One box does make a difference

by Tom A. Barber

I think many people are intimidated by bluebirders with large trails. They feel because they have only one or two boxes that their contribution to the “Save the Bluebird Campaign” is of little importance. This is untrue; my experience illustrates why.

I started out with four boxes in 1984. One of those boxes was in my backyard. After all, isn’t that how most bluebirders start? That backyard box has produced 83 bluebird fledglings in the past decade. This is, without question, the most productive box of the 60 that I monitor today.

If everyone living outside of urban areas had just one bluebird box and monitored it faithfully once a week, just think how many more bluebirds there would be! Of course, that could never happen, but my point is that one box can make an incredible difference.

Bluebirds have double-nested in that original backyard box for 10 years in a row. One year they even nested three times. They have had only two failed nesting attempts in 23 tries. What a success percentage for this box despite its share of problems.

The nesting pole was climbed by a raccoon last year. Because the pole was greased and a brick was holding down the lid, the raccoon failed to get the eggs. The brick held the lid on because it had become loose over the years. Although the brick was dislodged and lying on the ground, the lid was still on. When I checked the nest, the eggs were still in the box.  I quickly applied a very thick layer of grease, and put the brick back on. The raccoon did not return.

One year a male House Sparrow took possession of the box in the early spring. I had a Joe Huber sparrow trap, so I set it. Guess what I caught — a male Bluebird! What was really exciting was that he had a band on his leg.  I wrote the number down and released the bird. When I checked my records, I found he had fledged from a box in a neighbor’s yard one-half mile down the road.

I kept trying to catch that male sparrow. It took about a week before I finally succeeded. The very next day Mr. Banded Bluebird and his lady were taking up house preparations. It seemed they had just been waiting for me to rid them of Mr. Nasty Sparrow so they could have a family.

At one of our annual Ohio Bluebird Society meetings we had a round table where everyone talked about their bluebird stories for that particular season. I can still remember a gentleman saying he was somewhat embarrassed to talk about his one bluebird box that he was so proud of because other bluebirders had these “large trails”.

If you are involved enough to monitor that one box and to be concerned enough to do all you can to prevent predation, you are a true bluebirder — just as much as is the person with the big trail. My one yard bluebird box has proven that.