Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: June 27th

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer Bluebird Trail monitor:
Four bluebirds will fledge in the next week, if all goes well, and perhaps those parents will start a third round of nesting. Six boxes on the trail are currently occupied by bluebirds. There are a total of 10 young bluebirds and 16 eggs in those boxes. In one nest with five eggs, a tiny bluebird had just hatched.

Male bluebird keeps
 his eye on me after I
 check his nest containing
 five eggs
More than a week old
tree swallows
Five more-than-a-week-old tree swallows occupy the seventh box. Tree swallow parents often defend their nests aggressively by swooping at me while I check, but today they must have been busy catching insects for their youngsters.
House sparrows quickly built another nest in the hanging box I emptied last week, so I removed it again and hope they will soon choose another nesting site off the trail.

The last two boxes on the trail remain empty.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: June 19th-22nd

Post contributed by Conservation Corps of Minnesota, Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

Pruning at the Hamline-Midway rain garden

It was another exciting week as we got to do a lot of different projects in many of St. Paul's parks.  We spent Tuesday morning mulching and pruning the rain garden at Hamline Avenue and Midway Parkway with the Capitol Watershed District, who maintains the rain gardens. By the afternoon it looked totally transformed. We finished Tuesday collecting hackberry seeds in Highland Park. These seeds will be planted for a project along the Mississippi.
Torching invasives at Como
Woodland Outdoor Classroom
Wednesday and Thursday were Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom restoration days. We used torching, which is a very slow but effective and safe method of killing burdock and garlic mustard, in conjunction with spraying herbicide. It's tough to stay ahead of these fast-growing plants but we're doing our best.
We finished the week by finishing up spraying burdock and garlic mustard at CWOC in the morning. In the afternoon we sprayed a small section of turf grass around the Como Lakeshore. This is the first step in turning the grass into a beautiful lakeshore lush with native plants. Before the summer ends we'll be planting these areas and reinforcing the shoreline with biodegradable "bio-logs" to prevent erosion.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: June 21st

Five week-old bluebirds
Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer Bluebird Trail monitor:

Six bluebirds fledged in the past week.  There are still plenty of bluebirds in various stages of development on the trail.  One box contains 5 week-old bluebirds; another has 4 two-week-old bluebirds.  The nest in this latter box is so flimsy that the youngsters could easily have toppled out when I opened the door; luckily I opened it very cautiously and not all the way, and the nestlings stayed in the box.  Four other boxes have a total of 12 more bluebird eggs.
Today, I was pleased to talk about bluebirds and the bluebird trail, and to be able to show two of the nestboxes to a group of about 15 enthusiastic students in the Community Education Audubon Birding Class.  They enjoyed seeing a nest with 5 bluebird eggs in it, and were also able to view the 5 week-old bluebird nestlings.
 Newly hatched tree
swallows and mother, left
The 5 tree swallow eggs have hatched.  With my mirror and my eyes I was unable to tell whether there were hatchlings or eggs under all those feathers.  The camera doesn’t lie:  not only were there recently hatched tree swallows, but mom was in there too!
House sparrow nest
before removal
House sparrows have continued to build a nest in the last hanging box, so this week I removed the material.
Two other boxes are empty and awaiting new occupants.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: June 12-15th

 Post contributed by Conservation Corps of Minnesota, Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

4-H volunteers adding cut burdock to the dumpster.
Thanks for your help, that was a LOT of burdock to remove!
During the past week, Youth Outdoors crew 2 (YO2) has focused on burdock and other flowering invasive species. Tuesday, they worked in Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom (CWOC) removing garlic mustard with a group of youth from Cumen Christi for a couple hours in the morning. They then spent the rest of the day cutting bolting burdock in hopes to kill the plant.

Wednesday, the crew continued to work burdock, but had reinforcements. A group of about 100 youth from 4-H Clubs around the state volunteered in CWOC and were able to load a one ton dumpster with burdock that had been cut. The volunteers were a tremendous help in the burdock clean up.

Volunteers from Macalaster working at Hidden Falls.
Hidden Falls was the destination for YO2 on Thursday where they targeted invasives such as burdock and garlic mustard with a group of volunteers until inclement weather concluded the event early. The volunteers from Macalester did a great job in the little time they worked, pulling out several bags of garlic mustard and loading a truck bed with burdock. For the rest of the day between lightning strikes the crew worked along Como Lakeshore pulling undesirable species such as black mustard, sweet clover, and campion.

Friday, the crew returned to the Victoria Rain Garden to cut out and treat an area with dense invasive specie cover. Once the area was looking presentable, the crew walked the lakeshore and targeted reed canary grass. In the afternoon, Desnoyer was the next site to sweep for invasive species and YO2 targeted both reed canary grass and purple loosestrife. Though Desnoyer had several invasive species, it was very nice to see several varieties of sedges and young oaks—a promising sign.  The final project for the week was invasive work at the Lexington-Nebraska rain garden. Several volunteer trees were taken out along with dense areas of quack grass. The crew will return in the next couple weeks to continue to clean up the garden.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: June 13th

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer Bluebird Trail monitor:

Empty bluebird nest,
one successfully fledged
One bluebird and 8 chickadees fledged in the past week.  I cleared out their boxes, which now stand empty and waiting for occupation.
Bluebirds, less than a week old
      There are 10 young bluebirds, 4 newly hatched in the past week, in three boxes.  Two more boxes contain 10 bluebird eggs.  And the box in which the three bluebird eggs were destroyed has a new, very deeply cupped bluebird nest in it.
      The tree swallow parent flew out of her box as I approached (maybe she remembered that unpleasant probing last week), so I could count her five small white eggs.
      The last hanging box again had a grassy platform built on its bottom.  No signs of plastic or feathers or house sparrows or tree swallows.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: June 6th-8th

Post contributed by Conservation Corps of Minnesota, Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

June 6th 
Invasive species control in Crosby Park
Crosby park has been improving day by day. Wednesday, we focused on the top of the bluff and along Shepherd Road. The day began with brush cutting. We focused on white sweet clover and yellow sweet clover and other invasives in the drainage areas/ wetlands along the road. After clearing the roadside areas, we focused on the cliff tops and the walking trail, eliminating many different invasives including clovers, curly dock, motherwort, common mullein, nightshade, burdock, and alfalfa. We finished the day by cleaning up and disposing of some of the cut material.

June 7th 
Rain gardens and CWOC
Thinning out Canada anenome in one
of the Como neighborhood raingardens
Our crew focused on raingarden management on Thursday. We covered seven different rain gardens in the Como neighborhood. There were many different projects that we worked on in the raingardens. The first raingarden was too crowded with Canada Anemone--a native, yet aggressive species--so we thinned it out to allow other species to thrive there as well. In other rain gardens, we focused on removal of invasives including thistle, clovers, ragweed, and volunteer trees. At the end of the day, we returned to the Como Woodland Outdoor Classroom (CWOC) to work on eliminating burdock.

June 8th
CWOC with Youth Outdoors Crew 3 (YO3)

The day began with finishing off a section of CWOC by eliminating/ treating all of the burdock in the section. We continued to treat burdock until we were joined by YO3, another Conservation Corps team to remove garlic mustard. We concluded the day by clipping seed heads of reed canary grass to prevent spread.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: June 6th

 Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer Bluebird Trail monitor:

Remains of damaged bluebird eggs

Young cowbird that just fledged
One or two bluebird youngsters will fledge sometime in the next week.  Two nestboxes contain 9 bluebird eggs.  Two more nestboxes contain a total of 6 younger-than-two-week-old bluebirds.  When I checked on one of those boxes, I was surprised to hear a vigorous fluttering as I unscrewed the screw holding the door closed.  Before I knew it, out flew a little bird—not a bluebird—a young cowbird.  It landed on the grass in front of the box.  Cowbirds fledge in 8-13 days, earlier than bluebirds, at 16-22 days.  The little cowbird hopped and flew onto the low branches of a nearby pine.

A nest that last week contained 3 bluebird eggs had only the remains of destroyed eggs—yolk and a few tiny pieces of egg.  I removed the nest. 
A new grassy bluebird nest was built in the next nearest box, over the remains of the tree swallow nest that had not been incubated.

Tree swallow on nest

A tree swallow is incubating eggs in another nest.  When I opened the box I tried to part the numerous feathers to see any eggs, without any luck.  I finally realized the mother bird was inside incubating when I saw her straight dark tail feathers.  She did not make a move even with all my probing!
Chickadees will fledge soon from the last chickadee nest.

A male house sparrow sat upon the top of the last hanging nestbox.  He’d put just a bit of grassy material and sticks on the bottom of the box, which I cleared out.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Conservation Corps Update: May 30th-June 2nd

Post contributed by Conservation Corps of Minnesota, Youth Outdoors crew 2:
Blueflag Iris in bloom at Como Lakeshore
The weather is warming up as we move into June.  We spent the week working around Como Lake.  In Victoria Rain Garden, we spotted a female snapping turtle preparing to lay eggs.  We gave her some space as we worked through the area managing several invasive species including penny-cress, shepherd's purse, and curly dock. We moved on to Como Lakeshore managing reed canary grass, which has reddish panicles and is particularly distinguishable by the prominent ligules at the stem. Irises are in bloom around the lake as well, a welcome sight along the shore.

Female snapping turtle preparing
to lay her eggs