Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Bluebird Trail Is Ready For The 2014 Nesting Season

The Trail is almost completely finished with 25 Nest Boxes and 6 feeder stations up and busy with bluebirds eating dried meal worms and sunflower hearts. We will be adding 3 more feeder stations to the trail, they will be put up as soon as someone wishing to be a friend of the bluebird trail sponsor's one or all of them. If you sponsor a feeder, we put a name plate on the feeder with the name or names of your choosing.

The cost to sponsor a feeder station is $150.00, the materials to build the station is $50.00, leaving a donation of $100.00 to help feed the birds along the trail this coming nesting season.

All 25 Nest Boxes have been sponsored and 6 of the Feeder Stations have been sponsored by Friends of the Bluebird Trail.

We had a great year during 2013, with 20 Nest Boxes up and 1 Feeder Station. Hatching and fledgling 111 new baby birds, 100 that were Bluebirds, 6 Chickadee's and 5 Carolina/House Wrens.

So we hope this New Year 2014 will be even better with the trail having 25 nest boxes and 6 feeder stations up and operational.

If you have not already walked the Bluebird Trail, now is a good time to take a stroll along the easy to walk trail of 2.3 miles or less. The Green Meadows Preserve Parks Department will be cutting some new Trails in the near future, this will give us additional trails and distance that can be hiked in the preserve. This will also allow you to view more of the Nest Boxes and Feeder Station activity.

This picture is of my best friend and big supporter and someone who help's me a lot with the Bluebird Trail Walk and Talk Tours.We will be putting the spring schedule for our tours on the next blog in January. The spring tours will be awesome, as their will be much activity in Bluebirds house hunting and nest building along the trail.

 This lake is one of our favorite hikes when we go to Colorado in the summer to get away from the Georgia heat. This best friend is my wife KC, who is a big fan of the Bluebird Trail.

We would like to say thank you to all those who have been supporter's of the Bluebird Trail this past year in your donation's, as well as those who have come out to join us during our Talk and Walk Tours. I would like to thank all my community garden friends and especially Mike and Sue Plumb for all their help in feeding the birds when I am out of town or after my foot surgery, when it was difficult for me to walk the trail.We would like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas and the very best during this beautiful Holiday Season.

Green Meadows Preserve Bluebird Trail, Where Birds come to Life!
Thanks for joining us along the Trail.....Jim B 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

What A Great Year We Have Had On The Bluebird Trail!

This has been our first full year of birding for the Bluebird Trail at Green Meadows Preserve and what a year it has been!

2013 Quick Summary
Total Nest Sites =(25), Total Nesting Attempts =(56), Total Eggs =(123),
Total Young=(111), Total Fledglings=(111) 

We are at the end of the nesting and egg hatching season, now we see the adult bluebirds at the feeder's and bird bath with their young offspring. We
have had some success with our Bluebird Trail Talk and Tour. Our next scheduled tour is this Saturday morning September 7th at 8:30 am for the Teacher's and Kid's from Still Elementary School, located very close to Green Meadows Preserve. Anyone else wishing to join us along the Bluebird Trail for our Talk and Tour is welcome.

Life After Fledgling, Young birds often remain with their parents, or in the general vicinity of their territory, throughout the summer and into fall. Occasionally, families of bluebirds will return to their nest cavity in the fall for a day or so, often entering the nest briefly, or even bringing in a few strands of nesting material. Why they do this is not known.

Feeding Behavior, Once bluebirds are finished breeding, they are no longer tied to their breeding site and wander freely in search of areas with plentiful food. Grasshoppers, crickets, and spiders, all of which are abundant in fall, remain the birds' food of choice until they are no longer available because of cold and snow.

Sanctuary for Bluebirds: Marietta Daily Journal, Lifestyle section, Wednesday August 28, 2013 MDJ Features Editor Sally Litchfield gave the Green Meadows Preserve Bluebird Trail an excellent write up, which has generated a lot of interest and much activity. 

# 25 Final Nest Box, we put up the final Nest Box for
 the Bluebird Trail during the Month of August. This box is sponsored by Chris and Jim Dugan. This completes the number of Nest Box's along the Bluebird Trail. Now we have a few more special Bluebird Feeders to be sponsored and put up in key locations, for the feeding of the Bluebirds this winter.                                                                        
Predators, coming in our next blog, how we have been dealing with some real PEST!

Green Meadows Preserve Bluebird Trail, Where Birds Come to Life!

Thanks for joining us along the Bluebird Trail.......Jim B

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Hot Days of Georgia Summer

This is a very busy season for the Bluebird Trail. With all the rain we have had in the past few weeks, the very HOT and humid summer makes for a lot of work for Bluebird parents to raise a family. With the heat outside at around 90 degrees, the temp in the Nest Boxes is well over 100 degrees.

The Nest Boxes are well vented for summer temp like we are having now. The material is a natural un-treated cedar, which also helps with keeping the temp stable. With that being said it is still HOT in the boxes.

We have had a very successful spring and summer so far, with very few mishaps and very few eggs that have not hatched. It is amazing to see how hard the Mom and Dad work to make the nest, the mom to lay her eggs, then sit on them 12 to14 days during this HOT summer weather. Then to feed each of the babies three times every hour for another 17 to 21 days while they are growing and getting strong enough to fledge the nest. Now you can see why we have bluebird feeders placed along the trail, so that food is near by for the parents to be able to feed the young.
We have a number of Nest Boxes that now have eggs for the third brood in the same Nest Box since we put up the boxes in Feb/March for the season. I think this is amazing, by simply providing a suitable nesting box location, we have increased the population of the Eastern Bluebird. Nest Boxes mimic the natural cavities and in some ways can be improvements upon them. They are usually better situated, have entrance holes that exclude certain other bird competitors, and they are generally drier and better ventilated.

During incubation the female sits almost constantly over the eggs, exposing them to the full warmth of her brood patch. She incubates the eggs for one continuous period during the night and during the day does shorter stretches, periodically leaving the nest to preen and feed. On hot days she may leave the eggs unattended for longer periods of time.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

We are having a very big year 2013 on the Bluebird Trail!

It has been  awhile since we have had a blog posting! Not because we have lost interest in the trail, we have been very busy working the Bluebird Trail. Putting up additional nest boxes and installing bluebird feeders along the trail. We check each nest box weekly to see what is happening with that nest box. We record the nest check data weekly with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Nest Watch.

The information below is the results of what has been going on along the Bluebird Trail this year 2013.
" Nest Watch 2013 Quick Summary "
       (24)                      (48)                      (111)            (91)                (91)
  Total Nest Sites                Total Nesting Attempts            Total Eggs           Total Young           Total Fledglings

More information and photo's to follow in the coming week. The Marietta Journal is doing a article and some photo's about the Bluebird Trail, maybe coming out in August. Will provide the date the article will run in the paper when it is available.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Bluebird Nest Cams

Have you ever wondered what really goes on inside a bluebird box? We see the parents flying in and out but what do the birds actually do inside the box after the door is closed again.

A mirror is used to look into the nests in each box to see if there are eggs, how many, if they've hatched, etc. The parent flies away when we do that and all we ever see are eggs or hunkered down babies. With a nest box cam, you can watch everything!

Nest box cams are special little video systems that you can set up and have it live stream everything that happens in the nest box. There are actually thousands of nest cams out there these days recording the activities of a wide variety of birds.

It is fascinating to watch the development of the babies from incubation to fledging (leaving the box). Some nest box cams even have infrared cameras and you can watch what goes on all night long.  It is amazing to watch the babies wake up and move off and on all night long. They do serious exercises in the boxes during the middle of the night as well. It can be quite addicting to watch nest box cams.

Since this is the Bluebird Trail Blog, I'll only give you a list of 4 bluebird nest cams.  Because the nest cams are scattered around the US, the nests/eggs/babies are in various stages of development. Be sure and keep checking back through the season because bluebirds (especially here in the south) tend to have 3 to 4 broods each year. The further north you go, the fewer broods (sometimes just 2) because the warm season is shorter.

Bluebird Nest Cam - Maryland

Bluebird Nest Cam - Washington (state)

Bluebird Nest Cam

Bluebird Nest Cam - Pennsylvania

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bluebirds are busy!

The weather has everyone busy...even the bluebirds! Jim, Cathy and I checked out all the bluebird houses on Tuesday and we found our first nest with blue eggs! There were eggs laid in Vicki's box but they are not bluebirds....white with brown specks -which led Jim to believe it could be a Carolina Chickadee or perhaps a Tufted Titmouse. Today as I walked the trail I saw two bluebirds on the perch and house of #14. When you have some free time and walk around the bluebird trail it is a great way to relieve stress and see some beautiful and busy birds!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Nest Building On The Bluebird Trail

Nest Building

This past two weeks we have been seeing a lot of nest boxes being visited by the males and in some cases by both the male and female bluebirds as a pair.

Although the male bluebird may take the lead in exploring nest boxes and trying to draw the female to certain sites, it is the female who makes the final choice of where the nest is built. This choosing can be done in a day, or it may take weeks. Again, pairs that have bred in the area before are usually faster at selecting a site; inexperienced pairs are often slower.
A couple checking out #18
Thanks Nancy for this photo!

The female is also the one that does all of the actual nest building. Males may carry nesting material during courtship, and a little later they may carry bits of it again, possibly to stimulate the female, but this never amounts to much real building. While the female is building, the male may even enter the nest and remove a stray bit of material. Why he does this is not known.
A nest can be completed in just 2 days but on average it takes 4-5 days. In some cases, especially early in the season, nest building may start and stop over a 6-week period. Thus, when you see nest building, do not be surprised if the birds leave and then come back, if they start to build a little in several boxes, or if they take a particularly long time. All of these patterns and more are just part of the tremendous variation in individual bluebird habits.

Bluebird nests are constructed of grasses, pine needles, fine weed stalks, and occasionally fine rootlets. The female gathers bits of material, flies to the box, and arranges it inside. To form the hollow in the nest, she will sit inside it and press her breast up against the sides. This is called molding. In some cases the female bluebird may be assisted by juvenile bluebirds as she builds her nest. They may have been her young from a previous brood.

Bluebird nests are airy and light but well built, and have a small, neat cup shape in the center. The center may be lined with finer grasses or rarely just a few bits of hair or feathers. Second broods or second attempts can occur in the same nest box; a new nest is just built on top of the old one. Sometimes old material from the previous nest is removed by the birds, but they will not try to remove the whole nest.

Since we are monitoring the boxes, we will be removing all nesting material after the young have fledged or immediately after a failed nesting attempt. This keeps the nest box clean and allows the new nest to be the proper height from the entrance hole. 

As we think spring is just around the corner, some of our hardy fellow gardener's have been preparing their garden beds for spring planting by digging them up or turning the soil in the beds. The birds love this as they are the recipients of these fat, tasty grub worms that you see in this feeder on the garden fence. We want say which beds these healthy worms came out of, that will be our secret. Thanks to those who have been walking the bluebird trail and taking photo's and notes of all that is happening on the trail.

This is the week that we start our monitoring of the activity and nest building of the 20 nest boxes along the bluebird trail. We will start recording and reporting the details on The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.

In our next blog we will give you the activity and up dated information of what is going on in each of the 20 nest boxes. Keep the photo's, notes, comments and support coming, as it helps me a lot with keeping up with all that is happening along the bluebird trail.

You Can Help! Become a friend of the Bluebird Trail at the Green Meadows Preserve Community Garden.

Make your checks payable to MGVOCC/Green Meadows Community Garden
                              (Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County)

Mail your sponsorship to:  Jim Bearden
                                           1648 Oakford Court
                                           Marietta, GA 30064

For questions: Call Jim at 404-202-8755

We are a non-profit 501-3C organization, so your donation is tax deductible.

Thank you for being a friend and a big part of the conservation solution!    

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

About Bluebird Territories

Bluebird Territories

During the breeding season, bluebirds defend territories on which they tend to remain and carry out all of their activities, including nesting, mating and feeding. Bluebird territories vary in size depending on the availability of food and nest holes or boxes and the amount of pressure from other bluebirds trying to nest in the same area.

A male eastern bluebird
Territorial Behavior

Individual males or mated pairs arrive on the breeding ground, usually near areas where they bred previously, and start to explore nest boxes and natural cavities. As they become more attached to the area, each male begins to do two things: sing frequently from exposed perches and fly from perch to perch around the limits of his territory. Both of these behaviors seem to help make his presence known to neighboring males.

Both male and female defend the territory, with the female confining most of her defense to the nest site and its immediate surroundings. During interactions, male bluebirds chase off other males off their territory but do not chase off females; and in turn, females chase other females but not males.

Courtship: The Start of Pairing

When bluebirds first arrive on their territory, it may be as either lone males or as pairs from the previous season. In many cases, males arrive a week or two before the females and start to defend territories in favorable habitats. Once the territory is established they may advertise their presence to passing females through song. This is given from high exposed perches, and the song is generally quite loud. Song may be given as often as 25 times per minute.
Good view from high perch
Once a female arrives on the territory, the males behavior changes markedly. At this time he sings only occasionally, usually from low perches, and often very softly so that it is not easily heard from over 25 yards away.

He will also start a variety of other behaviors and displays that seem to call attention to the various nest holes or boxes on his territory. These same behaviors will be seen right away in the male if the pair arrive together on the territory.

Generally, when you see both birds, male and female go into a nest box together several times, that means that the two are paired and that they are likely to use that box as a nest site.

Courtship and nest box selection can take several days. So if at first a little occurs on one day and then the birds fly off, do not worry. They may return again that day, the next day, or several days later.

  Once two bluebirds are paired you will again begin to see different behaviors. One is termed mate-feeding, in which the male gets food and feeds it to the female. Sometimes she may crouch and wing-wave as she receives the food. Mate-feeding continues from the start of pairing on into the nestling phase.

I was out on the bluebird trail today and saw alot of activity around a number of nest boxes. I would encourage you to go and walk the trail, take pictures and record what you see. Write a comment on the blog telling me what you see. If you have photo's you would like to share, send them to or as a text to 404-202-8755. With your permission, I would like to use some of the photo's and information in my weekly blog.

Next week we will start the record keeping of all the activity going on along the bluebird trail and any nest building activity. We have nest building already going on in nest box #1 and #2, today a couple was making a decision to move into #3. Before humans offered nest boxes, bluebirds did not have a lot of choice about the location of their nests; they had to use what was available.

Today, one of the main places that bluebirds nest is in nest boxes. These mimic the natural cavities and in some ways can be improvements upon them. They are usually better situated, have entrance holes that exclude certain other bird competitors, and they are generally drier and better ventilated.

Coming in the next weekly blog up date will be activity along the bluebird trail, now that it is spring. More about the nest building process. Send me some comments and photo's for our next bluebird trail blog!

                      Wishing all our readers a Happy First Day of Spring!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Great Showing for both days of our Bluebird Trail Tour

Having a short talk and overview before our walk. 
Thanks to all those who came out for the Bluebird Trail walk. Thursday we had 22 people who were interested in learning more about the bluebird trail project and walked the trail with us.

Many thanks to all those who helped with the wonderful food and beautiful table setup, the awesome door prizes, the overview of the community garden and the period planting project as well as the Native American garden.

Thanks to Rita for this picture.

Saturday we had 19 very hardy and brave supporters and sponsors who came out in the cold and snow flurries for the Bluebird Trail walk.                                                                                                                                   

Returning Birds: As most of you have seen, we have bluebirds at the garden, in the bird bath and around the nest boxes. Bluebirds may return to breeding grounds as lone birds, as pairs, and as small flocks. Pairs will stay if they find a suitable nest site.

Young bluebirds in their first breeding year often nest near where they were raised. It is believed that they may return to the general area of their birth and then explore outward from there for their own nest site. 

They may even prefer to breed at a site similar to the one in which they were raised, even to the point of picking a similar-style nest box such as # 5. Much of the coming and going in the early stages may have to do with food. On warm days the birds may try to feed near their nest site. Even after doing some nest building early in the season, they may abandon the area for another spot. The name of the game is variability. We have nest building activity starting in #1 and #2 this past week.
Territory: Bluebird Territories and Territorial Behavior, coming next week in our next blog update. Along with any nest building activity on the trail.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Creating Good Perches for the Bluebird Trail

Nest Box # 6 Dr Don
Perch and Feeder
Creating Perches-Open perches are essential for a good and successful bluebird spring and summer habitat. Bluebirds generally feed in about a 20-foot radius from a perch. If perches are scattered about an area or along a trail, the bluebirds will be more able to utilize all the existing food.

If you have any dead limbs or dead trees that are no danger to people, leave them as perches for the birds. We have had success with cutting down small dead trees 10-12 feet tall and drilling a hole in the trunk and driving rebar in the ground and putting the tree over the rebar to create a perch.

Morning meeting over water.
Provide Water-Bluebirds are often very attracted to water. Even just a small birdbath placed where the birds can easily see it and get to it safely can attract many bluebirds. The water should be about 1-1 1/2 inches deep. Keep the bath in an open area so the birds can watch for predators, and provide a perch or tree nearby where they can go before of after using the bath.

The main winter foods of bluebirds are not insects as in summer, but  from shrubs, vines and trees. If you can provide these natural sources of food for the birds, they may stay on your property longer in the fall and possibly even through winter. These plants can also provide some shelter for the bluebirds during the day.

Additional Winter Measures-In addition to having berry plants, you can offer water, food in various kinds at feeders along the trail. For food, try small pieces of sunflower hearts, mealworms (dried or live). One of the best things about bluebird feeders is that they can help the birds get through temporary shortages of food caused by unfavorable weather early in the breeding season.
Looking for a house to rent!

Spring Arrival-When do they Return??? Coming in our next blog session!

Bluebird Trail Activity for Week of Feb 19th - Feb 24th

Daisy Louise on the hunt!
Hi from the bluebird trail! Even with the much needed rain we received this week, Daisy one of our two dogs and I were able to get a few changes made on the trail.

We changed the numbers and sponsor name plates from the left side of the Nest Box to the right side,  this way they can be seen from the hiking trail on Nest Box's 2, 3, 4, 7 and 17.
Vicki & Victor
 Nest Box # 4
Bev & John # 3
 Nest Box & Feeder

Monday, February 4, 2013

Blue Bird Trail Tour Dates and Times scheduled

.We have set dates and times for our first offical " Blue Bird Trail Tour " the first date will be on Thursday February 28th at 12:00 noon after our Green Meadows Community Garden work day. Wear a warm jacket and comfortable shoes for the 2 + mile hike along the the blue bird trail rain or shine. The second tour date will be on Saturday March 2nd at 4:00 pm after the garden work day. We are looking forward to seeing our fellow gardeners and 2013 MGVOCC classmates on the tour.

Nest Boxes 10 & 11 Sponsors


Much progress was made this past Friday on the Blue Bird Trail with the help of Bob and Gail Bailey who are the sponsors of nest boxes 10 & 11. It was a cool morning, but we wanted to get the boxes up so the blue birds could start house hunting.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Blue Bird Trail Begins

Welcome to the Blue Bird Trail Blog!

A little bit about how this all started...
Late last spring after watching the beautiful birds out at the Green Meadows Community Garden and reading about the sad demise of the blue bird habitat and dwindling population, I thought about creating a safe place for birds to nest. As a kid, I liked watching bluebirds and saw them often while growing up on our farm in Alabama.

My wife Kathy aka KC, and I were at the Master Gardener plant sale and tour where we purchased our 1st blue bird nestbox with the idea that we would place it on a fence post at the garden.

Blue birds everywhere! That's what I told KC when I went out a few days afterwards. They were already scouting out the new digs and thinking about nesting. How exciting. Within a week we had a lovely couple move in. They brought twigs, grasses, pine needles and an assundry of materials to decorate their home!

Soon afterwards, the nest not only included Mom and Dad but also 5 brilliant blue eggs. Incubation time is about 12-14 days. We watched and waited patiently for our little nestlings to hatch. I carefully monitored and checked the nestbox for activity while trying not to scare the parents.


Just about the same time the little babies hatched...the idea of a trail at the preserve did too! Hiking the trail is great...nature around every corner and plenty of open fields and spaces that would be perfect for blue bird nest boxes! And so it began.

As the days grew warmer, things were heating up in the nest box as the little brood grew and activity did too! We wondered, when will they fly? When will they try? One day - out they went! 5 little blue birds with Mom and Dad nearby.

You will often see them all hanging near the original in the trees and enjoying the nearby bird bath and gardens.

With the counties approval of the trail we started sharing the idea of nest box sponsorship and now have 20 sponsored. The cedar boxes are identical and all built by George Burkett. I add numbers. names, posts and predator guards to keep them safe. The trail will be complete by this spring...just in time for the househunting season!

In February and March the males start scouting their new nesting places. Of course, the female makes the final decision! :) We look forward to welcoming many new families to the bluebird trail this year and also hope to see you. We will add posts, tours, activities and volunteer opportunities soon so please check back often.

Thanks for your support and interest! Happy Trails...                                            
Jim B.