March 23, 2018 | Posted in:Education

Bluebird nestbox in winter. Photo by A. T. Baron

We still have snow on the ground, but The Clarence Bluebird Trail is getting ready for spring. I spent a sunny but chilly afternoon checking all of our nest boxes for winter damage. Some of our boxes were easily accessible while others required me to don my snowshoes. After schlepping approximately four miles, I have a list of repairs and possible plans for this year.

Owners of Bluebird nestboxes should check the condition of the boxes in early spring. Birds are already scoping out nesting sites, and a damaged box will look unappealing to prospective tenants. In western New York, winters can reek havoc on the boxes.

Although you can stain or paint the outside of a nestbox, we keep ours natural. Over time the wood will weather and warp from nature’s changing seasons. We can seal small gaps in construction with caulk, but cracked or rotting panels will mean a replacement is in order.

Nestbox hole damage. Photo by A. T. Baron

Bluebirds are particular about their front doors. Eastern Bluebirds should have an entrance hole measuring 1½” to 19/16″ in diameter. Even if Bluebirds don’t visit our boxes during the winter, other animals might. If the entrance hole is enlarged (e.g., by woodpeckers or chewing rodents), a hole reducer made from metal is an excellent remedy.  Attaching a new block of wood with the correct size hole can be an affordable fix as well.

We mount all of our houses on metal posts. These prevent most creatures from crawling up and into our boxes. They also don’t rot like wooden posts. Unfortunately, wind and frost heaving can loosen the poles. If the ground is thawed enough, we can reposition them. It is best to do this before any nesting attempts.

Sometimes posts and boxes are damaged beyond repair. We occasionally find damage from snowmobilers, but it is rare. Most snowmobile enthusiasts in our area are very considerate towards our boxes. When we do see a nestbox or pole knocked down or destroyed, we replace it as soon as possible.

Most of our boxes are in good condition. Some need new signage or a latch nail replaced, but these are easy fixes. Others require a little more maintenance, which we will discuss at our spring meeting.

Our Spring Meeting 2018 will be March 31 at 10 AM at Zion Lutheran Church in Clarence Center, NY. All are welcome to attend. We will review our progress from last year, discuss plans for nesting this year, educate new volunteers, and answer any questions about our organization.

Until then, welcome back the bluebirds and enjoy the change of seasons.

A. T. Baron

Angela T. Baron is a Zoology major, children's book author and illustrator, and Bluebird Ambassador for the New York State Bluebird Society. She joined The Clarence Bluebird Trail to help out her community and local wildlife. She enjoys birding and photography when she is not busy writing or illustrating, and has taken on the task of logging our nest box data and keeping the website running smoothly. You can find out more about her writing at www.atbaron.com

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