2016 FINAL NESTING RESULTS and a FEW WORDS IN SUMMARY


It is winter already?  My results for 2016 are below.   Stay warm and happy and see you next Spring!

Copyright - Photo by David Kinneer

Here is my trail summary essay points…..final bluebird stats are 66 nest attempts total (which means at least one egg was laid per nest), 288 eggs laid, 243 eggs hatched, 217 young fledged.  Not my best year for the trail, in spite of the fact that last year I fledged 211 bluebirds.  I had many more challenges and a higher percentage of eggs and nestling losses this year and smaller clutches. The trail fledged less Tree Swallows and Carolina Chickadees compared to last year, as well. One House Wren active nest and fledging ONLY this year. Absolutely NO House Sparrow issues this year. Good!  Every year is different.  Last year — my best ever.  This year, not so great.   Now I look forward to the 2017 nesting season!

ORNITHOLOGY ABBREVATION LEGEND: 

EABL – Eastern Bluebird

TRES – Tree Swallow

CACH – Carolina Chickadee

HOWR – House Wren

HOSP – House Sparrow

 

1. One box had a sudden roof fail and I moved the nest and nestlings to a newly installed box nearby. Parents accepted and fledged young.

2.  Two broods died on nest and I could NOT determine why.  NOT BLOWFLIES, NOT STARVATION.

3. I had two boxes that I had to eradicate hornets’ nests. One was built over TRES eggs during incubation it appears, but I got that nest and eggs moved to a new box nearby. The TRES incubating female accepted and hatched them a couple of days later.

4. Snakes got past several remaining 6-inch wide stovepipes and one 7-inch wide stovepipe. I am replacing those with 8-inch wides for 2017.  NO PREDATIONS at any of my 8-inch widths.

5. I had one box that had a late season nesting, only one brood, and they fledged.

6. I had some dead hatchlings removed by parent birds. I find this marvelous! This is possible if they are small enough to get out the 1.5″ entry holes. To remove the dead is progressive and good action by parent birds. This is not possible when the young grow larger, unfortunately.

7. Carpenter bees occupied two boxes during nestings, but no problems for the eggs or young, amazingly. I did try to eradicate nonetheless.

8. TRES attempt but evicted by bluebirds. TRES left area, too late to add another box in a paired setup.

9. I witnessed a premature fledging take place at one box due to human workers in vicinity of the nestbox. Age was 14 days old when fledging. Most made it barely up to a tree. Two went to ground and I flushed them up to tree when I did not see parents fly down to them within a reasonable amount of time.

10. I still had one box on a fence at one private owner’s location with no predator guard …. EXCEPT a pronged out Noel Guard. SUCCESS in fledging! I still do not recommend NOT using a wobbling stovepipe baffles, which increases success rate of fledging because it deters climbing predators.

11. Using heat shields on a few boxes with nestlings seemed to really help this year when the temps were above 90 degrees. I only needed those on my original 10 year old boxes, that had a bit less ventilation at the top. The newer boxes are Carl Little designs which have adequate ventilation at the top — I’ve not ever had nestling losses due to heat in those designs, nor in the 2-Hole Mansion, either.

12. Diatomaceous Earth applications worked on all nests but one — the hardy larvae got past the DE on the side of one nest and the whole brood died. Other nests, the larvae did not have enough strength to get past the DE and the bluebirds broods survived a lightweight amount of the blowfly larvae. I know this from the dissected fledged nests in the bucket by how many larvae are still alive and how many are dead inside the nest.

~~~

A few photos from 2016 follow below.  I did not caption them this time.  If you have questions, leave a blog note here and I’ll respond.  I hope you have enjoyed the end-of-year update of the results for the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail.  I hope you have safe holidays and a wonderful winter.  See you next Spring!

How I remove unhatched eggs. I use a plastic spoon. I only do this if it does not disturb the hatchlings; otherwise, I leave them. If they can be removed, I will then do it -- simply and quickly.

ABOVE:  How I remove unhatched eggs. I use a plastic spoon. I only do this if it does not disturb the hatchlings; otherwise, I leave them. If they can be removed, I will then do it — simply and quickly.

One of several styles of mealworm feeders I use. I feed live mealworms during the nesting season and dried ones mixed with suet nuggets and soaked cut-up raisins in the winter.

ABOVE:  One of several styles of mealworm feeders I use. I feed live mealworms during the nesting season and dried ones mixed with suet nuggets and soaked cut-up raisins in the winter.

Look how beautiful this Tree Swallow is coming out of this nest box! Even its bill is iridescent!

ABOVE:  Look how beautiful this Tree Swallow is coming out of this nest box! Even its bill is iridescent!

Hello Mrs. Chickadee. I hope I'm not disturbing you too much.

ABOVE:  Hello Mrs. Chickadee. I hope I’m not disturbing you too much.  (When this happens, I quietly and quickly close and secure the box and walk away to leave her in peace and not stress her too much.)

ABOVE:  One Tree Swallow to its mate: “May the Winged Force Be With You.”

ABOVE:  This native paper wasp is not aggressive. I chased them out of the box without incident and made sure they didn’t want to return.

AVOVE:  Here’s Pop with some yummy grub! See how they like the Noel Guards? It’s like a front porch!

ABOVE:  AHEM….yep, carpenter bees. Sigh.

ABOVE:  Oh my goodness, this is a beautiful brooding, incubating Tree Swallow. They are brave when we check on their nest. I love this bird!

ABOVE:  OOOPSY….removing a small hornets nest over this Tree Swallow nest of eggs. This is not a usual thing on the trail, but this year, I had to get rid of TWO hornets nests.

A Tree Swallow guarding its nest on the “front porch”, which is the entry hole guard called the Noel Guard.

ABOVE:  I am installing a new Two-Hole Mansion (designed by Linda Violett — to spec!). So easy peasy…I can do this myself.

ABOVE:  Pretty blue egg. Just one is a sight to behold.

Looking down on the Ron Kingston stovepipe baffle. Simply the best.

ABOVE:  Looking down on the Ron Kingston stovepipe baffle. Simply the best.

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

BLUEBIRD PARENTING: TIME-LAPSE VIDEO TO FLEDGING DAY


Can you imagine being a parent bird feeding their young, especially as 5 or 6 of these nestlings just keep growing and feedings take place from dawn to dusk every day up to fledging day, with each parent feeding averaging five times per hour by each (give or take ten feedings total per hour)?  I know it’s not easy being a bird, but being a bird PARENT is even more challenging–such hard workers they are–and then waiting for the “diaper removal” (called fecal sacs) and trying not to attract too much attention to the nest box as they feed their offspring, which helps thwart potential predators.   This video was sent to me from one of Virginia Bluebird Society’s dedicated volunteers.  What a fun compilation of the number of visits these bluebirds take to one nest box for one brood.    I hope you enjoy it.   I’m sure as dusk rolls in, the parents enjoy some sleep until the dawn breaks again!    Location:  Fairfax County, Virginia

Great job on the video creation!   The explanation with the video is as follows:

“It is essentially a time-lapse of our front yard bluebirds, showing the final 1-1/2 days of them feeding the 6 nestlings, and capturing two fledge flights.  It was accomplished by taking automatic photos every 10 seconds, plus a few hand-held at key moments.  After editing out a few “dead spells” in the collected span of many hours, each frame is shown here in 1/10 second increments. The highlights are slowed down and zoomed, with captions.  This all took place at our house on Monday and Tuesday, June 6 & 7, 2016. ”         

PURPLE MARTIN FIELD DAY 2016 IS COMING UP ON JUNE 25! ATTACHED INFO AND FLYER.


Martins flying to gourd rack.

Photo by Kathy Laine.

IT’S ALMOST HERE! PURPLE MARTIN FIELD DAY— SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 2016—LOUISA COUNTY, VA (BETWEEN RICHMOND AND CHARLOTTESVILLE):

FREE EDUCATIONAL EVENT ON THE CONSERVATION OF THE FABULOUS PURPLE MARTIN!

Mark your calendars for this fascinating 22nd annual event about amazing Purple Martins:  Saturday, June 25, 2016. Main presentation begins at 11:00 a.m. Please try to arrive before 11:00a.m. Door prize give-away at the beginning includes FREE gourds! 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 we need to use predator guards to protect from snakes and raccoons), and how to get martins to return year after year, bringing us so much joy. We can do so much to help cavity-nesting birds; it involves much more than just putting up housing and letting nature take its course. Good care-taking is required for continued success.  Activities will end by 3:00 p.m.

Come and bring your friends and family to see what Purple Martins are all about! Bring a lunch to eat while you listen to the speakers and watch the martins feeding their babies! Check out this website for more info on this event, directions, and more: http://purplemartinfieldday.org/

No registration.  Event is FREE, but donations will be appreciated to help cover expenses.  Bring: Lawn chairs, binoculars, notepad, camera. Drinks and snacks provided. The hosts request that guests do not bring pets. Thank you.

For more information, contact Ron at (434) 962-8232 or purplemartinfieldday@gmail.com

RAIN POLICY: PLEASE CHECK THE WEBSITE THE MORNING OF THE EVENT TO BE SURE IT WILL BE HELD!

Here is a flyer you can open, view, and print.   See below.

2016 Flyer.

Martin activity.

Photo by Kathy Laine.

Participants view Wood supercolony.

Photo by Kathy Laine.

IMG_8102

Photo by Kathy Laine.

 

 

 

 

TRAIL UPDATE – APRIL 27, 2016 – WE ARE ON OUR WAY TO A GREAT NESTING SEASON!


This Tree Swallow couple is having a blast, it appears.

Greetings this Wednesday, April 27th!  The trail is well on its way as of this date.  I have been very active on the Facebook page, but I would like to report in where we are thus far on first broods of the species — especially for those not following me and the trail activities on Facebook.

I am definitely seeing less species nesting on the trail this Spring with less nestboxes occupied — we’ve had a decrease of bluebird numbers in past three years in Virginia.  I am seeing less Tree Swallows and less Carolina Chickadees nesting, as well.  Of my 43 boxes, I have ten (10) NOT OCCUPIED by any species of bird at all.  This is a tad disappointing to me.  NO House Wrens and NO House Sparrows thus far.  But I am not saying they won’t try to nest.  I do know both species are in the area. The bright side of things are that my stats to date for first broods and species are as follows:

EABL: 121 EGGS, 81 HATCHED, 13 FLEDGED thus far–still have eggs to hatch and young to fledge.
CACH: 2 BOXES WITH 2 NESTS and 9 EGGS, both presently under incubation.
TRES: Late start! 4 BOXES WITH 4 NESTS started, no eggs yet.

Pop btinging in a large piece of insect for his 7-day olds. Down the hatch!

Pop is bringing in a large piece of delicious insect for his 7-day olds. Down the hatch!

WHBBT-#29-EABL3-DaysOld-April 26-2016

Darling 3-day old Eastern Bluebirds. Can you see all 5?

WHBBT-Nestbox #43-12-Day Old EABL

Ahhhh, we have here 12-day old Eastern Bluebirds looking very snug and fed.

One reason we NEED to monitor at least weekly is to take care of problems! If I did not take care of this issue, no birds will use this box, will they?

One reason we NEED to monitor at least weekly is to take care of problems! If I did not take care of this issue, no birds will use this box, will they?

Ooops....another problem....this box is being taken over. No problem. This is the native species paper wasp and quite docile. I told them to go elsewhere.

Ooops….another problem….this box is being taken over. This is the native species paper wasp and quite docile. I told them to go elsewhere.

Pretty Mrs. Chickadee is being brave.

Pretty Mrs. Chickadee is being brave.

Wait! Let's not forget Mrs. Bluebird, too! Look how beautiful she is!

Wait! Let’s not forget Mrs. Bluebird, too! Look how beautiful she is!

 

VIDEO: LET’s FEED THE BLUEBIRDS!


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. 

IT’s ALMOST HERE! PURPLE MARTIN FIELD DAY — SATURDAY, JUNE 27, 2015 –LOUISA COUNTY, VIRGINIA: FREE EDUCATIONAL EVENT IN VIRGINIA on the CONSERVATION OF THE FABULOUS PURPLE MARTIN


Purple Martin

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 kingston@cstone.net

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT PURPLE MARTINS see:

www.PurpleMartin.org

HOUSE WRENS with HEAVIER FEATHER-LINED NEST CUP.


I am seeing more House Wrens using my nesting boxes this year– of course, this is a native cavity-nesting bird and protected by federal laws.  One thing I’ve noticed about this egg clutch is the nest cup lined with a larger amount of another species’ feathers.  I see a feather or two, tiny ones, in a house wren nest usually — but not this much.  Note the feather colors…could this be under-feathers from a dead bluebird which the wren found on the ground?   Your thoughts are welcomed always.  Another thought I have is it is from a dead bluebird, looks like a possible cat attack on the bluebird perhaps.

Check out the blue-colored feathers in the nestcup here.  If it was from a dead bluebird, well, let nature get recycled, right?  That's my thinking!

Check out the blue-colored feathers in the nestcup here. If it was from a dead bluebird, well, let nature get recycled, right? That’s my thinking!

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.

 

TREE SWALLOWS!


They are nesting in a larger number on my trail for 2014!

This TRES couple took over a bluebird nest that had a cluth of 5 bluebird eggs.  Not sure if it was the TRES or a HOWR or a HOSP that broke the eggs in this area.   Some species did--and it was not mammal.

This TRES couple took over a bluebird nest that had a cluth of 5 bluebird eggs. Not sure if it was the TRES or a HOWR or a HOSP that broke the eggs in this area. Some species did–and it was not mammal.

Feathers!

Feathers!  VERY soft feathers.  Some might be chicken feathers–chicken coop is near nestbox location.

Not too m any feathers dropped on this clutch yet!

Not too many feathers dropped on this clutch yet!

 

LAST PEEK! WILL FLEDGE SOON. NEVER TOO MANY INSECT-EATING BLUEBIRDS IN OUR ENVIRONMENT.


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.

Safety barrier I use when I open the nestbox on the last check.

Safety barrier I use when I open a nestbox on the last check before fleding (never after the 13th or 14th day, depending on their development).

 

Nestbox before pronging the edges of the Noel Guard.

Nestbox and pronged Noel Guard for 2014 season.   This box has been very attractive to the snakes because of the pond atmosphere, I think….keeps them cooler in hot weather to hang out by the water on the edges.   

Pretty eggs nestled all nicely.  Note the white marks on some of the eggs.   Either she did that wiht her feet or as they passed through her oviduct, the coloring did not completely cover the egg.

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?

Hatch Day!    I wonder what the first insect was?   I did have live mealworms out for them.

Hatch Day! I wonder what the first insect was? I did have live mealworms out for them.  Wish I knew–had to be chopped up for hatchlings.  They cannot take that much in the first day, such as a large grasshopper.

8 Days Old.

8 Days Old.

Day 14.  Last check!

Day 14. Last check!

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CAROLINA CHICKADEE NEST AND EGGS IN INCUBATION


“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

Is this not the softest bed you ever laid eyes on?  Wouldn't you love to take a nap here?  I know I would!

Is this not the softest bed you ever laid eyes on? Wouldn’t you love to take a nap here? I know I would!

FIRST HATCHING ON THE TRAIL – APRIL 17, 2014


 

Eastern Bluebirds.

Eastern Bluebirds.

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!

RARE TWIN BLUEBIRD EGGS and HATCHLINGS – WHY AND HOW THIS HAPPENS – The Story from State College, PA – Photo Documention Starting June 21, 2013.


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:

Dear Christine,

– Twin Baby Bluebirds are born  7-1-2013 

Sharing a rare event with you. Twin Baby Blues were born on July 1 , 2013.  Gerald Clark listed in this email shared photos of 4 eggs in a nest, one egg much larger than the others. He ended up with 5 baby Blues.  Gerald Clark lives in State College , Pa. He has granted me permission to share this wonder.  If you post to your website please give him the credits to his photos. 
Sincerely,
Harry Schmeider
President of The Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania
Butler County BSP Coordinator
4 Bluebird Eggs - June 21, 2013.  Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

4 Bluebird Eggs – June 21, 2013. Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Upper Right:  there are the twins born on July 1, 2013 -- note their size to the other single hatchling with one more egg to hatch.  Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Upper Right: there are the twins born on July 1, 2013 — note their size to the other single hatchling with one more egg to hatch. Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Baby Bluebird Carousel - Quote by Mr. Clark:  "This shows all five babies  in a very neat carousel position that I have never seen before--truly amazing!".  Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Baby Bluebird Carousel – Quote by Mr. Clark: “This shows all five babies in a very neat carousel position that I have never seen before–truly amazing!”. Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Photo of the twins and the other three hatchlings on July 10, 2013.  Quote by Mr. Clark:  "Nine days old. Note the smallest is still ok but certainly has some catching up to do." Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

Photo of the twins and the other three hatchlings on July 10, 2013. Quote by Mr. Clark: “Nine days old.
Note the smallest is still ok but certainly has some catching up to do.”
Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

BUT SADLY it was not to be–the twins didn’t make it.  Read on correspondence from Mr. Clark and Mr. Schmeider and return message from Mr. Schmeider:
_______________________________________
Harry,
This is a very sad day.  This morning, Friday, 7/12/13 about 8:15 am I went to the nest box to video the five babies per your voice mail request.  Picture 1 is what I found.  Shown are three live babies and two carcasses assumed to be that of the twins.    Needless to say, I am deeply saddened by this event.   Mother Nature can provide some very heartwarming moments but she can also bring us to near tears of sadness at times.   I know this whole event has been a true miracle of nature and I guess we should look on the bright side and consider ourselves very lucky to have witnessed this rare event. We have experienced a wonder happening this past eleven days.   Hopefully, the three remaining will continue to development normally and fledge as beautiful, healthy bluebirds.
 
Previous box opening and observation was approximately 9:30 am:
Thursday, 7/11/13 around the time I was making the YouTube video.  All five babies were alive but as I stated in my last email, I was concerned with the health of two (thought to be the twins).  I noticed that sometimes mama would go into nest box and be in there for as much as 10-15 minutes. This certainly was not her normal routine.  I even commented to my wife that this was not normal. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to view inside the nest box any more on 7/11/13.
 
Events of the morning 7/12/13:
8:15 am opened nest box and observed three live and two dead babies(thought to be the twins). Took pictures to document.   Contemplated what to do with carcasses.
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
~~~
Dear Gerald, 

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  

President of The Bluebird Society of Pennsylvania Butler County BSP Coordinator
The 3 survivors -- the twin carcasses below them.

The 3 survivors — the twin carcasses below them.  Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

The remaining three -- dead twins removed.  Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

The remaining three — dead twins removed. Photo by Gerald Clark, State College, PA

“THE TRAIL MONITORS” – A Poem by “Bluebird Bob”


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

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

~~~

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

TREE SWALLOWS HATCHING!


All of these lovely feathers--such a cozy place to come out of the environment of a shell to this softness and caring of the tree swallow parents.  So tiny--so in need of care and protection of a nest.

All of these lovely feathers–such a cozy place to come out of the environment of a shell to this softness and caring of the tree swallow parents. Son tiny–so in need of care and protection of a nest.

Here is my first Tree Swallows on the trail–hatching started June 10, 2013. I’ve waited a long time to have this species nest on my trail. I hope they do well.

Video

VIDEO: TESTING THE NOEL GUARD TO KEEP OUT RACCOONS.


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

THOSE CAROLINA CHICKADEES ON THE BLUEBIRD TRAIL!


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.

No blanket of fur and hair on this nest on a clutch of 7.  Photo of this nest was taken April 21, 2013, in one nestbox.

No blanket of fur and hair on this nest on a clutch of 7. Photo of this nest was taken April 21, 2013, in one nestbox.

This female CACH is very careful to cover her eggs.  There was more fur over them than you see in this photo.

This female CACH is very careful to cover her eggs. There was more fur over them than you see in this photo.  This is from another nestbox taken April 26, 2013.  When I opened the box, I could barely see the eggs.  

HOW ‘BOUT THIS? A CLUTCH OF SIX WHITE BLUEBIRD 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

White Bluebird Eggs

NESTCAMS AND BLUEBIRDS IN SCHOOLS–PROVIDED BY THE VIRGINIA BLUEBIRD SOCIETY.


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/

Lots of thought went into making these!

Lots of thought went into making these!

Everything loaded in my car.

Everything loaded in my car.  Note the predator guards–a must.

CAROLINA CHICKADEE NEST READY FOR EGGS.


Photo taken April 16, 2013.

Photo taken April 16, 2013.

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.

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MY PLACE!


My Place!

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.

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FINALLY HERE…THE FIRST EGGS FOR NESTING SEASON 2013.


THE FIRST EGGS FOR NESTING SEASON 2013 HAVE ARRIVED!

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.

STILL HAVE SNOW AND COLD? GET SOME MEALWORMS.


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. 

"Hi, honey pie!   It sure is cold!   I can't find any more berries to eat, can you?  Aren't ya glad we have these yummy mealworms?"

“Hi, honey pie! It sure is cold! I can’t find any more berries to eat, can you? Aren’t ya glad we have these yummy mealworms?”

“BLUEBIRD” – A POEM BY JOHN BURROUGHS


BLUEBIRD – by Naturalist John Burroughs (1827-1921)

Copyright - Photo by David Kinneer

A wistful note from out the sky,
‘Pure, pure, pure,’ in plaintive tone,
As if the wand’rer were alone,
And hardly knew to sing or cry.

But now a flash of eager wing,
Flitting, twinkling by the wall,
And pleadings sweet and am’rous call,-
Ah, now I know his heart doth sing!

O bluebird, welcome back again,
Thy azure coat and ruddy vest
Are hues that April loveth best,-
Warm skies above the furrowed plain.

The farm boy hears thy tender voice,
And visions come of crystal days,
With sugar-camps in maple ways,
And scenes that make his heart rejoice.

The lucid smoke drifts on the breeze,
The steaming pans are mantling white,
And thy blue wing’s a joyous sight,
Among the brown and leafless trees.

Now loosened currents glance and run,
And buckets shine on sturdy boles,
The forest folk peep from their holes,
And work is play from sun to sun.

The downy beats his sounding limb,
The nuthatch pipes his nasal call,
And Robin perched on tree-top tall
Heavenward lifts his evening hymn.

Now go and bring thy homesick bride,
Persuade her here is just the place
To build a home and found a race
In Downy’s cell, my lodge beside.

RECENT ICE STORMS – NESTBOXES ARE SHELTERS.


The ice pretty much covered everything, including the stovepipe baffle and the Noel guard.

The ice pretty much covered everything, including the stovepipe baffle and the Noel guard.

One of the joys of being a County Coordinator for the Virginia Bluebird Society or any bluebird conservation group is getting nestbox monitors in your area to send you photos! Here are two recent photos sent to me after the Christmas 2012 ice storm in Floyd County, Virginia. As I studied the pictures, I could see several bluebirds sitting on and inside the iced branches of the pretty pine tree next to the nestbox. Upon reading her notes, I am thinking several of the bluebirds piled inside that nestbox during the storm for shelter and to use their bodies huddled close together to keep warm. I need to write to her and ask her to look inside this box and tell me what she finds. Since bluebirds eat mostly fruits in the winter (what fruit is still available at this time of year!), what is left behind inside a nestbox they roost in can help a person see what they are eating–generally bluebirds leave small seeds–not a huge mess at all. I think she told me last year that she puts out roasted mealworms. It really helps the birds during very cold and harsh weather like this to feed them. I put out “bluebird nuggets”, a softer, smaller suet mix made in the size of peas, rich in protein, fat, and fruit — made especially for bluebirds, but most birds will enjoy the nuggets. I mix those with the roasted mealworms and soaked cut-up raisins, which softens them up and is easier for them to eat. I will be ordering live mealworms shortly. I am sharing the two photos the monitor, Karen, sent me. I took the photo of the iced nestbox (you see to the right) and cropped it so you can see it closer. Thanks, Karen, for sharing! It’s tough being a bluebird. Thanks to those keeping your nestboxes up during the winter — it provides shelter to roosting birds during bad (and very cold) weather! I also included a photo I took of the mix I put out, specifically made for bluebirds. This photo does not include live mealworms, which I will be ordering shortly. Presently as of today’s date, we are in a major frigid snap. VERY COLD for birds. Really, it’s tough being a bird in the winter.  Happy bluebirding!!

Karen's words:  "I have seen the BBs going in and out of the nestbox and sitting on top of the nestbox, too.  I took the picture from inside the house, since it was very icy, so I am glad they turned out as good as they did."

Karen’s words: “I have seen the bluebirds  going in and out of the nestbox and sitting on top of the nestbox, too.  I took the picture from inside the house, since it was very icy, so I am glad they turned out as good as they did.”  Be sure to see the other photo Karen sent below.

It's tough being a bluebird!

It’s tough being a bluebird!  How many can you count in this tree?

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!  By the way, these suet nuggets are not specifically labeled for “bluebirds”.  The nuggets below are.  Their content is slightly different.  The nuggets below have more fat in them and added protein and fruit.  I like those the best.

I like to mix dried (or roasted) mealworms with soaked cut-up raisins and "bluebird nuggets".

ABOUT THOSE LIVE MEALWORMS: 

Good places to order live mealworms:  …. or raise your own!  It’s much cheaper to raise them.  There are more good places to order online.  These give you a 10% discount if you are a North American Bluebird Society (NABS) member.   You might have places in your location that will sell them cheaper (locally grown).  Do some research about it.   Live Mealworms are the bluebirds favorite of all.

The Nature’s Way:   http://www.thenaturesway.com/

Grubco:   http://www.grubco.com/

I have also ordered from Fluker Farms (without the NABS discount):  http://www.flukerfarms.com/

HERE THEY ARE — THE 2012 TRAIL RESULTS ARE IN!


WHAT A SEASON!  – WOOLWINE HOUSE BLUEBIRD TRAIL — WOO-HOO FOR BLUE!

The TRAIL FINAL RESULTS FOR 2012 – SEPTEMBER 4, 2012

These Eastern Bluebird youngsters are enjoying Mr. Kinneer’s garden decoration!

At this time of year, adult bluebirds start their annual “molt”, and the fledglings become juveniles and molt their spotted “camouflage” feathers to their adult feathers. This male adult is molting, as you can see — what a great picture! We know how brilliant he will look this winter–even more beautiful in the late winter and early spring as he seeks his lady-love for a new nesting season!

Here is final data, interesting observations, and highlights for 2012 nesting season on the WHBBT.  Only two species nested and laid eggs and fledged young: 

Eastern Bluebirds:  30 nest attempts, 128 eggs laid, 100 eggs hatched, 87 fledged.  13 nestling deaths, 19 unhatched and retrieved eggs, 9 missing/destroyed eggs.

Carolina Chickadees: 3 nest attempts, 15 eggs laid, 15 hatched, 14 fledged.  1 nestling death.

Results of Predation, Deaths of Nestlings, and Missing/Destroyed Eggs:  1 snake, several house wren attacks, chickadee nest takeovers,  a 3-night freeze snap early in season, and 2 predations are “unknown” reasons:  possibly flying squirrel, snake, starvation/abandonment (death of one or both parent bluebirds), or death due to excessive heat, or house wren—I could not determine cause in two cases.  Chickadees also took over 2 bluebird nest attempts in early season—they destroyed bluebird eggs and nested over those bluebird nests (eviction).

Eggs Missing/Disappeared inside nests: 9 eggs unfound or unaccounted

Unusual Observations/Results on the trail for 2012:   What surprises me the most this year is the number of nestling deaths and unhatched eggs!  …. fourteen (14) dead nestlings and nineteen (19) UNHATCHED eggs, all retrieved by me during the nesting cycle or after nesting cycles were completed and soiled nests removed and dissected and nestboxes cleaned out.   The rest of the eggs were missing/unaccounted for. 

The Good News:  I again fledged more bluebirds this year than the year before.  It has been consistent that I fledged on or about 20 more bluebirds per year since my bluebird trail officially commenced in February 2008’s nesting season.  My records show a number fledged for 2008, and then 20 more bluebirds fledged in 2009, and then approximately 20 more in 2010, and again in 2011.  I went from 14 nestboxes in 2008 to 19 presently.  I installed two more nestboxes in early July this year to bring the count to 21 nestboxes on the trail for 2012; however, House Wren dummy nests were built in those boxes, so that data is not included for this year.  For 2012, I fledged 11 more bluebirds than last year.  I strongly believe that the number of nestling deaths (14), the number of unhatched eggs (19),  and the fact that one very successful nestbox in past had to be removed after the first brood fledging because of that location turned into new a construction site made an impact on the fledging totals this year.  I was honestly expecting a larger number of fledgings of bluebirds this year.  Considering it’s still 11 more than last year makes me feel satisfied.

What I have learned, will continue doing, and will do differently:

1.  Blowfly Deterrence–a chronic issue on the trail:  I will continue my careful application of diatomaceous earth to the bases and centers of nest materials in completed nests, BEFORE eggs are laid if possible.  I will continue this successful method along with creating hardware cloth bases for ALL nestboxes for future years.  Note:  The hardware cloth bases will be added after a partial nest is started or after completion of a nest.  I will not leave them inside vacant nestboxes.  The reason behind this is so that the female will not be confused by the bases.  The purpose of adding them is for air circulation on the bottom of the nesting material in nests infested with blowfly larvae.  This will also give me access to brushing out dead larvae that fall through the bases to the wood floors underneath.

2. Monitoring:   I will continue, if possible, twice-a-week monitoring–all will depend on weather and other factors, of course.  This is the ideal schedule for me.  I get accurate records (those dates!) and better chances to troubleshoot issues and problems and possibly be able to save baby bluebirds by doing so instead of ONCE a week.   This is not always possible for every nestbox, and I’m happy with once-a-week checks.   Experience has told me how I lose control of monitoring nesting cycles if I let two weeks pass by without checks.   This will happen “once in a blue moon” due to illness or severe weather.  Another goal for monitoring is to find a back-up person who knows my trail in advance and is willing to step in and help me monitor in the event I cannot (such as hospitalization, as an example).  I plan on contacting the Virginia Master Naturalist program in my area to get a volunteer or two who is looking for building up their own volunteer hours for certification in the program.  See info on the Virginia program here:  http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/

3.  Installations of More Nestboxes:   The trail is expanding!  I expect to have 30 nestboxes for 2013, and will expand to 40 nestboxes by 2014–IF THAT IS POSSIBLE (that’s the key!).  I will stop at 40.  I cannot effectively monitor more than 40.  I may find 30 is my limit.  At that time, and I know I have my limit to what I can take care of, I will conduct further outreach to train others to monitor the boxes by themselves on their own premises and to just submit their data to me.   I am realistic about this–as much as I encourage it and I will train, I do not want anyone to feel “obligated” — this is a big commitment.  However, a back yard bluebirder who has one or two nestboxes will find it’s not as complicated as it seems at first–usually they will find they get great joy out of doing it through a little experience, and that it is fun!  If two predator guards are used, there will be less risk to the birds and more success in monitoring the birds, as opposed to finding deaths due to predation (which is not pleasant to deal with, no matter what the predation is).  My point still stands:   Manmade nestboxes is not true nature.  A natural cavity is.   If man puts up a nestbox and invites birds to use it, it is my position to make it as safe for the birds for DETERRING predators and not inviting predators to get the birds.  What is the point of taking effort to put up housing and then setting the birds up to fail at successful breeding?   The purpose in this effort is “bluebird conservation”.   ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:  I assure you if I had too many failures in fledging baby bluebirds, I would not be doing what I am doing today.  That is how I know deterring predators is the right thing to do.  Natural cavities also have predators, but man cannot and is not involved in that true setting of nature.  That I accept when it comes to bird losses.  However, it’s been proven for many years now that the bluebirds have suffered through the years, their numbers declined almost to an extinction, in past.  It hasn’t been until the 1970’s when the nestbox projects took off that bluebirds have proven to come back to healthy numbers.  That math is good enough for me.  It is not just the loss of habitat to building of housing developments and sprawl, removal of snags on farmland, parks, meadows, and even back yards, usage of pesticides and herbicides (RoundUp) killing adult birds and young or causing them to hatch deformed — but it is the introduction of non-native species of birds The English House Sparrow and the European Starling that prey on our native cavity-nesting birds, destroy their eggs and young, and take over the natural cavities that do remain in North America.  The starlings will strip all fruit food sources in minutes from a tree or shrub.   Read on more about this here:  http://www.nps.gov/miss/naturescience/bluebird2.htm

4.  Nestboxes in Afternoon Shade!   This is my #1 priority for future installations–if it is possible for the new sites.  After this horridly hot summer in Southwest Virginia, I saw nestlings suffer in the heat, attempting to breathe and keep cool.  Thankfully, I did not have many nestling deaths due to the heat.  Good ventilation in the nestboxes is the reason most survived.   I will also make a few heat shields for 2013 to have ready for emergencies.  I will try to make them inexpensively but easy to install for the few boxes in full sun in the event of excessive heat.  By installing future boxes in afternoon shade, I can eliminate this problem altogether.  This is why I want to get my boxes installed this month–while the leaves are still on the trees and I can see where the shade will fall.   Installing heat shields is only a last resort.  The less boxes in full sun, the better, as far as I’m concerned.  This is not always possible, however.

Summary Observations and Tidbits:

This has been the most challenging year yet on the Woolwine House Bluebird Trail regarding observing and troubleshooting unusual activities.  I dealt with absolutely zero blowfly infestations during the first two broods (usually in my location it’s every brood–no matter what time of year) and then third broods got smacked hard with a super-strong and powerful blowfly population—as if they were on steroids.  Other problems were ants attempted to infest one nestbox (and corrected by me), excessive heat caused some weakness and slower development even in well-ventilated nestboxes (but no deaths due to heat), a freeze snap for three nights in a row in early Spring caused starvation due to lack of insects (and thus protein and hydration to one hatchling—that is the only death to the cold snap), one snake managed to get past a stovepipe guard (this happens at least once each year), a couple of House Wren attacks at a location of two nestboxes, chickadees fighting bluebirds over nestboxes at a location of two nestboxes—chickadees destroyed bluebird eggs; and last but not least, there has been an unusual number of nestling deaths and unhatched eggs.  One nestling death was a chickadee–all chickadees in that brood fledged except one—could not determine cause—no blowfly larvae found—possibly starvation.   Out of 19 nestboxes on the trail, three were unoccupied this season.  Surprisingly, two of those three unoccupied nestboxes were very successful last year in fledging birds and the years before (average 2-3 broods fledging bluebirds).  Therefore I will not move these two boxes for 2013.  I was able to keep blowfly infestation controlled in all boxes except for two nests.  One brood of 4, in spite of my method of control, did not succeed–the infestation was too large and larvae too strong and thus survived deterrence—those 4 nestlings died quickly from weakness due to anemia (low blood cells) thus disabling them (weakness) to take in food from the parent bluebirds before I could save them.  Upon dissecting the infested nest, I counted quite a few live, gorged-with-blood larvae.  The other nest showed the same symptoms, so I conducted a nest change-out—this is moving the weak nestlings carefully by hand from the infested nest to an unused-unsoiled-abandoned previously built nest by bluebirds made of grasses– those nestlings survived the nest change and fledged at age 18 days old.  I dissect all nests, except unused nests which I keep for emergencies.  By dissecting used, soiled nests, I find interesting things about them, how many blowfly larvae survived my deterrence method, how many did not survive, how many infested the nest, finding uneaten food given to the fledglings but not consumed at fledging time.  This year a dead baby skink or newt and a large dead bumblebee were found on top of the fledged nests.   I also had two nests with the same parent bluebirds, one brood after the other, that appeared to be completely unskilled (lazy?) at removing the fecal sacs left by their nestlings and upon cleaning out the nestbox, I found those nests severely crusted with the nestlings waste matter—wet and sticky.  I was surprised to find the nestlings fledged, but they did.  I look at the sides of the walls and the front of the box for clues of successful fledging.

The following nestboxes are worth mentioning certain observations:

Interesting Data – Nestbox #1:  The first bluebird brood’s 4 eggs were pushed down inside the nest by something I have not been able to pin down.  It appears to have been another bluebird female that wanted to use that nestbox—evicted the other female or perhaps the first female abandoned the nest or was killed.  The eggs were not destroyed, and I was able to retrieve them upon cleaning the nestbox after the nesting cycle was completed.

Interesting Data – Nestbox #3:  This box has been very successful with 2-3 broods consistently, except this year—it was completely unoccupied.  I have not been able to determine reason.  It will not be moved for 2013.

Interesting Data – Nestbox #7:   One brood of three nestlings died inside the nest—do not know why; possibly the parents were killed and the nestlings died of starvation.  Interestingly, I discovered this data late as I left the nest in the box thinking the female would come back and lay a new clutch.  At first look inside the nest, I thought a snake had taken the nestlings.  It turned out they died inside the nest, and were “covered up” by some nesting material.  Because of the age of the deaths soon after hatchling (1-2 days), they could not be seen when I looked upon the nest with my mirror.   It wasn’t until I removed the unoccupied nest a month later that I found the dead hatchlings while dissecting the nesting material.

Highlight – Nestbox #8:   This nestbox was unoccupied by any species for two years straight.   Instead of pulling it up, I decided to give it another chance this year; I knew it was in great bluebird habitat.  This year, my hunches were correct–it produced THREE broods this year, though one brood had a clutch of 4 unviable eggs laid on or before July 24th and thus never hatched as of August 31, 2012.  Those four eggs have been included in the unhatched egg count total for this nesting season.  I “candled” the 4 eggs—all were clear showing no development; therefore it appears they were unfertilized.

Interesting Data – Nestbox #9:  This has been a successful box since the day it was installed.  This year, one brood fledged and the box had to be removed due to the location going under construction; therefore, no more data of fledged birds could be included from that nestbox in this year’s eggs and fledgings count.

Interesting Data – Nestbox #10:  Strangely, this box did very well in past two years. This was the nestbox that fledged 2-3 broods of chickadees and bluebirds, including the laying of my first ever clutch of white eggs.  This box was totally unoccupied this year.  The good habitat for bluebirds has not changed.  The box will remain to see how it does next year.

Interesting Data – Nestbox #12:  This nestbox has been consistently my highest yielding of bluebirds in years past.  This year, we had some troubles.  First brood had one unhatched egg; the rest of the nestlings were taken by a snake–first time for this box to have snake predation.  The second brood had one unhatched egg; the rest of the nestlings were attacked by wrens.  One nestling was taken out of the nestbox and dropped, which ended up in the Noel guard and, unfortunately, died there.  The other two nestlings survived the attack inside the nest and fledged.  Both incidents this year is very unusual for this nestbox, which is in open habitat with beautiful white pines trees in front of it–not close to brushy areas, which attracts the wrens.

Interesting Data – Nestbox #13:  This was a good box for bluebird habitat and had successful bluebird fledgings until past two years.  This being a hay field, the growth of vegetation surrounding the field where the box is located has caused too much thickets nearby.  In spite of my two years of efforts keeping this nestbox trimmed of overhanging tree branches and vegetation growth, including fast-growing Morning Glory, I cannot maintain this box any further and keep those thickets trimmed away from the nestbox.  It will be moved to a new location for 2013 to attract bluebirds in better, more open habitat.  It is obvious the bluebirds did not like this nestbox being close to thick vegetation and hay grasses being too tall for long periods of time, which makes it more difficult for parent bluebirds to stay close to the nests to find insects (bluebirds go to ground most of the time to pick up insects off the ground).

Highlight – #15:  The same nestbox had the earliest egg laid on my trail— two years in a row:  March 11 in 2011 … and March 8 in 2012.  This nestbox truly has become the most successful nestbox on the trail today.  It makes me ponder if this is the same bluebird couple this year from last or perhaps bluebirds that fledged from it last year returned this year early to raise families in it.

Highlight — Nestbox #16:  The 3-Year Test-Two Hole “Mansion” (from Linda Violett, Yorba Linda, CA) was a MAJOR winner this season! THIS YEAR, absolutely no House Sparrows (HOSP) attempted to nest in this area where the HOSP built nests and laid eggs (removed by me) in 2010 and 2011 which later bluebirds fledged one brood each year — this without me intervening with gadgets like Sparrow Spookers or HOSP trapping.  A total of 12 bluebird young fledged this box this year, in spite of a blowfly issue in one nest and house wrens entering the nestbox while the bluebirds babies from Brood 3 were attempting to fledge.   My first bluebird nesting material dropped inside was discovered on March 16 with a partial nest built.  The first egg laid was March 27th.  The third brood bluebirds fledged on August 14th!  This is 5 months of bluebird activity!  More information in detail and a summary report will be coming to the website to conclude this 3-year test, written by Linda Violett and me.   I expect to have this online by end of September (or sooner).  I have many thanks to make:  to the homeowner who supported me in this nestbox project and to Linda Violett for mentoring and supporting me during this test.  The nestbox will remain for 2013, with permission by the homeowner.   This nestbox has proven to be the second most successful on the trail, not far behind Box #15 as the top producer of Eastern Bluebirds on my bluebird trail!

See my 3-year test results and Linda’s comments on the Violett’s Bluebirds website here:   http://home.earthlink.net/~lviolett/testwoolwine.html

Taken today, September 4, 2012…..the Flowering Dogwood berries are a favorite of bluebirds. This is such a good time for the juvenile bluebirds–warm enough for insects to be plentiful but berries appearing in colorful array, easy to find, in August and September.

EMPTY NEST SYNDROME AND THE CYCLE OF LIFE.


(Due to technical errors in the WordPress original post today, I am reposting.)

Not only am I experiencing the emotional empty-nest syndrome but truly my last nestbox became empty, not to bluebirds fledging, but to a clutch of 4 unhatched eggs. I watched this female stay true on these eggs from July 24th through August 3oth. The female Eastern Bluebird laid and stayed on these eggs, turning them daily, with no hatching action. It was a strange experience for me, wondering why. I checked this nest almost every day, taking photos as the eggs were turned.  It has become apparent she finally gave up and abandoned the nest. I removed the nest.  NOTE in the photo below all the very large seeds from the late-summer berries she consumed that have been deposited inside the pine needle nest by this incubating female (see right side and underneath eggs).  OK, so, I have plans for the eggs — nothing goes to waste! — they will go in the gorgeous cedar and Plexiglas “display nestbox” handmade for me by a very talented woodworker using the Virginia Bluebird Society’s suggested nestbox design. Once I place the eggs in the display, I will dissect this nest and count the number of seeds deposited by this female.  I enjoy learning what does a late-in-the-season incubating Eastern Bluebird eat other than the overabundance of grasshoppers, katydids, beetles, spiders, moths, grubs, butterflies, and slowly-floating bumble and carpenter bees?   Bluebirds eat mostly insects during the spring and continue throughout summer.  As summer ends, more berries become available.  Dogwood berries are red now and pokeweed berries have been available for several weeks.  In winter months, depending on the locale, berries are the main diet since insects become less available in the colder weather.  Bluebirds in the northern parts migrate south to have access to the berries available in the warmer winter climates.  Most bluebirds in Virginia do not migrate and are year-round residents.

Empty-nest syndrome, for me, also includes the migration watch in spring and also in the late summer for our ruby-throated hummingbirds.   I consistently make a gallon of sugar-water per day to accommodate the hundreds we have here at our house.   Most have left and the migrators from the north are showing up, some singly, and some in numbers during stops.  The overnight rests allow me additional joys as I watch the tiny, hovering, mystical fairies.   Once they are gone, there is a somewhat bittersweet feeling of knowing nature is working and now I must wait to see them again.   The miracles of nature will always comfort me as I continue the glorious days of living in the mountains of the Blue Ridge.  House Wrens, Carolina Chickadees, and Eastern Bluebirds were the species in my nestboxes this year.   Thankfully, the House Wrens caused minimal damage to bluebirds eggs laid this year.    As always, the chickadees struggle to fledge successfully one brood per year.   The past two years showed me how the chickadees seem to become more aggressive for nestbox usage with other species.  This must be the survival instinct to procreate their species.

My website/blog here is under new material and layout of information.  Since I’m expanding my trail to a goal of 30 nestboxes by February 2013, I am holding off posting photos of the nestboxes.  More good news comes with the successful deterrence of House  Sparrows using the Two-Holer Test Mansion, which fledged THREE BROODS OF EASTERN BLUEBIRDS!    No House Sparrows attempted to nest this year, and the bluebirds won the territory of that nestbox!   That is truly GOOD NEWS.  That page on my site is currently being worked on for a summary of this 3-year test.   I plan on revamping the TEST RESULTS page, and more.   The Facebook page has become a great success—I’m finding it easier to post photos there as well as update followers.  It allows others to ask questions and have me answer in an easier-to-use format.

As September is now upon us, I am collecting my own data, monitors in my two counties, and will be submitting these details soon to the Virginia Bluebird Society and others, including Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  As I remember all the interesting details from this year from my trail and others, I will be sending through another post here to explain all the new interesting happenings.  Year after year, there is always something new!

My first ever full set of unviable eggs.

This is my display I use for educational purposes. Only unhatched eggs are used.

From Cornell Lab of Ornithology

THIRD BROODS: HOPING FOR BLOWFLY DETERRENCE AND SUCCESS IN FLEDGING.


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

Here is another 3rd brood–3 days old.  Presently on the trail, I have four nestings on third broods!  This bunch appeared a tad weak and hot yesterday.  Growth size observed the same for all three nestlings.  Both parent birds are very active in feedings.  Good!  Since only three here, there is more food for all.  Will watch them closely–about every 2-3 days of “looking in” on them.  Worried about another ” macho” bunch of blowfly larvae–have treated the nest for deterrence of larvae surviving while hidden inside the nest during the day.  I have two clean unused grass nests saved similar to this one.  I will use one for a possible emergency nest switch-out on next visit tomorrow.  I ONLY micro-manage nestboxes where problems may be evident and only then.  I let nature provide as much as I think will provide for the birds and intervene only when necessary.  Sometimes it’s a tough call because time is of the essence in some circumstances.   Photo taken July 27, 2012.

The heat is hard on our cavity-nesters. These three nestlings appear to be holding their own so far. The parent birds are active in caring for them. I am hoping my blowfly deterrence will work on these little guys. The more bluebirds, the better! How can we not wish them the best? It’s all part of the monitoring process. It’s worth all the work and time helping bluebirds succeed. The more bluebirds fledge, the more chances we will have them return to the same nestbox where they were born. The average fledgling generally has a 50% survival rate within the first year of life in the world. Therefore, we can never have enough bluebirds!  Never.

HAPPENINGS ON THE TRAIL – UPDATE SUMMER 2012


 Greetings from the trail.  This has been a significant year for interesting data!

Looking good!

For a few examples, observations include how the nestlings survived in a three-day freeze snap after a warmer winter and earlier than usual egg laying, the number of unhatched eggs on my trail as well as other bluebirders around my locale, a loss of a nest site mid-season due to construction, no blowfly larvae infestations first two broods, the terrible heat the nestlings seems to be struggling with this summer, new nestboxes getting installed to expand the trail, and much more. I will be updating here, both on this main page as a new blog post as well as on the Two-Hole Mansion Test page, a results summary of the three year test as a success! … and WHY it succeeded.  This will be formatted as an easy read of the explanation of why this test took place.  Thanks goes to Linda Violett in California for her support these past three years on the Two-Hole Mansion Test in Southwest Virginia. She has been instrumental in mentoring and guiding me along the way through this test. She will be assisting me the summary report of the Virginia test at the close of this nesting season.  If you haven’t seen Linda’s page for this test, please take a look and see this effort of how the bluebird is able to establish territory on his own in House Sparrow locations without the use of trapping or gadgets.  It is a fascinating test.  I’ve worked with Linda on this and I know it works.  It is important to read about the Keys to Success that is necessary for this test to be conducted properly and to have the success we were looking for and attained.  In my case, the test HAS been shown a success—truly I’m amazed. See link of the test page on Linda’s website below.  MANY thanks to the homeowner who has been so cordial to have allowed me to continue this test at her property.  There will be more information coming about this on the Facebook page for the trail, as well.

Linda’s Page on the test Mansion Two-Hole Nestbox on my trail:  http://home.earthlink.net/~lviolett/testwoolwine.html

 There have been many questions and discussions I’ve received through my new Facebook page for the trail. Thank you for your participation. It’s a good place to ask questions and has made it quite easier for me to address the questions and issues much faster and easier for me and the followers. I’ve received 69 LIKES so far there. I appreciate the support. This website is under revamping and organization. I appreciate your patience as time permits me to update it.  As things start to wind down now in July, I’ll be actively supplying more information here and reports. WordPress is a great program;  I do need to delete some graphics and reorganize some so that the program continues to run smoothly.

I’m happy to also report I’ve spent some time in studies this past June and July to attain certification with Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources under the guidance of the Conservation Management Institute’s Ecologists as a new naturalist. I’ve completed the requirements of hours, both in classroom and field work and written and field exams, to attain the points necessary as a Certified Naturalist. Many thanks to those who supported me in this effort.  It took me away from many things–worth every moment of my time, of course. I’m quite grateful I had this opportunity to be better educated about our natural environment and natural history including geology, culture, music, plant and tree species, how to use dichotomous keys for ID-ing species, learning about birds, bats, insects, herps, mammals, and so much more—specializing the focus on the Southern Appalachians.  Many thanks to the Virginia Tech/CMI instructors and fellow students for leadership, support, and laughs through the learning process, some of it quite grueling.  I told myself I could do this, and I did.  I have been quite proud to be a part of this adventure—thanks to Primland in Meadows of Dan, VA, for hosting this course on the lovely Appalachian mountain acreage and natural surroundings.  Please see this Virginia Tech news release, dated June 4, 2012.  I highly recommend this to anyone in my area.  It was worth it.  See some photos below–the catch and study of the Cedar Waxwing in a mist net, Primland’s own Field Guide, and a photo I took at the overlook where I was staying during studies.

About the course:   http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2012/06/060412-cnre-primlandnaturalistcourse.html

Cedar Waxwing caught in a mist net, studied, and released.

Field Guides, Pressed Tree Leaves, and some music.

Primland View

IT’s ALMOST HERE! PURPLE MARTIN FIELD DAY — JUNE 22, 2013 –LOUISA COUNTY, VIRGINIA: FREE EDUCATIONAL EVENT IN VIRGINIA on the CONSERVATION OF THE FABULOUS PURPLE MARTIN


Photo by Kathy Laine

Purple MartinSEE 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 19th 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 in 2011 was a huge success with a gathering of over 100 attendees from four states.  So here is the scoop for this year–it is coming up–don’t miss out:

Scheduled this year to meet on June 22, 2013.   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 2012 event was a huge success with 130 attendees from six states!

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 kingston@cstone.net

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT PURPLE MARTINS see:

www.PurpleMartin.org

SNAKE GUARDS (WOBBLING HANGING STOVEPIPE)…EFFECTIVE AGAINST MOST GROUND PREDATORS!


Here is a great photo of a black rat snake in action.   Photo posted on the Roanoke Valley Bird Club’s (RVBC) website under their Bluebird Trail page:    Source:    http://www.roanokevalleybirdclub.com/Bluebird%20Trail.html

I talked with the person who took this picture (Mr. Earl Morris, RVBC active member and County Coordinator, Virginia Bluebird Society (VBS).  It was witnessed this snake made three attempts to get past this stovepipe guard, unsuccessfully, and finally gave up.  There were active bluebirds nesting inside this nestbox.   This is a good example of how effective this design guard is to deter *most* ground-roaming critters.  It is a wobbling stovepip (duct) guard, and it deters more than just snakes!  It keeps other ground critters from getting up to the nestbox, too; not just the crafty black rat snake:  raccoons, squirrels, mice, cats….to name a few.  There are several places to get the design to build your own — inespensive to make:

Ron Kingston’s Famous and Effective Design online pages below:

http://purplemartin.org/update/PredBaff.html

 http://www.zbestvalue.com/baffle0001.pdf

http://audubon-omaha.org/bbbox/nabs/rk1.htm

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Habitat/WildAcres/wapredguard.asp

http://www.sialis.org/baffle.htm

Oh, no you don’t! Many thanks to the Roanoke Valley Bird Club for posting this picture. Source: http://www.roanokevalleybirdclub.com/Bluebird%20Trail.html

WHBBT UPDATE: WEBSITE and FACEBOOK PAGE


March through end of May — this has been the busiest spring I’ve experienced in many years!  While I’m updating several pages on my site with new material (Trail Nesboxes, 2-Hole Mansion Test, and Trail Results) and more, please be sure to check into my public page for the trail on Facebook.  I’ve had great successes and a few failures already this season.  The Facebook page is very easy to update and maintain–be sure to check in (joining Facebook is not a requirement–lurk all you want there, if you desire, to see the happenings).  I like having it as a sidekick page to this main site for the purpose of quick updates and easy uploads of photos and posts when I cannot keep my main site updated as quickly.  Facebook users have an easier place to ask questions and get answers faster.   http://www.facebook.com/WoolwineHouseBluebirdTrail   I will post another note here (copy of post sent to subscribers via Email) once this site has been completed with the updates.  Thanks for your patience and understanding.

Hope you are having a wonderful early summer.  Here is a picture I took on my trail on May 12………a very close look ….. “DOWN THE HATCH, PLEASE!” ….. some very hungry chickadee hatchlings.

“Mom, grub….pass the grub! Mom, is that you?”

GORGEOUS ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY OF A BLUEBIRD.


Kung Fu Bluebird?  Beautiful action shot–many thanks to Dave Kinneer for capturing this exciting action from behind the lens.  What confidence, grace, and pure beauty this female has.   I would love to ride the back of a bluebird and carry the sky with along me.   How about you?

“The bluebird carries the sky on its back.”  Henry David Thoreau

Is this not beautiful?

GENTLE REMOVAL OF AN UNHATCHED EGG.


I successfully removed (v e r y  CAREFULLY, may I add!) one of the two unhatched eggs in week-old bludbird nestlings’ nest on April 3, 2012.   I use a clean plastic spoon to do so.   This photo represents size of egg to the spoon and my hand.  Through the Virginia Bluebird Society (VBS) and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VA DGIF), I have my name on the Federal Fish and Wildlife Permit for VBS County Coordinators (Wildlife Salvage Permit) to collect eggs and nests for certain protected cavity-nesting birds for displays for educational purposes and presentations.   Permits are required for all possession of migratory bird specimens.  I can’t tell you enough how helpful this is during my talks about bluebirds to be able to display these.  It is fascinating for people to see the eggs close up–their size and color and relation to the nest size.   If you’d like to read more about removing unhatched eggs, may I suggest the Sialis site, an outstanding website loaded with helpful information about cavity-nesting birds (thank you, Bet!):  http://www.sialis.org/eggsunhatched.htm

So delicate. There are various reasons why the eggs don't hatch. It is always best to leave the nest alone if you cannot remove unhatched eggs without disturbing the growing babies. Thanks to the Sialis site, I studied up before attempting this. I will use this egg for educational displays.

Here they are after I removed that egg. There is one more unhatched egg underneath these three. I'm not comfortable attempting to remove the non-visible unhatched egg. They are one week old--we have several days of colder, rainy weather going on; they are getting to an older age now that I might spook them; thus making it unsafe for the three. In other words, the risk is greater for these three at this point to try to remove the other unhatched egg than not removing it!

“THE EARLY BIRDS!” – FIRST BLUEBIRD CHICKS OF 2012 – 7 DAYS OLD


First egg was laid March 8.  They hatched March 26th.  Here they are — they are 7 days old today.   Three of the five eggs hatched.  We’ve had very windy days, and I’ve been waiting for calmer days to attempt to remove the unhatched eggs.  Sometimes Mama Bluebird will try to remove them or bury them deeper in the nest.  Since the eggs are still on top of the nest, it is better for the chicks to get the eggs out of there.  Now that the chicks are older and not as fragile and have some soft feathers developing, tomorrow I will go back to the box and use a small plastic spoon to remove CAREFULLY (gently!) what unhatched eggs I can reach without disturbing the babies and creating nervousness with Ma and Pa Bluebird.  I saw both of them in  the trees above me today, so I know both parents are caring for these little guys.  I have a Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries permit to salvage (collect) nests and eggs.  I will use the unhatched eggs for educational displays.