We’ve had quite a busy few weeks here, hence why this update has taken so long!
To start with, our second clutch of 5 nestlings was banded several weeks ago, and they all flew the nest a week later. It was quite bittersweet, as we will miss getting to peer in at sleepy bluebird nestlings over the winter. However, we have since spotted them stretching their fresh new feathers while they follow their parents all over the neighbourhood, and it’s been a lovely sight watching these experienced parents hunt for them.
We also have had the exciting reappearance of the male that we originally brought over this spring (who was ousted by the current male). He must have stuck around all summer, a lone bachelor, enjoying our meadows and grubs.
It’s quite fun to watch the feeding station and try to predict which bluebirds will show up each day, as currently the bluebirds from both sites seem to be sharing the same feeder. Thank goodness for those coloured bands. We now have a confirmed population of 18 bluebirds in the Cowichan Valley for this year, over double of last year’s population of 8!
As for the rest of our cavity nesters, nesting season is officially drawing to a close, and our faithful trail monitors are all cleaning out their boxes and turning in their data. We will compile this data and submit it to Project Nestwatch, so that we can contribute to the data on our native cavity nesting populations.
We have been busy bees in other ways as well, as we are sprucing up our aviaries and giving them a fresh coat of paint. This will help to improve their longevity –hopefully next year’s bluebirds will enjoy their fancy, newly renovated digs!
It has been a real pleasure to watch our bluebird fledglings reaching certain milestones as they continue to grow, and they have been enjoying the warmer weather as of late. Over the last week or so, we have seen two more nestlings fly into the safety of nearby oak branches, and their parents have been dutiful and attentive feeders, particularly the male. Today they were viewed following the male around the meadows while he hunted for them. They sure grow up fast!
The older fledglings that have been out for several weeks now are starting to fly greater distances, and even hunt and feed themselves! Although, like many other adolescents, they can still be seen asking mom and dad for attention. It’s slightly comical to know that they are perfectly capable of feeding themselves at this point, but they’re not quite ready to let go of being babied.
Mom and dad’s attention is going to be even more in demand from now on, as yesterday they welcomed four more babies into the world! These scraggly little ones are 50% neck at this point, and are cuddled up in their warm grass nest under an oak tree.
On a sadder note, we had an unfortunate complication with our planned translocation last week that resulted in Gary having to turn around en-route due to an exclusion zone for avian flu near the Washington border that we were unaware of. We were deeply upset by this turn of events, especially after all the hard work of our wonderful volunteers and supportive landowners to set up our aviaries in preparation.
However, we must remember to celebrate what has already been a very successful nesting season with our two bluebird families, who have between them produced 7 healthy fledglings, and four more nestlings! This was indeed a significant stroke of luck, as we never know if a released pair will simply take off and fly home, let alone stay and raise two clutches. And so, we remain thankful and optimistic.
Fledglings are so delightful! For the first couple of days they hunker down in a tree absorbing the vastness of their new world and being brought food by their parents. But now that they have had a few days to get used to being mobile they can’t get enough! They follow their parents, practice hunting, and chase their siblings. Today one particularly precocious young one even landed on Helen! We are lucky enough to have five new fledglings in the Valley, with two more freshly banded and getting ready to join them.
Banding day for our first clutch of the season!! The first pair to settle in to a box has now raised 5 young nestlings (3 females and two males). We give them 3 coloured bands and one aluminum band each so that we can identify them when they return next fall. Volunteers helped out with the banding day and as a lovely bonus, provided us with these great photos to share. Photo credit to Jody Wells, Thanks Jody!
Welcome back Helen! I am thrilled to say that Helen has returned for another summer of Bluebird madness. This week she has been kept running looking after our bluebird pairs and the trails. We now have two clutches of eggs!! Keep checking for updates, chicks are hopefully soon to hatch!
The first Bluebird nests of the season are begun! Our first released pair has not wasted any time in starting a lovely clutch of eggs. When the second pair was released, the male decided to leave the area but the female has stayed and is mated with the returned male from last year’s translocation. They have begun nest building, preferring a slightly less traditional mixture of grass and moss over the strictly grass nest.
Look waay up! There in the branches of the tallest tree is a pair of bluebirds newly released to the Cowichan Valley. They are a little frightened at the moment, hopefully a night’s sleep will give them time to consider staying a while. Please keep your eyes open for them in the coming days as they decide where to make their home!
The other pair was quicker to get down to the business of choosing a nest box as soon as they were released yesterday, I will do my best to get some photos of them in the coming days. I certainly don’t want to interrupt such important work.
The first pairs of the season have been successfully settled in to their aviaries! Gary braved the Easter weekend traffic and ferry delays to bring two pairs of Western Bluebirds from Joint Base Lewis McChord (a healthy population in Washington) to the Cowichan Valley. In a couple of weeks we will release them and cross our fingers that they choose one of our nest boxes to start a new family. To minimize disturbance, I snuck these photos quickly while feeding them breakfast through the little door made for this purpose. It doesn’t make for the highest quality shots but if you look closely there is a pair in the background in each one.
Running around purchasing supplies to get started on the field season was a great reminder that funders are an important part of what makes this project possible.
I would like to take a moment to thank all those that have contributed financially to this season’s work:
We have a new funder this year! The BC Conservation and Biodiversity Awards Foundation has made a generous contribution to the project. They are a relatively new foundation created to support conservation based initiatives in BC.
Also contributing this year are: Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, Sitka Foundation, the Ministry of Transportation, the municipality of North Cowichan, Victoria Natural History Society. The TD Friends of the Environment hasn’t announced their grant recipients yet but have been generous supporters for several years.
I am also grateful to the many individual donors from our community, it all adds up!