Thursday, June 15, 2017

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: June 14, 2017

Can you find the mother tree swallow's tail
in this picture?

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

Fourteen birds fledged in the past week—nine bluebirds and five chickadees. There are ten more bluebirds ready to fledge in the next week or so, and three new bluebird eggs laid. Two boxes have at least six young tree swallows in them, and one more box has tree swallows in it, but mom was sitting on the nest and didn’t allow any observations. A chickadee mom is also hunkered down on her nest, staying put no matter what—she probably learned this was necessary when fending off the encroachments of persistent tree swallows two weeks ago. If she’s still on the nest next week, though, it could mean her eggs are not viable and won’t hatch.

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: May 31, 2017

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

Recently hatched bluebirds.
The cool weather in the past two weeks hasn’t stopped the bluebirds, chickadees, and tree swallows from progressing with their nesting activities at Como Park. Four nest boxes contain 19 bluebirds—9 over a week old and 10 more recently hatched. Two boxes have chickadees inside—one has 5 over-a-week-old chickadees and the other has eggs. The chickadees with eggs in their nest are being challenged by a pair of tree swallows who sit on top of the box and claim it as their own. I installed a smaller 1-1/4” entrance hole guard so only the chickadees could enter the box, and maybe that will encourage those tree swallows to look elsewhere for a box of their own. Two nest boxes have at least 8 tree swallow eggs inside, and three nest boxes contain partial nests that may have been abandoned.
A nest full of chickadees, over a week old.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: May 15, 2017

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

Bluebirds usually lay between 3-5 blue
  eggs,but for the last few years we've
had a pair that lays 6 or 7
pale white eggs.
Nesting season is well underway this week—things can happen fast once they get going. Now there are 20 bluebird eggs in four nest boxes, six chickadee eggs in one box, and four tree swallow nests built. Two other boxes have some nesting materials inside but not enough to identify the creators. 

Chickadee eggs are smaller and speckled.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: May 2, 2017

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

The first bluebird eggs of the season.

On the trail today there are two bluebird nests, one with three eggs and the other with one. Tree swallows seem interested in several boxes, but haven’t yet started building any nests. Chickadees started a nest in one box, but may have been stopped from finishing it by tree swallows, even though last week I installed a chickadee entrance hole guard (at 1-1/4” the opening is too small for other birds like tree swallows). Things are off to a slow start this year.
Tree swallows seem to have claimed this box.

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: April 17, 2017

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

No nests yet. Some years nest building begins earlier than others. In the past few years, the first nesting activities began as early as April 8 and as late as May 5. No doubt the bluebirds know what they are doing. Signs of spring are everywhere, and I heard squabbling bluebirds in two areas of the park.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: April 3, 2017

Waiting for occupants
Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

All 11 Como Park Bluebird Trail nest boxes have been up since March 22 and are awaiting occupants. No nesting activity yet, but a bluebird was singing softly in the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom, where three of the boxes are located. Bluebirds and chickadees will start building their nests soon, and tree swallows will arrive a little later.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Restoring the Floodplain

Post contributed by Brett Stolpestad and Brad Chatfield, Conservation Corps of Minnesota:

Great Horned Owls are one of the many species that use Saint
Paul's floodplain parks to raise their young.
The Mississippi River floodplain is Minnesota’s centerpiece. A patchwork of cottonwood, maple, boxelder, hackberry, and ash make up the forest ecosystem, providing critical habitat for migratory birds and other river-dependent wildlife. The City of  Saint Paul is home to a beautiful winding chain of parks along the Mississippi and uses a variety of management practices to augment the health of the floodplain ecosystem. One particularly useful and beneficial technique is shelterwood harvesting, the process of gradually removing mature trees in a given area with the goal of establishing the next generation of desirable tree species. This process has the potential to increase biodiversity, improve wildlife habitat, and eliminate invasive species.

How does shelterwood harvesting work?

Step one: Land managers begin by surveying forest transects using satellite images, GPS units, and GIS software. At this stage, typically called a forest composition survey, surveyors attempt to create a map that clearly illustrates the distribution of tree species, the total canopy cover, the average size of the trees and perhaps their age.  

Step two: Surveyors identify potential shelterwood harvest sites by analyzing sections of forest that may lack diversity or contain undesirable species like buckthorn, white mulberry, or Siberian elm.  

Step three: Through several gradual stages, foresters begin removing trees that lie within the designated shelterwood harvest area. Removing these trees helps to open the canopy, allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor where the next generation of saplings can become established.

Step four: Native tree species can then be planted in the newly created pockets, adding to the biodiversity of the ecosystem and improving wildlife habitat. Trees or shrubs such as cottonwood, silver maple, sugar maple, black willow, elderberry, and red osier dogwood might be selected!

A Conservation Corps member completing a canopy survey at Hidden Falls
Regional Park.
In recent years, prominent Saint Paul Parks including Hiddens Falls, Lilydale, and Crosby Farm Regional Parks have all been selected as sites for shelterwood harvest. The decision to focus on these parks has been, in part, a response to ecological threats including the encroachment of emerald ash borer. The threat of emerald ash borer has led to the preemptive removal of ash tree throughout the floodplain, followed by several large-scale volunteer planting events. Over the past few years, volunteers have helped plant hundreds of trees and shrubs throughout Crosby, Lilydale, and Hidden Falls. If you visit these parks today, you will undoubtedly see dozens of young maple, cottonwood, and black willow standing straight in their “tree-tubes,” along with an understory smattering of black willow, dogwood, and elderberry.
Shelterwood harvest areas are replanted with native tree
species. These young trees are protected with tree tubes, which
facilitate growth and protect the saplings from hungry animals.
The Mississippi River floodplain remains a gorgeous and dynamic landscape in the heart of our state. The floodplain parks of the Twin Cities offer the opportunity for city-dwellers to walk the long winding paths through towering floodplain giants, and to become immersed in the wildlife sanctuary that the floodplain provides.