Breeding Bird Studies
Early Studies of Birds
The Madison Bluebird Trails are an ongoing Madison Bird City Partners initiative. Trails and boxes are located, installed and monitored weekly using recommendations and protocols established by BRAW, the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (braw.org). Annual summary report data is submitted to BRAW to document success and continually improve practices and to the eBird database at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for scientific analysis and application. The Bird Buddies are advised by Kent Hall with BRAW, Andy Paulios with Wisconsin DNR, Mark Martin with Madison Audubon, and other experts. Paul Noeldner and Mitchell Thomas are liaison for the Biocore Trail.
Bluebird Trail Monitoring map for 2017
Bluebirds suffered major population declines with loss of native forests. These losses have been reversed with the help of Bluebird Restoration of Wisconsin (BRAW). The organization developed successful Bluebird box designs, locations, and predator control. These Bluebird boxes have benefited Wisconsin’s Eastern Bluebird population and given enjoyment to thousands of people. Although Bluebirds are the target bird for these boxes, other cavity nesting song birds in the Biocore Prairie also benefit from them, including Tree Swallows, House Wrens, Black-capped Chickadees.
BB- Eastern Bluebird, TS- Tree Swallow, HW- House Wren, HS- House Sparrow
Nest boxes are not immune to invasions by ants, spiders, wasps, and other parasites. These may weaken the young nestlings. Paul Williams photographed these samples in summer 2016.
Biocore Prairie Bluebird Trail consists of 14 Bluebird Boxes mounted on predator resistant steel poles around the Biocare Prairie and through the Community Gardens. The boxes are located near walking paths as shown on the map. They are easy to monitor and maintain.
The BRAW design Bluebird boxes are luxury boxes, considering that the cedar wood used for building them is more than 100 years old and from the attic floor of a Wisconsin home.
The Story of the Biocore Prairie Bluebird Trail
by Paul Noeldner
As you walk in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve along the Biocore Prairie and Eagle Heights Community Gardens you will see small wooden bird houses on poles. During summer months you may see a beautiful blue bird with a russet Robin-like chest and white belly nearby. What’s the story?
The story began in fall 2013 when Madison became a Bird City based on the great work of Madison Parks, Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve and other Madison Bird City partner groups to help birds and natural habitat. Things took off when the Bird City partners started weekly Sunday afternoon Bird and Nature Walks to introduce more people to our beautiful birds and nearby natural areas.
The story got a hero in early 2014 when Mitch Thomas, a UW ornithology and pre-vet student, joined one of the first Bird and Nature Walks around the Biocore Prairie and Eagle Heights Community Gardens and noticed some old bird houses along the way. He enthusiastically suggested there should be a Bluebird Trail. Members of the Friends of the Lakeshore Nature Preserve including Will Waller and Gisela Kutzbach agreed. Paul Noeldner, who was leading the walk, had helped start Bluebird Trails and other ‘accommodation architecture’ initiatives for urban habitat challenged birds along with other Madison Audubon Bird Buddies.
The plot thickened as Paul offered to work with Mitch to do a BRAW – Bluebird Restoration of Wisconsin approved protocol with standardized box configurations, weekly monitoring, and fledgling data reporting. Mitchell Thomas took on the detective challenge by working with Will Waller to select appropriately spaced open sunny locations near short grass or mowed lanes and a ‘perch tree’, and documented the scene by putting together a professional level Google map showing the box locations and related location data and a project plan. With this map, project plan, BRAW documentation and other necessary paperwork in hand the project story was approved in time for nesting season publication at a high level Preserve oversight committee meeting in Bascom Hall.
The story came home and gained a public audience with a Bluebird Box Build on site at the Eagle Heights Garden shed area where the boxes were constructed with help from students, families and kids. A team of Friends volunteers installed 6 foot high conduit ‘predator proof’ poles (to avoid egg-snatching crime scenes) at the approved locations and mounted the boxes with the holes pointing south east away from prevailing winds and rain.
The tales of new Bluebird families began to unfold with Mitch, Will, Paul and Pat Becker coordinating weekly monitoring and sharing their photos and excitement at each new nest, egg and fledgling. Gisela Kutzbach became the biographer as she posted a log of these activities to the Friends website for public education and enjoyment.