Como Park Bluebird Trail
Como Park Bluebird Trail update*:
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April 6, 2012: Two bluebird nests and two chickadee nests on the trail so far. No eggs yet.
March 31, 2012: A hanging nestbox was stolen from the park in the past week, so the trail is down to 10 boxes. Thankfully no birds had yet begun to nest in that box, though bluebirds had been checking it out. I moved another hanging box to that position. Still only one completed bluebird nest on the trail. A chickadee has deposited some moss in one of the boxes and scolded me while I checked, two boxes have grassy unfinished nests that quite possibly belong to bluebirds, and two more have small amounts of dried grass in them. Four are still empty.
March 24, 2012: One nestbox contains a finely-crafted, deeply-cupped bluebird nest made out of pine needles. Two others have some grassy nesting material inside, but it is too early to tell if they are the work of bluebirds or house sparrows.
March 11, 2012: The boxes are up and the bluebirds are here!
What is the Como Park Bluebird Trail?
Como Park is a great place to raise a bluebird family! It has the wide, open, grassy fields that bluebirds need to find insects to feed their young. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and search for holes in dead trees or old fence posts in which to make their nests. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these around.
Many people want to help bluebirds find nesting places and successfully raise their young, so they put up nest boxes and make bluebird “trails” in parks, cemeteries, golf courses or fields (with permission, of course). Then a volunteer trail monitor checks the boxes at least once a week during the nesting season to make sure no problems have cropped up.
When bluebirds find an acceptable nest box, they make their nests from brown grass or long pine needles and weave the materials skillfully into a cup inside the box. They lay up to five pale blue eggs twice a year, beginning in late April and continuing through August. The eggs hatch after about two weeks and the young birds are ready to fledge about 16-21 days after hatching.
The Como Park Bluebird Trail began in 2008 with nine nest boxes mounted on telephone poles around the park. From these boxes, 12 young bluebirds were fledged.
In 2009, a new trail was developed with boxes placed in more suitable locations. Six post-mounted boxes were made by students in a stewardship class at Great River School, in partnership with Eco Education, and donated to the park. Six experimental hanging nest boxes were tested in 2009, too.
The Como Golf Course has had a its own bluebird trail since 2005. The trail now has 14 boxes. From 2005-2008, a total of 125 young bluebirds have been successfully raised on the golf course!
Look for these beautiful birds when you’re at the park. Listen for their soft, lovely song.
2011 Como Park Bluebird Trail Updates
August 24, 2011: The bluebird trail totals for 2011 are 37 bluebirds and 19 tree swallows for a combined total of 56 birds fledged.
August 3, 2011: There are 14 bluebird nestlings in four boxes.
July 26, 2011: At least 10 bluebirds hatched in the past week. Two bluebird eggs in another nest will hatch sometime this week. Seven boxes on the trail are empty.
July 19, 2011: There are now 14 bluebird eggs in four boxes on the trail. The totals for nesting round one are 23 bluebirds and 19 tree swallows.
July 11, 2011: Round two of bluebird nesting has begun with 3 boxes already containing 11 blue eggs. Eleven bluebirds fledged since the last check-in, and one youngster who will fledge quite soon was very surprised when I mistakenly opened its box!
July 1, 2011: Four bluebirds fledged in the past week, as well as the rest of the tree swallows: 14! Tree swallows only nest once a year, so they are done. There are 18 more young bluebirds in 5 boxes. Six boxes are now empty and awaiting bluebird nesting round number two.
June 24, 2011: The first 5 tree swallows have fledged and I emptied their box. I did not open the other 3 boxes with swallows inside as they are too close to fledging. There are 18 young bluebirds in the other 7 boxes. One had just hatched this morning, and there are 4 more eggs to go.
June 16, 2011: Seven boxes have 12 young bluebirds and 16 bluebird eggs. Four boxes have 19 young swallows.
June 9, 2011: It was cold and windy this morning, so instead of opening all the boxes I watched for parent birds flying out, or used my telescoping mirror to check through the nest box hole. There are now a total of 27 bluebird eggs in 7 boxes. Tree swallows were hunkered down on their nests, except for one of the 4 boxes, which contained several good-sized hatchlings waiting for breakfast.
June 2, 2011: There are 7 bluebird nests on the trail, with 16 eggs so far. Tree swallows are nesting in the other 4 boxes. The female tree swallows incubating their eggs blend in to the assorted feathers they add on top of their nests, and they stay put when I open the boxes, so it is difficult to get an accurate egg count for them.
May 24, 2011: Tree swallows are nesting in six boxes. Bluebirds, in three (6 eggs so far). One nest is under construction and one box is empty, though a bluebird was checking it out as I arrived. One of the tree swallows included some plastic wrappers in its nest, unusual for a tree swallow, but common for a house sparrow. That nest also has the usual collection of feathers in it.
May 17, 2011 Three boxes are occupied by tree swallows (one with 5 eggs), four boxes have nests in the making, and four more are still empty.
May 10, 2011: One box is occupied by a chickadee on the nest, another has a small amount of moss in it (a sign of another chickadee nest in the making). Three boxes have evidence of bluebird nest building, but two of those had tree swallows checking it out inside or on top of the box. The competition is fierce between the tree swallows and bluebirds. Several other empty boxes had swallows and bluebirds nearby.
April 28, 2011: Still no nesting action!
April 19, 2011: Still no nesting activity. Perhaps it is too cold, and there aren't enough insects active yet.
April 12, 2011: The bluebirds are here and all the boxes are up and ready. No nest building yet.
2010 Como Park Bluebird Trail Updates
August 18, 2010: On the trail this year 65 young birds fledged: 42 bluebirds, 15 tree swallows, 7 chickadees and 1 cowbird. All the nest boxes have been removed for winter storage.
August 4, 2010: The last 4 bluebirds will fledge sometime in the next week and a half.
July 29, 2010: The 4 bluebird eggs hatched last week and 4 tiny bluebirds now occupy the nest. The parent bluebirds vigorously defend their nest, swooping continuously as I check their box. I took down the five empty hanging nest boxes. The rest of the post-mounted boxes are empty. This year's totals so far: 39 bluebirds!, 15 tree swallows, 7 chickadees and 1 cowbird.
July 23, 2010: Only one box has a nest in it, with 4 bluebird eggs. The rest of the boxes are empty. Five tree swallows and eight bluebirds fledged since last week.
July 14, 2010: Nine more bluebirds fledged during the past week. Five tree swallows will be ready to fledge any day now. One box contains 5 week-old bluebirds, and surprisingly enough, a new nest has been built in another and 4 blue eggs have been laid inside! If bluebirds get an early enough start to the nesting season, they can raise three broods instead of the more usual two.
July 7, 2010: This week, 3 bluebirds fledged. By next week, 9 more may fledge. Nests still contain 8 young bluebirds (5 tiny ones hatched in the past week). Five tree swallows fledged and 5 more will fledge in the next week. A tree swallow nest that last week held several tiny hatchlings is now empty. The bluebird nest box with the cowbirds in it now contains only 3 young bluebirds. I found a dead young cowbird on the ground underneath the box. A family of bluebirds watched and commented as I inspected their old empty box. Nesting activity is beginning to taper off.
June 30, 2010: In the past week, 4 bluebirds and 5 tree swallows fledged. In nests there are 16 young bluebirds, 15 tree swallows and 2 suspected cowbirds. The cowbird nestlings are more vigorous and demanding than their bluebird nestmates. When I opened that box, the two cowbirds urgently peeped with mouths agape while the bluebirds were silent and still. When I opened another box, one of the week-old bluebird nestlings nearly tumbled out and needed some help to climb back up into the nest. There is one nest that still has 5 bluebird eggs in it.
June 23, 2010: More bluebirds have hatched this week. There are 15 young bluebirds and 10 bluebird eggs. There are 10 young tree swallows and 10 tree swallow eggs. In the next week, 4 bluebirds and 5 tree swallows will likely fledge. In one of the bluebird nest boxes last week, I found two speckled eggs along with four blue eggs. This week one of the speckled eggs has hatched. I suspect the speckled eggs were laid by cowbirds, who lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, though it is somewhat unusual for them to lay their eggs in nest boxes. House sparrow eggs are also speckled, though if a house sparrow had taken over the nest, it most likely would have destroyed the bluebird eggs, and added its own nest materials.
June 16, 2010: The trail has 19 bluebird eggs and 8 bluebird nestlings; 10 tree swallow eggs and 10 tree swallow nestlings. All 11 boxes are in use. Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to show a class of 15 students (ages 8-12) in the Audubon/Parks & Rec summer birding class two of my boxes, one with bluebird eggs and one with nestlings. Even the instructors enjoyed the views!
June 9, 2010: Round two of nesting has begun in earnest! Six boxes contain a total of 17 bluebird eggs and three newly hatched little bluebirds. Four boxes contain10 tree swallow eggs and five nestlings. The nest that bluebirds made on top of a house parrow nest has now been taken over by tree swallows.
June 1, 2010: Ten more bluebirds fledged last week, bringing the total of round one of nesting this season to 15. Seven chickadees also fledged. Chickadees nest only once each year, so they are done. In boxes now, there are 10 tree swallow eggs and 10 bluebird eggs. A tree swallow nest is a flat bed of grass topped with a cup of feathers. Their eggs are white, and smaller than bluebird eggs. Many empty boxes await round two of bluebird nesting!
May 25, 2010: The first five bluebirds have fledged! I emptied their nest box, so the next round of nesting can begin. This week I did not open five boxes, since the chickadees and bluebirds occupying them were too near to fledging. Opening the box at this time could cause them to jump out prematurely. Tree swallows have laid five small white eggs in one box and another pair has begun a nest and lined it with feathers. A surprise this week: a bluebird has laid two blue eggs inside a nest initially made by a house sparrow! Happy news: two blue eggs were laid in the new bluebird nest made in the box where the first bluebird nest failed.
May 18, 2010: The cold, wet weather seems to have taken a toll on some of the nestlings. In one chickadee nest there are only three young birds; in the other are at least four (it is hard to count a pile of sleeping baby birds). Another bluebird nest contains one young bird and two unhatched eggs. There are now a total of 16 bluebirds. By the end of next week, the first batch of five should fledge, if all goes well.
May 14, 2010: All the chickadees (15!) have hatched in the past week. In one bluebird nest, two tiny little just-hatched bluebirds occupied the nest, with three more eggs to go. Ten more bluebirds hatched in the past week. The five who are over a week old now are doing well. One bluebird nest, the one with four white eggs, failed. I found a dead young bluebird, approximately a week old, and two unhatched eggs inside. House sparrows, who have tried to occupy three nest boxes on the trail, have finally given up and moved elsewhere.
May 7, 2010: The first bluebirds have hatched, five tiny pink birds with a few fluffy grayish blue feathers. The male bluebird defended his family, fiercely swooping at my head as soon as I approached. Most bluebirds are not so aggressive, and usually fly to a nearby branch until I leave. Oftentimes, the female will continue to sit on the nest when I open the box. Nineteen bluebird eggs are still being incubated. The chickadees, too, are still on their nests. When I opened one box, a rather surprised chickadee looked back at me, then flew out.
April 28, 2010: Two boxes have a total of 15 chickadee eggs inside. The third chickadee nest box was abandoned with only a little moss inside and this week tree swallows have begun to build a nest in it. Another box may also have been claimed by tree swallows--inside were a feather and a stick. Five bluebird boxes have 24 eggs.
April 21, 2010: Three bluebirds nests have a combined 11 eggs in them; 4 eggs in one nest are white instead of blue, which happens sometimes with bluebirds. Two chickadee nests have a total of at least 7 eggs. Chickadees cover their eggs with soft fur when they are not on the nest, making it difficult to count the eggs.
April 14, 2010: Lots of nest building going on this week! Bluebirds have moved into five boxes and chickadees, into three. No eggs yet.
April 7, 2010: The nesting begins! Bluebirds have begun a nest in one box. Two boxes contain chickadee nests, made with soft moss and fur. The first tree swallows have arrived and many bluebirds were in the park this morning.
March 31, 2010: All the nest boxes are up and ready and the first
bluebirds have arrived at Como Park. One box had a small amount of
nesting material inside, possibly a chickadee.
2009 Como Park Bluebird Trail Updates
August 28, 2009: The last bluebird fledged! A total of 23 bluebirds
were successfully raised on the Como Park Bluebird Trail this year. All
the boxes have been taken down and will be stored until next spring.
August 12, 2009: Only one young bluebird, about 8 days old, remains in
the last nest of the season. Two older bluebirds fledged and their box
is now empty.
August 4, 2009: The last bluebird eggs hatched and three gaping little
mouths greeted me when I opened the box. The other two bluebird
nestlings were too close to fledging, so their box wasn't opened this
week. All other boxes are empty.
July 22, 2009: The new bluebird nest has 4 eggs in it. Four young
bluebirds will most likely fledge sometime this week and there are 2
bluebird nestlings in another nest. Unfortunately, the nest that last
week held 2 newly hatched bluebirds and 2 eggs was empty this week,
except for one cold, unhatched egg. It is possible that bluebird pair
will lay more eggs in the empty nest. Heard and saw many bluebirds in
the park today.
July 15, 2009: One more new bluebird nest! Now there are a total of
five active bluebird nests in our boxes in the park. In one of the
boxes, two tiny pink hatchlings sat next to two ready-to-hatch blue
eggs. The other nests have bluebirds in various stages of development.
July 7, 2009: Lots of empty boxes as the nesting season starts to wind
down. The rest of the tree swallows fledged, for a total of 16 this
season. Four young bluebirds will probably fledge in the next week or
so; there are five newly hatched bluebirds; and two more nests with four
June 30, 2009: Another new bluebird nest was built in the past week.
There are already three eggs in it! Fast work. Five young bluebirds
hatched in one nest; five eggs are incubating in another; and a female
bluebird sat on yet another nest. Two batches of tree swallows fledged;
two more will do so in the next week. Four boxes are empty.
June 23, 2009: A total of 12 bluebirds fledged in the first round of
nesting. Round two is underway with two nests with 5 eggs each, and one
more nest under construction. The tree swallow nestlings are growing
bigger and peeking out their entrance holes. The tree swallow parents
will swoop at the heads of anyone who gets too near their box.
June 16, 2009: Four more bluebirds have fledged and another new
bluebird nest has been made. All the tree swallows have hatched and the
parent birds are busy bringing insects to them.
June 9, 2009: The first brood of four bluebirds fledged! When young
bluebirds fledge they are speckled and not as blue as adult birds.
Another brood of five will fledge sometime in the next week or so. Five
more bluebirds are growing rapidly in the box by the Lexington Parkway
bridge and a new pair has laid four blue eggs in the box in the Como
Woodland. Five chickadees fledged. Twelve tree swallow nestlings
hatched; swallows are incubating at least eleven more eggs.
June 1, 2009: Five more bluebirds hatched. Bluebirds are
building a nest in the box abandoned by chickadees. Counted 17 tree
swallow eggs in four nests.
May 18, 2009: The first four bluebirds hatched! Two more nests have a total of ten eggs. Five chickadees also hatched and are about a week old. At least eight tree swallow eggs have been laid in two nest boxes.
May 13, 2009: Bluebirds are occupying three nest boxes on the Como Park Bluebird Trail; chickadees are in two; and tree swallows are in three.
For more information on bluebirds, check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds”. For more information on bluebird trails, visit the Bluebird Recovery Program of Minnesota. Thanks to the volunteers with Saint Paul Parks and Recreation and Como Golf Course for their hard work and dedication in monitoring and maintaining these Bluebird Trails!