Leaders Jeff Koziol and Chuck Henrikson led 14 attendees on a tour of the bluebird and purple martin houses the Friends have maintained around the Biocore Prairie. We also saw many other birds along the way, including yellow warblers, gold finches, common yellowthroat, a rose breasted grosbeak, song sparrows, turkey vultures, and a yellow-billed cuckoo.
Many of the bluebird boxes were occupied by nesting tree swallows. Tree swallows are a protected native species and cannot be removed. House sparrows, on the other hand, are removed from bluebird boxes if found there. Jeff has also added a metal skirt below each box to prevent predators like raccoons and snakes (if there are any!) from predating on nesting birds. Sometimes ants can infest the boxes too. Jeff has found that bike grease or anti-seize compound, when lathered on the pole, can prevent ants from climbing up it.
Two of the bluebird boxes we looked at were indeed occupied by bluebirds! Swallow eggs are white, so these blue eggs are a telltale sign of successfully nesting bluebirds.
At the end of the trip, we made our way to the purple martin house where Chuck lowered the whole contraption to eye level. When we looked in Gourd A, we found a female purple martin and five eggs inside. Chuck gently tilted the gourd so everyone could peak inside! All the while, many adult and subadult martins swooped and chattered above our heads.
After our quick peak inside the gourd, mama, eggs, and the whole house were cranked back to their previous height intact. The only critter who seemed especially disgruntled about the whole ordeal was the vole living under the martin house ladder. After four scurrying escapes, the vole finally had its home restored when the field trip ended and we all dispersed to enjoy our long Memorial Day weekends.
Report and photos by Will Vuyk.