Short Notes for Early Spring 2018

Nestboxes in the Panhandle Road Wildlife Area

White baffles make it easy to locate nestboxes while protecting nests from raccoons and other climbing predators.

Panhandle Road Grid (PRG) Update

Nestboxes in the Panhandle Road Wildlife Area

White baffles make it easy to locate nestboxes while protecting nests from raccoons and other climbing predators.

Fifty-five nestboxes stand in ten rows in a field along the west side of Panhandle Road in the Delaware Wildlife Area. The sun’s rays have bleached their baffles white which makes the view of 25 and 22 yard box spacings impressive. White baffles make it easy to locate nestboxes while protecting nests from raccoons and other climbing predators.

I have been obsessed with visiting the grid daily since I attached the last box and baffle to its post on February 18. Eastern Bluebirds have been using the nestboxes as hunting perches almost every day as has a Red-tailed Hawk. I know that bluebirds will be nesting in two or three grid boxes once April arrives, so I have prepared three boxes to be added five yards away from any boxes containing bluebird nests. I have labeled the boxes with large letters instead of numbers. So, if all goes well, you will be able to see boxes X, Y, and Z among the evenly spaced numbered boxes. This practice is called “pairing.” Pairing allows Tree Swallows and bluebirds to live in relative peace once they agree on which of the two boxes is theirs.

Lettered Nestboxes

Lettered boxes with nests will be paired at five yards from active nests in numbered boxes to generate peace between bluebirds and swallows.

I believe the numbers and letters allow the birds to find their boxes more easily. Modern researchers are finding that the so-called lower animals are much more intelligent than what was believed in the past. My boxes offer black numbers that are one-and-one-half inch high. Can a bird notice the visual difference between the numbers 14 and 41? I think so.

Get Ready to Toss Feathers

I saw two Tree Swallows at the PRG on February 27, but as I write this report, I have seen no swallows since. Last year, I recorded on March 24 that swallows had arrived at my nestbox projects. Once their bellies are full, swallows will snatch feathers from the air or ground to add to their nests. First swallow eggs appear the third week of April, but most nests welcome eggs in May. Female swallows are the nest architects and males will deliver feathers to them at their nestboxes.

Feather tossing is fun for all ages, but I would like to think that leaders of youth groups such as scouts, 4-H clubs, families, and others are promoting feather tossing. The PRG is an excellent location with a parking lot on the east side of the road. Most car drivers slow when they see walkers, dog-walkers, joggers, birders, bikers and others that use the road, but if needed, there is room along the berm to escape an inconsiderate speeder.

Acquire some white or gray feathers from an art store, bird theme store, farm, chicken processing business, etc. and plan a feather tossing activity at a grid near you. Make sure your feathers are legal and clean to handle. (For more information, see my previous article on this web site about tossing feathers for swallows.)

Kestrel Box Preparation 

American Kestrel on Wire - Photo Earl Harrison

American Kestrel

On March 13, 2018, Dick Phillips and I checked 18 American Kestrel boxes in order to make sure all were ready to welcome nesting sparrow hawks. We added white pine bedding to seven boxes while ten had oval indentations fashioned by kestrels to accept eggs. Only one box had a flat surface. All was normal for mid-March. March 14 is the earliest first egg in the project’s history of eggs laid since 1995. It was a windy, snowy day and we saw kestrels at only five locations. Again, all was normal.

Ospreys on Platform at Alum Creek - Dick TuttleOsprey Heroes

For the second straight year, a special Thank You goes to Tom Domin and Bruce Lindman for climbing up and cleaning off four Osprey platforms at Alum Creek and two at Hoover Reservoir on January 7. Tom and Bruce took advantage of thick ice in order to reach all six platforms. Canada Geese will not claim a bare platform and that makes the nesting season easier for our fish hawks.

Conserve on into the 2018 nesting seasons!