News

Free Flying

The Bluebird family has been released! It was a beautiful breezy evening when we released the hatch on the roof to let them fly away. I think I was expecting a big rush of birds out the hatch when we opened it but that was not how it went at all. At first nothing changed, then gradually after a few minutes the parents recognized the open sky and flew out to a nearby Garry Oak. Shortly after that, a few of the fledglings gathered the courage to join them. Then we waited….and waited. Two more fledglings took their time, after about an hour they took flight as well. The last little one was scared, it called out to the others but stayed put and refused to move. With a little helping hand from Helen, the last one finally took to the sky and was seen landing in the family’s tree. I was delighted to see the parents both checking out nest boxes and hunting for insects in the grass. My heart was filled with joy to see bluebirds in the oak trees once again. Thank you to Shanna Baker for the beautiful photos!

Larry opens the hatch
Two of the fledglings taking a look around before they go
The last little one getting a helping hand
Despite the little one’s reservations, they made it all the way up to the Garry Oak branch first try

Translocation!


I have exciting news to share!

For the first time in five years we have translocated a family of Western Bluebirds to the Cowichan Valley. Six baby Western Bluebirds plus their parents arrived yesterday through the heroic efforts of Gary Slater, our project ornithologist and his field technician Jerrmaine Treadwell. Crossing the border is still no picnic (3 1/2 hours in customs and nearly turned away!) and we are looking forward to next year when we hope to bring many more bluebird families over with fewer obstacles. We hope to brave one more translocation this year in a couple of weeks.


With no Western Bluebirds having returned this year, this family represents a new hope to the re-introduction efforts. Our sister project in San Juan Island went through a similar drop in population after the first round of translocations and after a second round has now had a stable population for three years in a row. It is a reminder that species recovery is a long process with many ups and downs. I will cherish this small victory and, with all of your help, build on it in years to come.


Thank you for all your stewardship!

Photos by Helen Anderson

Translocation preparations

Thanks to this hard working group of volunteers, we are one step closer to being ready for the newest Western Bluebird arrivals. This is an aviary where the family will be temporarily housed until they have settled in to their new location. Once the little ones fledge, there is a hatch on the roof that will be lifted for the family to fly out and explore their home.

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