Mariton: Spring Cleaning
by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager
It’s time to start cleaning out Bluebird nest boxes. The snow is still deep in the fields, but I ventured out to check the boxes. A few boxes had bird nests left over from last summer, like the wren nest above. Removing the old bird nests will make a nest box more attractive to a pair of Bluebirds looking to raise a brood of young.
Several of the boxes had abandoned mice nests. This insulation is mostly the fluffy seed heads from Goldenrods, Asters and Thistle. I imagine it is pretty cozy with a few warm bodies nestled together in a ball. You can see there isn’t any room for a bluebird to build its nest in this box. After removing all the material, I prop the nest box door open with a stick for a week. It allows the box to air out, and also keeps mice from moving back in on a chilly night.
I didn’t’ find any Flying Squirrels nesting in boxes this year, but I did find a few granaries. This box was full of hickory nuts that Flying Squirrels cached. Some of the nuts had been chewed open, but most were uneaten (although many had insect holes).
Perhaps it seems early to think about cleaning nest boxes, but bluebirds have nested here as early as March in the past. I heard bluebirds singing this morning, and they will definitely be looking for nest cavities with the warmer weather. So, it is important to make your nest boxes attractive for any early scouts. Checking at this time allows me time to make repairs, or replace any boxes that need it. Plus I will be able to air out those boxes that were used by mice over winter.
Warmer days are coming. It won’t be long before we will be looking at photos like this of baby Chickadees, Bluebirds, and Tree swallows.