News from the Beautiful Barrens Bluebird Trail – 2016

By mid-April the Pasque Flowers and the Bluebirds were decorating the Barrens. By the early days of May our twenty-four nest boxes had a total of 50 eggs. It appeared that there would be a chance for the Bluebirds to nest three times. Then nature struck! On July 11 there was a rain event which dropped between 10 and 12 inches of rain in a 12 hour period. I do not know how the storm effected the Bluebirds, but in checking the nest boxes, I counted a total of 41 lost eggs and fledglings. Over the nesting season, the Bluebirds laid a total of 123 eggs, but out of that number, only 63 fledged. Last year the Bluebirds fledged a total of 101 birds. The beautiful Tree Swallows were able to fledge 36 young. We also, for the first time, had four House Wrens fledged. In all the years I have traveled in the Barrens, this was the first time I have ever seen

Each trip through the Barrens is truly a unique experience. Not just the Bluebirds, but the whistle of the Upland Sandpipers, the beautiful Towhees, the Eastern Kingbirds, all the beautiful little sparrows and don’t forget the Sharp-tailed Grouse. On three of my trips, I was able to get very close to small flocks of juvenile Sharpies. Not as smart as their parents, they stayed close to me, calling softly to one another and probably to their mom. That reminds me, sign up for a morning in one of the blinds on a lek. It is an experience you will not forget.

The DNR and burn crew did a great job this Spring. The burned areas turn a vibrant green shortly after being burned. The Wood betony bloom in these burned areas was spectacular.

As you go through the Barrens, get out of your car and take a walk. As you come up a small rise, look toward the horizon and you will see the edge of the earth.

Reported by Bruce DeLong

News from the Beautiful Barrens Bluebird Trail – 2014

2014 was a good year for our Bluebirds nesting on the Namekagon Barrens. In 2013 it was a cold, snowy late spring last year and, as a result, the Bluebirds got a late start nesting. The birds had time to attempt only two broods. The 2014 spring came soon enough to give a number of birds a chance at hatching three broods.

The exciting news to report is that the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin, to whom the data collected from our trail of 24 boxes is submitted, has designated our Bluebird trail as a “trail of excellence”. To achieve this rating, a trail has to reach 2.6 + fledglings per box which would put the trail above the state average. Our trail produced 3.42 fledglings per nesting box.

The Barrens provide critical habitat for a number of small passerines which include the Bluebirds. With climate change and loss of habitat in other areas, the Barrens will continue to be a great place for them. The Barrens provide the habitat for the Bluebirds and our boxes provide these cavity nesters a great place to raise their young. Many thanks to Bruce DeLong, who drives over two hundred miles each week from March through August to clean the boxes, observe the return and fledging of the birds, and finally to do the reporting that is turned in. And many thanks too to member Charlie Schlatter for the great replacement boxes he builds for us. The bears are sometimes a little rough on the boxes when they check them out so we do need to replace a few boxes each year.

The bluebirds are back on the Barrens this spring. Next time you’re out for a visit you may find a colorful male sitting on top of a box guarding his young.