We checked one nest box… nothing, we checked another… nothing, we checked a third box and sadly found a ruined nest and remains of a female mountain bluebird (probably taken by a weasel). Despondency was beginning to set in when finally, we checked another nest box within our monitoring trail and lo’ and behold… a clutch of five tiny bluebird chicks was tightly slumbering together in their nest, safe and sound. This was such a happy sight to see firsthand. No wonder some cultures see the bluebird as an enduring symbol of happiness!
In order to not stress out mommy and daddy bluebird, we did not loiter for long. This season, the JHWF staff monitor 12 bluebird nest boxes on a weekly basis so we are fortunate to get to go back to see these chicks grow.
Historically, bluebirds relied on woodpeckers and other cavity-dwellers to provide the majority of their nesting places. They would select abandoned cavities in dead trees or rotten fence posts to raise their families. As development and habitat loss wiped out many of these natural nesting sites, the bluebird population declined dramatically. Fortunately, man-made nesting boxes have played a vital role in their recovery.
With the help of 10 dedicated volunteers, JHWF’s Bluebird Next Box Project monitors 104 mountain bluebird nest boxes along the perimeter of the National Elk Refuge every year, once per week from April through July. Some of the information collected includes dates, number of eggs laid, eggs hatched, birds fledged. These data are entered into the Nature Mapping Jackson Hole database and will also be given to the North American Bluebird Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Data gathered by citizen scientists during nest box monitoring is needed to increase our understanding of the breeding success of the mountain bluebird.
There is a warm and rewarding feeling of regularly checking the bluebirds through their nesting cycle. At JHWF, walking our trail is hardly considered work, but instead a privilege. It is rewarding to know that we are really making a difference.