitor is not recommended—really, it’s a bad idea all around.   Too many things can go wrong for the bluebirds.  I will add more boxes to my trail as I think I can handle the responsibility of taking care of those boxes.   I am finding a box that isn’t getting any activity within a two-year period needs to be moved to different habitat.  I make this determination each autumn after I summarize my trail results for that season.  I like November as a good time to tweak my trail—at the same time I winterize my boxes for roosting for the cold winter months.  The Virginia Bluebird Society gets my trail results and incorporates them with other monitors’ records from other counties for all of Virginia combined.  This is how we can see how the birds are doing year after year.  Thanks to installed nestboxes and monitoring, the birds are increased in numbers in the past decade.   You can go to the VBS website to see the records—go take a look:  http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/trailstatistics.html As a monitor, accurate records, such as the date of the first egg laid (exciting to see that first blue egg) and when incubation by Mama Bluebird begins is really important to me.  She delays incubation until she’s finished laying her clutch.  Once I have those dates secured, I can better anticipate the date of that first hatching—by far the most thrilling experience for me every season!

I have found it helps to have people networking in support of someone like me on behalf of the bluebirds.   Many thanks to The Floyd Press for getting this article  released in Floyd County and beyond of my efforts to get the word out about my availability to assist in education about bluebirding and how to properly install one box or a trail of boxes using a properly made nestbox and predator guards:   http://www.swvatoday.com/news/article/peoples_efforts_have_bluebirds_rallying/9260/

It’s paying off.  I’ve had many inquiries about bluebirds this past week.   Primland Resort in Meadows of Dan has started a trail with many thanks to the Golf Superintendent who contacted me for information.  I will be training him on monitoring the boxes installed on their grounds.   Primland Resort built Virginia Bluebird Society recommended nestboxes from their nestbox plan….and ….with TWO predator guards.  We are making a joint-effort presentation to the local Patrick County 4-H Club in mid-March at the Patrick County High School.  There is a particular joy I feel when I can successfully tell others what the bluebirds.   Many thanks to all who continue to support the bluebirds in my two Counties–Floyd and Patrick.  I can’t tell you enough how inspirational you are to me and, just so you know, you will be to others when they see what you’re doing to help these birds.    I believe people I talk to feel the energy behind why we can get hooked on helping the bluebirds.

I will be starting my weekly list of findings of the Test Site on my trail of the Two-Hole Mansion, Year 2.   As of February 18 this year, 2011, the (English) House Sparrow has started nest building in that box already.  This is the earliest I’ve seen yet.  I removed the nest and will return this weekend to see if another has started; frankly, I’m expecting one.  If you refer to my tabbed page of this test site, you’ll see the bluebirds were able to move in last summer after weeks of removing the House Sparrow nests and successfully fledge bluebird babies.   You’ll read what this test site is about and why I’m NOT trapping the sparrows for this test.   It should be noted over and over again:  The  (English) House Sparrow, which is NOT native to our country and is an aggressive bird taking cavities from our native birds, should not be allowed to use and breed in our nestboxes installed for bluebirds and our other native cavity-nesting birds!

So, with this update above, I’ll be seeing you again soon, as the nesting season is just around the corner; my posts here will start to increase as bluebird activity increases along my trail.   I’m busy answering inquiries about bluebirds and helping others to prepare for monitoring bluebird nestboxes for the VBS.  The males are out now establishing their breeding territory. For those who have boxes now, make sure they are ready for nesting.  Early March is a good time to soap the ceilings of your boxes to deter wasps, which always start showing up in warmer weather.  I’ve seen some out already in our area.  I create a soap paste mixture by taking Ivory soap bars and let them sit in a plastic container in water.  Once the soap paste is the right consistency, I use a pastry brush to “paint” the soap mixture on the ceiling of the boxes and slightly down the sides and underneath the eaves of the larger roof of my boxes.   I do it early enough to allow it to dry so it is before the female starts entering the boxes to build the nests so the damp soap  paste does not get on her wings.  The boxes should dry first before the birds investigate nesting in them.

If you don’t know yet what the bluebird sounds like, check out the Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds page on the Eastern Bluebird’s warble-song-call.   For me, this is a sweet sound of Spring when I hear this:  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Bluebird/sounds

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