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.





1 pair of protective & rubber gloves (not shown)

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


Ziploc bags, large & small

Anything needed along the trail.


Plastic folded grocery bags (not shown)

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


Small lightweight thermometer

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


Roll of heavy gauge wire

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


Medium size paintbrush

Brushing inside of nestbox.


Pastry brush

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


Medium & small metal scrapers

Scraping,/cleaning inside of nestboxes.


Small bright flashlight (Mini-Maglite)

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


Scissors and wire cutter (not shown)

Anything needed along the trail.


Narrow stainless wire brush

Scraping matter from corners inside nestbox.


Staple remover

To remove old staples during nestbox label replacements.



For repairs and adjustments.


Dual Wrench – 7/16 and 3/8 inch sizes

For repairs and tightening of nuts, as needed.


Screwdriver with changeable bits

For repairs and tightening and removal/replacement of screws.


Regular Phillips screwdriver

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


Extra nails and various extra screws

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


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


Antibacterial disposable wipes

For cleaning hands or tools.


Small First Aid Supplies

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


Pens, Highlighters, Sharpies

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


Mirrors of various sizes

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


Small plastic spoon

To removed unhatched eggs.


Corks in 2 sizes

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


Tape Measure

Use on the trail when needed.


Cell phone and small digital camera (not shown)

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


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:






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