COME TAKE A WALK WITH ME AND SEE THE WORLD OF BLUEBIRDS.


 “Be like the bluebird who never is blue,
For he knows from his upbringing what singing can do.”  
      

~  Cole Porter, Be Like the Bluebird, 1934  ~

Sweet Dreams, Much Grub, and Safe Landings on First Flight, dear baby Blues!
Sweet Dreams, Much Grub, and Safe Landings on First Flight, Dearest Baby Blues!
This bluebird is on a mission!  What a beautiful photo taken by Bill in NC of this bluebird exiting the nestbox.  This is one of the Home for Bluebirds, made in Bailey, NC.

This bluebird is on a mission! What a beautiful photo taken by Bill in NC of this bluebird exiting the nestbox. This is one of the Homes for Bluebirds, made in Bailey, NC. This is a wonderfully crafted box that is more narrow and taller to accommodate an artificial nestcup, making monitoring and cleaning the box easier. The metal plate over the entry hole is a reinforcement to keep any other possible predator, such as another bird or squirrel, from enlarging this 1.5 inch hole size and thus harming the eggs or chicks inside.

 

I did a switchout of nests due to blowfly larvae in this nest.  The Female returned in 5 minutes!  Truly amaizing!

I did a switchout of nests due to blowfly larvae in this nest of 9-day old chicks. The female here returned in 5 minutes! Truly amazing.

Selectively, these Blues are using a Roanoke Times box.
Selectively, these Blues are using a Roanoke Times box.  The Bluebirds here used pine needles.

Bluebirds are picky on location, but if a cavity looks good, they’ll take it! The only problem with newspaper boxes is the birds are targets for predation — humans, ground, and avian.   Being along a road is dangerous, but hopefully no cars will hit the birds as they fly out of the box.  We can hope the chicks will fledge happily!

NOTES ON GRASS NOTES (see photos below):   Here are two samples of different grasses used by bluebirds.  They find what’s available in local habitat.  Usually, in my area, I’ve seen pine needes, mostly white pine.  Farther out in rural areas, I see more field grasses.   The first photo below are smaller grasses used by the bluebirds.   There are 5 eggs inside!   Photo was taken on May 9, 2009.  The second photo below was taken in 2008, a different box location on the trail.  Field grasses were used.  They are longer and they built the nest higher.

Eastern Bluebird Grass Nest - 5 Eggs - 05-09-09

This grass nest was built for a third brood in this box in 2008!   These grasses are longer and thicker, obtained from a local hay field.  These bluebirds built this nest much higher than usual.   Photo taken July 1, 2008.

This grass nest was built for a third brood in this box in 2008! These grasses are longer and thicker, obtained from a local hay field. These bluebirds built this nest much higher than usual. Photo taken July 1, 2008.

BLUEBIRD PREDATORS! THE DREADED HOUSE SPARROWS


The first predator I need to worry about is the English (or) otherwise known as the House Sparrow (HOSP).   Here is a drawing of the male and female HOSP.  They may look “cute”, but they are destructive and nasty birds.  They take away cavities from our protected native birds.    Source:  www. Sialis.org.    Thanks to Bet for a terrific site for our bluebirds!

These need to passively or aggressively deterred from killing our bluebirds!

These non-native invaders need to passively or aggressively be deterred from killing our native bluebirds and other native cavity nesters! As much as I love all birds, this particular species bird is overpopulated and out of control...an experiment gone terribly wrong. It's indeed unfortunate we bird lovers have to deal with this pest.

 
 
Here is a HOSP nest found in one of my boxes on March 9, 2009.  This is the first nest in all my boxes for the season.  Note the pieces of cloth used in this nest, picked off from a grave nearby in the cemetary where a craft decoration was placed.    Many times, HOSP use paper trash…really anything they can find to incorporate “stuff” into their nests.    They are aggressive killer birds that need to be controlled for the conservation of our native bluebirds and other cavity nesters.
 
This is a 5-day old HOSP nest.   Part of being a monitor is learning to know what kind of bird is occupying the bluebird boxes.  If it's a HOSP, this nest should be removed.

This is a 5-day old HOSP nest. Part of being a monitor is learning what kind of bird is occupying bluebird boxes. If it's a HOSP, this nest should be removed. It is not a protected bird since it isn't a native bird in the USA, so it is legal as a bluebird conservation monitor for me to do this. Then I need to do whatever I can to keep this happening again. It's a challenge to all bluebirders dealing with the House Sparrow. All other sparrow species in the USA are decent, gentle birds, such as the Chipping Sparrow, for example.

History of the House Sparrow can be found here on the Sialis bluebird site.  This is very educational reading!

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

FROM EGG TO FLEDGLING, MATE FEEDING, and NESTCAMS.


Click below to see the succession of a bluebird baby on Sialis.org!

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

Also, click below for a video of bluebird action male feeding female from Sialis.org:

http://www.sialis.org/video1.htm

Below:  Bluebird Nestcam from Greenville, TX, hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website:

http://watch.birds.cornell.edu/nestcams/camera/view?cameraID=C100046

 

He waits to be given a chance in the world...hungry and waiting for his feedings.

He waits to be given a chance in the world...hungry and waiting for his feedings.

SPRING 2009 — CLIPBOARD READY FOR NEW STATS. QUOTES AND A BLUEBIRD SONG.


  • His soft warble, beautiful blue coat, warm waistcoat, and gentle manners make him the most welcome herald of spring.
    – Birds of America, 1917
  • His soft warble melts the ear, as the snow is melting in the valleys around. The bluebird comes and with his warbles drills the ice and sets from the rivers and ponds and frozen ground.
    – Henry D. Thoreau,
    March 2, 1859

The Eastern Bluebird’s Warble:  Click Here and turn the volume up:    http://bluebirdia.homegrowngoodies.com/bluebird-song-audio.htm

2009 TRAIL … NEW LOCATIONS. FIRST BLUEBIRDS FOR 2009 SIGHTINGS.


4 males and 2 females were courting each other...no fighting surprisingly among the males.

4 males and 2 females were courting each other...no fighting surprisingly among the males.

My registered trail consists of 14 handmade nestboxes on one-inch conduit 5.5 feet off the ground fully set up with predator guards.  The boxes re 5×5 inches with good ventilation and a long overhang angled roof.  This is a modified NABS style box.  All boxes except the 5 on my property are marked Protected By Federal Law-Do Not Disturb, sponsored by the Virginia Bluebird Society and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries — it is against the law to disturb these boxes.  Each box has the protection signs with my name, phone number, and the box number listed.

5 boxes are on my own property.

2 boxes are on my road adjacent to rolling pastures.  They are NOT too close to the feed barns where there could be the non-protected killer House Sparrows residing.   The boxes are outside where cattle roam so as to not knock down the boxes.  They are located to easy access for me to monitor the boxes, usually about twice a week during nesting season.  I have received permission for placement of all boxes off of my property.

All local in Woolwine:

1 box is at a local country inn’s field.

1 box is at another bed and breakfast in the back on lawn.

1 box is at a private residence.  

1 box is across the street at another private residence near a cemetary.

NOTE: 

Bluebirds, by the way, really love cemetaries.  They can use the tombstones to perch to look for insects on the ground.

2 boxes are in a protected box turtle bog locations at a public  park.

1 box is near the cemetary in the same public park.

BLUEBIRD UPDATE — 2008 TRAIL REPORT.


Guarding his goodies!

Guarding his goodies!

 

Trail 2008 Report:

I had Eastern Bluebird families and Carolina Chickadee families in my nestboxes.   One box was raided either by an avian predator or a Black Rat Snake that was large enough to get over my stovepipe baffle.  Two boxes were infested with blowflies.  One brood died but the other brood were saved by me by having a man-made switched out nest and the chicks got well and fledged at 18 days.   All of my boxes were paired on my property for Tree Swallows to nest as neighbors with the Eastern Bluebirds so as to warrant off unwanted territorial fighting.  No Tree Swallows nested, so I moved many of my boxes into other areas in Woolwine and left 5 on my acreage.  I am featured on the Fall 2008 Virginia Bluebird Society’s newsletter on Page 6, “Lessons from a New Bluebirder”.   Here is a cut and paste from the article from that newsletter below.  You can also go to the Virginia Bluebird Society’s website/Newsletters:   http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/

Fall 2008 VBS article:

“Lessons of a New Bluebirder”, by Christine

This is my third year of bluebirding. In my first year, 2006, my husband andI moved to our new home in Woolwine, Virginia, and found an old bluebirdnestbox in the back yard. To our surprise, there were bluebirds nestingthere upon our arrival that first week of March. But a week after we moved in, Ifound a big black rat snake hanging out of the box’s entry hole. I was horrified!

 We cleaned out the box, built a hardware cloth baffle, and placed it underneath the box. The same pair apparently came back and tried again, but the second brood died the first day after hatching, from the 100-degree heat. After that, wetook the box down, and I started my studies about bluebirds.

My second year, 2007, our new neighbors dropped off a nestbox as a gift. Carl Rupprecht, who made the box in his woodworking shop, helped me install it behind our house on a pole with a predator baffle. We were able to joyfully watch two broods make it into the world that season.

This year, my neighbor helped me build my first bluebird trail of 14 boxes.  I experimented by doubling up the boxes 15 feet apart, because we had seen Tree Swallows diving out of the trees and into our pond the year before. Some of theboxes on the trail were not occupied, but the ones that attracted Carolina Chickadees and Eastern Bluebirds. The first broods did well and fledged. I had no snake predation and no House Sparrows. The second nesting proved problematic. I noticed that one of my boxes seemed to be in trouble. I photographed the parents from afar in the field one morning and was wondering why the male came with food only four times within two hours. When I checked the box the next day, I found the chicks had died, all four of them. I immediately removed them and the nest and took them back home to investigate what happened.   Blowflies! I was stunned. As I thought about it, we had three days of over 90-degree heat the week before. There was a lot of dust at the bottom of the box underneath the pine needle nest, and I saw the larvae in it as well. I found one live and one dead adult blowfly in the center of the nest buried in there, and more larvae. When I looked at the dead chicks on the underside, I didn’t see larvae attached to them. I then realized that I was not checking closely enough for any indication blowflies even existed – my first experience with this problem.  I did look for insects and didn’t see any. The nest appeared clean, and I watched the parents bring food. Now I realize the blowfly larvae were hidden inside the nest underneath the babies, and I had missed them completely. I felt sad that the second brood died, but I also was on alert for blowflies on the trail. Sure enough, I found another nestbox with blowflies. The chicks looked anemic and weak at five days, and they had feathers only in stripes on their backs. This time I had to intervene! I quickly switched the contaminated pine needle nest with a homemade pine needle nest.  I put the needles in, tamped it down with my fist, and added some grasses for softness. I carefully picked up the sick five-day-old chicks and placed them in the new nest while my husband stood by with an umbrella to shade us from the sun. Both parents were watching me in the trees and came back to the box a few minutes later. I left the nest alone for a few days. When I checked on Day 8, I was truly amazed!  The chicks were larger, growing feathers again, and looking bluer and healthier. They fledged at exactly 18 days.

 

I’ve learned as a new monitor that there will be losses. However, with love and devotion and learning about these marvelous birds each year, the celebrations outweigh the losses, and monitoring is worth every minute of my time. I have a feeling of accomplishment helping the beloved bluebirds!

– Christine Boran, Blue Ridge Highlands, Woolwine, Patrick County Coordinator, Virginia Bluebird Society

BELOW:  12-Day Old Healthy Chicks photo below….they should fledge between 15-18 days.  These were in the Mountain Rose Inn’s nestbox in 2008.  Many thanks to Mike and Dora Jane for their continued support!

They should fledge between 15 and 18 days.

They should fledge between 15 and 18 days.

Blue Ridge Highlands, Woolwine, Patrick County Coordinator, Virginia Bluebird Society

Here is the Mountain Rose Inn’s website and their birding page where my photos are posted.

http://www.mountainrose-inn.com/BirdingattheMountainRose.htm