The results from this year’s nesting season are in: Downeast Audubon’s bird boxes produced 63 Eastern Bluebirds, 231 Tree Swallows and 61 Black-capped Chickadees! Over the last four years Downeast Audubon, a chapter of Maine Audubon covering Hancock County, has placed 106 nest boxes at 15 different locations throughout the County. Volunteers monitor them during the nesting season, checking the boxes each week and recording data. Locations for the boxes include, Blue Hill Mountain, Bar Harbor Golf Course, Woodlawn Museum in Ellsworth, Caterpillar Hill in Sedgwick, Mariner’s Park in Deer Isle, Wooden Boat in Brooklin, Great Pond Mountain Wildlands in Orland, Gold Stream Marsh in Surry and Hatch’s Cove Preserve in Castine.
Many organizations across the country have installed “bluebird trails,” sets of bluebird houses 110 or more yards apart, to help bluebirds recover from precipitous population declines across the country starting in the early 20th century. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology the declines were largely due to aggressive competition for nest cavities from the non-native European Starlings and House Sparrows.
Bluebird boxes have an entrance hole size of 1.5 inches that allows bluebirds in, but keeps out some of the larger non-native species. Even though the boxes are designed for bluebirds, other native cavity nesting species use the boxes as well. Bluebird populations have mostly recovered in many areas, but it is important to continue providing the nest boxes due to competition from introduced species and loss of suitable habitat.
Downeast Audubon is hoping to attract volunteers to be bird box monitors so they can continue to increase the number of boxes around Hancock County. From mid-May to early August the houses should be checked every week, by opening the side of the box and looking inside. To witness the entire process from nest construction to eggs and chicks to fledglings is a wonderful experience! If there is enough interest, Downeast Audubon will conduct training sessions next spring. Interested volunteers should contact Downeast Audubon at 664-4400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.