Vredenburgh Bluebird Trail - Two Weeks in June

The three newly hatched bluebirds in the snapshot below want to give a shout out to all our sponsors! Monitors rarely glimpse a shell fragment with new young inside a nest box…the adults either remove shells promptly after hatching or perhaps they consume them for the calcium content. As I take quick grabs with my smart phone, the quality/sharpness isn’t the greatest. My guess is that the top bird recently popped out and fell over backwards in its attempt to gape with its siblings for the next food delivery.

Image - Three Newly Hatched Bluebirds
Three Newly Hatched Bluebirds

The results from the first week of June’s monitoring team (Brad’s Blues - led by Nancy and Hannah Born) indicated that things were off and running! The 125 boxes contained 80 eggs and 246 nestlings in various stages of development. In addition, 50 Mountain Bluebirds and 19 Western Bluebirds had fledged. Second nest efforts were just beginning and should continue for the next month. The following week, the fledge totals increased to 88 Western and 61 Mountain Bluebirds. In the nests, were 66 eggs and 183 nestlings; the majority of the nestlings were well developed and within days of fledging. In addition to bluebirds, three broods of White-headed Nuthatches are calling the Trail home this year. Tree Swal- lows and House Wrens (both start nesting a bit later than bluebirds), are also laying claim to nest boxes. Other nest box trails in the area have also seen an uptick in Nuthatches this spring. Normally, the Vredenburgh boxes might attract one or two pairs of Nuthatches; three is a high tally for the last 20 years or so.

That so many cavity nesters utilize these nest boxes is a testament to the value of the Trail and illustrates the shortage of natural cavities in the area. Competition for the boxes does generate some conflicts between both different species and at times, the same species battling for a nest site. In an instance of the former, Box 36 (sponsored by Doris and the late Larry Robinson) fledged White-breasted Nuthatches; bluebirds immediately built a new nest on top of the fledged nest. Not willing to surrender gracefully, the Nuthatches began constructing their unique fur-based nest over the top of the bluebirds’ effort. Time will tell who wins this battle.

The Trail also attracts a fair number of photographers each spring. Occasionally in an effort to obtain a photo more in tune with an individual human’s preference, the boxes sprout adornments from other habitats. In the photo below, Box 90 (sponsored by Edith and the late Bill Ryan), an evergreen branch beckons in the blue sky above the box. The stark dead branches to the right also float without natural anchor. The hope is that an adult will land on either newly added perch and pose for a striking portrait, sans the man- made box.

Image - Box 90 - Sponsored by Edith & Bill Ryan
Box 90 - Sponsored by Edith & Bill Ryan

Each season and even each week, brings a different look to both the birds and the overall habitat. Early spring blooms give way to a succession of later arriving flowers that flaunt their beauty be it a dainty understated stand alone offering or a large riot of color spreading across the landscape. It adds interest and variety to each and every trip through the Wenas.

Hopefully, the weather will provide an abundance of bugs to sustain the second wave of nestlings along the Trail. Last year produced a record number of fledglings, 620 in all. This year’s current total of Mountain Bluebird of 61 may well eclipse the 75 recorded in 2018.

— Richard Repp