This is my final post here, as my position at the museum as the nestbox project coordinator is coming to an end. The project will continue, but this is the last few days of my experience with the Putah Creek Nestbox Highway. I was thinking about waiting until my last day to post this, but time is running short and I did not want to forget.
The field season is not over just yet, but I’ll be leaving California in less than two weeks. I’ll start with some updates and notes about this season and then end the post on a personal note.
All of our remaining active boxes are Western Bluebirds. I think because of their varied diet, they are able to nest successfully so late in the season. So far this season has produced 860 fledglings total and there are still a few more to come. Although it is not the final fledgling count, this is already the most number of fledglings this nestbox program has produced in a single year.
Western Bluebird nestlings
Kristen and I were surprised to find a new clutch of bluebird eggs recently, in a box that was otherwise inactive for the whole season. What we thought were the last two bluebird broods will be banded next weekend, but it seems like I’ll miss the new final clutch of bluebirds.
Kristen Z. and Evelien D. with western bluebird nestlings
Recaptures and re-sights are my favorite part of the nestbox experience. It tells us part of the birds’ stories and teaches us about their movements along the creek.
Western Bluebird male
Catching adult birds is challenging with the pole lifter device, but it is so rewarding. When we catch a banded adult, the first thing I do is look up the band information. Sometimes I don’t even wait until I’m back in my office and I’ll end up squinting at my phone to look at a tiny screen of spreadsheets with all the band numbers, trying to see where and when the bird was originally banded.
One of the highlights of this season was finding multiple 7-year old Tree Swallows. One was banded as a nestling in an orchard in 2011, and she raised a brood this year at Russell Ranch. Another was banded as a second-year bird in 2012 and has been seen nesting at Picnic Grounds multiple times (2012, 2016, & 2018). I think it’s amazing what these birds are capable of and how long some can live. The other extraordinary recurring bird is the bluebird, Tufty (I posted in April), who has nested at the same box every year since 2014. His nest of eggs was depredated in April this year and he has not been seen nesting again since. Although his nesting efforts ended on a sad note, he has been very faithful to his overall very successful box. He has a special place in my heart because every year I’ve been a part of this project he has not failed to show up for me.
Each year the breeding season zips by and it’s sometimes hard for me to believe I’ve been a part of the nestbox program for 5 seasons now. I feel like we just got our first eggs yesterday. I will miss Davis tremendously, which has been my longest home of 7 years, and I will miss the museum family that has been so wonderful to me. I’m going to start graduate school in Manitoba, Canada, in September. I’m extremely excited for this new adventure because I’ll be studying Purple Martins and their migration!
This photo I took in 2014 (below) is still my favorite of all of my nestbox photos. Like the nestlings getting ready to leave the nest, it is time for me to fledge from Davis and start the next chapter in my life.
Goodbye everyone, and thank you for following this blog. As the Putah Creek nestbox project continues, so will this blog but it will be lead by someone else. I’ve enjoyed sharing updates about the nesting birds and the creek, and I hope you have all enjoyed reading it as well.
-Evelien de Greef