How long have you been involved in Mountain Bluebird Nest Box Monitoring and do you have an estimate for how many active bluebird nests you’ve monitored?
Patti – We first volunteered in 2018 and 2019. We watched a set of 10 nest boxes, in 2018 we had 3 nest boxes that produced little baby bluebirds – it was like magic to me. We witnessed 2 sets of nestlings being banded, one nest with 5 and the other with 6.
What drew you to be a Mountain Bluebird nest box volunteer?
Patti – My first thought was “Have you see the color of those birds? Who wouldn’t want to watch them.” But really, any chance to watch birds that close up through an entire breeding and nesting season was really exciting.
Do you a specific fond or rewarding memories related to this project?
Patti – I would say the first blue egg in box 15 did it for me. Also seeing them being banded was an amazing feat by the professionals
Are there any challenges/negative aspects of being a Mountain Bluebird nest box monitoring volunteer?
Patti – Being dive-bombed by the tree swallows was not fun. They are feisty creatures and do not like visitors to their nests close to egg laying time. It’s because you have both of them protecting their box! The other challenge is being about 3″ too short to see into some of the boxes. The pocket digital camera became my assistant if Andrew was not there.
Do you have any advice you would give to new Mountain Bluebird nest box volunteers?
Patti – Use your camera to record what you see. Even if no one needs the data in picture form, you yourself will be amazed to remember the whole process in such a clear way – from the first scraps of grass to the eggs appearing one by one, to the hatchlings then to the nestlings, and then on to the abandoned box.
What is it specifically about birds that draws your interest?
Patti – Andrew is a mammalogist by training and has been interested in nature all of his life. I was a girl scout from 2nd grade through adulthood. We both love the outdoors. Andrew’s interest in birds came as he was watching mammals! My interest was a bit delayed because I thought I would never be able to spot them quickly enough and make any sort of identification. As usual, his patient teaching methods and field identification hints helped me gain skills and he is still here to help me spot field marks and bird behavior. My first life-list bird was a raven in Logan, Utah in 1980.
With the 2019 field season in the books (and Mountain Bluebirds from our nestboxes showing up as far south as Ft. Worth, Texas), November is a great time to cozy up by the fire and reflect on the robust, scientific data gathered during this year’s monitoring program!
This season was our third consecutive year banding Mountain Bluebird nestlings on the National Elk Refuge (NER) with identifiable colored-bands. It also marked our 16th straight year engaging volunteers to help monitor Mountain Bluebird Nestboxes on the NER nestbox trail!
We will likely remember the 2019 field season for its uncommonly cold spring and relatively low rates of bluebird nestling success compared to previous seasons.*
We can report success in banding another “cohort” of nestlings and having 4 banded birds from previous years resighted in Jackson Hole this year.
- Volunteers and JHWF staff successfully monitored 112 nestboxes along the western edge of the NER this nesting season.
- The Mountain Bluebird nestbox-occupation rate was only 11% this season. The 89% of nestboxes that were unused by bluebirds were either left unoccupied our utilized by Tree Swallows or occasionally by House Wrens.
- JHWF professional bird banders placed identifying colored-bands on 43 nestling bluebirds. This number was down from 72 in 2018 and 85 in 2017; however, as the number of banded birds grows, we expect the number of “resighted” birds to increase reach summer.
- Ten (10) adult Mountain Bluebirds which hatched in NER nestboxes have been “resighted” since banding began in 2017. This includes 4 resights made in 2019. Deceased birds account for 2 of the 10 resightings; one banded bird was hit by a car near the National Museum of Wildlife Art while another struck a window near Tribal Trails.
- Several bluebird nests were predated (likely by weasels or raccoons) and/or were abandoned in 2019. We now installed safeguards on 25 nest boxes with a history of invasion, which we hope will deter predators in 2020 and beyond!
Please click here to read the full report on the 2019 Mountain Bluebird Nestbox Monitoring Season. This report includes stories of individual birds, such as the female recently recorded in Texas.
To learn more about our Mountain Bluebird Nestbox Monitoring Project, follow this link.
*It’s possible the prolonged cold snap played a role in reducing the rate of successful nests we saw this year. Further explanation is provided in the report.
Cyclists gather at Bradley-Taggart parking lot for leg two of the Mountain Bluebird Classic.
Jackson Hole Cycling’s unique fundraiser on two wheels this past Saturday, April 28, 2018, brought in over $1,200 for Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation’s (JHWF) Bluebird Nestbox Project.
The “Mountain Bluebird Classic” is an annual spring group ride of the area’s road cyclists. Named for the mountain bluebirds who are busy building nests in cavities during the spring, the cyclists meet at the Home Ranch Visitor Center and ride to the Bradley-Taggart Lake parking lot to meet others who want to ride a shorter 30-mile version of the social ride (from Bradley-Taggart parking lot to Signal Mountain and back).
This year, the National Elk Refuge (NER) was able to open the north pathway early so the cyclists braving the longer 70-mile version of the road ride were able to see many of the nest boxes along the NER’s western border that JHWF installed and have been monitoring since 2003.
Last year, Jackson Hole Cycling’s executive director, Forest Dramis, asked participants to make donations for JHWF’s Nature Mapping Jackson Hole project, which recently added mountain bluebird banding and resighting to its conservation and research efforts. The 2017 ride brought in almost $300 while the 2018 ride raised over $1,200, so far. JH Cycling matched the riders’ donations this year.
Approximately 60 riders took part in this year’s event, which featured “bluebird” skies and unseasonably warm temperatures in the mid-60’s. Two riders even came from out of town for the scenic ride. One cyclist who did the ride last year came back all the way from Minneapolis, Minnesota to tackle the challenging social ride in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP). Another traveled from California to ride with her nephew.
Cyclists regroup at the base of Signal Mountain during the Mountain Bluebird Classic.
The Mountain Bluebird Classic was envisioned eight years ago by avid cyclist and science educator Aaron Nydam who wanted to create an event that captures the spirit of cycling and is inclusive to most all levels.
About Jackson Hole Cycling:
A 501 (c)7 non-profit organization, Jackson Hole Cycling is a group of avid cyclists living in Jackson Hole, Wyo. They provide information and events that help people enjoy the some of the best riding in the country, both road and mountain. (www.jhcycling.org)
Approximately 60 cyclists participated in the 2018 Mountain Bluebird Classic.