Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Como Park Bluebird Trail Update: June 25th

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

Seven bluebirds and one chickadee fledged in the past week. Two boxes are now empty and another has what may be a new bluebird nest on top of the old one. The bluebird nest with the cowbird egg in it remains the same—no bluebird eggs have been laid, so perhaps the bluebirds got wise to the intruder and went elsewhere. If there is no change in the cowbird egg by next week, I will remove it and the nest.

In four other boxes there are 14 more bluebirds. I did not open three of the boxes since the young birds are too near to fledging.

The remaining three boxes have tree swallows in them. Two, I did not open, but as I passed I could see two tree swallow heads poking out in one, and another in the second. I could not see into the third box for all the feathers. There were no parents defending the nest, and as far as I can tell, the mother was not camouflaged inside. Perhaps next week will provide a clearer view. If not, a little probing may be in order. (This is the box that was being vandalized two weeks ago.)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Nasty Neonicotinoids: Problematic for Pollinators

Post contributed by Mary, crew member of Youth Outdoors Crew 2:

This week is national pollinator week! It was created to celebrate and support pollinating animals, which include bees, butterflies, bats, beetles, flies, birds, small mammals and more.  Pollinators are essential members of every ecosystem and help 90% of flowering plants reproduce including a third of crops worldwide. With increased chemical use, pathogens, and disappearing habitat and food sources, pollinator populations have been in decline and they need our help.
You can celebrate pollinator week by planting native flowering plants in your gardens and choosing not to use pesticides that are harmful to the bees and butterflies. Neonicotinoids are a widely used family of insecticides, most commonly applied to ornamental plants in urban gardens to target aphids and beetles.  They are systemic in plants so when they are added to the soil, the plant takes it up as it grows and it is incorporated into the leaves, flowers, pollen, and nectar. Thus, if it is used in a nursery and then transported to your garden, the insecticide will still be active in the plant and can even enter neighboring plants or plants grown the next season. Neonicotinoids affect the nervous system and attack connections in the brain, which can lead to problems with navigation, flying, ability to learn new tasks, and general foraging ability.  Bees are especially vulnerable to neonicotinoids because they have more of the targeted receptors and more memory and learning genes than other insects. It has also been found that exposure to neonicotinoids may make bees more susceptible to parasites and pathogens. Making sure you purchase plants from nurseries that do not use neonicotinoids is incredibly important for the health of bees and ecosystems in general.

The European Union has suspended the use of certain neonicotinoids for a period of two years due to the effects they are having on bees. The EPA is re-evaluating the use of neonicotinoids through registration review, but has made no new restrictions yet.
To learn more:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Nestlings Galore!

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:
Tree swallow nest with 5 eggs
All eleven nest boxes are in use this week. A new bluebird nest was made in the past week in the empty box, for a total of seven boxes occupied by bluebirds. However, in that new nest is one speckled cowbird egg.

There are 21 bluebirds of all ages in six other boxes. I did not open two of those boxes, because the nestlings are old enough that opening the box might startle them into fledging too soon.

I also did not open the nest box with the chickadee inside for the same reason.

Four over-a-week old bluebirds
Three other boxes contain eight tree swallows over a week old, and five tree swallow eggs (in the box that was under attack last week; they appear unharmed, and the mother swallow flew out as I approached). One of the tree swallow nests had previously been stuck to the nest box door, so I’ve opened it very, very carefully each week. This week, I barely opened it a sliver, and saw two tree swallow nestlings, their beaks against the door, ready to tumble out if I opened it any wider.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Disturbance on the Bluebird Trail

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer bluebird trail monitor:

Four recently hatched bluebirds, one in mid-gape
Many more bluebirds hatched in the past week. In six boxes, there are a total of 16 young bluebirds (seven, a week old or older, and nine, under a week old). Seven blue eggs have yet to hatch. Parent bluebirds are busy finding insects to feed their growing youngsters.
The cowbird in the chickadee nest fledged and is likely out pestering its parent chickadees for food. Left in the nest is one chickadee, maybe a week old, one unviable chickadee egg, and one unviable cowbird egg. The other five chickadee eggs disappeared. Hopefully, the parent birds will be able to feed both their hungry cowbird fledgling and chickadee nestling.

One box remains empty.

The other three boxes are occupied by tree swallows and contain eight young tree swallows and three tree swallow eggs.

At the end of the trail, at the tree swallow nest box nearest the Como Visitor Center entrance, I witnessed a very disturbing scene. Several poorly-supervised young boys were gathered around the nest box and jerking its post back and forth. They were part of a very large group of preschool- to kindergarten-aged children picnicking on the grass. I told them to stop and explained why, but I’m afraid it fell upon deaf ears as they then moved on to terrorize a young chipmunk in a nearby tree. The chipmunk was nearly stomped to death by a toddler as it ran for cover to a wooded area nearby. All the while, the mother bird was inside, nestled on her three eggs, braving the storm and commotion, protecting her offspring.

Two bluebirds, over a week old

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Bluebirds Hatching!

Post contributed by Sharon, volunteer Bluebird Trail monitor:

Bluebirds, three days old or less
The first young birds have hatched on the trail. Six boxes contain six young bluebirds and 18 bluebird eggs. Both nests with recently-hatched bluebirds also contain an unhatched egg—one is likely unviable, one may simply not have hatched yet—it is too soon to tell.

The chickadee/cowbird nest box contains one large fast-developing cowbird and at least one tiny chickadee that I could see. A parent chickadee scolded from a nearby tree.

Tree swallows now occupy three boxes and have laid a total of 11 white eggs in their beautiful feather-lined nests.

Only one box still remains empty, though several bluebirds were in the area.