We banded our second clutch of the season this Sunday in a beautiful Garry Oak Meadow. Four more additions to the Cowichan Blue Birds! This time we managed to take a video to share with you. Thank you to our volunteers for helping out with the day!
The parents of the clutch that was killed are bravely trying again! They have laid six eggs which are due to hatch around June 21. As we anxiously hope that they are more successful this time, it does bring the issue of invasive House Sparrows to the forefront.
We are exploring ways to prevent these birds from endangering the recovery effort. One issue that has come up is the prevalence of boxes that are attractive to House Sparrows but not monitored to keep them out. Many people with the admirable goal of supporting wild birds end up inadvertently creating higher numbers of House Sparrows which go on to attack native bird species. One approach we are looking into is providing a way to limit boxes to smaller species by reducing the hole size on boxes that are not intended for bluebirds or in areas that are too over-run by House Sparrows to be safe for bluebirds to nest. One of our volunteers, Ted Leischner, has created special plates to add to existing boxes for this purpose. Please let us know if you know some good candidates to receive these plates or if you have more ideas on how to tackle this challenge!
Have you ever wondered how they get those tiny colour bands on those tiny little bird legs? This Sunday was banding day for one of our clutches and my first time seeing this.
Photo credit Adam Taylor
If you look in the bander’s right hand you can see the little blue band being stretched apart on a “spoon” with a groove for the tiny leg. The open band will then be applied to the leg and the band slipped off of the spoon and onto the leg. The colours and their order are carefully tracked so that no other Western Bluebird will have the same combination. That way, when helpful birders take photos of Western Bluebirds in years to come, we can look up the combo and find out who they are and where they came from.
With that explained, I would like to introduce you to 2020’s first nestlings (Photos by Brielle Reidlinger):
1. Light Blue/Black – Bruiser
2. Light Blue/Purple – Bubble Gum
3. Light Blue/White – Sky
4. Yellow/Purple – LeBron
This past week has been bittersweet. The lovely clutch of nestlings that we discovered in the Cowichan Garry Oak Preserve were found dead at the beginning of last week. We think they have been killed by a House Sparrow. To soften this sad news, the other nest has hatched four babies. They are nearly ready to be banded with their own individualized colour combination. See below for a progression of their growth so far.
We had an online gathering of our Trail Monitors, it was so nice to see everyone again. I am looking forward to the day we can gather in person, outdoors and with snacks! Stories of the different native species spotted in boxes were shared including Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Violet-Green Swallows, Tree-Swallows, Bewick’s Wrens, House Wrens and even tree nesting bumblebees!
With both bluebirds and birders in busy mode, the project is in full swing now. Our volunteers and staff have been checking boxes and repairing or replacing fallen or broken ones. Thank you to all our trail monitors and nestbox hosts for keeping us updated on what’s happening on your trails! Our Bluebird pairs have built their first nests of the season and both have clutches of 6 eggs that are nearly ready to hatch. There are also a few mysteries afoot, a male that is hanging around but not sharing with us his relationship status as well as a pair of Western Bluebirds spotted in Victoria. The other mystery is the due to hatch date of one of our pairs. They used the closure of parks to gain themselves some privacy and laid their eggs before we were able to check them. Please continue to share your sitings with me!
With the border still closed it is looking like translocations won’t be able to happen this year. While the translocations are needed to bring the population to a sustainable level, the work we are doing this year will keep the habitat available for both future bluebirds and for other cavity nesting species. We will look forward to bringing more bluebirds back in the years to come.
The pair with the mystery hatch date now has babies! Thanks Brielle for the precious photo
I would like to introduce everyone to Brielle, our new Bluebird Technician for the summer. On her first day out in the field with Barry and I, we managed to spot a nesting pair of Bluebirds. An auspicious start!
ps. Here’s the photo Brielle took
This was my greeting commitee as I arrived at the first Nestbox trail this morning. Do you think they’re trying to tell me something?
We are up to three bluebird pairs this week! I have here some pictures of one pair and their starter home. We’ll see if the others co-operate for photos in days to come.
Hello Good Folks,
This beautiful spring weather has been a silver lining during these stressful days. Our birds seem to be enjoying it as well, a few even decided to come home early this year with sightings beginning in mid-February! Some are scouting out a variety of places. One of our Cowichan females was seen up in Comox with a couple of males and one Western Bluebird was even spotted in the Fraser Valley. In Cowichan Valley there is at least one pair checking out nest boxes this week. It is nice to see our bluebirds flouting social distancing rules. Can we live vicariously?
While the bluebirds are blissfully unaware of the current pandemic, we have been trying to figure out how to proceed with the project while keeping everyone safe. The solitary, outdoor nature of trail monitoring does make our work more feasible at this time though care must be taken to protect each other (I have been searching high and low for hand-sanitizer!). The cross-border aspect of translocations means that we may need to delay them by a couple months or even until next season depending on how things go. Meanwhile we can care for our returning birds and maintain our nest box trails for future growth.
Speaking of future growth, I have been delighted to see the amount of interest in nest box trails we have been seeing from the Victoria area. By creating more habitat throughout the bluebirds historic range, we can potentially strengthen our Cowichan population as we provide places for fledglings to disperse to and from.
I hope you are all staying safe and healthy out there. I have included a comic from birdandmoon.com to brighten your day. https://www.birdandmoon.com/comic/why-birding-is-my-favorite-video-game/