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A Perfect Bluebird Intervention

Sunday, May 10, 2015

On the 11th of April, I trotted by the Washington Co. Fish and Game HQ to see a female bluebird exit a very decrepit nesting box nailed low on a tree in the front lawn.

Oh no. Not on a tree. Not that low. 

I approached the box and touched the roof as I peered into its entry hole. Part of the roof came off in my hand. Worse yet, the box was pulling off the tree, and you could see the bluebird's pretty little nest  inside. So could the 4" of rain that had fallen in the last few days. 
The nest was lined, which meant she'd start laying in the next couple of days!

So on the 12th of April, I took action. There was no way I was going to let a perfectly good clutch of bluebird eggs be laid in that wreck, so vulnerable to weather, snakes, coons, cats, mice, squirrels. Ugh. 
Bill and I came out early in the morning with a brand new box and a plan.

The female bluebird was sitting in the tree right overhead, her bill full of soft nest lining materials, as I took her nest out of the rotten box and tore the box off the tree. Well, I didn't have to tear it. It literally fell off in my hand when I opened the front. 

The wet spot on the lower part of the tree is where it was. In the upper box, house sparrows are already ensconced.

Quickly, we put up a brand new box, protected from climbing predators by a 2' long stovepipe baffle, well out from under the canopy of the tree, about 20' away. 

April 12: I hold the nest in my hand, noting that she's incorporated a Fish and Game Club Spring Derby bulletin in it! And I put it in the new box.

New box, in place. Old box, gone. Now to cross our fingers and wait. I was taking a risk by moving the nest at this critical juncture, but it was a calculated risk, informed by 33 years of managing bluebirds. 

One week later, on April 20, 2015, I returned. And found this in the new box:

The bluebird took me up on the offer she couldn't refuse, and laid a full clutch in it to boot! Who wouldn't be delighted to move into a brand new, white cedar, rainproof, insulated, baffled home, when your singlewide was falling apart anyway, and the rain was coming in?

I was beyond delighted at this development. But even as I exulted, I noticed that a pair of tree swallows also wanted Mrs. Bluebird's new home. They were fluttering around even as I peeked in and saw her new clutch. D'oh!! 

So home I went again and the next morning I put up Box #2 for the tree swallows. Again, hoping my plan would work, and thinking it would. April 21, 2015.

When I returned on April 23, the swallows were perched on the new box, and very defensive of it!


 Swallows aren't quite the architects or builders that bluebirds are. They're a little slow...

April 29--still in residence, and defending the box.

 On 05/06/15, there's a bigger, more formed grass ring in the tree swallow box, and evidence that the pair is sleeping the the box. That's good!  Can't say I've ever found swallow poop in a box before, but you learn something every day.

Like, this is what happens to boxes you nail on trees. That is, after the coons have raided them. 
Squirrels are delighted to chew them to pieces.

Plus, they rot a whole lot faster when there's wet tree bark behind them.

Please, if you've been nailing bird boxes to trees, stop now. Mount them like I do. You can go to this ancient post, where Liam's itty bitty and Chet's a pup, for more information. And if you need specs on materials, just give me a holla in the comments section and I can send them to you.

I decided that the Washington County Fish and Game Club (and specifically its nesting birds) needed me. So I ponied up my $30 and joined. We'll call the two new boxes and baffle setups my first donation.

You can't see her well, but the female bluebird's peeking out of her deluxe house in this picture!

Anyway, I was very pleased with how this all went down, a perfectly planned and executed 
Perfect Bluebird Intervention. 

Taking a bow. Right before I go back out and put up a few more boxes for the two pairs of bluebirds now nesting in rotten tree limbs within sight of the new box! Oh, and that second pair of tree swallows who showed up May 6...Yikes. Zickwork: Never done.


Ah! A bluebird subdivision! Well done! I hope that they have lots of offspring!

Posted by Anonymous May 10, 2015 at 4:28 AM

Big smile here for a perfect Mother's Day post! What greater gift than the sight of those five perfect Delft blue eggs? Big heart will not be denied, and few have bigger hearts than you, (((Julie))).

Posted by Gail Spratley May 10, 2015 at 7:33 AM

We've had four different species visiting our one box for WEEKS – Western bluebirds, violet-green swallows, chickadees, and a LBJ. I finally lifted the lid and let my camera do the looking since it is too tall for me without a step-ladder, and all that's in there is a messy collection of twigs and a chicken feather. THAT was a surprise!

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Lovely. You're the best. Glad you joined the Washington County Fish and Game Club. As they say, if you can't beat 'em, ... . And the birds I'm sure are thrilled for your membership and all of your loving and care you give to them!

All the bird mothers should be applauding you today. Good work!

Loved this blog. I work in a small, privately owned "bird" store. This is what we tell our customers, even those who don't want to spend the money for a baffle or don't like the looks of them. I tell them it is just like putting out a free lunch, all summer.

Posted by Pat Kinser May 10, 2015 at 11:48 AM

All this and a cliffhanger, too? Wait--cliffhanger--that could describe a swallow. Hey, I saw my first Western Bluebird yesterday. Thanks for sending it by, and happy Mother's Day.

So glad to see you saved a Bluebird family! They are few and far between in Kentucky these days after two terrible winters.

Great rescues and fantastic nest boxes. You have a truly gigantic heart full of love and compassion.

I'm working on moving into my summer home and then will get started on repairing any of the 50 bluebird boxes on my route. I saw bluebirds on them yesterday on the trip in. I too have tree swallows competing with the bluebirds for housing. But I think the worst of the competitors is the house wren. I'm pretty sure a house wren built her nest right on top of an existing nest last year. The babies were still in the nest when I had to leave, so I couldn't prove it though.

I must say that the tree swallows make much more beautiful nests then do the bluebirds. They use such pretty feathers.

That picture is particularly flattering of her big beautiful bluebirdy eyes! She's a happy momma!

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