Folks on the Nest Box Monitoring Team at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge will be on the job today to relocate and refurbish nest boxes along three trails at the Refuge, Raasch/Myers Branch, Meadow Pond and Harris Creek. The location for each box will be chosen with the habitat preference of Bluebirds, Prothonotary Warblers, Carolina Chickadees and Titmice in mind. Currently there are primarily two styles of nest box in use, the Peterson design box and the saltbox.
As soon as signs of nesting are observed, the team will monitor the boxes and report data during the nesting season, and then clean and repair the boxes for the following season. The group also plans to conduct an experiment, applying reflective paint to the roofs of selected boxes in an effort to see if the paint reduces the interior box temperature and if this affects nest outcomes.
|Skip Hill & Master Naturalist Jack Chiles, setting up nest box, 2012|
Anyone walking the whole of Harris Creek Trail will observe that the nest boxes placed there have both a number and a nameplate attached. The plates carry the name of the person or groups (or even a pet) who has adopted that box for the season. All those who have adopted boxes for 2013 are invited to attend the Second Saturday program on February 9, where at 10 am they will have the opportunity to draw for the numbered box they will be assigned.
In 2011 the team elected to begin reporting data on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, nestwatch.org. Kathy Whaley, Refuge Manager, created monitoring notebooks for each trail with compatible data sheets, coding keys, trail maps and other needed information. Each nest box has a unique number, a key factor in monitoring and reporting; and there is a data sheet for each box on which the monitors enter their findings. Periodically another volunteer enters the data for all three trails on the Cornell website. Still another volunteer sends weekly reports and photos of activity in designated boxes to those who adopted nest boxes for the season.
|Two Bluebird eggs in nest box, June 8, 2012.|
The monitors’ tasks are to observe nesting activities including whether adult birds are in the area, or even on or in the nest box, and if a nest is present, for what species and degree of completion; the number and type of eggs; young, estimated age of young, and estimated date they will fledge. In addition the monitors perform maintenance to keep the boxes habitable and safe for nesting birds. Some of the monitors are expert birders who mentor those who are less experienced.
|Suzanne Brooks & Carolyn Kohls record findings for a Peterson-style box.|
The Nest Box Monitors are subdivided into two “trail” teams, with members of each trail team rotating monthly to monitor their assigned boxes weekly. Necessary equipment for monitoring includes the notebook for recording observations, spatula for removing wasp and other invasive nests, soap to rub on boxes to deter wasp nest-building, observation mirror, assorted tools for opening nest boxes and quick maintenance, camera, insect repellent for personal use, and binoculars. Those who drive the Refuge vehicles used for monitoring also must have completed the driver safety training provided by the Refuge system.
Monitors meet periodically as a group to share information and improve skills. Nest Box monitoring is an enjoyable way to see more of the Refuge, learn more about wildlife and meet others who share these interests. A minimum of one half day per month is required, plus the ability to meet the work schedule. For more about volunteering, contact the Friends of Hagerman.