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.

DSC_0447
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.

DSC_0348
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.

DSC_0123
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!

DSC_1061
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.

WEBL II

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.

DSC_0869.JPG
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!

20190528_080659.jpg
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.

WEBL

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

WEBL 6

Bring Back the Bluebirds Project Update – May 10th: Bluebird Eggs in the Valley!

A quick update on the project:

On April 27th the CVNS were apart of the In Bloom festival (the one day of the year the preserve is open to the public!) at the Cowichan Gary Oak Preserve off Aitken Road. Despite being a super windy day, we had a great turnout and even had a male and female bluebird cooperate for many to see.

On the 29th we attended the GOERT Conference in Victoria. Genevieve presented her work on the Bluebird Project and the Eagle Heights protection plan on behalf of the CVNS. For her tremendous volunteer contributions Genevieve was awarded the Golden Acorn Award (congratulations!).

This last weekend the CVNS hosted BC Nature’s annual general meeting in Duncan. We are extremely thankful for the support of our volunteers who were instrumental in organizing such a large and significant event. The AGM involved several field trips to important ecological areas and we were again able to show off our bluebirds to naturalists from all across BC. Thanks again to everybody who was involves in such a fantastic event.

Currently we have three pairs of bluebirds in the Cowichan Valley, two of which are incubating eggs (6 each = 12 eggs!). The third pair is busily making a nest and we are monitoring them frequently in anticipation of eggs being laid.

We will be doing lots of surveying this week in hopes of finding some more bluebirds. Remember to check out our Facebook and website for more frequent updates, info and photos.

Have a great weekend and let us know if you see anything interesting!

 

Population Summary

9+ Adults

3 Nesting Pairs

12 Eggs

2 Single Males

WEBLOne of our breeding pairs of Western Bluebirds in Duncan enjoying their summer home.
Photo by Braden Judson.

 

Bluebirds, burgers and beer.

BB Beer n Burger

Wow, what a week. The immense generosity we received from last weekend’s fundraiser is always a bit overwhelming. In a good way. We don’t have totals on funds raised yet, but we sold at least 110 beer and burger tickets, had 74 amazing items donated to the silent auction, and the 50/50 draw raised $425, with the winners generously donating $150 of the prize back to the project. (Thank you Jan and Jack Kotaska)! It was a great night with music from Paul Ruszel and a guest appearance by Laurel Circle. Thanks again to the Cowichan Bay Pub for hosting us and to all who came out, donated and helped with the organizing. We are so grateful.

 

This week also brought several more Western Bluebird sightings, some of which came from our ‘Bluebird Blitz’ on Wednesday! We’ve discovered two more pairs and another male calling in his territory, trying to attract any nearby females… So far, we have three confirmed pairs, a fourth likely pair (not confirmed by staff yet), and two single males. We haven’t found any nests yet, but the males and females are displaying a lot of interest in particular boxes. Interestingly, a male born in 2017, that was not seen in 2018 has reappeared this year.

Male_BB_D.Marvin_04.10.2019
Thank you to the WEBL search party on Wednesday! Photo by: Derrick Marvin

 

As always, please let us know of any potential Western Bluebird sightings! Feel free to get in touch if you would like to find ways to volunteer or be more involved on the project. Reach us at cowichanbluebird@gmail.com , 250-222-2583 or on facebook.

Population Summary

9+ adults

3 confirmed pairs, 4th likely

2 single males