News

May 28 update

Hello to all our Bluebird fans,

The upcoming translocation of a Western Bluebird family has us fussing like new parents, fixing up the nurseries (there are over 250 of them!) and fretting over the details. The due date is the last week of June, we will be sure to send out pictures of the new family as soon as we can!

In the meantime, there are a number of local species busy raising families of their own in the nest boxes. Tree Swallows, Violet-Green Swallows, Chickadees and even a Bewick’s Wren pair all have little nestlings demanding love and attention and above all MORE FOOD! We have been experimenting with hole reducer plates to find the right size to allow as many of our native cavity nesters as we can while excluding the invasive House Sparrows. We await the results of these experiments with curiosity.

While no Western Bluebirds have been on spotted Vancouver Island yet this season, one of our Cowichan raised Western Bluebirds has been spotted on San Juan Island! She has found a mate and is raising a clutch there. It is great to see these populations mingling as this will help the long-term survival of Western Bluebirds in the Georgia Strait area. San Juan Island has seen bluebirds from both Cowichan and from Washington. They may prove to be an important corridor connecting our population with the mainland.

Looking out for Western Bluebirds, we had the opportunity to sight a Lazuli Bunting. While I may have a personal bias towards bluebirds, the Lazuli Buntings are undeniably very pretty and a rare site around here. We love to hear about any sightings you have!

An important announcement for Thrifty Smile Card holders: June 15 is the last day to raise money for the Bring Back the Bluebirds project using the Smile Cards. You can spend money that you have loaded on the cards any time but only money loaded on the cards before this date will raise money for the project. For every $100 you put on your card, Thrifty’s will give the project $5 of their money.

With Covid restrictions starting to ease, I am looking forward to seeing much more of everyone. Maybe this year we can even enjoy our annual End of Season Appreciation Event?!

This female Western Bluebird was hatched in Cowichan in 2019 and is now nesting on San Juan Island. Photo provided by Kathleen Foley of San Juan Preservation Trust

May 19 update

While these scraggly muppets may not be much to look at now, we have three native species with newly hatched chicks waiting to someday dazzle us with their beauty. It is wonderful to see the project providing habitat for all these species. Can you guess which nest belongs to which species? Scroll down to the bottom to find the answers.

A
B
C

Answers: A-Tree Swallow B-Bewick’s Wren C-Chestnut-Backed Chickadee

May 5 update

This lovely Violet Green Swallow nest is safe from House Sparrow attacks. The box is nearby our Bluebird boxes and had previously been taken over by House Sparrows, increasing the population of these aggressive and invasive birds. A hole reducer has been added that excludes the House Sparrows, keeping this sweet nesting pair safe. Lowering the House Sparrow population will also add to the long term safety of our Western Bluebirds.

April 25 update

Happy Spring Everyone!

Nesting season has begun and our fantastic trail monitors have headed out into the field. We are seeing swallows arguing over nestboxes and a few chickadees are starting to show an interest as well. If the wrens are starting, they are being secretive about it. Some of our native birds already have nests started, others are still trying to work out property rights. No sightings of Bluebirds just yet, though plans are being made to bring more from Washington. Our new Bluebird Technician, Helen, is poised to carry on the important work of making the nest box trails safer and supporting the new Bluebird families when they arrive sometime in June. We will share sweet nest photos from this year soon, but until then here’s one of last year’s swallow nests courtesy of Brielle Reidlinger:

Trail Monitor Workshop

These are from last summer but they look so ready for Easter that I thought I would share them today.

Are you interested in learning more about bluebird nest box trails and how to take care of them? The Rocky Point Bird Observatory is helping Genevieve Singleton and I to host an online Trail Monitor Workshop on April 17, 2021 from 9am to 11:30. Anyone is welcome. We especially encourage anyone who is interested in volunteering for the Bring Back the Bluebirds project to attend as it is a great introduction to the skills needed to help out. You will learn the basics of nest box monitoring including; nest identification, an introduction to local cavity nesting species, data collection, safety issues, and a bit of the background of the project. Please follow the link below to register:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0lcu6vqT4vHNUZhPWQidVPB9fu78dUKVpx

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting

I look forward to seeing everyone there!

Jacquie Taylor

Spread the word: The Bluebird Project is hiring!

Bluebird Conservation Technician (Summer Position)

LOCATION OF JOB: Duncan, BC, with travel throughout Cowichan Valley

Note: Applicants must have a home base in the Cowichan Valley for the duration of the employment period or be willing to relocate for the contract term

TERM: As early as April 26th, 2021 with an approximate end date of August 27th, 2021.
Dates subject to change or fluctuation based on BC Health Authority’s Covid-19
health recommendations.

SALARY: $18-$20/hour (plus 4% vacation pay paid out hourly)

HOURS OF WORK PER WEEK: 35

The British Columbia Conservation Foundation (BCCF) is in search of a Conservation Technician to provide technical field support for Bring Back the Bluebirds, a Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) reintroduction project.

Job Description:
The Conservation Technician will provide support for the project by assisting the Project Biologist with the following activities:
• Monitoring and feeding reintroduced bluebirds;
• Maintenance of bird boxes;
• Providing logistical support for the project by tracking birds, supporting translocation activities, and ensuring proper care of birds;
• Recruiting landowners to participate in the bluebird nestbox host program;
• Organizing and delivering outreach and population monitoring events, including volunteer training workshops, community events, fundraisers, and Bluebird Blitz surveys: tasks will include promoting events, tracking registrations and volunteer hours, assisting with training and delivery, and follow-up with participants;
• Updating project website and social media;
• Assisting with writing project reports, articles and outreach materials, and with other general administrative tasks.

Please note that this position requires beginning work in the early morning (before sunrise) in all weather conditions, working alone outdoors, and daily travel throughout the region.

Essential qualifications:
• Must be able to accept direction from the Bluebird Project Coordinator, and Project Biologist
• A minimum of 2 years post-secondary education in a natural science discipline
• Bird-watching experience and at least beginner-level identification of local bird species
• A cheerful, approachable and personable nature as well as a willingness to recruit and work with volunteers
• Be self-directed with an ability to work with minimal supervision
• Attention to detail and time management skills
• Strong organizational skills and an ability to organize events and to keep track of volunteer contributions, contacts, and budgets
• Daily access to a computer and cell phone with reliable internet connection
• Have a valid driver’s license, daily access to a vehicle, and ability to make site visits
• An ability and willingness to work flexible hours, and to work outside in all weather conditions

Asset qualifications:
• An understanding of Garry Oak and associated ecosystems, plants, and wildlife
• Familiarity with basic field equipment (GPS, binoculars, spotting scope) and hand tools (power drill, hammer)
• Experience working with birds and/or animals
• Bird banding training and/or experience
• Excellent verbal and written communication skills, including preparing written reports, and experience preparing web content, newsletter articles, and social media content
• Experience with either concepts or practice of habitat restoration projects
• ArcGIS experience
• Experience coordinating volunteers

To apply for this job:
1. Please apply via the BCCF website
https://bccf.com/opportunities/employment/western-bluebird-technician-%E2%80%93-cowichan-valley-western-bluebird-0

January Update

Happy New Year everyone!
This is a quiet month for Bluebirds in the Valley so not a lot to share just yet. Last year Barry saw our first Bluebird of the year on Feb. 18 so it is time for everyone to keep their eyes open for flashes of blue!
I am in the process of tracking down all the permits we will need to bring a few more Bluebird families over from Washington in May/June this year. We have one permit in hand and two to go.
A big thank you to all of you that are raising funds with your Thrifty Smile Cards. So far, we have raised $184. Let me know if you have any friends or family that would like a card and I can bring one to you. Speaking of fundraising, we will need to miss another Beer and Burger fundraiser this spring. Next year we will have to eat three burgers each to make up for our lack.
To prepare us for capturing shots of Bluebird leg bands I have included this guide from birdandmoon.com. Happy bird spotting to you all!

A Guide to Bird Photography

Season’s Greetings!

Well wishes to everyone!

This time of year finds me in my usual place, hermited away and dreaming of spring Bluebirds. Like a theatre production where Western Bluebirds are the stars, there is behind the scenes work going on to ensure that the show goes on.

This year’s planning revolves around bringing more families of Western Bluebirds from Washington State to the Cowichan Valley. Our current population is too small to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune (just to keep the theatre metaphor going) and needs our help to raise their numbers to a sustainable level. We had planned to start this new round of translocations this past summer but the pandemic restrictions put those plans on hold. I am hopeful that we will be able to go forward with translocations this coming spring/summer.

My reasons for hope are twofold. I have been in contact with the Public Health Agency of Canada and they have said that we would qualify for travel across the border for non-discretionary purposes. This means that even if the border remains closed into next field season we will be able to make arrangements for border crossing. I am in the process of acquiring all the permits needed.

My second reason for hope is the generosity of funders. This year the Sitka Foundation is contributing $15000 to the Bring Back the Bluebirds Project! We have also received $5000 from the McLean Foundation as well as donations from generous individuals. The Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation made large contributions last year and we have reached out to them again this year. These contributions bring us much closer to meeting the costs of this ambitious project and we are so grateful!

For those looking for ways to help out the project financially, we have a Thrifty’s Smile Card fundraiser in progress. Thrifty’s contributes money in proportion to the funds added to Smile Cards (5%). There are still some cards available, contact me and I can bring you one. Donations are also welcome, to contribute go to https://www.canadahelps.org/…/bc-conservation-foundation/ and choose Bring Back the Bluebirds from the BCCF charity menu. Thank you so much for your support.

I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to the funders, volunteers, and nest box hosts that made last season’s field work possible. I have already mentioned Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation and TD Friends of the Environment Foundation. Other funders include: Ministry of Transportation, Municipality of North Cowichan, Victoria Natural History Society, Return-It Bottle Depot, and the many individuals that made donations throughout the year. A particular thank you to Alison Rimmer who organized a fundraiser selling Strawberry plants and Peonies for the project. Heartfelt gratitude goes to the members of the Cowichan Valley Naturalist Society, many of whom have been trail monitors each year; they have dedicated 1000’s of hours maintaining and monitoring trails and offering their support where needed. Especially thank you to Genevieve who has been a source of guidance and help through the year. Thank you also to our Victoria trail monitors and volunteers. Thank you to our nest box hosts. Without the stewardship of our nest box hosts, our bluebirds as well as many other cavity nesting birds would be homeless, thank you for sharing your homes with the birds! Last but not least, a big thank you to Gary Slater, our project Ornithologist.

In the spirit of hope; hope for a Happy Holiday for you all, for a joyous New Year, and for a season of renewed hope for our Western Bluebirds, I offer this quote from Rufus Wainwright.

“Faith is a bluebird you see from afar, it’s for real and as sure as the first morning star. You can’t touch it or buy it or wrap it up tight, but it’s there all the same making things turn out right.”

Best wishes,

Jacquie Taylor