Noel and I went this weekend with the Bronx River Sound Shore Audubon Youth club to help Sandy Morrissey band bluebirds.
Sandy opened the bluebird boxes and collected the babies. We found 3 in one box and four in another. The kids helped decide how old the babies were by looking at a nestling chart that Sandy had. We looked mostly at the feathers growing in on the wings to figure it out. The kids recorded the information, along with each baby's new band number, into Sandy's notebook.
Sandy used a special tool to place a band on each baby's right leg. The she measured the tarsus (the lower leg) of each bird with a different tool.
The bird was placed in a special little bag to hang from a little portable scale to see how much each baby weighed. And then the kids helped carry the babies back to their nest boxes.
While we were there, Sandy was able to trap an adult male bluebird. She places a flap over the hole of the nest box, so the adult can fly in but not out. Trapping and checking the band number of the adults is important because it helps people to learn about the habits of the birds year after year. By checking this male's band number, we were able to look back in Sandy's notebook and discover that this same bluebird nested last year in the next nest box over- showing that he came back to the same area to breed again.
After we checked all the bluebird nest boxes, Sandy showed us two bluebird nest boxes inhabited by non-bluebirds. The image on the left is the nest of a tree swallow. Tree swallows like to use feathers when they build their nests and have small white eggs. The image on the right is a house sparrow nest. They tend to build messy nests and like to use bits of human trash. House sparrows are an invasive species from Europe that cause problems for bluebirds by using up the places where bluebirds like to nest.
At the end we were able to take a very quick but close up look at a killdeer mama and her nest. If you look carefully at the closeup photo you can see her eggs just behind her- very nicely camouflaged.
Sandy's work is helping to bring bluebirds back to our area. Since she's been putting up nest boxes and monitoring them the population of bluebirds has increased dramatically.
Thanks Sandy for letting us in on this amazing work!