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A Bird Nest Box Project For Conservation.
By: Josiah Malueg
In the spring of 2003 I decided to see if I could do a nest box project on a friends land to help cavity nesting birds that live on the Zapata subdivision, located about 5 miles south of the Great Sand Dunes, in Alamosa County, Colorado. This area is a beautiful mixed woodland with aspens, cottonwoods, and coniferous trees.
My friend gave me permission to do so. I then built a total of 16 bird boxes. And another friend gave me 4 more, so I had 19 all together. Out of the boxes I built there were: six Mountain Bluebird (MOBL) or Western Bluebird (WEBL) boxes, Four Violet-green Swallow or Tree Swallow boxes, Three House Wren Boxes, Two Nuthatch, Chickadee, Titmouse, or Downy Woodpecker boxes. And I was given one Northern Flicker box, one American Kestrel or Screech Owl box, one all purpose box, and one experimental box with a Plexiglas window in the back.
We mounted them on April 14th 2003. We used a 20- foot extension ladder, 2 cordless drills, and lots of screws. My brothers and I (who were mounting them with the landowner), drilled three holes in the bird box, two on the bottom and one at the top. After we pre-drilled these holes for the screws we started the screws so that they just barely stuck out from the backside of the board. We then found the tree that we wanted to mount the box on, and positioned the ladder against the tree at varying heights for each box. Then I or one of the people with me climbed the ladder and put a bungee cord around the top of the ladder and the tree trunk if the tree was small enough for the bungee cord to reach around. If the bungee cord would not fit around the tree we steadied the ladder as much as possible from the ground. After we were done with all this, I climbed the ladder with a bird nesting box, a cordless drill, and a level. The next step was to sink the top screw in all the way, this would allow me to place the level on top of the bird box then move the bottom in the necessary direction to level the floor of the box. When the bubble in the level indicated that the box was level I then used the drill to sink the two bottom screws in to the tree. The box was then in place and ready to be used. We put sawdust in some of the boxes to encourage the birds that like to have wood particles in their nesting cavities, such as Chickadees, and Woodpeckers.
After all the boxes were mounted we did some birding and then returned home for the day. We didn't go back to check on the boxes until are next opportunity on the 20th of June 2003.
When I did get back to check the bird boxes I found only House Wrens (HOWRs) nesting there. We found nests or parts of nests in 9 boxes. Two of the boxes had five eggs. There were also two nest boxes that we couldn't open (due to the fact that the wood had swollen in the rainy weather and that the rings that were made to pull the dowel out that was used to hold the front of the box closed, had broken off). These two boxes had HOWRs flying in and out as well as sticks protruding from the entrance.
I presume that the other five were dummy nest since HOWRs are known to build several nest and use the best to nest in and the others as dummy nest. But I really have no way to prove that this is indeed what occurred in my nest boxes.
The nests that we found were of different sizes depending on the size of the box. In all the boxes that we checked, I noticed that there was always about the same amount of room left in the top of the box, no matter how big the box was. Even in the flicker box that I put up most of the box was filled with small sticks.
After this I do not know what happened during the rest of the nesting season since I was not able to make it back up to the Zapata subdivision.
However, my project appeared to have some success even though it is only the first year that these boxes have been up and I didn't get them mounted until mid April. My hope is that eventually all 19 of the next boxes that I mounted will contain active nests.
This essay was written on September 11th, 2003.
My First Birding Trip To Arizona.
By: Josiah Malueg
On the 6th of July 2003 my family and I all piled into our van ready to hit the road, headed to Southeast Arizona.
This was a very exciting time for all of us, especially me, since it was our first real long distance birding trip. For me this trip promised some great birding in Southeast Arizona and a real chance to build my life list.
Our trip list started with our first Western Kingbird and ended 156 birds later with our life Purple Martin.
I got 62 1ife birds, the first of them the being some Black Swifts flying through he air space above Treasure Falls on Wolf Creek Pass. And the last lifer I got on this trip was a flock of Purple Martins flying above the Gila National Forest near Silver City New Mexico. We saw these while we were birding with some of the people who were attending the joint meeting of the Western and New Mexico Field Ornithologist.
Every part of this trip held a different kind of excitement including the brief stops that we made in Colorado. For instance the stop we made to find the only Acorn Woodpeckers in
Colorado, or the stop that we made only a mile north of the border between Colorado and New Mexico, to look for Gambel's Quail, as the last rays of the sun disappeared in the western sky giving way to darkness.
On the night of the 7th we camped out under the stars north of Tucson Arizona. And we woke up in the morning to find that the spot we had chosen to camp at was a very birdy spot. We got ten lifers in a very sort period of time, including the only two Gray Hawks for the trip just south of our campsite.
Just in a park in Tucson where we stopped to eat and spend some time before we drooped my brother Kalen off for the birding tour/camp (that he had won a scholarship for the Young Birder of the Year Contest). We saw three life birds they were: Anna's Hummingbird, Bronzed Cowbird, and Ladder-backed Woodpecker.
The first night in southeast Arizona we planned to camp in Carr Canyon south of Sierra Vista. When we started up the road we had absolutely no idea what it would be like. But we soon found out that as we climbed the road got worse and worse. The ruts and rocks were bad enough that our over sized front tires would scrape in the wheel wells when we turned too sharp. One hairpin turn was so sharp that we had to back up to make it around. And then on top of this I just can't forget to mention the narrowness of the road with a drop off on one side and an earth bank on the other side. So all and all I will venture to say that this was not the best nor the smoothest road that I have been on.
We did end up camping there one night. The next day, two of my younger brothers and I hiked one of the trails that led off through the mountain. On this trail we got our life Greater Pewee, Yellow-eyed Junco, and Band-tailed Pigeon.
Later that day we drove to Miller's Canyon in order to watch their Hummingbird feeders at Beatty's Orchard. Among the other more common hummingbirds I got my life White-eared Hummingbird, Broad-billed Hummingbird, and Magnificent Hummingbird at the orchard.
On the same day we went to the San Pedro River National Riparian Conservation Area. We walked to "Green Kingfisher pond". Of course we all had high hopes of seeing our life Green Kingfisher. But unfortunately the pair that had been nesting there had not been seen this year.
However the pond still yielded quite productively, and I got four lifers there including my life Tropical Kingbird, Green Heron, and Common-ground Dove.
That same night we were planning on camping at Pinery campground in the Chiricahuas. According to our map, there was a road hat went from Tombstone to Gleeson and from there up into the Coronado National Forest. But when we got to Tombstone we couldn't find the road, so we ended up going north west through St. David, and Benson, then to Wilcox and from there in to the Chiricahua Mountains.
We stopped in St. David to get gas and we got our life Lesser Nighthawks flying in the light of the gas station.
We were driving down interstate 10 between Benson and Wilcox, and we had just passed a huge tractor-trailer when, our van suddenly started shaking with extreme violence, and we rapidly lost speed. This was caused by the recap on our right front tire peeling off. It was very fortunate for us that the tire was still up and had not yet gone completely flat, so we got back into the van and went about 10 mph on the shoulder of the road, looking for a place where we could pull off to change the tire. Just ahead we saw a sign, signifying that there was a rest stop one-mile ahead.
This was the only rest stop on the eastbound lane between Tucson and the New Mexico border. We rolled in to the entrance to the rest stop, and the tire went completely down with a thud. We parked and we were able to change our shredded tire to the spare.
We missed the turn off to Pinery campground. So we camped at Barfoot Park instead. When we got to Barfoot Park we heard Flammulated Owls (maybe three of them), and got our life Whip-poor Will. The Whip-poor Wills were so loud that my Dad thought it was us with our CD player and yelled for us to turn it down.
A few days later we visited the South Fork of Cave Creek Canyon to look for the Elegant Trogons. We were able to find both a male and a female by hearing their soft barking call. And all of us got excellent looks at the brilliantly colored male and the duller female.
Around Cave Creek Canyon and in Portal I got numerous life birds.
As we sat on some benches in Portal watching the feeders across the street, we saw our life Violet-crowned Hummingbird and I spotted a male and female Montezuma Quail running along the ground.
After we picked my brother Kalen up, we went birding at a place called Sweet-water Wetlands in Tucson.
At the wetlands I was able to pick up four new life birds. The most exiting bird that we saw there was a Least Grebe, that was swimming under the shade of some willows that over hung the water from a small island. Apparently this tiny blackish Grebe has been in that same pond for the past three summers, even though it is out of it's normal range.
We camped at Barfoot Park again with Kalen for one night. And in the morning we hiked up to an old fire look out, called "Barfoot look out", to look for the Short-tailed Hawk that had been seen around there between Rustler and Barfoot Park. On the way up the trail we met two birders coming down, who had just spent two hours looking for the Short-tailed Hawk with no success.
We were up there for about an hour scanning the sky. And we were getting ready to leave when my little brother Joshua said, "is that it?" Sure enough it was our bird, and within a minute we saw another Short-tailed Hawk join the first one. They both soared and seemed to play with each other, as they continually changed altitude. This gave us the opportunity to see them from above and below as well as at eye level. One of the Short-tailed Hawks may have been a juvenile but I don't know.
Later we drove to Rodeo, New Mexico to get gas and while we were there, we stopped by an old metal shed where Kalen had gone with the camp to see a Barn Owl.
When Kalen tapped on the back of the shed, our life Barn Owl flew out an open space in the front of the building. It circled then disappeared.
When we got home 21 days later on July 27, 2003. We met back up with our uncle who was taking care of our garden during our absence. While we were gone he had been inspired to start drawing birds!
Visiting southeast Arizona was an opportunity of a lifetime. The amazing diversity of the birds, and the shear numbers of new lifers, made this trip the best birding adventure I have had so far!
This essay was written on the 9 of October 2003.
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