Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society


2008 Spring Newsletter

Welcome to the 2008 spring newsletter. The AGM is set for Saturday March 22 at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. Please note that this is a change from the previous newsletter. The first 40 people to register will receive a free bird house. See agenda below.

This has been a very exciting time for the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society with some significant changes that will carry us forward. In the past I have talked about having a constitution and also about producing a brochure that we could use to promote our society and solicit new members. I am happy to tell you that these tasks have been accomplished .Our society has been successful because of the continued support of its members. We would not be in this position without that support. The new constitution included with this newsletter will provide the structure needed to run the society more efficiently. I thank Audrey Heagy and Anne Davidson (and to Anne who edited the final copy ) who provided their expertise and guidance to review the initial document, and others who made comments on the original draft. We will examine the constitution more closely at the AGM so bring your copy with you.

Also included in this newsletter is a copy of our new OEBS brochure. With John Millman,s expertise on pagemaker and his excellent photographs we have put together an OEBS brochure that will be used to both educate the public about Eastern Bluebirds and solicit new members for the society. Julie Liptak is now our new membership director and Treasurer. Julie will be keeping our membership base up to date as well as looking after the financial end. Julie was on the executive of the Kitchener Waterloo Field Naturalists for 3 years and was also on the Environmental Advisory Council for the city of Waterloo. Anne Davidson is our new recording secretary, she has a wealth of naturalist club experience and is currently the editor of the Lotus, the newsletter of the Norfolk Naturalists Club. John Millman who provided both the photographs and his expertise on pagemaker to put together the OEBS brochure has agreed to become a director at large. A list of the OEBS executive are included at the end of this newsletter.

The biggest weather story in Southern Ontario for 2007 was a persistent lack of precipitation throughout the year. The previous year was the wettest since 1974 so I guess we had some catching up to do. The final total of 671.9mm at the university of Waterloo weather station was about three quarters of what we would expect in a normal year and only 15.4 mm away from being the lowest annual precipitation since 1970. The prediction by the Environment Canada weather office is that this winter will be the coldest in 15 years. The 2007 November temperature as recorded by the University of Waterloo weather station was the coldest in the last ten years followed by a December that was 0.3c below average but still within the range to call it an average month for Temperature. At 86.7mm we were well above the average of 71.1 mm for the month of December making it the only time in 2007 there was an above average month of precipitation. In January we experienced above average precipitation and a temperature that was more than 3 degrees warmer than the long term average. The snowfall for the month of 45 cm was pretty much bang on the average, however the 56 mm of rain is about twice what we would expect. Most of the snow was gone by the end of January. A major snowstorm on February 1 dropped 20+ cm of snow but more warm temperatures with rain on the 5th removed some of it only to be dumped on again with a major snowstorm the night of February 6th. Overall February should come in at about average temperature but with above average precipitation. We are catching up on our lack of precipitation from 2007.

Weather is the most critical factor affecting Bluebird over wintering survival and breeding success.¹

1. Weather information obtained from University of Waterloo Weather Station website.

Bluebird Etiquette

Reports are received each year by bluebirders of nest boxes suddenly appearing along their bluebird trail. If you are setting up a new bluebird trail please make sure that you don't set up your trail in the middle of an already existing one. The temptation is there, you see a bluebird and immediately you want to set up your bluebird boxes in that area. In a lot of instances the bluebirds are there because someone else has gone to all the work of establishing a trail and bringing the bluebirds back to that area. If this happens, find out who set up the boxes, explain that you already have an existing trail and politely ask them to remove the boxes and put them in another area. There are lots of good areas where you can set up your boxes and attract bluebirds to a new area. As of rule of thumb I would try and locate your boxes at least 10 km from an existing bluebird trail. You must always obtain the permission of the farmer or landowner before putting boxes on private property. Boxes must be well back of road allowances and boxes cannot be put on signposts, hydro poles etc. without a permit. Lightly traveled gravel roads can be good locations for boxes as the bluebirds have overhead perches and an open area to see insects. Always have the entrance hole facing away from the road and well back of the road allowance. Good luck!

Ontario Breeding Bird Atlas 2001-2005

On Sunday February 10, I attended the launch of the Breeding Bird Atlas at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. It was probably one of the coldest days of the winter and despite some folks not being able to attend because of the weather the auditorium in which it was held was filled to overflowing. Over 3400 volunteers participated in the atlas project. Field work was carried out from 2001-2005. The atlas is a wonderful document that will be a benchmark for examining changes in bird populations in the coming years. I would recommend that you purchase a copy. Individual copies can be obtained through the Ontario Nature website.

Based on point count estimates the population size was given for many species. The four species that bluebirders most commonly encounter had the following population estimates: Eastern Bluebird ( 40,000 ), Tree Swallow ( 400,000 ), House Wren ( 250,000 ) and House Sparrow ( 2,000,000 ) It is estimated there are 1,200,000 House Sparrows in the Carolinian zone. The distribution for the House Sparrow is the same as the first atlas but its probability of observation declined by a significant 20% between atlases in the province as a whole.

For other cavity nesters like the Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser, there was not enough information to estimate population size. The section on Proportional Change Between Atlases for each species by region and habitat classification documented significant increases from the 1st atlas for both Wood Duck and Hooded Merganser in all five regions of the province. The Wood Duck was virtually absent in Ontario in the early 1900's but is now one of the province's most common duck species. Between atlases, there was a significant 53% increase in the probability of observation in the province as a whole and in all regions where it occurs. This increase was also similar for the Hooded Merganser. Between atlases, the probability of observation increased significantly by 80% in the province as a whole, with significant increases in all regions but the Hudson Bay Lowlands.

The American Kestrel did not fare as well but the decline was consistent with that of many other grassland and open country species. During both atlases the American Kestrel was one of the most numerous and broadly distributed raptors; however the probability of observation declined significantly in each of the three southern regions in the 2nd atlas. Although Southern Ontario remains the core of the province's population, there were drops of 21%, 15% and 27% in the Carolinian, Lake Simcoe-Rideau, and the Southern Shield regions respectively. The number of kestrels migrating by Hawk Cliff near Port Stanley in 2007 was 4431 which is 645 fewer than the record number recorded in 2006 ( 5076 ). Both totals are much higher than the 10 year average of 2914. Breeding evidence for the American Kestrel was found in 1833 squares.

The Carolinian region had substantially more species decreasing than increasing. The decline of aerial foragers (swallows, nightjars, the Chimney Swift) is an emerging issue North America-wide particularly in Canada and the northern parts of most species ranges. In Ontario all 10 species of aerial foragers declined between atlases, and no species increased. The real surprise in this group was the decline in the population of Tree Swallows. During the second atlas the probability of observation was highest south of the shield at circa 95% and generally declined northward largely because of significant declines in the southern and northern shield regions ( 18% and 28% respectively ). Breeding bird survey data for Canada suggest a significant annual decline of 2.1 % between 1981 and 2005.The decline was slightly larger in Ontario over the same period, with a significant annual decline of 2.6%, representing an estimated loss of about half of the population over the last 25 years. The observed decline is consistent with the pattern observed for almost all other aerial insectivores in Ontario since the first atlas. Breeding bird survey data for the House Wren between 1981 and 2005 indicate a modest population increase in the province as a whole and in all regions where it occurs.

Population Estimates for Eastern Bluebird across Ontario
Hudson Bay Lowlands0
Northern Shield12,000
Southern Shield5000
Lake Simcoe-Rideau20,000
Increase or Decrease in Number of Squares between Atlases
Eastern Bluebird+ 425
Hooded Merganser+274
Wood Duck+268
Red-headed Woodpecker-354
Purple Martin-287
Tree Swallow-243
American Kestrel-205


American Kestrel totals for Hawk Cliff obtained from the Hawk Cliff Foundation website.

Material for this article obtained directly from the Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. editors, Michael D. Cadman….( et al ).

OEBS Agenda
Saturday March 22, 2008
9:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. Registration
9:30 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Business Meeting Introductions - Bill Read
Membership Report - Julie Liptak
Treasurer's Report - Julie Liptak
OEBS Brochure - Bill Read and John Millman
OEBS Constitution – Bill Read and Anne Davidson
Presentation of Conservation Award - Don Wills
10:00 a.m. - 10:10 a.m. Overview of the Breeding Bird Btlas - Bill Read
10:15 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Coffee Break
10:50 a.m. - 12:00 noon Individual Members Nest Box Reports
12:00 noon - 1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Adrienne Brewster Talk on Monarch Butterflies
2:15 p.m. - 2:50 p.m. Coffee Break
2:50 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Bluebird Trails on the Bruce Peninsula - Cindy Cartwright
3:30 p.m. - 3:50 p.m. Bucket Raffle Draw
Bucket Raffle

As in previous years, a bucket raffle will be held. Anyone wishing to donate a prize should bring it to the meeting. Money raised helps offset the cost of hosting the meeting.

Registration Fee

There will be a registration fee of $5.00 for members and $6.00 for non-members.

Lunch Arrangements

Coffee, tea, donuts and muffins will be served. There are two restaurants nearby and the Gardens Café downstairs.


Parking is free in the Royal Botanical Gardens parking lot.

Christmas Bird count numbers for Eastern Bluebird in North America

Eastern Bluebirds on the 108th Christmas Bird Count ( CBC )

St Thomas again recorded the highest number of Eastern bluebirds on the 108th CBC with 112, West Elgin was next with 86. Overall numbers on Christmas Bird Counts will be close to last years total.( 511 Eastern Bluebirds on the 107th CBC ) Dave Sheepway and Dave Tannahill while participating on the Owen Sound CBC saw one Eastern Bluebird near a fish hatchery. This is the furthest north that a Bluebird has been recorded on a CBC. A total of 41 Eastern Bluebirds were recorded on the Hamilton CBC, this was the second highest total. There were 52 on the 102nd CBC. The Hamilton fall count recorded 202 bluebirds. The 108th CBC took place from December 14th 2007 to January 5th 2008.

More Reports From The Field - 2007

Chris Lyons fledged 320 bluebirds from 56 successful pairs ( 5.71 fledged young per successful pair ) His trail located near Wesleyville also had 170 successful Tree Swallow nests, 1 Kestrel, 3 Black capped Chickadee, 8 Woodduck and 1 Great Crested Flycather.

Robert Hunt and Lorne Smith reported 479 Bluebirds fledged from 609 monitored nest boxes in Grey and Bruce Counties near Owen Sound.

Longtime member Elwood M Jones fledged 37 bluebirds from his trail near Castleton in Northumberland County.

Another longtime member George Thrid had 36 fledglings from his 46 boxes on Manitoulin Island.

Audrey Heagy and David Okines had 11 fledged young from 2 pair of bluebirds on their farm near St Williams.

Bob O,Donnell reported 19 fledged young from 48 monitored nest boxes in Renfrew.

Producers of high quality nature films, John and Janet Foster fledged 10 bluebirds from their 20 year old trail in Madoc. They also had 74 successful Tree Swallow nestings.

Dave Lamble from Fergus fledged 81 Bluebirds along with 163 successfull nestings of Tree Swallows.

Felix Ventresca, Aurelio Munoz, Luke Volpatti and Margaret Kalogeropoulos reported fledging 112 Bluebirds, 195 Tree Swallows and 123 House Wrens from their Bluebird trail in Short Hills park near Welland.

Susan Blue fledged 21 Bluebirds from her 55 box trail in Rockwood.

The Kawartha Field Naturalists under the direction of Tom and Louise Horne fledged 107 Eastern Bluebirds from their trail in Fenelon Falls.

Marion Thomas from Locust Hill was able to fledge 25 Bluebirds from her 28 nest box trail.

Helen Dutka had 3 Bluebirds fledge from one nesting in Burlington.

Long time members David and Sharon Turner fledged 25 Bluebirds from their 28 box trail located near Markdale.

George and Kittie Fells fledged 16 Bluebirds from their 52 box trail in Dufferin County.

Maureen Riggs fledged 38 Bluebirds from a 40 nest box trail located near Brighton in Northumberland County.

Congratulations to everyone on a successful year. It is because of the dedication of bluebirders throughout the province that the Eastern Bluebird is a success story. It is one of the few grass land species that has shown a significant increase since the last Breeding Bird Atlas ( from 1981 to 1985 ) Breeding evidence was found in 1235 squares in the 2nd atlas which is an increase of 425 squares form the 1st atlas.

Bailee Birdathon

Sylvia Van Walsum, our representative for the OEBS raised 600 dollars during the 2007 Bailee birdathon, of which 150 dollars comes back to OEBS. Thanks again Sylvia for raising that amount and also agreeing to be our 2008 representative. Sylvia will have a pledge sheet available at the AGM on Saturday March 22.

Bluebird Field Trip

This field trip will be in the St George area, south of Cambridge. The focus will be on setting up and monitoring a bluebird trail. During this outing we will band both young and adult bluebirds. The trip will start at 9am on Saturday, June 7th and last until around 1pm. Bring a lunch that can be eaten in the field. Meet at the Orchard Home apple orchard on Howell rd which is one concession north of St George. Directions from hwy 24 which runs from Cambridge ( 401 ) to Brantford – From Brantford on 24 hwy go one road past hwy 5, turn right and go about one mile – it is on your left. From 401 go south on hwy 24 ( Hespler Road ) about 10 miles then turn left on Howell rd, go 1 mile, its on your left. Howell Rd is one concession north of St George.

Participants must confirm – phone Bill Read at 519 620 0744 or e-mail info@billreadsbooks.com.

OEBS Conservation Award

An award is given out each year to an individual or group that has made an outstanding contribution to Eastern Bluebird conservation during the preceding year. The 2006 award was given to the Ottawa Duck Club of Kanata, Ontario. This club has been a long time member of the OEBS and has had a very successful bluebird trail in that area with Jim Sauer, Barc Dowden and Tony and Gretchen Denton doing most of the monitoring. The 2007 award will be given out in the morning at our AGM on March 22, 2008 at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. For previous award recipients see the fall 2007 newsletter on our website.

Digital Cameras needed for picture taking at our AGM
If you have a digital camera and would like to take pictures at our AGM please give Bill Read a call at 519 620 0744 or e-mail info@billreadsbooks.com

Onatario Eastern Bluebird Society Executive

Bill Read, President and Founder, info@billreadsbooks.com, 519-620-0744, Cambridge
Tom Kott, Vice-president, amorak@sympatico.ca, 905-957-3208, Caistor Centre
Anne Davidson, Recording Secretary, anne.davidson@sympatico.ca, 519-446-3589, Vanessa
Julie Liptak, Membership Secretary and Treasurer, julie@wildontario.com, 519-622-6954, Cambridge
Don Wills, Conservation Director, 905-765-2117, Carluke
John Millman, Director-at-large, alexandra5@cogeco.ca, 905-332-0493, Burlington
Linda & Wayne Buck, Directors-at-large, wbuck@golden.net, 519-66-2529, New Hamburg
Tom Hunt, Director-at-large, donnahunt@rogers.com, 416-538-6403, Toronto

Dagmar Rudzewitsch, Website Coordinator, dagmar@lara.on.ca, 905 524 0429, Hamilton



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