Bluebird and Small Cavity Nester Conservation
Sialis - Bluebirds and other small cavity nesters
 
bluebirds

printer friendly page 2005 Trail Report

Northeastern Connecticut
Monitor: E.A.Z.
Website: http://www.sialis.org

I maintain two puny bluebird trails consisting of 48 boxes in rural northeastern CT. MY MATH NEEDS TO BE DOUBLECHECKED!

Box styles and usage in calendar year 2005 were:

  • 26 NABS (19 used: 73% usage)
  • 11 Petersons (9 used – 82% usage)
  • 7 Gilwoods (new this year – 6 used – 86% usage)
  • 2 Rubicon (plastic – neither used: 0% usage)
  • 1 Gilberston (used by EABL for two broods. In previous years it had always been used by chickadees: 100% usage)
  • 1 Slot (used by HOWR – bad location too near brush)

Usage isn’t statistically meaningful at least low numbers, and with variations in location.

Here is a summary of Year 2005 combined action on both trails (Chimalis and Smith Memorial).

COMMENTS AND WEIRD STUFF

  • I only had two second broods of bluebirds, out of a total of 7 nest attempts by 5 pairs. (In 2004, I had several third nestings.)
  • Bluebird populations are still small, but steadily growing.
  • Bluebirds immediately disappeared after fledging from last brood. (In 2004, a male stayed here all winter.)
  • I had 100% utilization of boxes at the new landfill trail.
  • I managed to contract lyme disease late in the season and my record keeping went in the toilet (http://www.sialis.org/lyme.htm)
  • HOWR populations/competition seemed to be exploding. On my main trail, I had real and dummy nests in boxes that had never had attempts before. There were also egg losses. It was very disappointed when HOWR apparently took out 4 of 6 TUTI eggs when I only had one nesting. The remaining two went on to successfully fledge. HOWR also took out several chickadee nests.
  • I had some atypical nests, including a HOWR nest of all grass (see http://www.sialis.org/mysterynestjune.htm), a TRES nest with no feathers, and a TRES that took over an ?abandoned? chickadee nest, and just added a feather and then laid eggs (possibly a second nest attempt after a failure)
  • Experienced high and very depressing losses of TRES nestlings on the landfill trail. Wrote a webpage with info I found on the topic. http://www.sialis.org/tresdead.htm
  • Had an EABL runt survive and fledge about 48 hours after nest mates. See daily photo log http://www.sialis.org/runt.htm
  • Got some great HOSP photos to help with ID: http://www.sialis.org/hospphotos.htm. HOSP losses have been eliminated on my trails due to vigilant application of both passive and active controls. The local population is dramatically reduced. However, a few pairs do show up occasionally. Sparrow spookers are used on every EABL nest (since there are so few EABL nestings). I was very pleased with the performance of the Deluxe Repeating Sparrow Trap. As a result, there were no losses to HOSP, and no successful HOSP nestings to report.
  • I put up some new Gilwood boxes last year, and HOSP did attempt to nest in them. I really have not seen any difference in HOSP attempts between Peterson, Gilwood and NABS boxes.
  • One pair of bluebirds couldn't seem to make up their minds about which box to build a nest in. They went back and forth between two boxes, constructing three nests. There was no obvious reason why (such as competition, wasps, etc.) and the boxes were within sight of each other.
  • I observed a male bluebird hanging on a slot box that was not in use. He kept going back and looking inside. When I checked the box, there was a HOWR inside.
  • Some TRES laid very pink looking eggs. The color did not change to white. See example at http://www.sialis.org/nests.htm
  • I found an odd looking nest in one box on a friends trail, and pulled it out for a better look. It felt warm - because there was a nursing deer mouse at the bottom. See http://www.sialis.org/mice.htm
  • I tried staining some boxes with coastal gray Superdeck since they were not weathering well. Will keep an eye on these.
  • I started a mealworm farm. Lessons learned and all info I could gather are at http://www.sialis.org/raisingmealworms.htm. I’m not sure I will continue with it. It is cost effective, but more maintenance than I would like, and the beetles are gross. Not my definition of fun.

LESSONS LEARNED

  • Peterson boxes are top heavy and some of mine leaned forward on their metal stakes. Occupants built nests parallel to the ground, which meant they were sloped towards the door. When I opened one box, all the TRES eggs fell out onto the ground and every one broke. In a second box, all the EABL babies fell onto the door (but were fine.) I will still use Peterson’s as many birds here seem to prefer them, but will make darn sure they are dead vertical. I will exercise much more caution when opening the door when monitoring.
  • The most interesting thing I did this year was monitor a friends' trail in Eastford for a month while she was away. What a difference in nest types and occupants. She has more than 30 boxes in very close proximity to each other, with almost all being used by a "colony" of TRES.
  • I tried the experimental half-circle/eyebrow HOWR guard on three boxes. Two of the boxes had been occupied by House Wrens the prior year; both were occupied in the subsequent years despite the guard. Experience with the box may have overcome any deterrent effect it might have had. Personally, I doubt whether wren guards work once a House Wren has discovered a box. I put it on a third chickadee nestbox near House Wren territory and the chickadees hatched successfully. It took the incubating female three flights over an 8 minute period to check it out before accepting the guard. After the chickadees had fledged, a House Wren placed sticks in the box. See http://www.sialis.org/wrens.htm
  • I accidentally caught a titmouse in a box that HOSP had been checking out. The titmouse HAMMERED away at the box from the inside. I let it out immediately.
  • I encountered a drama queen titmouse that made snake-like hissing noises while striking the side of the box when it was opened. Scary – see video http://www.sialis.org/titmousehiss.htm
  • Paper wasps were extremely prevalent at my landfill trail, which is in a meadow surrounded by forest. If I had not managed the situation (removing wasps and nests at the beginning of the season and Ivory soaping the roofs) almost none of the boxes would have been used. I also got a lot of wasps in the exterior underside of Peterson boxes. I painted them with latex paint, and tried stuffing paper towels in there as deterrents.
  • I usually keep a pair of decoys – 1 male and 1 female HOSP – in ground traps. Introducing a new male resulted in the death of existing decoys.
  • Last season, I put timothy hay and sawdust in some boxes to insulate them for roosting. It appeared they were not being selected for nest sites, deterring both EABL, TUTI and TRES, so I removed the hay.
  • Exercise more care in preventing tick bites. Wear light colored clothing, tuck into socks, spray with DEET.

CONDITIONS
Weather was bizarre this year, temperature and rain-wise (drought followed by floods, some extended cold rainy periods).

LENGTH OF SEASON

  • First bluebird nest begun prior to 4/16, first egg 4/19 (compared to 4/21, with first egg 4/28 in 2003)
  • Last bluebird fledged 7/24 (compared to 7/12 or 7/13 in 2003)

RESULTS: “Chimalis” Trail in Northeastern CT. Log at http://www.sialis.org/trail2005.htm
This trail is located on lawns and meadows, and around and in Christmas tree farm land. Some streams/wetlands nearby some boxes.

Total number of birds fledged: 79.
34 boxes. Only 20 had successful nestings (defined as birds fledging)

  • EABL (3 pairs): 4 nest attempts in 3 boxes. 4 successful. Total of 20 eggs, 17 hatched, 17 fledged. First egg 4/21.
  • TRES: 15 nest attempts in 13 boxes.
    10 successful, nestings, ~79 eggs, ~49 hatched, ~41 fledged.
  • BCCH: 2 nestings, 14 eggs, 13 hatched, 13 fledged
  • TUTI: 1 nesting, 6 eggs, 2 fledged
  • HOWR: 15 attempts in 13 boxes, 6 fledged
  • HOSP: 9 attempts in 7 boxes, all failed

RESULTS: Landfill Trail – Log at http://www.sialis.org/landfill2005.htm
Total number of birds fledged: 39
13 boxes, all utilized, 10 successful nestings.

  • This is a new trail (expanded from 2 boxes) located on top of a closed landfill – meadow surrounded by woods.
  • I worked with the State DEP and the town to get permission to put this trail up on the landfill, which I recognized as great EABL and TRES habitat. In the past the area was mowed twice - once in the spring and once in the fall. The DEP and Town also agreed to defer mowing until after July 15 (to encourage other grassland nesting birds.)
  • Approximately 21 TRES nestlings did not survive to fledging. In one nest, all fledglings were fully feathered but dead. It was devastating.
  • The boxes on this trail are 1/3 Peterson, 1/3 Gilwood and 1/3 NABS. I wanted to see which the EABL preferred. They picked 1 Peterson and 1 Gilwood. I need to pair next year because there were so many TRES.
  • EABL (2 pairs): 3 nest attempts in 2 boxes. 2 successful (4 nestlings lost from 1 nest). Total of 14 eggs, 12 hatched, 8 fledged. First egg 4/19.
  • TRES: 13 nest attempts in 12 boxes. 8 successful, nestings, 1 failed (5 eggs), 62 eggs, ~52 hatched, ~31 fledged. First egg 5/19.
  • BCCH: 1 failed nesting, no eggs.
  • HOWR: 3 failed HOWR attempts in 3 boxes. 1 failed HOSP attempt, at least 4 HOWR dummy nests by the end of the season.

SUMMARY OF LOSSES

  • No known losses to HOSP. All EABL nests on the Chimalis trail are protected by sparrow spookers. 25 HOSP trapped with Van Ert and DRST ground trap.
  • 21 dead TRES nestlings (40%!) at landfill trail of unknown causes. All boxes had kerfs, and deaths occurred in various styles of boxes, so it is not believed to be a toehold issue. No such losses were seen on the Chimalis trail.
  • 4 TUTI eggs from one nest to HOWR.
  • 9 TRES eggs from 3 nests most likely to HOWR.
  • 5 TRES eggs broken when they fell out of a Peterson box during monitoring.
  • 4 EABL nestlings from one nesting on 5/29 - apparently to hypothermia/starvation (extended cold rainy period on landfill trail, box opening may have been exposed to prevailing winds.)
  • 1 dead adult TRES (Chimalis Trail) on 5/8. One dead TRES on eggs (landfill trail) on 5/22.

QUESTIONS

  • Are bluebirds starting nests earlier and fledging later in the season?
  • Why did so many TRES nestlings die on the landfill trail?
  • Is it worth the time, effort and ick factor to raise mealworms?
  • Is there a clear nestbox style preference for EABL?

PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR

  • Try harder to train bluebirds to eat suet.
  • Pair more boxes at the landfill.
  • Make sure ALL my Peterson boxes are dead vertical.
  • Keep better records, including data on blow flies.
  • Go to the NABS 2006 conference.
  • Keep expanding, updating and correcting my website at http://www.sialis.org.

Notes:


All bluebirders must feel like "one of the chosen ones" when we are fortunate enough to have nesting bluebirds on our own property....
- Lillian Lund, Sialia, 1984

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