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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MONITORING: EASTERN BLUEBIRD NESTLING DAILY DEVELOPMENT GUIDE from CORNELL’s NESTWATCH


Eastern Bluebirds on Hatch Day.

Eastern Bluebirds on Hatch Day in 2014.   It never gets old seeing this during monitoring.  Be fast so that the naked and unfeathered young don’t get chilled on a day below 75 degrees.  That may be warm to us with clothes on, but these guys need to stay draft free as much as possible.  Take your photos quickly and move on.

 

This is an excellent daily photo journal of the nestling development and some behaviors of the young each day as they progress.  Here is the NestWatch page:  NestWatch Eastern Bluebird Nestling Development (Daily Nest Photos)

Please remember some good monitoring protocol for the safety of the nestlings and “courtesy” to the parent birds caring for their broods:

  1.  If you keep your own photo journal, try to abstain using flash after the young start to open their eyes on the 7th and 8th day — the flash photography is intrusive on cavity-nesting bird young. I set my small digital camera to the macro setting, which automatically turns off flash and adjusts focus for closeup photography.  Long periods of video photography could be intrusive.  Attempt to keep videos short-term.
  2. Please also be quick at the photos using a steady hand and try not to leave the box open too long — this will aid in keeping the smell of the young and any odors from the nest from unpicked up fecal sacs by the parent birds from floating into the air and attracting potential predators towards the young in the nest (snakes!).  I try to do all I need to do my checks in 45-60 seconds and close the box securely and leaving quietly. This includes using my auto visor mirror first for inspection, shut the box, ready my digital camera in the macro mode, reopening the box and shooting two photos and then closing the box again SECURELY and carefully and doing my skedaddle from the area so the parents and get back to business of caring for their young and keeping their stress level to a minimum.
  3. Also remember to abstain from opening your nesting boxes after the 13th day to avoid premature fledging of the nestlings.  Do your final check on the 12th or 13th day of the nestling’s age and stop at that point and do your behavior surveillance up to Fledge Day from a distance using binoculars in a comfy chair or bench in the vicinity of the nesting box — not too close because the parent birds won’t like you being there near this time and will delay fledging until they feel comfortable it’s safe for their offspring to make their maiden flights successfully–even wobbly so!–to the safe haven inside a tree and it’s foliage.  Yes, even you, the monitor the bluebirds have come to know still don’t want you nearby during the fledging process of their kids.  It’s just nature’s way of survival.
  4. Always keep good monitoring (accurate) records.  This will aid you determine their age, of course.  Monitor about 2-3 times a week for best accuracy of the goings on inside the nest box and for troubleshooting problems as they arise, BUT AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK MINIMUM…. but not too often (like every day unless the nesting box has problems) so you are not over-managing the birds.  After all, they are still wild birds–not your adopted pets.
  5. Send on your records to your local state bluebird society or ornithology organization like NestWatch or Audubon group!  They need the records, even from a back yard nesting box.  Find them online and see if there is a County Coordinator near you and contact them and introduce yourself.  You may make new friends at these wonderful NABS-affiliated non-profit, all volunteer cavity-nesting bird organizations.   You can also participate in Cornell’s NestWatch.   Here is their page to get started:  Cornell NestWatch Main Page

Happy Bluebirding to all!  More action on the trail’s Facebook page.  Questions directly to me are easier to access there and get quicker responses.  Come join us and the discussions there:  Woolwine House Bluebird Trail’s Facebook Page

Any questions?   Contact me directly here:  CONTACT ME BY EMAIL  or leave a blog note here.  I will do my best to answer as best I can.  I am out in the field often, so my office time and cell phone time is limited.  Thanks to all for the support.

Beautiful Tree Swallow (TRES) eggs!

Beautiful Tree Swallow (TRES) eggs!

 

A gaping chickadee. Helps with headcount if you can get them to do this for faster box checks.

This hornets nest was built in one week's time in an active Tree Swallow Nest. This is another excellent example why we need to monitor manmade nesting boxes.

This hornets nest was built in one week’s time in an active Tree Swallow Nest. This is another excellent example why we need to monitor man-made nesting boxes.  THIS IS THE SECOND BOX with a hornet’s built this size within one week’s time.   If you see this or wasps attaching their materials to the ceiling, soap the box ceilings.

 

 

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


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

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

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

BUY A SHIRT / SAVE A BLUEBIRD!

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

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

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

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


This is the Ron Kingston Stovepipe guard.

This is the Ron Kingston Stovepipe guard.

This nestbox was recently treated for ants!

This nestbox was recently treated for ants!

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

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

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

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

 1.  From the Nestbox Builder website:  

 2.  From the Virginia Bluebird society website:  

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

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

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

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

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

Ground Climbing Predator Baffle-Kingston with Illustration