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Old 07-04-2011, 05:37 PM   #41
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Four bluebirds look ready to go soon, but are not too old to take a shot of. Four of the five eggs in the second nest had just hatched yesterday. The last egg could have hatched by now. I have a new bluebird nest at home with three eggs so far.
Your bluebirds are cute--they always are at that stage. I can't wait to see some in our nestbox in a couple of weeks. Yesterday, during the party, a friend came out to walk the trail with me--his suggestion which made me feel good. Another friends' four year old tagged along. When we got to the bluebird house, I asked if he'd like to see the nest. Of course--or should I say "luckily", he said yes. After seeing the nest, I ended up picking him up to look inside. I can't see myself with out a mirror or taking a picture. He said he saw eggs, so I asked him what color and his reply was spot on--blue. So, I'm guessing there are eggs--I wish I'd have asked him how many. I guess I'll have to go out to see for myself.

Congratulation on yours...You have quite an extensive nesting area! I'm so impressed.


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The maximum size of this colony should be dictated by available food, or available housing. I'm curious to know which it is. One prime compartment in each house went unused last year. 5 gourds and 8 aluminum compartments were used last year. Will the colony shift housing, leave available large compartments open, or expand in numbers? The addition of a house identical to one of my prime houses, several miles away, will make things even more interesting next spring. If the new house is successful, will it impact the size of this colony?
You bring up a good point. My first thought was that you should see if anyone nearby is interested in hosting purple martins...and bluebirds...and...
I still think you should, but I also would be curious to see what the capacity is for your area...and which is the limiting factor, food or housing.
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Old 07-04-2011, 05:38 PM   #42
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When you spoke of the food supply possibly limiting ultimate numbers, I found myself wondering what the trail supported plant wise. Are there primarily native species along there? It would seem the vegetation ultimately determines the insect supply, wouldn't you agree??

Good point. I'm curious now, too.

I want to add so many more natives to our two acres. More of each variety...and definitely more varieties. Then sit back (yeah right...always more to do) and see what all I attract.

fishlkmich, you can always see if adding more natives increases the food supply.
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Old 07-05-2011, 08:56 AM   #43
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The fenced ~1 acre that I work in is surrounded by about ten school buildings and supporting structures. There are about as many ball fields. The entire complex must be 40 - 60 acres. Everything is mowed, except my little acre. Fortunately, there are rivers, ponds, woods and fields that surround the small town that supports this school complex. There are even a few old sewage treatment ponds that are no longer used, but kept if the new system ever fails, or is overloaded.

Food availability will vary every year. We had a super wet spring and it's been dry lately. There are more dragonflies than the birds know what to do with this year. It is easy to tell when food is plentiful. Birds sit on perches with dragonflies in their beaks. The young are all fat and healthy. I have usually lost several birds by now, but have only moved one runt to another cavity with a single young bird of the same size. The four siblings were getting all of the food in this compartment. The runt improved and grew quite a bit in just about five days between checks.

Numbers of martins are never present when I first arrive at the colony. I don't know what communication system they use, but word travels fast. I assume that these birds fly several miles for much of their food. Any project to increase food availability would be large.

The first attempt to start a new colony in the area begins next spring. That experiment should answer a lot of questions.
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Old 07-05-2011, 09:15 AM   #44
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The fenced ~1 acre that I work in is surrounded by about ten school buildings and supporting structures. There are about as many ball fields. The entire complex must be 40 - 60 acres. Everything is mowed, except my little acre. Fortunately, there are rivers, ponds, woods and fields that surround the small town that supports this school complex. There are even a few old sewage treatment ponds that are no longer used, but kept if the new system ever fails, or is overloaded.

Food availability will vary every year. We had a super wet spring and it's been dry lately. There are more dragonflies than the birds know what to do with this year. It is easy to tell when food is plentiful. Birds sit on perches with dragonflies in their beaks. The young are all fat and healthy. I have usually lost several birds by now, but have only moved one runt to another cavity with a single young bird of the same size. The four siblings were getting all of the food in this compartment. The runt improved and grew quite a bit in just about five days between checks.

Numbers of martins are never present when I first arrive at the colony. I don't know what communication system they use, but word travels fast. I assume that these birds fly several miles for much of their food. Any project to increase food availability would be large.

The first attempt to start a new colony in the area begins next spring. That experiment should answer a lot of questions.
So, when you say "except my little acre," does that mean your home? Do you live in the 40 - 60 acres you are writing about?

Nice that you were able to move the runt from one nest to another. You must have a tight rein on exactly what going on, and where...

Ok, time for me to head downstairs. I see about five female HOSPS in my trap. I must take care of that...
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Old 07-05-2011, 03:56 PM   #45
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I'd like that much acreage! The school complex is on the large piece of land. My one acre is in the middle of it and the ballfields and parking lots drain into it. Makes for a nice little marsh area, too. Home is just on an acre.

Taking notes on every compartment, every trip, works. You could tell that this guy wasn't getting what he needed. The adults with just one young must have been a bit confused when #2 showed up.

Keep up the good work on those HOSP!
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Old 07-05-2011, 04:49 PM   #46
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I'd like that much acreage! The school complex is on the large piece of land. My one acre is in the middle of it and the ballfields and parking lots drain into it. Makes for a nice little marsh area, too. Home is just on an acre.

Taking notes on every compartment, every trip, works. You could tell that this guy wasn't getting what he needed. The adults with just one young must have been a bit confused when #2 showed up.

Keep up the good work on those HOSP!
Funny, I was thinking the same thing about the parents who had a stork deliver a baby to them!!!
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Old 07-07-2011, 06:35 PM   #47
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Default Ants, a Problem?

I checked out the bluebird nest today...the first thing I noticed were a lot of tiny ants frantically moving their larvae after the disturbance of my opening the front panel. They seem to be living in the grass nesting material. The eggs seem to be fine...can they all live in harmony?

What should I do?

Thanks,

David
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Old 07-08-2011, 07:14 AM   #48
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Yes, they are a problem. You still have eggs, or very young bluebirds now, if I'm correct. Carefully lift the nest in the box and sweep out all of the ants and eggs that you can. Repeat tomorrow if ants are present. Sialis suggests putting chemicals in nest boxes for ants:
Problem or Predator Identification in Bluebird Nestboxes or on the Trail

If I were to use anything, I might sprinkle a little borax powder under the nesting material. Putting anything in a nest is technically illegal and I haven't ever used anything. I have lost birds to blowfly larvae, but have only found ants in old nests. Was the box cleaned out after the last nesting?

Do what Sialis suggests and use Vaseline on the pole. This should be easy to fix.
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Old 07-08-2011, 07:43 AM   #49
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I did clean out the nestbox prior to them building a new nest.

They built the nest a week or so ago, and the eggs have not hatched yet.

When I found the ants, I did brush off those that were easy to access. I hate to lift the nest, but I will it is necessary. Vaseline makes sense, I'll try that.

Thanks, fishlkmich.
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Old 07-08-2011, 10:14 AM   #50
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Since you are lifting the nest, check for blow fly larvae. This is the time of year that I start to find them and you are south of me. The nest lifts easily in the box. As you sweep the ants out, look for any roundish, soft, dark colored maggots. They kill entire martin and bluebird clutches here. I have lifted nests to clean out blow fly larvae for years. If you don't get all of them, it's OK. They feed on the young at night and burrow to the bottom of the nest during the day. Afternoon is the best time to eliminate the majority of them. Good luck!
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