I use the Kingston stovepipe wobbly baffle, designed by Ron Kingston, Charlottesville, VA. This is basically a baffle to ward off ground predators; i.e., snakes, raccoons, cats, field rats, and mice. It is considered one of the best guards out there for most ground predators. It’s not 100% fullproof, but it’s worked well for many bluebirders, including me, for most boxes. Black Rat Snakes are my #1 ground predators for my boxes. The other ground predator possible are ants, which do not seem to be a problem on my trail. This baffles does NOT hold back ants. I should mention this video of a snake is not one of my trail boxes but a box in my County–the monitor shared it with me–arrived at the time the snake was attempting to find those bluebird babies. Snake foiled and bluebirds fledged! Phew!
Here is the Ron Kingston design–an inexpensive-to-make and highly-effective 8-inch x 24 long galvanized stovepipe baffle to hand under your nestbox (see pictures below). NOTE Mr. Kingston’s predator guard has been used since 1988–it’s been tested over and over and works the BEST of all guards out there! http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/kingstonbaffle.pdf
To view some predator guard plans, click to this URL to the Virginia Bluebird Society’s page on guards: http://www.virginiabluebirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/BB_Guards_12-11-2012.pdf
I also use the Noel hardware cloth wire guards for over the entry hole. Being a member and County Coordinator for the Virginia Bluebird Society, we are asked to use these guards since Virginia has many avian and ground predators, particularly the raccoon. It also helps any ground predators that gets on top of a box, like the raccoon, to not be able to reach inside the entry hole and remove eggs or chicks or hurt an incubating female! (Again, many thanks for Carl’s help in making these.)
The House Sparrow (see HOSP Control page) and the House Wren (HOWR) are predators to bluebirds and their young. House Wrens can attack bluebird eggs and nestlings. There is a video of the House Wren attacking bluebird nestlings on my Problems page. The House Sparrow is a killer of our native birds. Jays and other avian predators, even woodpeckers, can bother our cavity nesters.
INTERESTING PHOTO SHOOT SERIES IN A NOEL GUARD:
BELOW is a series of five photographs taken on June 12, 2009, of a bluebird couple both entering and exiting the box and guard at the same time. As you’ll see in the photos below, she arrives with grub, feeds her chicks, stays inside the guard, he arrives with grub, he feeds her some, they pass each other, he enters the box while she watches, she leaves the box and guard, she flys to the box roof and waits, he exits the box with a fecal sac. After that, they both left to look for more food. Interesting activity indeed! This all happened 5 minutes after I did a nest switchout from a blowfly infested nest to a clean nest saved from a previous brood from another box earlier in the season. This photo series is a good indication to me as a monitor that the parents return quickly after I did the nest switchout and have no issue with using a nestbox with an installed Noel guard. (Please note that the foliage behind the box is farther back than what appears in the photos, a slight optical illusion with the focus of the lens on the camera that day. I try to keep my boxes as far away from thickets as possible. These bluebirds really like this box and location — this box did well in the 2008 season.)
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