Bluebird Nesting at Sunburst, part 2

Bluebird Nesting at Sunburst, part 2

By Al King

In my previous blog entry, I described the Sunburst western bluebird program. At that time I had just repaired and cleaned the nest boxes. Next, I put up one more box making a total of nine nest boxes.

Spring is a very busy time for me here at the Sanctuary. In previous years I had not managed to monitor all the boxes. This year I did look into four of them during the nesting season. One of these was near my house, so I made the time to take some photographs inside that box.

On May fourth there were five eggs in the nest. Checking the box again on May 17th, I found the eggs had hatched—probably a week or so before— and the young birds were growing feathers. The birds were larger and more developed each time I looked in (May 20 and May 24). On May 28th I saw one of the babies looking out the door of the box. It was only a few more days until the nest box was empty. We are now seeing more bluebirds in our neighborhood.

It’s wonderful to see all the insect-eating bluebirds here at the Sanctuary. Of the four boxes I checked during nesting time this year, they all had babies. Three of these were the bluebirds that we had put the nest boxes out for. The last one I checked was another species of insect-eating bird. Keep an eye out for my next blog post with the description and photos of the unexpected parents and babies.

Discovering Life’s Many Magical Moments at Sunburst

Discovering Life’s Many Magical Moments at Sunburst

By Ischa Lea

The morning dawned with an air of excitement permeating the Sanctuary grounds. Adults and children alike anxiously awaited the beginning of a family friendly Regenerating Earth and Spirit event that would encompass three different components. And what a day it proved to be!

A brief introduction to highlight the planned activities by Sunburst’s permaculture expert, Sean Fennell, and Shakti Ranch’s Natalie Riggs further fanned the fires of anticipation of what the day might bring. And rare gifts it did. Natalie’s incredible ability to help each person connect with the resident Sunburst horses on a deep inner level of mutual exchange was phenomenal! Even folks who normally experienced trepidation around horses were happily and gratefully moved by Natalie’s ability to gently guide them to connect from their heart centers to the horses and the horses’ ability to “know” just what each person needed. What a transformative experience for all!

Natalie Riggs of Shakti Ranch at Sunburst Sanctuary
If Natalie proved to be an amazing horse whisperer, then Sean Fennell proved to be an equally amazing soil whisperer! His ability to tenderly weave the spiritual and material into a beautiful synchronistic interplay of permaculture principles, ethics and hands-on practices were greatly appreciated by everyone who accompanied him to the gardens to witness firsthand Spirit and Nature working seamlessly together as they helped plant vegetables, put up a small hoop house, and proceed to the orchard to plant apple trees.

Is there anything more fun than a hayride? What a thrill it was to join the kids as we all enjoyed a hayride to and from the compost area where Sean explained the logistics of making fine compost as well as noting the intricacies of Nature’s own way of ensuring that there’s no waste. Her ingenuity in designing natural systems of cohesive cooperation between life forms both above and below the soil is inspiring.

Alfred King’s expertise on grafting was yet another amazing highlight of an incredibly fulfilling day as many of us listened intently to the history and methodologies of certain grafting techniques. More exciting, however, was the opportunity for each of us to perform an actual graft on a tree to take home with us.

It reminded me of a sweet experience as a child of helping to make cupcakes, and the thrill of being surprisingly gifted with quite a few to take home! How proud I was to announce that I had helped make those lovely cupcakes. How equally thrilled each of us adults were, now that we’d done our first grafts!

And the magic moments at Sunburst continued as a few weeks later a new group of adventurous souls embarked upon a Nature hunt on the Sanctuary hills. The event? A Paleontology Workshop headed by Sunburst’s own science teacher, Moksha Badarayan, and Sunburst docent, Craig Hanson, who would lead eager trekkers up the hillsides to hunt for ancient clam shells and shark’s teeth. And boy did we find some beauties! The Earth Mother’s energy seemed so palpable that we adults could not help but morph into the innocence and excitement of childhood once again as we each hunted for the perfect petrified clam.

I had never witnessed such huge clams or imagined they could exist! Two young ladies repurposed a child’s wagon into a clam wagon to haul our large clam shells down the hill, stashed momentarily. Now the youngest trekkers joined the rest of us in the hunt for sharks teeth up Shark Tooth Hill.

Beautiful warm weather, blue skies, adventurous spirits, and loving company graced both events. As rewarding as it can be journeying inwardly to connect with Spirit in the quiet of our souls, thrilled at the prospect of a direct personal encounter with Spirit, it can also be rewarding to journey outwardly with kindred souls, discovering Spirit’s presence, beauty, and myriad gifts in Nature.


Sunburst Western Bluebird Program

Sunburst Western Bluebird Program

By Al King

One of the situations that seems to be part of agricultural ventures, is crop damage due to insects. Those of us who are attempting to use more natural agricultural systems are always looking for natural ways to reduce crop loss. Some species of birds have diets that consist almost entirely of insects and spiders. The question then becomes how to attract the insect eating birds to our agricultural areas.

Western Bluebirds are one of the species of birds whose diets are primarily insects and spiders. They are cavity nesters, using a hollow in a tree for example. In order to increase the numbers of bluebirds, one can increase the opportunities for nesting by providing more cavities for them to nest in. This can be accomplished by providing nest boxes. Those who have studied bluebird nesting have come up with specific dimensions, entrance hole size, and recommendations for placement and orientation of the nest boxes. Nest boxes that conform to these recommendations, optimize the chance of the birds using them and successfully rearing young birds.

Some years ago, I was approached by a gentleman who wanted to place bluebird nest boxes around our agricultural fields. He felt passionate about the fact that increasing the bluebird population would reduce the insect populations, and consequently reduce the need for other insect control measures.

We welcomed his offer and he placed a number of nest boxes, which he had made. He monitored the success of the blue bird nesting and subsequent maturation of the young birds. He later moved away, but left the nest boxes. I saw this program as beneficial to the property as well as an opportunity to experience this wonderful aspect of the natural world, so I took over the annual cleaning and maintenance of the nest boxes.

At present, we have eight active nest boxes at the sanctuary. They are cleaned and repaired each March. In April and May the bluebirds are courting, scouting for nesting opportunities, laying eggs, brooding and caring for their young. Observing these beautiful birds throughout the year is a joy. Knowing that I have had a hand in increasing their nesting opportunities is also a joy.