Spring 2015 Message from the President

March 30, 2015

Dear MOBS Members,

Well, in a matter of a few weeks we watched Bluebirds in our area go from collecting in large groups at bird baths and feeders, bluebirdsatbirdbath1 ( like this picture taken on my deck at home) to bluebirds being quite territorial and claiming nest boxes (like in the image below taken by Board Member Ann Smith at her home in Sullivan). I am looking forward to this year’s conference in Springfield where everyone can share last year’s nesting results along with their stories from this past winter. I for one had a good nesting season and a fantastic winter with the most Bluebirds I have ever had at one time. With the lack of natural food and the long stretch of below freezing temperatures, I had 10 to 20 Bluebirds frequent my deck every day for fresh water and snacks during February. The conference is such a good time to talk with others about their trails and share achievements. One thing I always enjoy at the conference, besides meeting up with old friends again, is the outreach that Bluebirds have in Missouri. Missouri has such an accomplished history of Bluebird conservation and we are benefiting from the years of dedication of garden clubs and individuals. The Bluebirds we see every day are a result of their dedication to conservation and what we do now on our Bluebird Trails is a part of the future for Bluebirds. As we continue to care for bluebird boxes in our yards and on our trails, we are continuing the tradition of Bluebirds in Missouri. Thank you for your continued dedication to helping Bluebirds.

Steve Garr, MOBS President


2014 MOBS Conference notes from President Steve Garr

July 18, 2014



I would like to give a special thank you to all who helped out and volunteered at the 2014 Missouri Bluebird Conference. We definitely have a special group. There were also members behind the scenes that also need to be thanked. They donated products for the auction / raffle or sent snacks and deserts with other members. Because we had so many volunteers there was always a helping hand when we needed something done.

This conference was definitely all about Bluebirds and how we can help them. It all started Friday evening with the Bluebird Banquet, the “Bluebird and Friends” slide show (thanks to everyone who sent in their pictures) and the presentation of Awards to very deserving MOBS members. It was a pleasure to present Russ Heindselman the MOBS “Bluebird Conservation Award” and Norm and Beth Stucky received the MOBS “True Blue Service Award” for outstanding service to the Society. We all enjoyed a fun and very special presentation by Bet Zimmerman Smith: “Bluebird Oddities”.

Saturday morning, Bet was again a joy to hear and her coverage of controlling House sparrows, House wrens and paper wasps was not only educational but very entertaining. We all appreciated Bet’s extensive perspective as a result of personal experience, but also the far-reaching source of data provided as a result of her educational website: www.sialis.org . We thank Bet for doing double –duty at our Conference this year with two special programs!

With sixty years of experience Russ Heinselman has seen almost everything pertaining to Bluebirds and he shared with us just some of the inventions he made to deter unwanted guest on the Bluebird Trail. Then lunch, and what a lunch we had with many mouthwatering deserts prepared by our members. Each year I enjoy the cooking talents of our members.

After lunch some of the ladies who had prepared just a few of the delicious deserts showed everyone how easy it was to prepare suet and treats for your Bluebirds. Regina, Mary and Ann, with assistance from Susan, made some of their favorite treats for their Bluebirds and many in the audience took home samples for their Bluebirds.

Steve Smith covered many of the different Bluebird nest boxes and the reason for their design. He could have spent hours covering all the design features and there were many functional designs on the raffle tables that he didn’t have the time to cover. One of the main things that he covered was what to look for in a good nest box for Bluebirds and answered every question with personal experience.

With this conference being so much about helping our wonderful Bluebirds it was a joy talking about predator control. When I put up a nest box I want it to be a house not a restaurant for predators. Ivan Ray Miller and Steve Smith helped me prepare the parts needed for the baffles. With the parts cut and drilled it made it simple to make 6 baffles for the MOBS grant box Bluebird Trails. We will be adding a page to the MOBS website with instructions for the new “MOBS Snake and Raccoon Baffle- Kingston Style”.

During each break participants had the opportunity to bid on the many auction items and of course stop at the refreshment tables and get energized. For the last three years Larry Dobson and his wife Mary have handled the auction and raffle. This is MOBS’ only fundraiser and it allows us to keep the price of the conference down and invite such excellent speakers and Bluebird authorities like Bet this year.

This was our first time to plan a Saturday evening event as part of the Conference and, thanks to the generosity of our hosts Norm and Beth Stucky, it was an enormous hit! Norm ordered up just the right amount of breeze to cool us off during the weenie roast, and Beth made “Killer Baked Beans” and put on a spectacular spread to go with our hot dogs and S’mores. They capped it off with a beautiful moon.

Just when we thought the Saturday evening social could not be topped, the Sunday morning field trip proved to hold even more fun and learning opportunities. We all toured the Stucky’s beautiful wildlife habitats and were entertained by their Bluebirds, Purple Martins, Orioles, Woodpeckers, Hummingbirds, and even a Mississippi Kite during one of the bird walks! (special thanks to Audubon member Betty Richey for leading that last bird walk around the wetlands!). In all, we spotted 47 different species on our Sunday field trip to Mockingbird Hill!

Our goal at MOBS is to help everyone with their Bluebirds and other native cavity nesters and the conference this year definitely fulfilled this ambition. Again, I personally thank everyone for so generously giving of your time and effort to make this an educational – and unforgettable- Missouri Bluebird Conference!

Do what you can to help the Bluebirds,

Steve Garr
MOBS, president

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Some of the events from the 2014 Missouri Bluebird Conference

Save the Dates!

March 16, 2014

July 11-13th, 2014

The 2014 Missouri Bluebird Conference

at the spacious meeting facilities of the
George Washington Carver Farm, Lincoln University
3804 Bald Hill Road, Jefferson City, MO 65101


It is undoubtedly the place bluebirders turn to most for all things Bluebird ! Bet monitors a 100 box trail of her own in Northeastern Connecticut.  She is a Board Member and Life Member of the North American Bluebird Society, and recipient of several awards and acknowledgements for her many conservation and environmental contributions.

NEW for this conference:

A special hands-on Workshop
“Building Nest Boxes AND Predator Baffles”

Plus a program on Feeding Bluebirds

You won’t want to miss the fabulous Field Trip to the very special farm of Norm and Beth Stucky! This property, on the bank of the Moreau River, is a treat to explore. It features a great variety of native wildlife on habitat that has been lovingly tended by the Stuckys. Naturally, there is a productive Bluebird Trail – Norm and Beth have been enthusiastic supporters of MOBS since its inception.

Of course…

the Event will include the annual “Bluebird Banquet” on Friday and a chance to visit with Bluebird Enthusiasts form across the state and beyond !

Registration and additional information can be found at the following link.

2014 Missouri Bluebird Conference

2013 MOBS Conference wrap up with President Steve Garr

July 28, 2013

Beautiful flowers at Powell Gardens in Kansas City
It just seems that the MOBS Bluebird Conferences get better and better. I was thrilled to be part of the line-up of speakers this time but quickly was humbled by the fantastic presentations from both Dave Tylka and Jim Rathert. Probably the only objection was that it ended too soon. Limited by room reservations at Powell Gardens and trying to squeeze in a two hour tour of the gardens before they closed made the day zoom by. Everyone was amazed at how thoroughly Dave would explain how much more birds benefited from native plants compared with non-native plants. After seeing how our native birds benefit from both the insects attracted to and the food produced by native plants, I will certainly give those plants greater priority in my own backyard habitat. Having Dave and Jim together with their wealth of information was almost overwhelming and they freely shared their knowledge with the entire group.

Jim not only shared his knowledge of photography and birds, he also designed and donated the beautiful name tags and the bookmarks that everyone attending the conference received.

I hope everyone took time to talk with and thank the volunteers that manned the MOBS registration booth and the product sales booth. And I certainly do not want to overlook the parade of volunteers who helped with move- in and then tear- down and move- out after the presentations were over. Many of you took home some fantastic items from the raffle and auction. Remember, we were able to keep this years conference so economical because of last years silent auction and raffle. The items you purchased this year will help keep the cost of next years conference affordable.

All of this would not have been possible and would not have run so smoothly without the time and preparation by the MOBS Board and this years Conference Chair, Larry Dobson. Larry along with his wife, Mary, also took responsibility for the silent auction and raffle. It seems like all the board members were doing multiple jobs. Ann Smith would be handing out name badges to attendees one minute and the next minute you would see her with a camera taking photos for the web site. I look forward to all the photos I know many of you were there and I didn’t get a chance to say hello. Susan Reinagel had one of the longest drives to the conference and started registering people as soon as she arrived.

I know many of you had a chance to stop by Steve Smith’s booth with questions on nest boxes for a variety of birds. Steve has agreed to share his passion for all the cavity nesters especially Bluebirds as one of our main speakers next year. It has been four years since Steve has done a presentation at a MOBS conference and many of our new members have not had the opportunity to learn from his years of experience.

Sunday could not have been a much nicer day and a great way to cap a wonderful conference. Everyone enjoyed the leisurely walk checking nest boxes at Loch Lloyd Golf Course. It was nice to see and experience their Bluebird Trail. The records that Carol and Betty keep along with their troupe of volunteers prove monitoring a nest box trail can make a difference. It was nice to see new clutches of Bluebird eggs in many of the nest boxes. I look forward to their year end report and the number of Bluebirds raised.

There were so many people who pitched in to help out at this years conference that I am sure I have overlooked some foks here, so I want to take this opportunity to say thanks now. Thank you! Your contributions really do make a difference and bluebirds and bluebird enthusiasts benefit.

See you at the 2014 Missouri Bluebird Conference, July 11th-13th, in Jefferson City!

Steve Garr
Missouri Bluebird Society, President

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Some of the events from the 2013 Missouri Bluebird Conference at Powell Gardens in Kansas City, MO

2013 Missouri Bluebird Society Conference Registration Form and Information

May 1, 2013

Click here for the 2013 Missouri Bluebird Society Registration Form.

Letter from the President

May 1, 2013

What an interesting Spring we have had here in Missouri. It seemed as though Spring just would not get here and stay with us! Of course, this means the start to nesting season has been very different than last season. This time last year many of us had eggs hatching. This year it seems some of you have eggs hatching while others have birds just now selecting a box and putting in nesting material! Who knows what the rest of the season holds. I can tell you, however, about a few things sure to be helpful to all bluebird- ers: Please take a few minutes to look over the information in our newsletter on the new “House Sparrow Project” . I am sure many of you could provide valuable information to this study. Also, Please be sure to note the information Steve Smith has submitted on the upcoming MOBS Field Trip in June. I know I plan to be there and am sure I will learn a lot. Of course, you’ll also want to hurry and send in your Registration for the 2013 Missouri Bluebird Conference (July 12-14th). There will be so much to discover at this years conference to benefit all of us AND our native cavity nesters. Plus, the gorgeous Powell Gardens is a terrific setting and the planned field trips and programs are sure to provide valuable data, great experience, and wonderful camaraderie with other Bluebirders!
Do what you can to help the Bluebirds,
Steve Garr,
MOBS president

Wintertime Nest Box Monitoring

January 27, 2013

By Steve Garr, MOBS President

Have you checked your nest boxes since removing the last nesting material of the season? If not, there are plenty of reasons to do so. At the top of my list: to keep House Sparrows from taking up residence in the boxes in the winter.

Most of us who have been bluebirding and raising other native birds in our nest boxes for any length of time have had the great pleasure of knowing some of our boxes will often be used by bluebirds in colder months to roost in at night and stay warm. While I have seen a dozen or more Bluebirds pile into one nest box at night, friends have described scenes in their yards of 20 or more bluebirds roosting in nest boxes. Most information regarding House Sparrows using nest boxes to roost in the winter indicate there is seldom more than one bird per box. This has been my observation as well. This observation might lead some folks to the opinion that since it is “only one House Sparrow” it doesn’t really make much difference to let it stay. I could not disagree more. For starters, that one non-native House Sparrow is taking winter shelter from other native birds (and in the case of bluebirds possibly several native birds at once). But equally as important is the degree to which a House Sparrow will “bond” to a nest box, even in winter, causing it to defend the box even more rigorously in the spring. Basically, we are empowering our bluebird’s competition when we allow House Sparrows to over-winter in our nest boxes. Naturally, we don’t want to do that after making so many good efforts to assist the bluebirds.

In many parts of North America this issue of House Sparrows claiming boxes in the off-season could be of particular importance this year. So many areas experienced a mild and even rather warm Fall. In the area of Missouri in which I live, I believe very warm , summer-like weather contributed to the fact that House Sparrows began putting nest material in my nest boxes in Fall and even as recently as mid December. A recent check of four nest boxes in my small yard produced three House Sparrow nest starts. House Sparrows had also attempted to nest in boxes on my trails- boxes which I had cleaned out for the season after bluebirds had successfully nested this past season. So, again, if you have not looked inside your nest boxes since removing the final nest material from last year, I strongly suggest you do so. And then continue to monitor your nest boxes throughout the winter months. What to do in the event you find a House Sparrow already committed to one of your boxes? I have some tips.

Steps to discouraging House Sparrows from residing in nest boxes in winter:
1. Simply disturbing the bird in the box during the night is a great start. It may be several days before this bird returns. Birds have a tendency to continue to roost in location where they feel safe, so by disturbing them in the middle of the night they no longer feel safe and that location becomes a dangerous location.
2. Place a live-trap in the nest box in the afternoon if you have observed a House sparrow at the box. Place a small piece of grass over the entrance hole to use as an indicator to whether or not a bird has entered the box.
(“Wintertime Monitoring” continued from page 2) Check the box every 30 minutes for bird activity. Remove the trap after your final check for the night and do not leave the trap inside the box over night.
3. If you believe a House Sparrow has roosted in a nest box for the evening, place a clear plastic bag over the entire nest box or over the entrance hole. (Do this after sunset). Tap on the side of the box to try to get the bird to exit the box into the bag. Sometimes you have to partially open the door and slide a small stick around the inside of the nest box to encourage the bird to exit the nest box into the bag. A clear bag is recommended so you can identify the bird in case a native bird had taken over the nest box.

Each year I get inquiries about Bluebirds and Purple Martins. Sometimes the questions may be concerning why folks are getting less Bluebirds each year and more House Sparrows. Or, “Why aren’t my Purple Martins keeping the House Sparrows away from their martin house?”. The answer is the same for both the Bluebirds and the Purple Martins. When a non-native bird that is more aggressive and is determined to kill (not to just chase) the native bird away from the cavity, the more aggressive bird usually wins. Bluebirds and Purple Martins need our help to defeat the House Sparrow. One way we can get a head start on helping our native birds during nesting season is to keep their nest sites free of House Sparrows now.

Take time to help you bluebirds.

MOBS Field Trip to member Ivan Ray Miller’s home

August 5, 2012

by Steve Smith, MOBS Board Member

First I’d like to say thank you to Ivan Ray for allowing us a to take a glimpse into his life and to visit with his wonderful family Anna Mae, Nelson Ray and Esther Sue.

What a GREAT first field trip for MOBS. The turnout was fantastic with 36 in attendance including the Miller Family. We met at Ivan’s home in Jamesport, MO on July 28, 2012 and started the field trip at 10am with a walk around the home and through the gardens. Ivan had a nesting pair of Northern Flickers in his Flicker box that fledged 6 for the first time since he put the box up a few years back. As we walked to the Purple Martin colony we also spotted a Blue Grosbeak nest in one of the peach trees. The Purple Martin colony had almost all moved on but a few were still present for us to observe. Next Ivan had a surprise in store for the group. He had 2 teams of horses hitched to hay wagons ready to take us to his Bluebird trail and pond and to view the acreage he is returning back to prime wildlife habitat.

While we were on our hayride, Anna Mae and Esther Sue were back at the house preparing a wonderful lunch for everyone that included homemade pie and ice cream. They opened their home to us and gave us all a chance to relax and converse about all that we had seen so far. Regarding the homemade pie and ice cream…all I can say is YUM!!

After lunch we all loaded into our cars and drove to Little Indian Lake Conservation area to view Ivan’s more than 49 Prothonatory Warbler nesting boxes. Very impressive indeed. While there, MOBS board member Jim Rathert spotted an Eastern Kingbird nest with one nestling almost ready to fledge. He flapped his wings several times, the nestling not Jim, but decided he just wasn’t ready to leave the nest. Both adults were close by.

All in all it was a great day of birding so thanks again to Ivan and his family for their hospitality.

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Letter from MOBS President Steve Garr

July 22, 2012

Dear Bluebird Enthusiasts,

What a terrific Bluebird Conference! I want to personally thank everyone in attendance, all of the terrific speakers, the field trip leaders and the board members and Society members who all pitched in and took responsibility for various aspects of the conference. Great job!

We had 85 folks in attendance coming from eight different states and one Canadian province! We set records for both total attendance AND number of states/provinces represented. We also had a terrific showing from Missouri bluebirders all across the state. One of the best things about a bluebird conference is the networking and sharing of ideas with other bluebirders. This Conference certainly had a lot of that going on! With such a diverse group we were all bound to learn something.

Another important feature of this conference was the fact that it pulled together so many dedicated Conservation organizations. After all, our efforts with native-cavity nesters are just a part of a larger conservation picture. Brad Jacobs represented our own wonderful Missouri Department of Conservation, but we also had representatives from the North American Bluebird Society, Bluebirds Across Nebraska, and the wonderful (and supportive) folks from the Missouri River Bird Observatory.

Brad Jacob’s program, highlighting the importance of Bird Conservation on wintering grounds, revealed just how tuned in Missouri is to Conservation outreach which ultimately benefits Missouri wildlife. It was so great to see long-time friend Dr. David Pitts and his family and to get to hear David present his wonderful research again. Forty years of studying Eastern Bluebirds- what a wealth of knowledge he is! We received many positive comments about the program by Missouri Master Gardener Kris Leech. Kris, like most of us, has a special affinity for gardening with wildlife in mind. She gave us lots to think about as we arrange our yards and gardens to be “home” to everything from hummers to frogs to foxes- and bluebirds of course. And a new friend, Rich Stanton, presented an intriguing program about the possible reintroduction of Brown-headed nuthatches into Missouri. Rich and others have invested an impressive amount of time and work into gathering data related to this topic. I particularly appreciated how Rich detailed the steps by which a species is re-introduced into an area – and since the Missouri Bluebird Society is concerned about all native cavity – nesters , it was great to see such concern for this small but quite special primary cavity-nester.

One of the highlights for me at the conference was getting to see the “Bluebirds & Friends” slide show featuring YOUR bluebird photos . It was great to see the pictures our members sent in of the birds in their yards and trails , set to music, and on the “big screen”. This is a tradition I hope MOBS will continue. Thanks to everyone who emailed us pictures of your birds and trails.

For those who were unable to attend the Bluebird Banquet on Friday evening, I have included here a photo of the very deserving Jim Rathert receiving the Society’s first ever “True Blue Service Award”. Jim has been a faithful charter member, charter Board Member, and supporter of MOBS since it’s inception in 2006. He played a very important role in the establishment of the Missouri Bluebird Society when he first accepted responsibility as a Board member, and he’s been supporting MOBS with his actions and hard work ever since. Thank you Jim!

I am certainly looking forward to the next Missouri Bluebird Conference at Powell Gardens July 13, 2013! However, we do have some wonderful get–to-gathers planned before then so Keep an eye on The Fledgling newsletter and on the website .

I look forward to seeing you soon and I thank you for all you do for the Bluebirds!
Steve Garr
Missouri Bluebird Society

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2012 Missouri Bluebird Society Conference Registration Form and Information

June 21, 2012

Click here for the 2012 Missouri Bluebird Society Registration Form.