Yesterday was our first trip of the year to Al’s Prairie Bluebird Trail along the South Fork of the Boise River. A good section of this trail was burned last August in the Elk-Complex fire resulting in the loss of almost 40 bluebird nestboxes. Luckily the birds were done nesting for the season, but the boxes still needed to be replaced.

Post-fire moonscape in Prairie, Idaho.

Post-fire moonscape in Prairie, Idaho.

One of the nestboxes donated by Wild Birds Unlimited of Boise.

One of dozens of nestboxes donated by Wild Birds Unlimited of Boise.

Wild Birds Unlimited of Boise was very kind in coordinating the donation of dozens of nestboxes that Al could use to replace those lost in the fire. Yesterday we successfully installed 21 of these nestboxes, sometimes on the very same tree where a box had been burnt.

A freshly installed nestbox on a charred Ponderosa Pine with a truck full of new nestboxes yet to be installed.

A freshly installed nestbox on a charred Ponderosa Pine.

How soon will the bluebirds find and occupy these new boxes? We have a pretty good idea… As we installed one box on a burnt Ponderosa Pine, we saw a banded female Mountain Bluebird hovering over the back of Al’s pickup truck, full of yet to be deployed nestboxes. We passed by the newly installed nestbox 5 minutes later to find the female already investigating the box opening! I suspect she will have begun building her nest on Al’s next visit to the trail.

Banded female Mountain Bluebird investigates a newly installed netbox. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.

Banded female Mountain Bluebird investigates a newly installed netbox. Note the partial band return on the birds right leg. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.

The speed at which the bluebirds and tree swallows were flocking to occupy the newly installed boxes tells me there is still a limited number of nest cavities out there for these birds to inhabit. To further boost breeding habitat, Al will be installing 19 more nestboxes to finish replacing those lost in the fire.

Al and I also counted 32 logging trucks full of timber being removed from the more heavily forested burn areas. While large quantities of timber were being harvested, the logging companies left plenty of smaller snags behind. This area will likely be great woodpecker and bluebird habitat for some years to come.

Breeding male Mountain Bluebird in Prairie. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.

Breeding male Mountain Bluebird in Prairie. Photograph by Neil Paprocki.

 






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