This article appeared in the May 2018 edition of Sage Whispers. You can read the complete newsletter here.
In January 2018, the Kamloops Naturalist Club applied for funding available from BC Nature to build 50 bluebird boxes in order to replace damaged and/or missing nest boxes. The boxes are subject to deterioration from the sun and weather over time, as well as damage caused by animals and vandals.
For nearly 40 years, the Kamloops Naturalist Club has been setting out nest boxes in the Kamloops area to increase the number of bluebirds and tree swallows. Their natural homes are in the cavities of dead or dying trees which have been excavated by woodpeckers, but due to logging activities and cutting of trees for agriculture and housing, these nest sites are no longer available; however, the birds have readily adapted to the nest boxes to raise their families.
The club currently has 17 trails that are monitored by KNC members, with an additional trail monitored by the Options and Opportunities community group. There are approximately 40 individuals monitoring more than 400 boxes.
The bluebirds return to the Kamloops area in early March, the males a few days ahead of the females. The volunteers monitor the boxes every 7 to 10 days through the nesting season, recording the species of bird using the box, the number of eggs laid, numbers hatched, and number of young surviving to flying age. Mountain Bluebirds and Tree Swallows are the main occupants of the boxes, but they are also used by House Wrens, Mountain Chickadees, mice, and squirrels.
Our club is an associate member of the North American Bluebird Society and the Southern Interior Bluebird Trail Society. Each trail monitor records nesting information on their route for each box, and sends it to Susan Weilandt, the bluebird co-ordinator who collects the data at the end of the season. The data is summarized and this information is shared with the aforementioned organizations as well as with Matt Reudink, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences at TRU. Matt and his students use the data for their bluebird research projects.
On a cool day in April, four members of the Kamloops Naturalist Club got together to assemble over 50 new bluebird boxes. Organized by Peter Gray, the project took place in his garage with assistance from Judy Gray, Davina Neve, and Scott Brown. As you can see in the pictures, the garage is only just big enough for the four of them to work in.
For the assembly to go smoothly, Peter pre-cut all the pieces and drilled the big entrance hole. He had already purchased the drill bit with a previous grant. Apparently 1 and 9/16” is just the correct size for a Bluebird pair. Peter then set up stations so that the final hole drilling and assembly jigs would work consistently.
Each year Peter tries to make improvements. This year it was to use the plywood sheets more efficiently. This was done by slightly adjusting the size of non-critical parts so that there would be less waste. Also, the lid attaching system is being improved each year. Scott suggested a swivel lid that he has tried on some of his boxes, so next year, Peter is hoping to develop an even simpler swivel lid. It was a good day with all the boxes completed and delivered to the Bluebird Box depot people.
Thank you to BC Nature for approving our request for funding to purchase materials, to Peter Gray and his helpers for building the boxes, and to all of the volunteers who put in countless hours and mileage during the nesting season to ensure the survival of the Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and other useful bird species.