Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Today Rob and I headed out to Nygren Wetlands for our first round of checking the bluebird nesting boxes. There are twelve of them, spread out over several acres, and it's a nice amble on the prairie. We're one of a set of volunteers who take care of the boxes over the course of the nesting season. We are scheduled for once a month.

It's just getting beautifully green out there.
Rob, in the distance checking one of the boxes.
Our job is to make certain that any nests in the boxes are actually bluebird nests. Rob's been doing this for over 15 years, and was taught early on how to distinguish the most common nests that might be built in the boxes. Only birds of a relatively small size can get through the entrance, and the most frequent interloper is the tree swallow.

Bluebirds make neat nests, mostly with dried grasses. The biggest difference with tree swallow nests is that the swallows line their nests with feathers. Here at the wetlands, they can find large feathers from the various water birds that nest in the swampy areas. Bluebirds don't add feathers to their nests. When we find a swallow nest, we remove it and clean the box. Even if it has eggs. Swallows aren't endangered, and the point of these boxes is to increase the bluebird population in the area.

A tree swallow nest we cleaned out of a box.
Our area has some really lovely large oak trees, and Nygren has it's share. I've always liked the view in the photo below, with all that prairie and then the trees lining up on the rise. It's particularly nice right now, when the trees are just beginning to leaf out, so you can still see their structure.

There were a lot of shades of green on the prairie, which gave the fields a variety of different textures. And there were a few things beginning to bloom. The most striking was the prairie smoke.
We also came across several nice clumps of violets.
Some of the nesting boxes did contain bluebird nests, with eggs.
You can see now fine the nest is, with very similar size dried grasses, but no feathers.
We also have a nest with five eggs in the box in our yard. I love watching the bluebirds flit around the back yard, perching for a moment to scan for bugs, and then diving off.

I'm grateful that Rob and I have this volunteer commitment. It's so easy to end up too busy to get out in nature, but this way we kind of have an appointment.


  1. I love our walks out there. So glad we keep that commitment. Good for the soul.

  2. This is so cool! There are bluebird boxes located all over the nearby forest preserve, but I didn't really know how they were checked. Wow on the Prairie Smoke! I've tried to get a few plants going here for a couple of years with no luck. To see it growing so abundantly in the wild is amazing.

  3. We used to have bluebirds but it's just too shaded anymore and chickadees have taken over their house. Love that prairie smoke!

  4. I didn't even know this place existed. Sounds fantastic. Maybe a possible outing for the Midwest Garden Bloggers? Kudos for you and Rob for helping to save the Bluebirds. Do you find English Sparrow nests in the Bluebird boxes?

    1. Nygren is particularly beautiful in July and August, with the prairie blooming. So many volunteers have worked hard to change it over from the farmland it was before it was donated. Just fields of beautiful colors :-)

      We have not had problems with the English Sparrow at Nygren, but we did once have to fight with one for the box on our property. They are persistent and aggressive birds! In general we don't have them out here --I think they prefer a more urban environment.

  5. So... I know next to nothing about bluebirds. What a neat opportunity you're taking advantage of! And I love that you're blogging about it, helping me slay my own ignorance. Nests with no feathers? Didn't know that! The bluebird population needs help? Didn't know that! And your photos are beautiful, I love prairie photos.