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Get ready for the Lime Bluff Park Bluebird Trail

By Staff | Feb 25, 2015

This Eastern Bluebird will soon be a welcoming sight along the new Bluebird Trail at Lime Bluff Park in Wolf Township.

HUGHESVILLE – Last April, the Lycoming Audubon Society teamed up with the East Lycoming Recreation Authority to install four paired sets of bird nest boxes at Lime Bluff Park. The nest boxes were donated by the Society with the hope of attracting Eastern Bluebirds and similar “cavity-nesting” species” according to Dan Alters Conservation Chair of the

Lycoming Audubon Society. These species include tree swallows, black-capped chickadees, and house wrens. “Pairing the nest boxes tends to minimize competition among species,” said Alters.

The boxes were monitored on a regular basis by members of Lycoming Audubon. During the first monitoring on April 23, bluebird nests were found in two of the boxes, but one was just a “false start” and that nest was never finished.

On the second monitoring, eight days later, the bluebird nest had four blue eggs, and tree swallow nests had been started in two more of the nest boxes.

By the third monitoring on May 20, the two tree swallow nests each had four eggs. “The females of each species are the only ones involved in nest building, so it is hard to imagine how these little birds make their nest so quickly!” responded Alters.

Eastern Bluebirds typically have more than one successful brood per year. Young produced in early nests usually leave their parents in summer, but young from later nests frequently stay with their parents over the winter.

He reported that a short time later a third tree swallow nest was found. “When the top of this box was opened for inspection, the female tree swallow was sitting calmly on the nest, and the box was quickly closed! Also by this time there were four baby bluebirds and they already had some wing feathers.”

On May 31, 2014, the bluebirds had fledged. Two of the tree swallow nests each had five tiny white eggs and the third box had four baby swallows. Within another month all of the tree swallows had fledged. Another bluebird pair set up residence in a different nest box around this time, and successfully fledged four more young. “Not bad for the first summer, with eight new Eastern Bluebirds and a dozen Tree Swallows. Not all the eggs hatched,” explained Alters.

Early in September the nest boxes were removed for the winter and will be thoroughly cleaned, disinfected and any needed maintenance performed.

The nest boxes with perhaps a few more, will be returned to Lime Bluff Park in late March. “Now that Lycoming Audubon knows the nest boxes are likely to be successful, regular public walks will be offered to Park visitors,” said Tom Zavalydriga from the East Lycoming Recreation Board. Once eggs and chicks are present the group plans to host short educational walks through the park for children and adults alike. The walks will be posted by the Recreation Authority and Lycoming Audubon.

The wide open park with its mix of short and long grass is an excellent location for both bluebirds and tree swallows. Alters further explained, “These two species of birds tolerate one another well during nesting, and do not directly compete for food as bluebirds hunt ground-based insects and tree swallows hunt flying insects.”

PHOTO PROVIDED The tree swallows like to share their nests with the bluebirds and do not directly compete for food. The wide open area at Lime Bluff Park with its mix of short and long grasses is an excellent location for both bluebirds and tree swallows. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in New York state, tree swallows primarily feed on flying insects, performing acrobatic twists and turns to catch their prey.

Nest boxes for other species are in the planning stages, with a big nest box for ‘Wood Ducks’ planned for the pond at the Park. The new bluebird trail at the Park joins the others maintained by Lycoming Audubon, including ones at the Riverfront Park and the County Farm in Loyalsock Township and another at Rider Park in Gamble Township.

Lime Bluff Park is located in Wolf Township about a half mile off Route 405 on Elm Drive.