Thanks again to all of our volunteers and supporters for the fantastic summer and all of the hard work you have contributed!
To date, we have accumulated nearly 2700 volunteer hours for the year within the Bluebird Project. This is spread among nearly 130 volunteers, 17 trail monitors, 8 mealworm feeders and 67 landowners. Our many landowners and trail monitors collected over 1,000 data points on nesting birds in the Cowichan Valley. This type of large, long-term data is critical to understanding the population trends and dynamics of our native, cavity-nesting birds. Of our 238 nestboxes, 61.1% produced a successful clutch of native birds! While we still have House Sparrow issues, volunteers have combated this significantly by removing nearly 50 HOSP nests this year (at ~5 fledglings a nest, that’s ~250 less HOSP in the Valley).
The Bring Back the Bluebird Project has news to share! While our Bluebirds have finished nesting for the year, our project has found a new nest of its own. The Cowichan Valley Naturalist Society has partnered with the BC Conservation Foundation, which will take on the administration of this project.
While we will still rely on our great team of volunteers for taking care of our bluebirds, BCCF will take care of administrative tasks such as budget tracking, invoicing, and hiring. Genevieve Singleton will still guide and support the project and Jacquie Taylor will be the coordinator; filling out grant applications, keeping everyone informed and planning the next field season.
I feel this is an exciting step forward for the project. BCCF has a great reputation for keeping projects on track and we have a fantastic foundation of community engagement. This collaboration will strengthen our efforts to bring the Western Bluebird population back to our Cowichan Valley.
p.s. Our website flies south for the winter so there will be no more updates this year. See you next spring! Also, if anyone is wanting to donate to our Bluebird Project, please follow this link to the Canada Helps site and choose Bring Back the Bluebirds from the list. Thank you for all your support!
Thanks to everybody who attended our end of season appreciation event and the amazing Don and Theresa Carson who hosted the event at their beautiful home. It was a great evening, with lots of great company and food (thanks to Trevor on the bbq!). Additional thanks to Bruce Cousens of the western Purple Martin Recovery Foundation for providing a talk on the history and challenges of the Purple Martin recovery in British Columbia. It’s a great reminder to the many challenges projects like ours face. However, in spite of all of these challenges we are extremely fortunate to have a reliable and passionate community of volunteers that make all of our forward progress possible.
We hope you had the chance to meet our new staff person and project coordinator, Jacquie Taylor at the event too! If you didn’t, we will be spending some time out in the field next week so hopefully you can meet her then. Jacquie, Genevieve and myself were at the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve this week adding raptor-guards to our boxes to reduce the risk of owls preying on birds while inside the nest box. It was a great (but super hot) day in the field!
As our field season is winding down we have a couple reminders for everybody:
Make sure to clean out your nestboxes before the end of the season. Be safe while doing this by using gloves/tongs and a face mask filter as many once-occupied boxes are full of bird dandruff, feces and insects.
Please get any of your recorded data to me (Braden)! I will enter it into our master spreadsheet which we upload to Project NestWatch‘s database. This info helps us understand which bird populations are in decline and where these declines are happening. This season we are approaching 1000 data points!
Our annual end-of-season appreciation event is on Monday August 12th at 5:30pm. We will be serving burgers (veggie and beef) and will have a few closing remarks and guest speakers. Please bring beverages, folding chairs, cutlery/plates and a side dish or desert! We hope to see you all there. As we are trying to not waste food and coordinate supplies, please RSVP! It is very helpful if we can estimate how many people are attending.
In other news, our last clutch of bluebirds for the year has been banded. These birds have recently fledged, will soon be feeding on their own, and eventually head south for the winter (although we have had bluebirds spend the winter in the Cowichan Valley before – so who knows?).
We have also hired a new staff person, Jacquie Taylor! Jacquie, is a nature interpreter and biologist, and will assist the project over the fall through our transitional period.
Hannah is moving to Victoria in September with her husband Trevor, who is starting his Master’s of Science in Geography, and Hannah will be the new Lab Manager for University of Victoria and Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Applied Conservation Science Lab. She has had a great two years working with the project and looks forward to volunteering in the future.
I (Braden) am moving all the way to Guelph, Ontario for the first of September. I will be starting a Master’s of Science in Biology studying fisheries ecology and wildlife genetics using a population of Arctic Charr as my study group. This is by far the scariest thing I have ever done, but I look forward to the adventure. I’ve had a phenomenal summer and have greatly enjoyed my time working with bluebirds, Hannah, Genevieve and all of our great volunteers. I’ll miss my time on the Island very much as I try to survive my first Ontario winter. Wish me luck!
Nesting season is winding down and few nest boxes have nestlings in them anymore. If a nest box has a completed nest in it, feel free to clean it out if you’re certain it is no longer being used. If birds have fledged successfully from a nest box, it will have a bunch of feces piling up inside of it – this is a strategy the parents use to get their kids to move out! They stop cleaning up after them until the box is so gross that they have no choice but to move out and feed for themselves. Also, be wary of mice feces inside of nest boxes. It is uncommon, but I have seen it in a few boxes. Mice feces can harbor a variety of pathogens if the dust is inhaled or touched, so remember to use tongs or a gloved hand to handle nest materials and a respirator mask to avoid breathing anything harmful in. If you need any materials please let me know and I can get them to you.
Last week we had two nestling bluebirds hatch (out of five eggs laid). We are unsure as to why the clutch had a relatively low hatch rate, but suspect that it’s because it’s the first breeding season of both parents. We’ll be banding these birds on Monday so bluebirders can track individuals in the future. Our other bluebird sites are stable with parents interacting with fledglings and enjoying the bright summer weather from fence posts and oak branches.
Project personnel and many support biologists and experts came together to complete a threat assessment document this week. This process generates an all-inclusive list of the threats affecting Western Bluebirds and assigns a scope and severity to each threat. This type of activity provides valuable information, as the most important step in any conservation project is understanding why a species needs conserving in the first place.
Another reminder that we’ll be having our annual appreciation event on Monday, August 12th at 5:30pm at Don and Theresa Carson’s home. More info is provided in our email group and last blog post. Hope to see you all there! If you can bring a side-dish, appetizer or desert it would be much appreciated! We are trying to have a zero-waste event so remember to bring your own cutlery, plates and a lawn chair.
Over the past two weeks we’ve had five bluebirds fledge. Once fledged, it didn’t take them long to figure out where the mealworm feeding station was and these birds are now busily foraging on their own (and with their parents help!). Even though these birds have recently fledged and quickly become independent, they stay relatively close to their parents for the first several weeks. During this time we continue to supplement them with mealworms in hopes we can provide them with the best start in life as possible.
Our most successful bluebird pair in the valley has produced a second clutch of five eggs, two of which have already hatched! We hope to find five nestlings there by the time the weekend is over. While the female is tending to her young, the male is often harassed by the three fledglings from their previous clutch, who seem to be always hungry.
On July 18th the bluebird team partook in the Cowichan Community Stewardship Roundtable event at Stoltz Pool. This was a great event that allowed many people to share their perspectives on local conservation and stewardship activities. Luckily the weather held out for us (mostly) and everybody was able to enjoy a potluck under a blue summer sky next to the river. We were fortunate enough to have many great speakers who covered a variety of topics such as parkland restoration projects, traditional/environmental medicine, plant ecology, water cycles and more. I talked briefly about the population trends of many bird groups in Canada. If you would like to know more about this, the North American Bird Conservation Initiative published a report on the status of birds in Canada, which is a interesting and informative read that I highly recommend going over! You can find the report here.
We will be having a meeting on Tuesday, July 23rd from 1:00 – 2:30pm at the Fish Health Building to discuss some possible avenues for volunteers moving the project forward. We’re most definitely interested in hearing what all volunteers and interested supporters have to contribute so we welcome everybody to attend. If you cannot attend, we’d be happy to chat over the phone, or just shoot us an email!
Another reminder that we are hosting our annual appreciation event on Monday, August 12th, from 5:30 – 8:00pm at Don and Theresa Carson’s home. We have sent out an email invitation with more information! Please let us know if you have any questions.
This week we’ve had a pair of bluebirds working on their second clutch and the mother appears to be incubating a brood of five eggs! She added a bit of grass to their old nest and are continuing to use the same nest box. Sometimes bluebirds will use a new nestbox, but will occasionally use the same box for both clutches. While mom is incubating, the male bluebird is foraging and bringing her insects while being accompanied by the fledglings from their previous clutch.
On Friday we banded the nestlings at another nesting location. We’re thankful to have had some CVNS volunteers help out with that and get to hold and see some baby bluebirds. We banded five nestling bluebirds who all appear to be in good health – which is great news considering their parents had a nest failure earlier on in the spring.
I have been working to get materials together to improve our bluebird trails for next year. Some boxes need replacing, while others are getting modified to reduce the risk of predation. For example, we’re installing a stucco-wire guard on the top of some boxes to deter owls (among other raptors) from landing on top and harming the nestlings inside. This modification was inspired and guided by personnel from the BC Purple Martin Stewardship and Recovery Program.
We will have one final session of bird banding is as little as two weeks from now! I will send out an email closer to the time of banding with an invite for anybody who has not gotten the chance to be involved in banding.
Thanks for reading! Have a great weekend,
Population Summary 7+ Adults
2 Active Nesting Sites