Even though many of our lawns are brown from lack of rain, we have been busy with our nest boxes this year. I intended to post an update earlier in the season, but we ran into a few hiccups with entering data on the NestWatch site. After spending a couple of days furiously entering and compiling, I found I was still behind. The birds were laying many eggs. Hey, they don’t wait for us. They work on their own timetable.
Now that we have a good amount of our data, and even some photos and videos, I feel confident at giving you a review of how our nest boxes are doing this season.
For those that aren’t familiar with our organization, we have 18 nest boxes in the Clarence area. These are located at Beeman Creek Park, Memorial Park, Peanut Line Bike Path, West Shore Bike Path, and the Clarence Town Library. All the sites have grassy fields, with large trees nearby—ideal habitat for the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis).
Our volunteers check the boxes every few days and log when an avian species uses them for breeding. Our small crew works hard maintaining the boxes, identifying the nesting species and jotting down all the information.
Although it is only the end of July, we are well on our way to beating our end of the year total for 2015.
In the chart above, you can see various totals. A nest attempt is any nest with at least one egg present. The data allows us to keep track of the number of eggs laid, number of chicks that hatch, and the number that eventually fledge the nest.
This data is from multiple species of birds in the area. Although we are concerned with providing Bluebirds a safe nesting place, House Wrens (Troglodytes aedon), Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus), Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor), and House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) also use the boxes.
The Eastern Bluebird
We have had 10 nest attempts for Bluebirds so far this season. Our nest boxes allowed 20 young Bluebirds to fledge successfully. We are thrilled with every success and hope to see a few more. We currently have three active Bluebird nests, one with a few partially feathered young.
The Tree Swallow
The Tree Swallows are insectivores, just like Bluebirds. They are very beneficial and, like most birds, are a protected species. There were six nest attempts, with 19 fledglings. Our most successful broods had 5-6 young fledge.
This year I was able to film some nest box checks. Here is one of a Tree Swallow. The female even stayed in the box while I filmed.
The House Wren
The House Wren is a small bird with big aspirations. Besides making nests in our Bluebird nest boxes, they will also create dummy nests in nearby boxes to lessen the chance of rival birds. It‘s not too hard to tell the difference between the two, especially when the tiny Wren’s eggs show up in the nest shortly after it is made.
There were 10 nesting attempts by House Wrens, with 23 fledglings so far. We still have three active Wrens nests with young, so we still have to wait for the final totals at the end of the season.
The Black-capped Chickadee
In the past, we had Chickadees nest in some of our boxes. This year we weren’t so lucky. They have been seen at some of the sites, but the chose other locations for raising their families.
The House Sparrow
This common bird is very difficult to deal with. House Sparrows are an invasive species, and wreak havoc on other birds. They will not only destroy eggs and young of other nesting birds in the area, but also the adults. To make matters worse, they like to use the Bluebird nest boxes as well.
House Sparrows will occasionally visit some of our sites. Our best defense is to remove any nests started by the House Sparrow before they start breeding. Because the House Sparrows are not afraid of people, they will nest in the eaves of buildings and signage. They see our boxes are prime real estate.
This is constant issue with the nest boxes at the Clarence Town Library. Our goal was to utilize two nest boxes at the library and fit one with a nest camera for a live feed inside the building. Unfortunately, the invasive species plague that site. We have removed over twenty partial House Sparrow nests from the boxes, and I personally have witnessed the birds attacking Tree Swallows at one of the boxes. At this time, it is not advisable to install a camera in a box that will not produce nesting footage.
After the season is through, our group will discuss if the library site is still a good fit for the Bluebird nest boxes. In fact, that is what we do each year. We review our totals and determine the best placement for the nest boxes, in order to provide optimal nesting for the Eastern Bluebird.
We still have a couple of months of breeding left for the year. Thanks to our volunteers, we will continue to check the boxes and collect data. It can be hot, or muggy, but with persistence and patience, we can aid our state bird in increasing its numbers.
For those interested in helping, it is not too late. Feel free to contact us. You can spend time outdoors, aiding wildlife, and being part of our bird loving community. After all, it’s for the birds.
Angela T. Baron is a Zoology major and children's book author and illustrator. She joined The Clarence Bluebird Trial to help out her community and local wildlife. She enjoys birding and photography when she is not busy writing, and has taken on the task of logging the nest box data on NestWatch.org and keeping the website running smoothly. You can find out more about her at www.atbaron.com