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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Building a Bluebird Aviary

This morning I volunteered with the San Juan Preservation Trust's Bluebird Reintroduction Project to help build an aviary on Cady Mountain. Western bluebirds are native to the San Juan Islands but were extirpated in the 1960s due to loss of the Garry oak habitat they prefer as well as from increased competition of the newly arrived European starling, also a cavity nesting species. In 2006, seven organizations combined to launch this reintroduction program, which is in its fifth and final year.

Birds are translocated to the island from a successful population at Fort Lewis near Olympia, Washington. Since the first year of the program, 38 pairs have been brought to the island. Nesting successfully occurred on the island in the first year of the project, though some birds leave and head right back to Fort Lewis! Last year, there were twelve breeding territories on the island that yielded a 84 young - nearly twice the number as in 2009. Some breeding pairs raised multiple broods. So far in 2011, ten breeding pairs have returned and established territories.

This morning the rain was coming down, but that didn't stop eight of us from coming out to a beautiful private property on Cady Mountain where landowners with relatively undistrubed Garry oak habitat are hosting an aviary. One of the owners had put this colorful phrase on a magnet board in front of her house - a very appropriate motto for us today!

 The aviaries, like the one I helped build this morning, are essentially acclimation chambers for birds brought in from off-island. They remain in the aviaries for 1-3 weeks before being released. The pieces of the aviary were already built and had been used in previous years - we just had to reassemble the whole thing and set up the inside habitat to be bluebird-friendly. Here are some of the other volunteers putting on the finishing touches:

The bluebirds will be delivered to this new home later this week. 

I don't yet have western bluebirds on my year list; I'm going to have to remedy that soon! I hope to see some flying around San Juan Valley before too long, but if I don't, the field technician invited me out to accompany her in the field one day which would be fun to do. Hopefully I'll be able to do that sometime this summer and report back on how this season's bluebird population is doing on the island.

On the way home from Cady Mountain I pulled over to look at a lone trumpeter swan that was still swimming around a roadside pond. A flock of about 20 wigeon were in the same pond, including a pair of Eurasian wigeon. That's a nice find! As I pulled away a turkey vulture flew overhead, too. I'm sure I'll be seeing more and more of those guys in the coming weeks. 


eileeninmd said...

Congrats on a successful project. It would be nice to see the western bluebirds make a big comeback. The same had happened to Eastern Bluebird. Congrats on your Eurasian Wigeon sighting.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the post, Monika...and for helping out with the project! Anyone who sees w. bluebirds in the islands are welcome to report your sightings to our Field Tech, Sara, at 298-2822 or to myself, Kathleen, at 298-1856.