This has been the longest bluebird nesting season yet for the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail. The earliest egg laid was March 8, 2012. That means earlier nest building–probably that box claimed in February this year by the male and shown to his mate and gladly accepted–nest-building in late February-early March. I have several third broods going on presently. One female is still incubating a clutch of 4 eggs in Box #8. I expect hatching any day now—as a matter of fact, I will be checking that box today!
So I have more news and tidbits ….
The trail is expanding. I hope to have 30 nestboxes by spring 2013 installed within my community in perfect bluebird habitat. Perhaps the year after…or by mid-season 2013…even earlier I can have more than 30 nestboxes on my trail…..it could be more than 30. Can I monitor more than 30? That remains to be seen as I have driving to do here and there in my mountain community to monitor all the boxes properly. I also like to spend extra time watching the birds from my car to see interesting behaviors. I find monitoring about every 4-5 days creates a much better success rate in fledging baby bluebirds and for excellent care for the boxes, as I get more opportunities to “nip in the bud” those problems that arise. A question I keep asking myself: Can I monitor 40 boxes twice a week? I know many monitors monitor 50, 75, even 100 nestboxes. Are those boxes on a prescribed “route”, down a road that is easy to access from a vehicle? Do they have assistance from someone? Do they monitor once a week or more often? Maybe I can train others to do this in my locale on a volunteer basis. I need to call my local Chapter for the Virginia Master Naturalists and see if anyone is looking to fulfill volunteer hours for their certification. I hope to find someone to help me with this project I love so much. It is always good to have a backup in case I can’t monitor the trail for a few weeks. One never really knows if there will be an interruption for one reason or another. So! This is a new goal of mine for 2013. Note: I will never install more nestboxes than can be monitored at least once a week.
I have so many people to thank for making my bluebird trail possible. Many thanks are consistent going to Carl, my local neighbor who builds the nestboxes, helps me with moving boxes to new locations when needed, repairs to existing nestboxes and stovepipe baffles, and installations (pounding the conduit into the ground!), and general advice on just about anything. I also have the residents and businesses to thank for letting me install the nestboxes on their grounds and giving me access to the nestboxes for monitoring the birds and getting the records on paper in my notebook, maintenance and care of the nestboxes, and in late fall to prepare the nestboxes for roosting during cold winter nights and in early spring to prepare for the new nesting seasons, including soaping the ceilings to deter the paper wasps from building nests inside the nestboxes. I start this in mid-February and have them ready by March 1-15. These are people who support me and my bluebird endeavors! You ALL are appreciated—SO THANK YOU year after year! The bluebirds also are doing well because you give them a place to find that make it possible for them to raise families.
By monitoring twice a week—depending on weather, I also get much improved ACCURATE data, such as time between a completed nest cup to the time it takes for the female to lay the first and last egg in a single clutch. This will vary depending on weather and when she wants to lay. If I can get approximate hatching dates, this helps me know how the nestlings are developing. This in turn helps me get an accurate date of fledging dates. Did you know: a female bluebird can store sperm for about a month? …. as I learned recently while attending the North Carolina Bluebird Society’s annual conference May 2012. This was the most surprising fact I learned all-around in past years about bluebirds’ reproduction cycles and behaviors. I learned that from a fascinating lecture by Dr. Lynn Siefferman, Associate Professor at Appalachian State University. To read more about the past conference, see the NCBS’s newsletter online, dated Spring (May) 2012: http://www.ncbluebird.org/pdf/NCBS-BluebirdNotes-Spring2012.pdf
My next post in future will be about my experience attending the conference and questions I was asked at the table I had on behalf of the Virginia Bluebird Society at that conference. Joining these state bluebird societies are worth every penny–the memberships are inexpensive and it’s great to see how other bluebirders do what they do to assist successful nestings by these beautiful cavity-nesting birds.
My TEST Two-Holer Mansion project—a three-year test I’ve been conducting on bluebirds successfully holding territory in a House Sparrow location (competition) without trapping or gadgets is coming to full fruition of data showing this has worked. This has been such an interesting experiment. Many thanks to Linda Violett for her guidance on conducting this test these past 3 years. I like experimenting! It has been a pleasure for me to conduct this test. It has been quite a learning experience watching this actually work. Year three is about completed as I watch a third brood of bluebirds fledge babies. Presently, 7-day old baby bluebirds are developing in that test box. See Linda’s website on my test here: http://home.earthlink.net/~lviolett/testwoolwine.html
Never a dull moment on this bluebird trail! Thanks for following the WHBBT! I can only hope you find this website interesting AND inspiring!