The Bluebird Trail
Get Involved with Bluebirds: It’s Easy and Rewarding
2020 Bluebird Trail Results
The DEA Bluebird Trail all started with an idea from past board member, Lynn Havsall. In 2008 she suggested that we create our own “trail”—a series of bird houses strategically placed for cavity-nesting birds such as Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. The following spring 20 bird houses were assembled and put up in two different locations (Blue Hill Mountain and the Bar Harbor Golf Course), and that was our humble beginning!
The Year of the Bluebird!
What a year for bluebirds in Hancock County! For the first time ever, the number of Eastern Bluebird chicks fledged from the Bluebird Trail surpassed the number of Tree Swallows, aerial insectivores whose numbers are in decline.
The idea of organizing a local bluebird trail came about in 2008. By spring ’09 DEA had 20 houses in place—10 on the flanks of Blue Hill Mountain and 10 at the old Bar Harbor Golf Course in Trenton. Those houses had just six pairs of nesting Tree Swallows the first year. By 2010 we were up to 45 houses in seven locations, 11 of those occupied by Eastern Bluebirds…and from there the project has grown in leaps and bounds! 2022 was our 15th year of collecting data from volunteers. At the end of the season, we had 443 bird houses in 129 locations throughout Hancock County. We were provided with nesting data from 343 of those, but unfortunately never received any data from 100 houses last year. I’m sorry so many went unchecked or the information never recorded and sent in. It’s difficult to get a true picture of how birds are doing if we’re missing key information. Hopefully in ’23 more people will want to take part! The important thing is that we successfully fledged 1,200 total chicks last year. Would you believe that is the exact same number as 2021 but with six more houses? How strange is that? We had 531 Eastern Bluebird chicks fledge (138 more than ’21) 517 Tree Swallow (55 fewer), 146 Black-capped Chickadee (83 fewer) and 6 House Wren (the same). Forty-six houses were used more than once, 91 houses went unused and 31 nesting attempts failed. Let’s hope everything comes together this year for the most productive nesting season yet!
Some interesting observations:
- There are 15 houses both on Blue Hill Mountain and at Cooper Farm in Sedgwick. Both locations produced 34 bluebird chicks.
- Cooper Farm continues to produce the most Tree Swallows—48! Perhaps the west-facing slope with Walker’s Pond right there provides them with just the right habitat for enough food.
- Two locations had 3 different broods in one house, one right after the other. At the Salt Pond Property in Sedgwick, one house was occupied by Tree Swallows which fledged on July 2; bluebirds took it over and had a complete nest by July 9 and fledged chicks by August 20; THEN we assume the same bluebird couple went right back to work and had 4 new eggs laid by August 27. They didn’t fledge until the first week of October! Crazy! That house is obviously in a great location.
- Bad weather struck on June 18 with cold rain and hit the swallows pretty hard. We lost several broods because the parents just couldn’t get enough food into the chicks. During extended bad weather the adults will abandon the chicks if there aren’t enough insects flying. Two batches of TS chicks had to be taken to Avian Haven for rehab due to hypothermia and starvation.
Thank you to all the volunteers who make this local conservation project possible. A special thank you goes to Blaise deSibour who builds most of the houses, spends countless hours repairing, moving and monitoring houses and updates our trail map. He has also uploaded 228 nest sites to NestWatch, a nationwide nest monitoring program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds.
2020 Data from Public/Conservation Land: EB= Eastern Bluebird, TS= Tree Swallow, BC= Black-capped Chickadee; F= failed—house had eggs/chicks but unsuccessful in fledging; U=unused—may have had nest material but no eggs/chicks; DBL= house had 2 successful nestings; *= incomplete data
18 houses@Great Pond Mt.Wildlands*: 33TS, 25BC, 7U, 1F (Kurt Silberstein)
15@Cooper Farm, Sedgwick: 23EB, 58TS, 2DBL, 1F (Leda Beth Gray, Dave Drake)
15@Blue Hill Mountain: 43EB, 35TS, 5DBL, 3F (Leslie Clapp and Blaise deSibour)
12@Craig Brook Fish Hatchery, Orland: 22TS, 7BC, 6U, 1F (Patrick Dockens)
12@COA Properties, Bar Harbor: 6EB, 46TS, 1F (Roberta Sharp, Perry Moore)
8@Blue Hill Fairgrounds: 9EB, 20TS, 1DBL, 2U, 1F (Sandy and Peter Clapp, Blaise deSibour)
8@Surry Town Properties: 17EB, 9BC, 1DBL, 1U, 3F (Susan Guilford)
7@Parker Ridge, Blue Hill: 11TS, 3U, 1F (Ramona Cosentino)
6@Hatch Cove, Castine: 9EB, 27TS, 1DBL (Jon Albrecht)
6@Butler Field, Blue Hill: 9EB, 16TS, 1DBL, 1U (Chris Austin, Marcia McKeague)
5@MCHT Stone Barn, Bar Harbor: 5EB, 19TS, 1DBL (Perry Moore)
5@Mariner’s Park, Deer Isle: 17TS, 1U (Tenley Wurglitz)
5@Meadowbrook Farm, Sedgwick: 4EB, 21TS (Ann Brayton)
5@Blue Hill Country Club: 8EB, 19TS, 1DBL (Robin O’Connor)
4@Wooden Boat, Brooklin: 8TS, 6BC, 1F (Richard Hero)
4@Scott’s Landing, Deer Isle: 16TS, 1U (Bonnie Bochan)
4@Furth Field, Surry: 8EB, 9TS, 1DBL, 1U (Susan Shetterly)
4@Seaside Cemetery, Blue Hill: 20EB, 1DBL, 1U (Sandy and Peter Clapp)
3@Penobscot School: 6TS, 3BC 1U (Sue Shaw)
3@Penobscot Cemetery: 8EB, 11TS, 1DBL (Sue Shaw)
3@Mountain View Cemetery, Blue Hill: 5 EB, 8TS (Sue Shaw)
3@Castine Town Cemetery: 5EB, 5TS, 5BC (Jon Albrecht)
3@Gold Stream Marsh, Surry: 3 EB, 16TS, 1DBL, 1F (Becky Pease, Mike Rioux)
3@Jordon Homestead, Ellsworth: 16TS (Nancy Patterson)
3@Salt Pond Trail, Sedgwick*: 4EB, 11TS, 1DBL (Marilyn Miller, Leslie Clapp)
3@Salt Pond, Sedgwick: 8EB, 10TS, 1DBL (Chrissy Allen and Family)
2@MDI High School: 12TS (Pam Caine)
2@Brooksville School: 9EB, 5TS, 1DBL (Jodie Morris)
2@Cunningham Ridge Cemetery, Surry: 9EB, 10BC, 2DBL (Paula Mrozicki)
2@MCHT Office, Somesville: 5 BC, 1U (Roberta Sharp)
2@GPMCT Office, Bucksport: 5EB, 6TS (Karen Cote~)
2@ Brooklin Cemetery: 3EB, 1U, 1F (Bernice DeBlois, John Hutchins)
2@GSA Hinckley House: 5TS, 1F (Leslie Clapp, Blaise deSibour)
2@IHT Office, Deer Isle: 4BC, 1U (Tenley Werglitz)
2@Mount View Cemetery, Bar Harbor: 4EB, 6BC (Perry Moore)
2@West Surry Cemetery: 8EB (Donna Foster)
2@Ball Field Preserve, Hancock*: 5EB (Lesley Straley, Pamela McCullough)
1@BHHT Office, Blue Hill: 5TS
1@South Blue Hill Cemetery: 6BC (Peg Smith)
Forty-eight people monitored 155 bird houses on private land and provided us with data which is included in the total number of birds fledged. Their houses produced 150 EB, 161 TS, 109 BC. There were 10 nesting failures, and 65 houses went unused. If houses continue to be vacant for more than two years, we suggest that they be moved to another area.
Jon Albrecht * Margret Baldwin * Mary Blackstone * Bonnie Bochan * Linda Bohm *Leslie Clapp * Sandy Clapp * Julia Clayton * Diane Coit * Steve Collier * Tim Crowley * Leslie Cummins * David Dietrich * Merrie Eley * Susan Farrar * George Fields * Francois Gervais * Nancy Hathaway * Mary Hennessy * Richard Hero * Connie Howe * Bob Knight * Niki Lawton * Val Libby * Mary Ann McKellar * Meg McVey * Donna Merkel * Marilyn Miller * Jodie Morris * Art Newkirk * Nancy Patterson * Joyce Peterson * Rebekah Raye * Donna Reis* Penny Ricker * Jane Salsman * Anne Schroth * Ken Schweikert * Mike Scott * Sue Shaw * Barbara Shelley * Robyn Silberstein * Peg Smith* Susan Steingass* Doug Stewart * Katherine Strater * Corinne Sucsy * Roberta Wessel
You too can share in the joy of having birds nest on your property by purchasing a DEA-built bird house next spring for $45, ready to install. Or if you have existing bird houses on your property, why not monitor them weekly and submit your findings? Be a part of our expanding Bluebird Trail—it’s a great conservation project to get involved with!
Monitoring Information Packet
More often than not, bluebirds go unnoticed because at a distance their beautiful blue and orange colors aren’t that noticeable to the naked eye. Found in open countryside and meadows, bluebirds primarily feed on insects throughout the spring and summer, but eat mostly berries in fall and winter. They nest in cavities, yet lack the ability to create a cavity, relying on old woodpecker holes and nest boxes.
In the middle of the 1900’s bluebirds were in decline, even raising fears of extinction due to habitat loss, pesticides and competition from non native birds like starlings and house sparrows, two aggressive species that will evict bluebirds from a nest hole. A big component of habitat loss was the tendency for humans to cut the old dead snags where woodpecker holes were the main homes for bluebirds. Fortunately, volunteer nest box programs have helped bluebirds to recover, particularly where correct hole sizes helped eliminate aggressive competitors and predators. Their ongoing recovery depends on nest boxes.
Over the last three years board members of Downeast Audubon have placed 73 nest boxes (bird houses for cavity nesters) at 12 different locations throughout our area. Volunteers monitor them during the nesting season and below are the results from this year. The group of houses at each location is known as a “bluebird trail.”
Photos courtesy of Leslie Clapp