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.  



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. ”         



I created many videos in past two years and have them posted on my public YouTube account.  This is my favorite video taken this year when I stumbled upon this live hatching taking place.  I made sure no flash photography was used and only took a minute or two to run this video for the safety of the young.   Enjoy. 



This nestbox is installed on a utility pole in the town where my bluebird trail is.  It is at a local school.  I have permission to monitor it.  PLEASE NOTE:  I am not recommending this method as a replacement for installing nestboxes the proper way that is safe for the nesting birds.  When a native bird chooses it, I add this pronged out Noel Guard and see what happens.  I always wait until the egg clutch is completed, do my count of the eggs, puff in some organic diatomaceous earth inside the nest, close up the box, and then add this Noel Guard held sturdy by washers and screws.  I cannot open the box after installation, unfortunately, since it’s a front-opening nestbox, hinging at the top and the observation door swings up.   What I do after is surveillance on the box for bird activity, mark my binder notes, and count the days.   This is a video I shot of the male bluebird investigating their nest about 5 minutes after installing the Noel Guard.  I have done these four times in the past two years in various locations where nestboxes are on fences, wood posts, utility poles — without any predator guards — and with permissions from the homeowners (in this case, the school staff).   I do tell them the proper way to install the boxes to deter predators (on a conduit with a stovepipe wobbling 8″ Ron Kingston stovepipe guard under the nestbox) and add a Noel Guard, like this, pronged out (helps deter the snakes better).  The ending of the story to this video is the male and female bluebird accepted the guard within the hour of it being added, she continued incubating her clutch, and the young finally fledged this July.   I removed the Noel Guard today.  See photos below.  I would prefer to add these guards on nestboxes where I am not free to change the setups for the safety of the nesting birds.   SOMETHING to deter predators is better than none!    However, I did do this where I could not change the nestbox installation and conducted my 2-times a week monitoring, surveillance, and note taking.   The video was shot on June 19, 2015.  Bluebirds had not occupied this nestbox before this nesting season.  I hope you enjoy a moment watching Mr. Bluebird figure out his nest is OK and all is well, so you can tell Mrs. Bluebird to go back to her clutch of eggs.   She was watching him do the check while she perched nearby on the chainlink fence.     I reiterate:   I DO NOT recommend nesting boxes installed unprotected on tree trunks, fences, wood posts, utility poles, and on the sidings of buildings…ever.  This recommendation comes from all bluebird societies, affiliates of the North American Bluebird Society.  This is have learned from them.


Without Noel GuardNestbox with Pronged Noel GuardFledging YoungBluebirds FledgedNoel Guard RemovedRemoved-Dissected Nest



The nesting season is starting to wind down. Of 36 nesting boxes, I still have 9 occupied presently with Eastern Bluebirds finishing 2nd broods. I have not seen 3rd broods started (yet). Since they started a month later last year and again this year (due to the colder weather), I doubt I’ll see 3rds this year. I have two nestboxes finishing up on House Wrens. My nesting boxes have had these species enter and attempt to nest. Only the House Sparrow was not allowed to reproduce in the boxes: House Sparrow, House Wren, Tree Swallow, Eastern Bluebird, and Carolina Chickadee. I was hoping to see this year at least once a White-Breasted Nuthatch, Brown-Headed Nuthatch (rare in our location but they are coming closer to our area in search of their specific habitat which is the Southern pine forests), or a Carolina Wren (sometimes will nest in nestboxes). Of all 36 monitored, not one nestbox went unoccupied. I’d say that’s “success” for housing 4 native cavity-nesting species of birds this season. The work to install them for occupancy has been tweaked just right by strategizing and accessing the usages year after year–always a work in progress when you start a bluebird trail. I will report back final nesting data in late August to early September.



My trail is finally in active nestings!   There were days of warmth, then snow.  Then very cold nights and more roosting birds without nests.  These guys know what to do.  Nesting and laying eggs is not one of them when it’s too cold out!   I think winter is over now.  Nest cups are formed and the first eggs have been laid in one of my boxes on March 31 as the date of the first egg laid.  However, the House Wren beat that, but I don’t have a date of that laid clutch, unfortunately.  Surprisingly, I’ve not witnessed ANY species competition among the nestboxes…yet, that is.  I expect to see those soon.  Fastest House Wren I’ve ever seen!

Presently, my early trail stats are as follows for the 2014 nesting season:

Eastern Bluebird (EABL):m 14 partial or completed nests thus far.

Carolina Chickadee (CACH):   1 with no eggs laid yet.

House Wren (HOWR):  1 with 5 eggs

Tree Swallow (TRES): 1 –  It’s either a TRES or EABL.  Need to go back to confirm.


Here is a video.  Enjoy.   Woolwine House Bluebird Trail First Eggs for 2014 Season


Hoping you’re getting some great action now. Enjoy your nesting birds!




I found this enlightening….bluebirds will hold their own and protect their territory. The bluebird nest was started, so they were first. Upon returning, it was discovered this chickadee appeared “interested” in this box. See what happens. Who says bluebirds are ALWAYS kind and gentle creatures? Well, OK, usually they are. Enjoy seeing what competitors do to keep prime real estate–our manmade nesting boxes, of course! Humorous and educational material here. Good job on the video making, I say.



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:



The link below will connect you to a video of a nestbox on my bluebird trail that had a “critter” nest in it — turned out not be a mouse nest but a squirrel (could get in by using overhanging branches as a bridge).  Once a rodent-type mammal occupies a nestbox, the inside of the box has to be thoroughly scraped and “sanitized” using a bleach-water solution, rinsed again, and allowed to dry.  Birds will not use a nestbox that has been soiled by rodents.   Additionally, I had to move this once successful box to a new location.  Too much brushy plants from scrub trees and morning glory kept growing up near and around the pole and through the stovepipe baffle and into the nestbox!  It was too difficult to maintain it–too much energy to keep cutting back the overgrowth.  The first three years, this installation would have 2-3 broods of bluebirds.  The last three years had none.  It was time to make a change–the bluebirds did not like the brushy surroundings in spite of it being near an open field.   This is why we trail managers have to make periodic changes to the nestbox locations.  One time, a great location was lost due to construction of a parking lot.  That was a disappointment for me as that box was highly successful.    The good news is in a rural area like where I live, it’s fairly easy to find new places to install moved nestboxes; ther e are many wonderful property owners who support my efforts!  I am willing to work with the people and the birds to keep everyone happy — including myself, in there, last but not least, of course!

Video link –click below:

Here is photo of the same nestbox below (moved from that location):

This is one year after installation.  Not too much brush is behind it when it was installed, as you can see.   I experimented with an artificial nestcup for a couple of years.

This is one year after installation. Not too much brush is behind it when it was installed, as you can see. I experimented with an artificial nestcup for a couple of years.