Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – August 17th

Hi everyone,

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.

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Left to right is Charlene Lee, Bruce Cousens, Ryan Hetschko, Genevieve Singleton, Hannah Hall, Braden Judson and Jacquie Taylor.
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Cheri receiving a bouquet of flowers for her phenomenal job with the bluebird project. 

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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!

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Jacquie and myself installing a raptor guard on a nest box. (Sorry Jacquie I’ll get a better picture of you before I leave!)
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I took this photo not 100 feet away from one of our nest boxes! 

Thanks again for reading,

– Braden Judson

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – August 9th

Hi bluebirders,

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?).

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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!

Thanks for reading,

– Braden

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – July 28th

Hi everyone,

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.

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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.

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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.

Thanks for reading,
– Braden

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – July 20th

Hi everybody,

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.

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This juvenile male has figured out where to get a good meal! He can easily fit in the small mesh holes to retrieve mealworms.

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.

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This male’s band combinations are Orange over Aluminum and Yellow over Celeste. He has begun to recognize that I often bring mealworms and now waits for me at the feeding tray.

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.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

– Braden

 

 

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – July 6th

Hello Bluebirders,

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.

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We always knock on the side of our nest boxes to flush any birds out before opening them. Sometimes however, the parents are quite dedicated and when you look through the entrance hole of the bird box they stare back at you. 

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.

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These raptor-guards are made from a non-rusting material and the sharp edges are blunted and curled around to prevent any chance of snagging or poking an incoming bird. 
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A squirrel or woodpecker trying to call one of our nestboxes home. The box was empty so we replaced it with a new one.

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,
– Braden

Population Summary
7+ Adults
2 Active Nesting Sites
7 Fledglings
5 Eggs
5 Nestlings

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – June 28th

Hi bluebirders,

This week has had its ups and downs. We have had an adult, female bluebird who was actively nesting go missing and we suspect that she was predated upon by a Cooper’s Hawk or an outdoor cat. While unfortunate as this loss is, we are thankful for the clutch she reared successfully and the offspring of that clutch are now fledged and independently feeding and exploring. WEBL

The other two active nesting sites were more fortunate this week:
The pair that had clutch failure earlier in the spring has successfully re-nested and laid eggs which have just hatched into 5 nestlings! We were able to put a PVC sleeve over the post that supports the nestbox and add a sparrow-spooker to the top to help ensure these nestlings are safe from predators or harassment. We’ve started to supplement mealworms to this location and this morning the parents were observed to be delivering the mealworms to their young.
The other location with nesting bluebirds has also began to work on a second clutch. This morning I discovered an egg laid in the same box the other clutch was reared in! Very cool to see them re-using the nestbox. I also was fortunate enough to observe the fledglings (from the first clutch) creeping around a huge willow tree eating bright green caterpillars.

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Nestling Western Bluebird enjoy the view from his luxury lakeside cabin. 

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work at the bluebird project right now involving grant writing and organization for next year’s goals… 

Have a great long weekend!
– Braden Judson

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – June 22nd: Fledglings are out and about!

Hi everyone,

This was an exciting week as we now have two nesting sites with fledglings! While it’s difficult to get an exact count, we believe there are at least 6 fledglings out exploring with their parents now. The parents of these groups are busy establishing a second nesting site and are bringing grass into a nearby nestbox – we are very hopeful for a successful second clutch!

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Keep an eye out for bluebirds looking for new nest sites, and exploring fledglings. As you can see in the above photo, the fledglings have a white eye-ring that makes their eyes appear very large! They are also very streaked and have a yellow border around their mouth (this helps the parents deliver food right into their mouth in the dark nest box!).

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We’d like to thank everybody again that came to our monitor meeting on Tuesday. I’ll be meeting with a lot of trail monitors over the next month and discussing plans to improve trails. I’m also purchasing a great deal of predator guarding materials (PVC tubes, stucco wire, sparrow spookers, etc) to make our trail systems safer for bird usage next year. A big shout-out to Pacific Industrial & Marine Ltd.  who graciously donated $500 to our predator-guarding efforts! This goes a long way in reducing the risk of bluebird predation events.

Happy trails,
Braden J

Population Summary

6 Fledglings
7+ Adult Birds
8 Eggs
2 Active Nest Sites