NESTBOX MONITORING PROTOCOL ON THE TRAIL – LEARNING and EDUCATION TO OTHERS IS KEY ON THIS WEBSITE.


Recently, I have been active on various bluebird Facebook pages on monitoring the cavity nesting birds in the nesting boxes.  Here is a post I did today regarding when to stop opening the boxes when the nestlings inside are at a certain age:

I use Day 13 as my guide as last day. I use an auto-visor mirror always to hold at the top of the box to look down at the nest.  At 12 to 13 days old, I just crack open enough and use that mirror and stay diligently fast and efficient to check on their health, development, do the headcount, and look for a potential nestling death (if that happens, it is still a safe time to remove the dead one if at all possible–by this age, the percentage is low).  After Day 13, I do observations of activity at the boxes by the parent behaviors in surveillance method from afar–a great indicator how the kids are doing!  There is a time when human monitoring at the nests so close up has to cease for the fullest safety for all.  I do not want to open up the box when the nestlings are starting to get active inside as they move around, stretch their wings, exercise their legs…to gain strength for fledging….while getting the confidence that they can fly for the first time into the world they know nothing about!  Some fecal sacs are not picked up yet by the parents so  it’s not good to have any natural bird odors from the boxes get into the air circulations to attract predators (specifically the common black rat snakes here in the South that have keen smelling ability close or from a distance–they feed night or day).  This is another reason why I do not open the boxes every single day, which is a bit excessive as nestbox micro-management by humans, in my personal opinion.  I do not even approach too close to the boxes during fledging process dates between 16 and 19 days.   I use a chair or my car and some binoculars and watch the action of the parents going to the nestbox for feedings.   The anticipation then sets in and I use nature’s way with the awesome parent birds to take over without my interventions, if at all possible.  Average fledging age on my trail is Day 17, but sometimes it can be the 18th day.  Oldest age ever was 22 days due to a nest change for the nestling to recover from blowfly larvae infestations.  That was in 2008.

Bluebird Nesting Guide from Virginia Bluebird Society

With that, I also have cross posted this on those same Facebook pages.  It is not only fitting to share this on the topic, but imperative for educational purposes.  Here is that text:

I am cross posting at a few Facebook pages Cornell’s NestWatch monitoring protocol guidelines and principles of birding ethics, the Code of Conduct, in human monitoring all nests in the wild, including our nesting boxes.  The advice and guidelines are easy to read and is based on the American Birding Association’s birding ethics and protocol (find them at www.aba.org).   I participate and am certified in NestWatch.  It’s an excellent source of information!  If you haven’t yet, take some time to look around the NestWatch website.  While you’re there on the Code of Conduct page, look to the left and click on the links on Nest Monitoring Protocol and Nest Monitoring Manual and FAQS, which is great for new bluebirders to learn from.  Enjoy!
http://nestwatch.org/learn/how-to-nestwatch/code-of-conduct/

I also follow all state and federal laws on my 43-box bluebird trail and all other birding adventures in my locale (such as monitoring a Northern Mockingbird nest at my neighbor’s house), based on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 ( in particular, I am referring how I handle native birds and non-native invasive species).    Here is that website from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: https://www.fws.gov/birds/policies-and-regulations/laws-legislations/migratory-bird-treaty-act.php

Here is a recent photo of Mom Blue who did not flush off the nest during a box check.  I never force her off.   However, with my quick skill one-handed with my small digital camera with the box panel door cracked open so as not to startle her too much (I never use flash photography on live birds inside the boxes), I was able to capture her on her egg clutch.  The natural lighting also captured the brilliant blue feathers on this incubating female.

Mom blue Incubating 2016 at Nestbox 15

Here is a picture of a lone bluebird baby among 5 other unhatched eggs.  Though I do possess the appropriate state and federal permits to handle young and eggs, it also challenged me to safely handle the situation to remove the unhatched eggs that would and could have been devastating to this nestling for various reasons….the eggs could crack and break and get sticky embryo contents on the nest, thus getting on the nestlings feathers, legs, etc., and attracting predators….OR….possibly causing leg splay issues as the nestling continually gets cramped in growing sizes among the eggs, which could develop into a deformity and fledging problems.  Here is a picture — this bluebird nestling in 2014 was sitting on one of the unhatched eggs — no more room in that cup for the little one.  Age of the nestling is at 5 days old.  We don’t want it to grow any larger.  I have posted this before, in 2014.  Perhaps you recognize it?

"The Lone Child"

I very often go through my yearly photo journals on my computer to review the photos I’ve captured to remind me on what I’ve learned through the years helping the nesting birds while applying the code of ethics associated with human monitoring of nature’s nests.

Here is a recent photo I took of 13-day olds.  No more opening the box after the 13th day!

13 Day Old EABL

Questions and comments welcomed — faster responses if you go to my ABOUT page and fill out the form, which is sent to my Email address, at which point I can respond back to you on your Email.   

The response form information submitted stays private between you and me….always.  The form is designed for faster replies to you personally and privately.  NOTE TO SPAMMERS:  WordPress is so developed, it’s set up to SCREEN YOUR SPAM.   I will not get it to my Email in-box. Thank you, WordPress!

All the best to you as you continue your birding ventures and adventures.  Happy Birding.  Have you joined in on the trail’s Facebook page yet?  C’mon over — lots of posts and action there!  https://www.facebook.com/WoolwineHouseBluebirdTrail

Feel free to share this post away on the public sites.  Education is key in properly appreciating and handling birds in human monitoring and Citizen Science protocol.  Happy and safe birding!

Best regards always,

Christine

 

Video

MID-NESTING SEASON REPORT – Date of Report is July 9, 2016


This is a a mid-season report I posted on the trail’s Facebook page.  I am duplicating it here, including an attached video of removing the unhatched egg from Nestbox #12 on July 9, 2016.  Only 1 of the two eggs hatched.  Unhatched eggs can be removed AFTER 72 hours from hatching of the remaining eggs in the nest.  

Four species using the boxes. Note: Still pending eggs, hatching, and fledging in the numbers indicated below for Bluebirds and House Wrens. This is as of trail check dated July 7 and two boxes were checked today, July 9, 2016. 3rd broods started thus far in 6 nestboxes. I expect a few more. Let’s say I am NOT happy with these results. The challenges have been astounding this year. Last year of 2015 was my best ever year in 10 years of the trail. This year 2016 is my worst ever. All the reason to continue to want to help these birds succeed. This is a shortened report for halfway through the nesting season. Every year, there is something NEW I LEARN. The trail is at 43 nestboxes. 3 boxes went unoccupied.  Last year, all boxes were eventually occupied. It’s not too late for them to be used, however, as I’ve seen late nestings in unoccupied boxes.   You know the 4-letter avian abbreviations?  They are as follows:

EABL:  Eastern bluebird, CACH:  Carolina Chickadee, TRES:  Tree Swallow, HOWR:  House Wren

…..EABL: 63 Nest Attempts / 270 Eggs Laid / 203 Hatched Thus Far and Pending More Hatchings / 155 Fledged Thus Far

…..CACH: 2 Nest Attempts / 9 Eggs Laid / 9 Hatched / 7 Fledged

…..TRES: 6 Nest Attempts / 27 Eggs Laid / 26 Hatched / 26 Fledged

…..HOWR: 1 Nest Attempt / 6 Eggs Laid / Pending Hatching. I should mention this nesting HOWR couple caused no havoc to native bird nestings. In the nestbox before them were bluebirds, which fledged successfully. After fledging, the HOWRs moved in within one week.. This is unusual. Competition is what would be expected. HOWRS’ migration arrival here was later than before.

……..1. RAT SNAKES ARE ON A RAMPAGE! 4 Nestboxes raided. 2 nestboxes armed with 6-inch wide wobbling stovepipe and pronged Noel Guard / 1 Nestbox armed with 7-inch wide wobbly stovepipe and pronged Noel Guard / 1 Nestbox armed with smooth (and waxed?) 4-inch PVC sleeve over wood post. This is the worse ever in 10 years regarding snakes — the very large rat snakes are challenging to hold back even 7-inch wide baffles. So far, no predations on the 8-inch wide wobbling stovepipe baffles. My trail is being updated with the 8-inch on remaining original setups. All new installations are higher at 6 feet high.

………2. BLOWFLY LARVAE INFESTATION WORST EVER IN 10 YEARS – 2nd broods were the worst affected. I am *increasing* on the food-grade organic diatomaceous earth application amounts in the nests of any remaining 2nd brood and all 3rd broods started. Some larvae got past the diatomaceous earth application (does that mean I did not add enough or these larvae are tougher than previous years? — a serious and chronic issue on my trail year after year!)

………3. Total number of missing or dead young—for all reasons—is now at 32 as of July 7. That is a very high number for my trail. Note: regarding missing young in a nest of surviving nestlings was not to predators; moreover I believe a hatchling died and the parent birds removed the deceased if they are small enough to pull through the 1.5 inch entry and exit hole from the nestbox.

I removed an unhatched egg today. I created a short video of how easy (and fast) I try to do this (attached). Only 1 of 2 eggs hatched.  See that below.  The nestling is growing slowly and is 72 hours old.   It is VERY hot outside right now.  Mom is holding her own.  I have not seen Pop Bluebird.  

BUY A SHIRT / SAVE A BLUEBIRD! – Fundraiser Campaign to Support Bluebirds – Deadline is April 11, 2016.


I’m getting the word out for my bluebirding friend and colleague, Alyce, a member of the Roanoke Valley Bird Club, a longtime birding fan and monitor of bluebird trails in Virginia.  If you love the Blues, you’re going to love this shirt!    I’m ordering a couple for myself and a couple as gifts.  Orders can be placed until April 11! …. the deadline to order for this campaign.  THANK YOU for your support!

T-shirt comes in Khaki color. Fabric is a poly-cotton blend, 50/50--are pre-shrunk and run to size.

Fabric is a poly-cotton blend, 50/50–pre-shrunk and run to size (unless otherwise noted).

BUY A SHIRT / SAVE A BLUEBIRD!

A mere 50 years ago, the Eastern Bluebird suffered a steep decline in population, enough so that scientists feared for its survival.  This decline was due in part to severe weather, but also to human activities.  Habitat loss, removal of dead trees, the introduction of invasive species, pesticide use, cars, hunting, and collection of eggs all contributed to this decline.  Fortunately citizen scientists reversed the trend by introducing artificial housing in the form of nest boxes.  Now there is a large network of bluebird trails around the country, monitored weekly from spring through late summer.  The bluebird population has rebounded and stabilized.  With the purchase of this t-shirt (or two or three!), you can be a part of the effort to conserve bluebirds for many years to come.  Proceeds will be donated to organizations that help support Eastern Bluebird habitat.  Wouldn’t it be a great gift for all the bird lovers in your life?

Buying a shirt is easy.  Just go to https://www.bonfirefunds.com/buy-a-shirt-save-a-bluebird and follow the steps to place an order.  Shirts are $18 each, or $20 for a ladies slim fit.  We need a minimum of 20 orders by the end of the campaign on April 11 for the shirts to be produced and sent out.  If you’re unable to order online, just contact Alyce Quinn at twoquinns@yahoo.com or 540-719-0109 and she can order one for you.

Show your support–order your shirt(s) today!

‘KINGSTON’ STOVEPIPE BAFFLE — STOP GROUND PREDATORS GETTING TO NESTING BOXES.


This is the Ron Kingston Stovepipe guard.

This is the Ron Kingston Stovepipe guard.

This nestbox was recently treated for ants!

This nestbox was recently treated for ants!

On the cusp of this Leap Year month, the nesting season is soon among us once again, and we must be sure our nesting boxes are protected so our beautiful native cavity-nesting birds can successfully fledge their young without sabotage and interruption.   It is up to us as humans — when installing manmade bird housing, that is — to add this protection.   We cannot do this in natural habitat in natural cavities much higher into the trees, but as stewards helping the native cavity-nesting birds, we can help by providing safe locations  for them to bring their young into the world when we install and lure the birds to use our manmade bird housing.  Predators from the ground are and can be, depending on your location:  Snakes, Raccoons, Cats, Opossum, Rats, Mice, and Squirrels.  Have I missed any?  (Will not stop ants.)  Mr. Ron Kingston and I keep in contact often.  Mr. Kingston, being the designer of this guard, has created an inexpensive-to-make but highly effective wobbling stovepipe guard to easily install under nesting boxes.  This design has been tested over and over on bluebird trails for many years.  He recently sent me this colorful PDF online document with more info with some awesome photo graphics on making this guard, including some nice info about Ron himself!  Thank you!   I have never seen it before. Here it is and linked from the Purple Martin Field Day (which occurs in June each day in Louisa County, Virginia):    Click here:   From the Purple Martin Field Day website

Yo, mama! She is guarding her egg clutch. The eggs can be counted on another day. If she sits right on the egg clutch when you open the box for monitiring, leave her be and quietly close the box and secure it. The eggs can be counted on another day! She is the boss and must be left to attend to her Mom duties. Please use predator guards so that Mrs. Blue will get attacked by snakes or climbing mammals like raccoons and cats. (Photo is by me in 2013, at a top-opening nestbox).

Let me know if you have questions either by posting here on this blog post or contacting me privately through the CONTACT ME page.  I will be duplicating this document on my “Deterring Predators and Pests” page also.  I am also linking the plan below how to make it in a PDF file, viewable and printable online below.  

Find the plans here (if the links are not live, just cut and paste the URL in your browser separately):  

 1.  From the Nestbox Builder website:  

 2.  From the Virginia Bluebird society website:  

3.  From Cornell’s NestWatch page on predators (includes info on the wonderful Noel guard): 

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

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

Suggestion: I install as high off the ground as possible so I can still reach the tops of boxes to monitor fast and efficiently without too much fuss during nestings so the birds can get back to business away from my human presence to tend to their nest and young.  I use an auto visor mirror to look down onto the nests to count eggs and young and to check for any possible problems with the young so I can troubleshoot how to help, just in case.  I install the stovepipe guards under my nestboxes fairly high from the ground–where the tops of my boxes are at about six (6) feet above ground.  Boxes installed too low, such as 4 feet (even 5 feet is low if you are installing a box on an incline terrain or hill), are too easy for snakes, raccoons, and cats, to get past the guard.  Feral cats can jump 6 feet!  (NOTE:  I prefer all my boxes to be off of flat terrain as much as possible.)

Here is a YouTube Video I made regarding one of my first boxes on my trail and using this guard:  

Ground Climbing Predator Baffle-Kingston with Illustration

 

 

 

“THE BLUEBIRD” … A POEM BY MAURICE THOMPSON


WHEN ice is thawed and snow is gone,
And racy sweetness floods the trees;
When snow-birds from the hedge have flown,
And on the hive-porch swarm the bees,
Drifting down the first warm wind
That thrills the earliest days of spring,
The bluebird seeks our maple groves,
And charms them into tasselling.

He sits among the delicate sprays,
With mists of splendor round him drawn,
And through the spring’s prophetic veil
Sees summer’s rich fulfilment dawn:
He sings, and his is nature’s voice—
A gush of melody sincere
From that great fount of harmony
Which thaws and runs when spring is here.

Short is his song, but strangely sweet
To ears aweary of the low,
Dull tramp of Winter’s sullen feet,
Sandalled in ice and muffed in snow:
Short is his song, but through it runs
A hint of dithyrambs yet to be—
A sweet suggestiveness that has
The influence of prophecy.

From childhood I have nursed a faith
In bluebirds’ songs and winds of spring:
They tell me, after frost and death
There comes a time of blossoming;
And after snow and cutting sleet,
The cold, stern mood of Nature yields
To tender warmth, when bare pink feet
Of children press her greening fields.

Sing strong and clear, O bluebird dear!
While all the land with splendor fills,
While maples gladden in the vales
And plum-trees blossom on the hills:
Float down the wind on shining wings,
And do thy will by grove and stream,
While through my life spring’s freshness runs
Like music through a poet’s dream.

 ~ by Maurice Thompson
Snowcap Landing!

Snowcap Landing!

Image

CELEBRATING THE SUCCESS OF THE TRAIL — CHECK OUT THE RECORDS.


MY FAVORITE QUOTES (note I like the early year quotes the best!):

A man’s interest in a single bluebird is worth more than a complete but dry list of the fauna and flora of a town.”  ~  Letter, November 22, 1858, from Henry D. Thoreau to Daniel Ricketson, in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, 1906

And when he sings to you, Though you’re deep in blue, You will see a ray of light creep through,  And so remember this, life is no abyss, Somewhere there’s a bluebird of happiness. Life is sweet, tender and complete, when you find the bluebird of happiness.” 
~  Bluebird of Happiness, lyrics by Edward Heyman & Harry Parr Davies, 1934

“As the pressure of population increasingly regiments us and crowds us closer together, an association with the wild, winged freedom of the birds will fill an ever growing need in our lives.”  ~ Edwin Way Teale, introduction to Songbirds in Your Garden, 1953

“The birds richly repay you for the trouble you take in attracting them and looking out for their interests.”   ~ Joseph H. Dodson, Your Bird Friends and How to Win Them, 1928

“The bluebird carries the sky on his back.” ~   Henry David Thoreau, Journal, April 3, 1852

This graphic below:  here is a pretty good indication of a bluebird trail success from Year 1 (2008) with the first 14 nestbox installations–though the trail planning and building stage actually started in 2007–to this year, 2015.  The more nesting boxes you put up and monitor, the more native cavity-nesting birds you can fledge!  This gives me great satisfaction for the hard work that has ensued from year to year.   The satisfaction of knowing I’ve helped fledge birds is worth all the effort, for sure.

WHBBT TOTAL BIRDS FLEDGED--ONE PAGE

It’s important to keep accurate records. I can look back on this and feel good about my past 10 years. That is really when I started keeping an eye out and monitoring bluebirds and other cavity-nesting birds….in 2005 and 2006….that’s when it really started for me.

TIME TO WINTERIZE YOUR NESTING BOXES!


I hope you find this helpful.

I hope you find this helpful.

Here is a document you might find handy.  I have posted before on this topic.  Go to the SEARCH feature in the sidebar and keyword in “WINTERING NESTBOXES” to find my original posts on this.  I hope you find this document handy.   BETTER YET, to see all of my demo photos, go to the Facebook page for the trail.  I have details there step by step!

 

THE 2015 NESTING SEASON IS ROLLING! 43 NESTBOXES ON THE TRAIL DOING WELL.


"As long as there are bluebirds, there will be miracles and a way to find happiness." - Shirl Brunnel, I Hear Bluebirds, 1984  ..... One of Mr. Kinneer's splendid captures of Eastern Bluebird courtship.

“As long as there are bluebirds, there will be miracles and a way to find happiness.” – Shirl Brunnel, I Hear Bluebirds, 1984 ….. One of Mr. Kinneer’s splendid captures of Eastern Bluebird courtship.

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 ~~

My nestbox setups today.  8" wide wobblilng stovepipe baffle and the Noel Guard made from PVC coated hardware cloth.

My nestbox setups today. 8″ wide wobblilng stovepipe baffle and the Noel Guard made from PVC coated hardware cloth.

My first box.  No predator guards.  Both broods failed.

My first box. No predator guards. Both broods failed.

A BLUEBIRD “ONLY CHILD”.


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.

Hello Monitors!   It was easy to remove these 4 unhatched eggs with a plastic spoon, one at a time, and very carefully so as not to disturb this nestling.  Once they get to 5-7 days old, it gets more difficult without causing a stir  and a disturbance to the young.  Try to remove unhatched eggs, if you're comfortable doing so, before the 4th or 5th day of age.   If you are not comfortable with it, don't do it.   It would be better to leave them if you are nervous doing so.   When removing unhatched eggs, learn to do so quickly and close the box.   I try not to leave the nest open too long to deter the odors of growing birds and the nest to potential predators out there.  I removed these because there were so many and were on top of the nest, more easily cracked and broken and could cause a major smelly, sticky mess to the nest.  That is not good.

Hello Monitors! It was easy to remove these 4 unhatched eggs with a plastic spoon, one at a time, and very carefully so as not to disturb this nestling. Once they get to 5-7 days old, it gets more difficult without causing a stir and a disturbance to the young. Try to remove unhatched eggs, if you’re comfortable doing so, before the 4th or 5th day of age. If you are not comfortable with it, don’t do it. It would be better to leave them if you are nervous doing so. When removing unhatched eggs, learn to do so quickly and close the box. I try not to leave the nest open too long to deter the odors of growing birds and the nest to potential predators out there. I removed these because there were so many and were on top of the nest, more easily cracked and broken and could cause a major smelly, sticky mess to the nest. That is not good.

 

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.

“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

WINTERIZING NESTBOXES


Winterizing Material 2

I will be out on my trail next week to winterize all the boxes so that the bluebirds and other cavity nesters can roost in the boxes. 

What is winterizing?

The ventilation areas of each box will be plugged to keep cold drafts and rain and snow out of the boxes while the birds keep warm in them.  The only sections NOT plugged will be the drainage holes in the box floors and the entry holes, of course!

Winterizing Material for NestboxesWinterizing Material 1

See  a series of pictures below of winterized boxes on my trail.  You’ll see how the materials help keep the boxes warm!

Also next week, two of my boxes will be moved to new locations.   My criteria for changing is the current box locations were not used by cavity nesters this past season.  It’s good to tweak the trail each year for best use of all nestboxes available for the birds! BBIce-AllRightsResered-DaveKinneer-UsedWithPermission-CBoran2009The Virginia Bluebird Society’s  website  helped me when I went to Lowe’s Home Improvement to get the supplies…  cost was $14 for everything and all the materials can be recycled again for the next winter season! CLICK ON LINK below:  

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

Tack Box and Tools for Winterizing:  Foam-tubing weatherstripping, foam air-conditioning strips, old and newly fallen pine needles, gloves, and scissors.

Tack Box and Tools for Winterizing: Foam-tubing weatherstripping, foam air-conditioning strips, old and newly fallen pine needles, gloves, and scissors.

Photo of foam in front-opening box in ventilation.

Pine needles, gloves, ventilation plugging materials.

Bucket of local pine needles, gloves, ventilation plugging materials, cordless drill, galvanized wire.

Repair your nesting boxes between September and January!

Repair your nesting boxes between September and January!

About an inch of grasses or pine needles for the floor should be placed.

Photo of foam tubing on narrower ventilation areas (top of box).

Photo of foam tubing on narrower ventilation areas (top of box).

I run across this during winterizing....mud dauber wasp nests.  There are pupae inside these mud tunnels.  Remove with scraper.

I run across this during winterizing….mud dauber wasp nests. There are pupae inside these mud tunnels. Remove with scraper.  The nests are built in the late summer and early fall for larvae to “overwinter” and hatch in spring.   Destroy mud nests and larvae (I just crush in the ground thoroughly with my boots!)