It is the middle of winter and too cold for a baseball score and whoever heard of a football team called the Wrens? So, what gives? Read on, nature lover.
While it is still cold outside, spring is coming. In Texas it can come early. So now is the time to do your nest box maintenance and clean-up. It is an easy process, requires few tools and is an excellent excuse to get outside on one of our pretty winter days.
Our kit consists of a screwdriver, small putty knife, old paintbrush, small mirror, gloves, notebook, extra nails and screws, and a bar of Ivory soap. We keep everything together in one container so you can just grab it and go when the weather cooperates.
If you have multiple nest boxes, they should be numbered in some way so you can monitor usage over the years. Open the box and take a look inside. You can learn a lot by observing the nest. Nest identification is easy but we will cover that in a future article. After you have identified the species of bird that built it, use your putty knife to carefully remove the nest. Be careful to stay upwind from the dust and use a disposable mask if you are so inclined. First check to see if there are any eggs left in the nest and record that in your notebook. If the nest is deep, that is, if it reaches from the bottom of the box to near the opening, you may have multiple or sequential nests built one on top of the other. Sequential nests indicate a productive couple and a good location for the box. You can sometimes see a clue where one nest ended and the next one began. If so, carefully separate the nest column at that point and check for eggs. After observing the nest, it is a good idea to dispose of it well away from the nest box as the remaining scent can lure predators to the area.
Once the box is empty, observe the inside front below the opening. Fecal material there is a positive sign. When the baby birds fledge, or fly out, it is probably pretty scary and, well you can see the results. The traditional notification to your nest box monitoring partner is to turn and say, "Houston, we had lift-off!" But feel free to improvise your own success notification phrase.
Next use your old paintbrush and putty knife to clean out any spider webs and other nest remnants. Check for any missing or loose nails or screws. Finally, rub the Ivory soap around all openings and the ceiling in the nest box. That tends to discourage wasps and other insects, although it is not a perfect solution.
That's it. You're done. Just close up the box and know that you have helped a hard working pair of birds bring more babies into the world. And a world with more bluebirds is a better world indeed.
Oh, I almost forgot to explain the score. On our five nest box trail at Mockingbird Nature Park we observed that all boxes had been used. Three contained bluebird nests and two contained either a Bewick's wren or Carolina wren nest. Two of the bluebird nests were multiples. To quote Sinatra, "It was a very good year."
Join us at our free, open-to-the-public, monthly program on the fourth Monday of the month at 7 pm at the First United Methodist Church, 505 W. Marvin Ave., Waxahachie, Texas 75165. Visit our website: http://txmn.org/indiantrail/.