Mariton: Spring Cleaning Time

March 13, 2015

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

MEBUS EasternBluebirdMaleGivingPond0309-3

Bluebird photo by Carole Mebus

Just a friendly reminder:  it is time to clean out nest boxes for bluebirds and other species.  It will probably be a month before birds start nesting this year.  (I had them nesting as early as March 20 one year.)  The day length has triggered hormone changes, and I have already seen birds “home hunting”.  Birds are checking out prospective nest sites, and I want my nest boxes to be attractive for prospective feathered tenants.  It takes time to repair or replace boxes and evict mice and other unwanted tenants, so now is the time to get those jobs done.

cleaning nest boxes in March

I donned snow shoes to check Mariton’s boxes earlier this week.  It is maple syrup weather (warm days and freezing nights).  The snow is compacting, but the snowpack is still over 18 inches deep in the woods and fields at Mariton.  Even with snow shoes on, you can see how deeply I sank into the snow.

Here are just some of the things I found while inspecting boxes.  About 80% of the boxes had mice nests of some sort.  The nest below is made almost completely with milkweed seed fuzz.  This looks pretty warm.  Unfortunately, the mouse nest would make it unappealing to a Bluebird.  That is why it is important to clean your boxes now.

mouse nest

The photo below has some Bluebird down in it.  This signals to me that bluebirds used it during the winter as a night time roost to cuddle together and conserve heat.  I can see this box from my house and I was fortunate to watch four bluebirds go into it late one afternoon.  That night the mercury dropped to a record low.

bluebird down