Bluebird box monitoring
For the last several years, we have been monitoring a bluebird trail in Loudoun. It is a great volunteer opportunity. It gets you outdoors on a regular basis; you get to watch the whole lifecycle of birds; you get to help out local native birds; and sometimes you get access to some great habitat. For example. one of the monitoring sites is the Dulles Greenway Wetlands Mitigation site – where it requires permission to visit and the bluebird monitors have permission to visit! In Loudoun county, there are currently about 50 trails – so there is probably one near to you.
Our trail has not been very successful with respect to bluebirds. We haven’t had any bluebirds nest in our boxes, but we have had other wonderful native birds species – Tree Swallows and House Wrens. It’s a lovely experience to think that the Tree Swallows flying overhead are the ones that you played a part in their survival.
Boxes are generally checked one a week over the course of the spring to the fall. Most trails probably take an hour or less to visit and inspect. In the spring and fall, you clean out the boxes making sure they are ready for nesting – occasionally you need to fix something about the houses (replace a screw or noel guard) or move them based upon the previous season’s successes. Then during the breeding season, you mostly just watch and record the nest state, number of eggs and number of juveniles. You get to see the different nest materials and the eggs up close and you take some pictures of adorable little babies now and again. All in all, it is very rewarding.
The program in Loudoun County is run by Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy. You can find more information at http://www.loudounwildlife.org/Bluebird_Monitoring.htm .
I just found this fantastic article on the main VMN website about Clark Walter building bluebird boxes – http://www.virginiamasternaturalist.org/home/on-the-wings-of-bluebird-diplomacy