My first trail started in my backyard. The second trail with 18 boxes is at the closed landfill. Most are NABS style,
but in 2004, I started diversifying with Gilbertsons, Petersons, and one
Carrier Slant Box (which I no longer use). In 2005 I added Gilwood boxes, and a slot box. In 2006, I added more Gilbertsons, Petersons and a Kentucky Four Seasons, and some experimental boxes. I'm still learning about the pros and cons of each style.
I read about a trail that went
THIRTEEN years until the first successful bluebird nesting. In
the last seven years, they have fledged over 4,000 bluebirds! I only waited 3 years. After starting to feed mealworms in 2002,
I finally had a pair of Eastern Bluebirds (EABL) nest and successfully
fledge five babies on the trail.
In 2003, an EABL pair lost four 12-day old nestlings
in late May, apparently from hypothermia caused by an extended
period of cold and incessant rain. A second nesting produced four
healthy babies. All of the fledglings visited the feeder, and it
was amusing to watch the babies sitting in a bowl filled with mealworms,
begging for the parents to pick one up and deliver it to their
waiting beaks. In 2003, the trail also fledged 13 Tree Swallows,
two Black-capped Chickadees, and five titmice. Reluctantly, nine House Wrens were
also allowed to fledge out of two boxes, mainly because they
used boxes in areas that other birds did not express interest
in, or nested after the TRES and EABLs were finished.
I've had six bluebird nestings (by three pair), including second
and third broods (a first for me), resulting in 26 fledglings.
That makes a total of 35 so far - not much, but I plan to persist.
In 2004, the trail also fledged 88 Tree Swallows, chickadees,
titmice and House Wrens. House Wrens started
to take over the trail, so I no longer let them nest, instead
leaving a box open/plugged until they move on. In October of 2004, my husband and I put the new trail in some ideal habitat at a closed landfill. It now has a combination of 15 Gilwood, NABs, and Peterson boxes.
In 2008, we adopted a small trail that was not being monitored, located in a local park.
Since there are many farms in the area (and we have ducks and
two pygmy goats), House Sparrows (HOSP)
are abundant, originally outnumbering bluebirds by about 100:1.
I helplessly watched a pair of HOSP spend three
days harassing a TRES couple, making it impossible for the parents
to deliver food. As a result, the five TRES nestlings all starved.
After losing numerous TRES eggs to HOSP, and finding removal of
HOSP nests ineffective, I became convinced of the need to passively
and actively manage HOSP populations. No HOSP have ever successfully
nested in boxes on my trail. I have seen dramatic
reductions in numbers of HOSP, and a significant increase in
diversity at my birdfeeders and nestboxes as a result. By 2005, it was actually more common now to hear a bluebird song than a HOSP chirping. In 2006, I only had one HOSP nesting attempt. In 2007, there was a resurgence of the local HOSP population due to unmonitored nestboxes and HOSP breeding at a local restaurant, but I continue to trap to keep local populations low.
And when he sings to you, Though you're deep in blue, You will see a ray of light creep through,
And so remember this, life is no abyss, Somewhere there's a bluebird of happiness. Life is sweet, tender and complete, when you find the bluebird of happiness.
- Bluebird of Happiness,
lyrics by Edward Heyman & Harry Parr Davies, 1934
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