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?
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/
I am excited to let you know that despite all the craziness of these times we have found a way to carry on with our Trail Monitoring Workshop without risking anyone’s health. Thanks to the wonders of technology and the help of Ann Nightingale, we are going to host our event online using the platform Zoom.
For those who have not used Zoom before, here is a link for instructions: https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362193-Joining-a-Meeting
With this platform you can choose your level of participation, if you turn video on we will all see your lovely faces, you can choose to use audio only or simply to watch while muted if you are feeling more private. The host will put you on mute while presentations are in progress but there are opportunities for people to share and ask questions. You can choose your username which can be your real name or something made up.
Ann Nightingale, Genevieve Singleton, Hannah Hall, and I, Jacquie Taylor will be presenting the workshop which will include:
- History of the Bluebird Project
- Safe nest box checking and maintenance;
- Recording observations;
- Predator prevention;
- Local native and non-native cavity nesting species and how to identify their nests;
- Supplemental feeding
If you are interested in watching but not available at that time (or the idea of using a new platform makes you uncomfortable), we will be recording the workshop. Please just let us know and we can make it available to you. I will be also be making the Bluebird Trail Monitoring Handbook available, both by email and through our website.
It is wonderful that there are still ways for us to connect during this isolating time. I really look forward to seeing you all there! Please contact me if you have any questions.
* Due to a hiccup in switching from an in person event to online the registration says that all non-member tickets are sold out, please just register as a member regardless of whether you are or not.
Barry has spotted our first Bluebird of the season! She is one of our Cowichan fledged birds from 2018 and was a very successful mother last year, raising two clutches in her first year as a parent. We will do what we can to help her have another successful year. Here is a photo thanks to Barry:
The Cowichan Bring Back the Bluebird Project is hiring a Bluebird Conservation Technician for the summer! Here are the details:
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 1st with an approximate end date of August 29th, 2020
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Please apply via the BCCF website https://bccf.com/opportunities/employment/western-bluebird-technician-%E2%80%93-cowichan-valley-western-bluebird