Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – June 28th

Hi bluebirders,

This week has had its ups and downs. We have had an adult, female bluebird who was actively nesting go missing and we suspect that she was predated upon by a Cooper’s Hawk or an outdoor cat. While unfortunate as this loss is, we are thankful for the clutch she reared successfully and the offspring of that clutch are now fledged and independently feeding and exploring. WEBL

The other two active nesting sites were more fortunate this week:
The pair that had clutch failure earlier in the spring has successfully re-nested and laid eggs which have just hatched into 5 nestlings! We were able to put a PVC sleeve over the post that supports the nestbox and add a sparrow-spooker to the top to help ensure these nestlings are safe from predators or harassment. We’ve started to supplement mealworms to this location and this morning the parents were observed to be delivering the mealworms to their young.
The other location with nesting bluebirds has also began to work on a second clutch. This morning I discovered an egg laid in the same box the other clutch was reared in! Very cool to see them re-using the nestbox. I also was fortunate enough to observe the fledglings (from the first clutch) creeping around a huge willow tree eating bright green caterpillars.

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Nestling Western Bluebird enjoy the view from his luxury lakeside cabin. 

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work at the bluebird project right now involving grant writing and organization for next year’s goals… 

Have a great long weekend!
– Braden Judson

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – June 22nd: Fledglings are out and about!

Hi everyone,

This was an exciting week as we now have two nesting sites with fledglings! While it’s difficult to get an exact count, we believe there are at least 6 fledglings out exploring with their parents now. The parents of these groups are busy establishing a second nesting site and are bringing grass into a nearby nestbox – we are very hopeful for a successful second clutch!

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Keep an eye out for bluebirds looking for new nest sites, and exploring fledglings. As you can see in the above photo, the fledglings have a white eye-ring that makes their eyes appear very large! They are also very streaked and have a yellow border around their mouth (this helps the parents deliver food right into their mouth in the dark nest box!).

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We’d like to thank everybody again that came to our monitor meeting on Tuesday. I’ll be meeting with a lot of trail monitors over the next month and discussing plans to improve trails. I’m also purchasing a great deal of predator guarding materials (PVC tubes, stucco wire, sparrow spookers, etc) to make our trail systems safer for bird usage next year. A big shout-out to Pacific Industrial & Marine Ltd.  who graciously donated $500 to our predator-guarding efforts! This goes a long way in reducing the risk of bluebird predation events.

Happy trails,
Braden J

Population Summary

6 Fledglings
7+ Adult Birds
8 Eggs
2 Active Nest Sites

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – June 15th: First Steps

Hello all,

It’s been a busy week with the bluebird project. We officially have fledglings hopping around at one of our nest sites! We believe there are four newly fledged birds at this site but are yet to determine which four (getting their colour band combos is tough!). As these fledglings grow and learn of the world their parents have already moved on to a nearby nest box and have begun to construct a new nest – the earliest signs of beginning a second clutch. It’s very rewarding to see the birds at this location be so successful.

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A juvenile Western Bluebird. This guy has only been out of the nest box for a few days now! The fledglings have a stark white eye-ring unlike their parents. Photo by Braden J.

At another nest site we banded nestlings this week. These cute birds now have their coloured leg bands on and they will likely fledge sometime next week! With the help of supplementing mealworms we should see their parents work on a second clutch sometime soon. We’ve had some trouble with European Starlings getting in our feeding trays and eating the mealworms – but, some additional mesh work seems to do the job and keeps them out.

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Mama bluebird visiting the mealworm tray. The mesh on top is designed to keep larger birds, such as European Starlings, out of the feeder while allowing smaller birds, such as Western Bluebirds, to enter and feed. It usually works, but every now and then a small starling gets a free snack. Photo by Braden J.

A reminder that on Tuesday, June 18th at 4:00pm at the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre (1845 Cowichan Bay Road) we will have a casual meeting that we encourage all trail monitors and interested volunteers to attend! Hannah and I (Braden) will be there. This will be a great opportunity for us to discuss current trail situations and will allow us to give you all an update on current project happenings. The CVNS will be hosting a potluck at 5:00pm (after our meeting) that you are not obligated to attend (but you’re also more than welcome to!).

Population Summary

9+ Adults
4+ Fledglings
7+ Eggs
3 Active Nests
3 Nestlings
2 Solo Males

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – June 8th: Bluebird Banding

Hello bluebirders,

On June 2nd we got together to band the nestlings from one of our active nest sites! The nestlings had been hatched for 13 days and were large enough for us to put the colour bands on their legs. These birds were super cute and their blue feathers are starting to emerge. We anticipate that these banded individuals will begin to venture out of the nest box and feed themselves sometime this week.

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Like all songbirds, newly hatched bluebirds have swollen bright yellow lips to help their parents see their mouths inside of the dark nestbox. These birds will soon outgrow their downy and awkward tufts of feathers. June 2nd, 2019. Photo by Braden J.

At another nesting site bluebirds have hatched out of their eggs. It took a few days for them to be able to open their eyes, but they’re now looking around the nest box and their parents are bringing them mealworms. We will likely band the nestlings mid next week!

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These bluebirds are just a few hours old! It will be a day or two before they are able to open their eyes. You can see the right-most egg has a small hole – the result of bird #4 trying to peck his/her way out. May 31st, 2019. Photo by Braden J.

This warm weather has been good for insects and caterpillars and so we’ve seen the adult bluebirds hunting for them among the trees a lot lately. They are nutritious prey items for both the adults and juveniles alike.

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We also had a report this week of a bluebird sighting off Swallowfield Road – where the trail parallels the Chemainus River. Bluebird staff and volunteers spent some time out this way looking, but were unable to resight this individual. Remember to keep your eyes peeled and let us know if you see any bluebirds while you’re out!

As always – have a great weekend,
– Braden

Population Summary

9+ Adults
6 Eggs and 9 Nestlings
3 Nesting Sites
2 Solo Males

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – May 31st: Busy Bluebirds

We started this week off with our support ornithologist, Gary Slater, helping us to catch one of our male bluebirds who has been missing a leg-band all season. Using the uniquely numbered, aluminum leg-band we determined this bird was translocated to Vancouver Island from Washington State in 2014! It’s great news to see translocated birds five years later returning to their breeding grounds in the Cowichan Valley and nesting successfully. Currently this site has 5 or 6 nestlings too and the breeding pair is busy feeding them.

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Gary Slater setting up mist nets in hopes of catching bluebirds on their way to the nest box.

We also found one of our solo male bluebirds has moved from the southside of Quamichan Lake several kilometers north to a property off Herd Road. Our fingers are crossed in hopes that he finds a girlfriend among his travels. It’s always interesting to see how the birds move around over the course of a season, especially when they wind up in a place that hasn’t had bluebirds before!

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A dog-pile of baby bluebirds, approximately 8 days old!

In the next few weeks we anticipate nestlings will be banded – keep your eyes out for an email with more details!

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – May 24th: Hatchlings!

Currently, there are 14 eggs among two nest sites in the Cowichan Valley that are being actively incubated. We are very pleased to have nestlings hatch at our third nest site! These birds are very new and hardly resemble bluebirds yet – however, in the days to come their blue feathers will come in as they grow and eventually prepare to leave the nest box. The photo below is one of our males delivering some caterpillars to the female who was busy incubating the eggs.

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As a result, many of mealworm-feeding volunteers have been very busy supplementing these nesting sites with mealworms. This hot and dry weather is great for newly hatched birds and the supplemented mealworms will speed up the development process and encourage the parents to lay a second clutch of eggs.

We’re excited to have our avian expert, Gary Slater in the Cowichan Valley this weekend to show him bluebirds and hopefully arrange to capture some adult bluebirds who are missing leg bands.

We hope everybody is enjoying the summer weather and all the birds, bugs and plants that come with it. A personal highlight was seeing a Bullock’s Oriole while out monitoring nest boxes (photo below).BUOR

Have a great weekend and we look forward to sharing some baby bluebird photos soon!

Population Summary

2 or 3 Solo Males

One Nest with 4 Hatchlings and 2 Unhatched Eggs

12 Unhatched Eggs

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – May 16th: 18 Eggs to date!

Hello bluebirders! A quick update on the project:

This week we now have 18 eggs as of today in the Cowichan Valley! We are merely days away from having hatchlings at two of our nest sites. This is a bit later than what we observed last year, but we suspect this is the result of a longer and colder winter/spring season.

There are still at least 3 solo males in the Cowichan Valley, however, there are many migratory songbirds arriving almost daily so there’s still hope for more bluebirds. New bird arrivals this week (for me anyway) include Purple Martins and Western Tanagers. Great to hear to hear so many spring birds singing!

On May 16th the CVNS Bluebird Project presented the project overview, status and goals to the Cowichan Stewardship Round Table meeting. The presentation was well-received with attendees providing great feedback and encouragement.

With hatching birds on the horizon, we will begin to feed the bluebirds mealworms on a daily basis. We are amidst organizing our bluebird feeders and mealworm supplies and will commence the feeding this weekend.

Also, for anyone whose calendar fills up quickly – please save the evening of Monday, August 12th for our Annual Volunteer Appreciation Event. More details to come.

Enjoy your long weekend!

Population Summary

9+ Adult Bluebirds

3 Nesting Pairs

18 Eggs

3 Solo Males

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