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.
- In 2004,I 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 2005, about 118 birds fledged from 48 boxes, with five nesting pairs of bluebirds. 100% of the boxes at the new landfill trail were utilized, not all successfully.
- In 2006, I added more boxes to the Chimalis Trail and the Smith Memorial Trail, and started a new experimental trail on a town green.
- In 2007, we added an experimental no-trap trail using Linda Violett’s 2 hole mansions.
- In 2008, we adopted a small trail that was not being monitored, located in a local park.
- in 2010, I left one area alone for a year, and didn’t trap. By the end of the season, every single box had been taken over by House Sparrows.
Since there are many farms in the area (I have ducks and have had goats too), 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.
In 2010, my husband Doug Zimmerman died, and I had a hard time getting motivated to maintain my trails. I remarried another widower, Patrick Smith, who helped me for a decade with boxes. He died in 2021. I am slowly transitioning away from having boxes in areas where House Sparrows are abundant, and am focusing now on maintaining and updating this website. But I am ALWAYS learning something new from other bluebirders.
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