Rube Johnstone Bluebird Trail

VWF is a proud supporter of the Rube Johnston Bluebird Trail!

@ Range Road 154 at Township Road 534

Bluebird Trail photos

Bluebird Trail Reports


2020 "spring" report to VWF by Rob H.

The nest box bottoms were set in place starting in March and into April. 14 boxes remain to be done as well as 1 box needs the top replaced. The snow drifts are still frozen hard enough to walk on.

The spring arrivals encountered so far are Mountain Bluebirds, Robins, Western Meadowlarks, Song Sparrows, Red-tailed Hawks, Rough Legged Hawks, Horned Larks, Canada Geese, Crows and Starlings.


2019 report to VWF by Rob H.
Estimated number of juveniles fledged:
Mountain Bluebird (MB) – 29, Tree Swallow (TS) – 332

The nest box bottoms were set in place starting on March 21 and 22 when the first returning Mountain Bluebird males arrived. Boxes that were not readily accessible due to deep snow, or water in roadside ditches, were finished from March 31 to April 18. Testing of the three horizontal nest boxes designed by Hans continued.

Results are determined by preparing boxes at the start of the nesting season, letting the birds nest in the boxes, then return in the middle of August to see which species have used the boxes and estimate fledgling numbers. I do not count egg numbers to minimize disturbance to the birds. Each species has a method of nest building. For example, Mountain Bluebirds use thin bladed grass and make a compact cup nest. Tree Swallows use thick bladed grass and devise a feather canopy to cover eggs and hatchlings. Mountain Bluebirds keep a very clean nest, removing any hatchling excrement. Tree Swallow nests are messy with excrement.

Mountain Bluebird summary: 5 total nests all successful, 1 nest had two clutches. There were no unhatched eggs and I saw no dead hatchlings. Average number of fledglings per box was 5.8. Total fledged 29. There was later competition from Tree Swallows that possibly prevented second Mountain Bluebird broods.

Tree Swallow summary: 60 total nests, total eggs 351 (4 to 9 per nest, average 6.2). Estimated number fledged 332 (average per box 5.5). A nest with 8 or 9 eggs may involve two females laying eggs in the same nest box. The Roeben design test boxes all had successful Tree Swallow nests.
House Sparrows (HS) nested in one box. HS use a wide variety of materials for nest building, including man made items, animal hair, as well as grass and other plants. House Wrens (HW) showed up late in 4 Tree Swallow boxes, filling the box with sticks, but did not disturb the Tree Swallow nesting. I encountered mouse nests five times when I cleaned out the boxes.

All nest box numbers were re-applied when I cleaned out the boxes. Two boxes were damaged by cows which had pulled the tops off, which I repaired. One box was ripped off a post by roadside mowing, which I replaced. 


2018 report to VWF by Rob H.
3 nestboxes of a different design were tried this year.
The new design boxes were built by a Vegreville resident.
The new design is a larger box with a flat roof.
They also have a piece of foam mounted inside them for the birds to place their nest on.
2 boxes were placed on the fence line across from the Vegreville Buck for Wildlife property located on Rng Rd 152 by Hiway 16, and 1 box was located along the roadside near the VWF outdoor range.
The swallows arrived on April 26 and tried the nest boxes but had trouble entering the boxes with the entry hole placed on the bottom front of the boxes. Perches were added but these did not solve the entry problem either. The lower holes were then covered and a new hole placed higher up on the box fronts. Within a day the swallows were entering the boxes and nested in all three.
Fledging of young was completed by July 4 and the boxes were cleaned out on July 15. These boxes were later sealed for the winter.
Results of the new boxes were:
- a large amount of grass and feathers was used in all the boxes.
- 2 had nests built by the hole, not on the foam.
- the third box had 2 nests built in it, of which only one had been used for egg laying and nesting.
- the new boxes are larger and heavier than normal boxes thus can be mounted only on the thicker posts.
- the new boxes protrude from the posts quite a bit furthur than the normal boxes.

VWF will stay with the original designed box - the "North American Bluebird box" design.


2016 report to VWF by Rob H.

Number of birds fledged: mountain bluebird 44, tree swallow 307
Pest bird species: house wrens in 8 boxes, House sparrow in 1 box

Mountain Bluebirds first arrived on March 27. 8 pairs laid 52 eggs with 3 pairs double-clutching with one second clutch failure. There were 8 non-viable eggs, resulting in 44 fledged juveniles. Bluebirds prefer pasture land.

Tree Swallows normally arrive in late April and claim the nest boxes not used by bluebirds, usually around the field crop land such as wheat or canola. This year there were 54 pairs laying 318 eggs with 307 fledged juveniles.

House Wrens arrive even later than tree swallows and usually do not interfere with bluebirds or swallows. They will occasionally insert sticks overtop of finished swallow nests. This year found 4 unhatched wren eggs in a full nest overtop of a successful swallow nest.


2015 report to VWF by Rob H.

Number of nests and fledged young mountain bluebirds and tree swallows estimated from nest evidence evaluated between August 23-25, 2015 found a total of 64 nest boxes.

Mountain Bluebird: 4 nests, 25 fledged, one nest had two clutches, Average 6.5 per box.

Tree Swallow: 53 nests, 298 fledged. Average 5.6 per box.

House Sparrow: nested in 1 box.

House Wren: disturbed 6 nest boxes. In most cases the wrens moved in late, after the swallows were finished nesting, but did displace 1 swallow family.

Many other birds, geese, rodents and a herd of mule deer also dwell, thrive, and stroll through this property. There is a blind on this site (bird watching station/hut). Please keep it clean and treat it with respect.

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