News & Muse: The Bird Blog's First Flight

By Shayne Mitchell

The Lan­dis Arbore­tum Blue­bird Trail fea­tures 40 nest­ing box­es locat­ed through­out our grounds. This is the inau­gur­al post of News & Muse from the Blue­bird Trail. Each post will con­sist of the fol­low­ing sections:

News from the Trail – what is hap­pen­ing on our trail. 

Fea­tured Bird – infor­ma­tion about one bird species that you may encounter on the trail. 

Muse for the Trail – an artis­tic or inspi­ra­tional item that is relat­ed to the trail or to bird­ing in general. 

Ran­dom Facts and Help­ful Hints – use­ful infor­ma­tion that is gen­er­al in nature. 

Quar­ter­ly Bog­gler – a rid­dle, puz­zle, or triv­ia ques­tion to solve. 

Nest­box Spot­light – a pho­to and/​or infor­ma­tion about our nestboxes. 

The infor­ma­tion we pro­vide is intend­ed to spark your inter­est with­out being over­ly schol­ar­ly or exhaus­tive. We will some­times sug­gest where to find addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion for those of you that would like to learn more. Some issues will be long and oth­ers short. We hope you will enjoy them all. Please sub­mit any com­ments, ques­tions or sug­ges­tions to birding@​landisarboretum.​org.

News from the Trail 

Let me intro­duce myself: I’m Shayne Mitchell, and I began vol­un­teer­ing at Lan­dis in Novem­ber 2023. My assign­ment has been to come in on Tues­days to take care of the Blue­bird Trail. When I start­ed, many of the nest box­es along the trail need­ed repair. I met with Fred Breglia, who explained the over­all reha­bil­i­ta­tion plan and gave me some guid­ance on how to begin. I con­tin­ue to meet with Fred from time-to-time. 

Ini­tial­ly, I focused on assess­ing and record­ing the con­di­tion of the trail. Dur­ing Novem­ber, each nest box was vis­it­ed, pho­tographed, and cleaned out, and its loca­tion, struc­tur­al con­di­tion, and oth­er attrib­ut­es were entered into a spread­sheet. Required repairs were iden­ti­fied and the nec­es­sary mate­ri­als scrounged – scrap wood from behind the Meet­ing House and unused hard­ware from the barn. For­tu­nate­ly, the ground hadn’t frozen yet, so I was also able to straight­en and rein­stall posts dur­ing this time rather than hav­ing to wait for the spring thaw. 

Nest box repair
Nest box­es in vary­ing states of repair, Feb­ru­ary 2024. Repairs were made in the green­house where I bor­rowed some space for an office/​workshop.

By the end of Decem­ber, I had cut down encroach­ing brush and took down the nest box­es that need­ed repair and brought them to the green­house. Nest box repairs were begun and con­tin­ued into ear­ly Feb­ru­ary. The most com­mon prob­lem I encoun­tered was leak­ing roofs. Instal­la­tion of repaired nest box­es is near­ly com­plete as I write this. I plan to put up the last two on the final Tues­day in Feb­ru­ary, in time for nest­ing season. 

I am hap­py to report that weath­er con­di­tions did not inter­fere with the reha­bil­i­ta­tion project. I nev­er had to skip a week of work because of extreme cold or snow that was too deep. That’s not to say that we didn’t have any cold weath­er. For­tu­nate­ly, the green­house pro­vid­ed a refuge from the cold as it hov­ers around 50° inside when it’s cloudy and is warmer when sun­ny. So, I had a rel­a­tive­ly warm space to take tem­po­rary breaks from the trail on the cold­er days and for mak­ing repairs.

On a philo­soph­i­cal note, I’ve observed that win­ter is a qui­et time of year at Lan­dis, both out on the trail and in the green­house. My Tues­days have been peace­ful, even med­i­ta­tive. Much as I have loved the com­par­a­tive soli­tude, I am look­ing for­ward to a tran­si­tion to spring­time, warmer days, and see­ing more peo­ple. Also, it will be great to see plant activ­i­ties ramp up in the green­house, even if it means that I lose most of my office space”. 

Trail reha­bil­i­ta­tion by the numbers: 

40 nest box­es inspect­ed and cleaned.

30+ nest box posts straightened. 

20 nest box roofs replaced or repaired.

18 weeks spent on project (one day per week).

15 mice evict­ed dur­ing box cleanouts.

Many miles of hik­ing back-and-forth between green­house and nest boxes.

By March the reha­bil­i­ta­tion project will be com­plete, just in time to begin trail mon­i­tor­ing. Look for my first report on trail mon­i­tor­ing in the next issue. 

Evicting mice from a nest box
Evic­it­ing mice from a nest box

Didn’t pay the rent … so out the door they went.” Nest box FLT5E, Novem­ber 2023.

Fea­tured Bird

Lanids bluebird
A blue­bird at Lan­dis enjoy­ing the day.

East­ern Blue­bird
– I think it is safe to say that the East­ern Blue­bird is the favorite bird at Lan­dis. Cer­tain­ly, they have to be count­ed among the most well-loved species of birds in the world. While there are many rea­sons for their pop­u­lar­i­ty, the great­est fac­tor is arguably their beau­ti­ful col­or­ing. They typ­i­cal­ly live in open coun­try around scat­tered trees and where there is lim­it­ed under­sto­ry and sparse ground cov­er. They pre­fer to nest in cav­i­ties such as holes in trees and in human-made nest box­es. These birds main­ly eat insects and fruit. Lan­dis has an abun­dance of habi­tat, foods, and nest cav­i­ties that East­ern Blue­birds favor and that’s why they are com­mon­ly seen on our prop­er­ty. You can learn much more about East­ern Blue­birds by vis­it­ing https://​www​.allabout​birds​.org/….

Muse for the Trail

Muse (noun) the spir­it that is thought to inspire a poet or artist; a source of genius or inspiration.

(verb) to think about some­thing care­ful­ly and for a long time.

The Last Word of a Bluebird

By Robert Frost

As I went out a Crow

In a low voice said, Oh,

I was look­ing for you.

How do you do?

I just came to tell you

To tell Les­ley (will you?)

That her lit­tle Bluebird

Want­ed me to bring word

That the north wind last night

That made the stars bright

And made ice on the trough

Almost made him cough

His tail feath­ers off.

He just had to fly!

But he sent her Good-by,

And said to be good,

And wear her red hood,

And look for skunk tracks

In the snow

with an ax—

And do everything!

And per­haps in the spring

He would come back and sing.”

Note — Some of our blue­birds stayed through the win­ter. For any that didn’t, spring is near­ly here, and we look for­ward to their return.

Ran­dom Facts and Help­ful Hints 

If you would like a free, well-regard­ed App to help you iden­ti­fy birds that you see or hear, try Mer­lin Bird ID. Vis­it https://merlin.allaboutbirds.o… for more information.

Quar­ter­ly Boggler

Bog­gler (noun) some­thing, as an amaz­ing fact, puz­zle, or rid­dle, that astounds or defeats.

Which state has des­ig­nat­ed the East­ern Blue­bird as its state bird? (see answer at bot­tom of page) 

Nest­box Spotlight 

Before stabilization
Nest box­es before stabilization
Nest boxes after stabilization
Nest box­es after stabilization

Before and after” pic­tures of a pair of nest box­es (PT2W and PT2E) along the Pio­neer Trail. Before reha­bil­i­ta­tion above, Novem­ber 2023. After reha­bil­i­ta­tion below, Feb­ru­ary 2024. Brush was cut, one post straight­ened, box ven­ti­la­tion improved, one roof replaced, and the oth­er roof was shin­gled which will buy some time before it must be replaced.

Bog­gler Answer 

Both Mis­souri and New York have des­ig­nat­ed the East­ern Blue­bird as their state bird.

Birding News

Mar 12, 2024

Not A Bird

Not a bird at all.

Read More

Mar 12, 2024

Cockatoo's, The Worst Bird

These things have nothing going for them and are annoying. Photo gallery test below.

Read More

Mar 12, 2024 | Al Sessions

Penguins, The Best Bird

Although you won't find them at Landis, penguins are superior to all other birds. Prove...

Read More