The Bluebird Trail
Get Involved with Bluebirds: It’s Easy and Rewarding

2018 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 project has grown in leaps and bounds in nine years, and there are currently 294 bird houses that are part of our county-wide Bluebird Trail. 163 are on public access or conservation land and another 131 are on private land. Some homeowners have added their existing houses to our project, but most were purchased from DEA as a fundraiser. After the 2018 nesting season we received data from 260 houses in 63 locations monitored by 52 individuals or couples. Unfortunately we did not receive data from 18 people who we were hoping would monitor the additional 34 houses. From the data received, 228 Eastern Bluebirds, 494 Tree Swallows, 138 Black-capped Chickadees and 12 House Wrens fledged! But it is important to also mention that 49 nesting attempts failed and 43 houses went unused. Even still, our Bluebird Trail fledged an impressive 872 baby birds in 2018! 

Data from bird houses with detailed monitoring sheets will be uploaded to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch website by member Jon Ulbrecht. NestWatch is a nationwide monitoring program designed to track status and trends in the reproductive biology of birds, including when nesting occurs, number of eggs laid, how many eggs hatch and how many hatchlings survive. Their database is intended to be used to study the current condition of breeding bird populations and how they may be changing over time as a result of climate change, habitat degradation and loss, expansion of urban areas and the introduction of non-native plants and animals. We’re pleased to be a part of NestWatch...our data matters! 

2018 Data from Public/Conservation Land: EB= Eastern Bluebird, TS= Tree Swallow, BC= Black-capped Chickadee; fail= house had eggs/chicks but unsuccessful in fledging; unused= may have had nest material but no eggs/chicks; ?= no data NOTE: some houses had more than one nesting 

15 houses@Blue Hill Mountain: 22EB, 24TS, 6BC, 6 fail, 1 unused (Leslie Clapp and Blaise deSibour)
14@Cooper Farm, Sedgwick: 8EB, 59TS, 2 failed (Leda Beth Gray and Dave Drake)
11@COA Properties, Bar Harbor: 5EB, 41TS, 2 unused (Roberta Sharp)
8@Woodlawn, Ellsworth: 10EB, 17TS, 11BC, 2 unused (Carol Leonard)
8@Blue Hill Fairgrounds: 12EB, 10TS, 6 BC, 6 failed (Sandy and Peter Clapp)
8@Surry Town Properties: 11EB, 13TS, 6BC, 2 failed (Susan and Charles Guilford)
7@Parker Ridge, Blue Hill: 3EB, 16TS, 5BC, 1 unused (Ramona Cosentino and Mary Smith)
6@Hatch Cove, Castine: 10EB, 17TS (Jon Albrecht)
6@Butler Field, Blue Hill: 7TS, 2 failed, 2 unused (Chris Austin and Marcia McKeague)
5@Mariner’s Park, Deer Isle: 5EB, 22TS (Ken Crowell)
5@Meadowbrook Farm, Sedgwick: 5EB, 18TS, 1 failed (Ann Brayton)
5@Blue Hill Country Club: 4EB, 23TS (Phoebe O’Connor and family)
4@Bar Harbor Golf Course, Trenton: 11TS, 1 failed, 1 unused (Katheriine Strater)
4@Wooden Boat, Brooklin: 15TS (Richard Hero)
4@Scott’s Landing, Deer Isle: 11TS, 2 failed (Bonnie Bochan)
4@Furth Field, Surry: 4EB, 5TS, 2 unused (Susan Shetterly)
4@Seaside Cemetery, Blue Hill: 1TS, 1 failed, 2 unused (Sandy and Peter Clapp)
3@Penobscot School: 6TS, 4BC, 1 failed (Sue Shaw)
3@Penobscot Cemetery: 5EB, 10TS, 2 failed (Sue Shaw)
3@Mountain View Cemetery, Blue Hill: 9 EB, 5TS, 1 failed (Sue Shaw)
3@Castine Town Cemetery: 5EB, 2TS, 1 failed, 1 unused (Jon Albrecht)
3@Gold Stream Marsh, Surry: 3 EB, 14TS (Becky Pease and Mike Rioux)
3@Craig Brook Fish Hatchery, Orland: 9TS, 1 failed (Cheri Domina)
3@Jordon Homestead, Ellsworth: 4EB, 10TS (Austin Schuver)
3@Salt Pond Trail, Sedgwick: 11TS, 1 failed (Marilyn Miller)
2@MDI High School: ? (Rich MacDonald)
2@Salt Pond, Sedgwick: 5EB, 5TS (Allen Family)
2@Brooksville School: 4EB, 3TS, 1 failed (Jodie Morris)
2@Cunningham Ridge Cemetery, Surry: 5EB, 9TS (Paula Mrozicki)
2@MCHT Office, Somesville: 1 BC, 1 unused (Roberta Sharp)
2@GPMCT Office, Bucksport: 3EB, 1 failed (Karen Balas Cote)
2@ Brooklin Cemetery: 1EB, 4TS, 1 failed (Bernice DeBlois and William Gielarowski)
2@GSA Hinckley House: 5 EB, 4TS, 9BC (Leslie Clapp and Blaise deSibour)
2@IHT Office, Deer Isle: 5TS, 4BC (Ken Crowell)
1@Crabtree Neck Land Trust Community Garden, Hancock: ? (Lesley Straley and Charlottte Stetson)
1@BHHT Office, Blue Hill: failed (Kayla Moore)
1@South Blue Hill Cemetery: failed (Peg Smith) 

The following people have houses on private land and provided us with data from this nesting season which is included in the total number of birds fledged: Niki Lawton, Diane Coit, Sue Shaw, Anne Schroth, Roberta Wessel, Art Newkirk, Merrie Eley, Jodie Morris, Sandy Clapp, Leslie Clapp, Susan Steingass, Margret Baldwin, Linda Bohm, Meg McVey, Katherine Strater, Penny Ricker, Barbara Shelley, Julie Clayton, Richard Hero, Peg Smith, Jon Albrecht, Doug Cowan, Ed Douglas, Francois Gervais, David Dietrich, Bob Knight, Blaise deSibour, Maggie Williams, June Sendrowski, Kate Morse, Mike Scott, Ken Schweikert and Ellen Paige. Their houses produced 80 EB, 87 TS, 86 BC and 12 House Wrens. There were 14 nesting failures and 28 houses went unused. Next year we hope even more bird house owners will choose to keep up-to-date data! 

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! Become a part of our expanding Bluebird Trail! Thank you to all those who spent time in the field... let’s plan on a productive season this year! Some 2018 observations worth mentioning: 

—Even though we had data from 43 more houses this year than last, the chickadee numbers    were much lower...138 vs. 183. The bluebird numbers were up though... 228 vs. 181. 

—A rogue House Finch interfered with two nests in two different (but close) locations in Blue Hill, most likely leading to the failure of one bluebird nest. He pestered the adults constantly! Julie Zickefoose, nature writer and artist, has this to say, “I can tell you that House Finches are unnaturally attracted to bluebirds. If a bluebird is around, a House Finch will follow it and try to copy what it's doing. I have no explanation for this behavior.” 

—A bluebird nestling was found to have fishing line wrapped around its leg which was very swollen. It was carefully removed and the nestling healed. If the nest wasn’t monitored regularly, the chick would surely have died from the injury. 

—During a couple days around June 9, older bluebird nestlings from five different locations in Blue Hill mysteriously died resulting in complete nest failures. 

—Bluebirds that nested late in the season fed their chicks lots of blueberries which led to very messy, smelly nests compared to earlier nestings where the chicks were fed mostly insects.

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.

                                                                                           Photo courtesy of Leslie Clapp

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              

Because bluebirds are dependent on nest box programs, Downeast Audubon plans to increase the number of houses each year on properties with public access. In order to do this we need your help as volunteers to help monitor them. It is a very rewarding project and lots of fun! From mid May to early August the houses need to be checked in the morning once every week or so and data recorded. To see baby bluebirds and swallows about to fledge is a real treat! Downeast Audubon can train interested volunteers—please call or e-mail us today to let us know if you are interested.

Locations and quantity of Audubon bluebird boxes.

Nestbox plans are available on the North American Bluebird Society (NABS) web page Bluebird Nestbox Plans. It is important to have a 1.5 inch opening for the door, and a way to open the box and monitor the nest. Also there should be no perch on the box-- bluebirds do not need perches and perches just make it easier for predators!

Downeast Audubon assembles boxes from reasonably priced kits available from FEDCO seeds in Waterville. We mount them on poles into the ground with a stake driver and a sledge hammer.

Boxes should be put up as early as possible in the spring, or preferably in the fall. Migrating birds may use the houses for roosting and take note of their locations for the upcoming breeding season!

For information on where to place boxes, how to mount them, and protection from House Sparrows and predators, please see the excellent fact sheet on the NABS web site.