By Anna Autilio
Baby bird season is well underway all over Vermont, and here at VINS we are monitoring the 16 nestboxes on our campus for Project NestWatch. This citizen science program, run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, aims to monitor the status and trends in bird reproductive biology, including when nesting occurs, how many eggs are laid, how many of them hatch, and how many hatchlings survive to leave the nest. Literally anyone can participate in this global project, provided you can find a bird’s nest, and can safely keep track of its inhabitants throughout the spring and summer seasons.
Our boxes at VINS, which stand 6 to 7 feet above the ground and all have north-facing holes, were built to house cavity-nesting songbirds like Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. So far in 2016, 10 of the nestboxes are occupied with growing families, including one House Wren nest (Troglodytes aedon) with five hatchlings, and nine Tree Swallow nests (Tachycineta bicolor) with 3-6 hatchlings each.
Throughout the summer, we will be checking in on these birds and their young once a week, to minimize disturbance to the nests, but ensure that enough data is collected to accurately assess breeding success of these species. Critical points in the breeding cycle of birds include nest construction, egg-laying, young hatching, and young fledging.
The boxes were all checked for the first time on June 2nd, and only contained eggs. Hatchlings began to appear during the next check on June 9th, but two nests still contained only eggs. Stay tuned for updates in the coming weeks!