Nest Box Disturbed, Four Bluebirds Perish
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Bad things happen when folks don’t follow the rules…..

Scattered among our 50 nest boxes are six signs asking the public to PLEASE DO NOT OPEN THE NEST BOXES. Trained volunteers monitor these boxes weekly during the breeding season and record their findings.

When approaching this box, it was clear that the box was open. The holding pin, which holds the box door closed, was placed back into the hole with the door ajar. This box, which held four Eastern Bluebird nestlings, was due to fledge in 3-4 days. Upon lifting the door, the nest was intact but the front edge was drooping ( like someone had pulled down on the nest to see what was inside). The four bluebirds were on the ground below, dead.

We do have natural predation occur, and it leaves telltale signs. Raccoon will reach into the nest entry hole so the nest will be torn up and there will be feathers scattered around as it eats the nestlings. Snakes will enter through the entry hole, eat the eggs or nestling and then exit through the same hole without leaving any trace. Other bird species will also attack eggs, peck holes and throw them out, leaving broken egg evidence on the ground.

We outfit all our poles with greased PVC pipe and hardware wire to prevent/deter the four-legged and no legged critters from gaining access. Clearly this was a human predation, mostly likely unintentional, and curiosity got the best of someone. Since the birds were near fledging, when the door was opened and the nest was pulled upon, the birds probably fell out onto the ground. They were not able to fly yet so they perished.
PLEASE DO NOT OPEN THE NEST BOXES!

Summer Bird Hike on June 4
Click on image for a larger view.
summer bird hike

We Counted 40 Fledged Eastern Bluebirds
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Nest box monitoring was conducted on May 15th, and we are pleased to report we have our first fledged Eastern Bluebirds, 40 to be precise. We still have 6 nestlings in 2 boxes with no eggs present. Eastern Bluebirds will soon begin preparing a nest for their second clutch of this breeding season. Our boxes also contained 21 Tree Swallow eggs and the House Wrens, which arrived early this year, have 24 eggs in our boxes.

To show the resourcefulness of the avian species, the above photos show nests with some unusual materials. The left photo is a Tree Swallow nest which contained 3 eggs. Tree Swallows build their cup-shaped nest using grass with a lining of feathers. This nest contained several different types of fabric, which she probably collected off of old patio cushions somewhere. The House Wren nest on the right shows this box contained the typical material, twigs with a grass lining, but also had part of a snake skin for lining material. The House Wren nest had 4 eggs nestled way down in the twigs.

Meet Snowy & Kennedy!
Hemken owl in box

We have a winner…… our Barred Owl owlet’s name is Snowy. On Tuesday, April 26, the stewards of Bremer randomly chose a name from our 31 entries. Kennedy Hemken is seven years old and lives in Staunton Illinois. When asked why she chose the name Snowy, she replied, “the owl was white with a little black and it reminded me of snow so she said Snowy would be the perfect name!” Kennedy has picked a $20 gift card to Sweet Addictions for her prize.

The picture of the owl peeking out of the box was taken on April 26 and this is the last photograph of the owlet before it entered the branching phase. The owlet remains in the area while the parents still feed it for the next few months. It will be practicing it’s flying skills by first hopping from branch to branch, then taking short flights to nearby trees.
This is the first time an owl has nested in this box. It is a “traditional” owl nest box that was built by Ron Gazda and raffled off at the 2017 Owl Prowl. It was donated back to the sanctuary by the winner, Nancy Redman.

April 16: Public Work Day & Wildflower Walk
work day
Weather conditions forced Bremer Sanctuary to reschedule its public workday to Saturday, April 16, from 9:00 to 11:00. We have had several community members express interest in helping at the sanctuary, but are only available on the weekend. We have several main focus areas that are needing attention and we would welcome any and all assistance.
We have a large donation of mulch, so the focus will be spreading mulch around the viewing platforms, amphitheater area, memorial area, and approaches to the covered bridge. The mulch will already be staged in these areas. (Participants will need to bring their own rakes, shovels and gloves.) Pre-work of weed and stick removal from amphitheater and memorial area before mulching. Stick and limb removal anywhere on trails needed for mowing.
These are just some simple ideas to get folks involved and to lessen our many duties as volunteer stewards. Public attendees will not be allowed to use power tools or our UTV'S, so Bremer stewards will be present if this is needed.
The postponed Woodland Wildflower Walk will also be held on Saturday, April 16, from 1:00-2:30 p.m. Click on image for a larger view.
wildflower walk

Spring & Summer Bird Hikes
Click on image for a larger view.
Bird hikes 2022

We Have a Winner!

snowflake
Thanks to all who participated in our Snowflake Search. We had seven entries, and by random drawing, Bobby Pollard's entry was chosen. Bobby is 6 years old and had fun finding all the snowflakes. He will treating 15 friends and relatives to a "Fun Night at Bremer" sometime this summer.

Shout out to all our other entries: Joy Campbell; Dana Holshouser; Jr. and Michelle Whitlow; Isabel, Henry and James McLaughlin; Drew Schweizer; and Linda Belanger.

Volunteer Crew Accomplishes Successful Burn
Here are some before/during/after photos of the prescribed burn held on Monday, January 31, 2022, plus action shots of the burn crew of Bremer volunteers.
Photos by Bruce Redman and Ray Luebbert.
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Look What'sHappening This Year!

Click on image to see events scheduled for 2022. More will be added!

2022 CALENDAR EVENTS




House Wrens Top Nestbox Totals for 2021
Click on this chart to see full report
2021 NESTBOX TOTALS summary




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Hillsboro 2nd and 4th Graders Welcomed to Bremer
    We were SO PLEASED to welcome our first school field trips in 18 months. We hosted the Hillsboro School District’s 2nd graders and 4th graders during May. To stay within compliance of the current Covid restrictions, we broke classrooms down into separate days.
    Each classroom was treated to two scavenger hunt hikes and a barn tour. While in the barn, students and adult volunteers wore their masks, but outside on the trails we felt fresh air was the best. All the students were allowed to have a picnic lunch afterwards and were then treated to ice cream by their teachers.
    On the West Prairie hike, the highlights were jumping around on the new concrete Cress Creek Crossing, the raccoon’s den, viewing platform and the Eastern Bluebird hatchlings. On the Timber Trail hike, the students were somewhat delighted to be able to pet a Common Garter snake that was captured by their hike leader. They also enjoyed seeing the covered bridge, climbing the viewing platform and were awed by a flyover of Red-headed Woodpeckers.
    Inside the barn, the most popular was the new display of “ See and Feel” where students were allowed to touch and examine pelts, bones, feathers and various other items. Our new Animal Tracks board was also a big hit. Students utilized our IDNR poster collection to identify some things they had spotted on their hikes. Our bobcat and coyote mounts , along with arrowheads and habitat displays received a lot of interest as well.
    big “shout out” goes to all the Bremer volunteers who made these days possible and who were just as excited as the kids to be out in nature again!


Bremer's Little Free Library

    "With the addition of a new Little Free Library outside the barn of Bremer Sanctuary north of Hillsboro, guests can broaden their reading interests while visiting the conservation area. The invitation is simple – take a book, return a book.
   The idea for this sharing system began in 2009 when, according to the website www.littlefreelibrary.org, Todd Bol of Hudson, WI, built a scale model of a one-room schoolhouse in tribute to his mother, a former school teacher who loved reading. He filled it with books and put it on a post in his front yard with the sign, "Free Books." Neighbors and friends loved it, so Bol built several more and gave them away. He then partnered with Rich Brooks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison to spread Bol's idea via youth and community development and social media.
   Growth over the years has been tremendous, with approximately 15,000 registered Little Free Library locations around the world as of January 2014. The one at Bremer honors the late Richard Slepicka of Hillsboro. "Richard had a passion for literature, evidenced by his opening of a book store, So Many Books (now Books & Moore), his founding of a local book club, and his 'second job' as an instructor of literature for Lincoln Land Community College," said project organizer Terry Trader.
    "The Little Free Library offers a way to honor Richard by carrying on his efforts to promote literacy and an appreciation for literature. He was also passionate about nature and had served on the Bremer Sanctuary board," Trader said. "By locating the Little Free Library at Bremer, it is hoped that more people will visit the Sanctuary and will use and cherish a natural resource that Montgomery County
is so very lucky to have."
   Trader said that both nonfiction and fiction books are welcome, including nature, history, biographies, sci-fi, poetry, even westerns – Louis L'Amour was a favorite author on Richard's light reading list.
   "Books were Richard's passion throughout his life," said his wife, Nancy. "And Bremer Sanctuary became his focus after we retired from the newspaper. I know he'd be pleased to see this Little Free Library at his favorite place."
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Why Do We Burn at Bremer?
   Each of us grew up with Smokey the Bear’s admonishment “only you can prevent forest fires”. At one time, fire was thought to be only detrimental – never beneficial AND necessary – to healthy ecosystems. The catastrophic fires in our western states that have destroyed thousands of acres of forests and have resulted in the loss of many human lives are a result of this aversion to fire.
   Historically, fire resulted from occasional lightning strikes. Later, Native Americans used fire as a hunting tool, to burn vegetation around their campsites to prevent a lightning-induced wildfire from destroying the settlement and in warfare. Fire still is used by indigent peoples to prepare land for farming.
   Fire is now recognized as an integral part of healthy ecosystems and all ecosystems are fire-adapted. Fire reduces fuel load (dead woody vegetation and leaf litter) that, if left unchecked, results in conflagrations. Prairies are fire-dependent communities. Fire maintains prairie ecosystems by preventing the encroachment of shrubs and trees. Because their growth is triggered by underground structures, prairie grasses and wildflowers are well-adapted to withstand fire.
   In forests, fire prevents fire-intolerant species (which in our area include maples and elms) from moving into drier uplands which are more likely to burn. By restricting the movement of fire intolerant species, fire prevents maples and elms from competing for nutrients and sunlight required by upland species such as oaks and hickories. The thick barks of mature hickories and oaks allow them to withstand fire.
   In any ecosystem, fire releases nutrients remaining in dead vegetation into the soil providing a quick influx of nutrients for a new generation of vegetation. In turn, this nutrient boost allows the ecosystem to thrive and provide abundant food for wildlife.
   Fire is used by restoration ecologists as a tool to rid an ecosystem of invasive (especially, non-native) species of vegetation such as the non-native honeysuckle that plagues Bremer. In this way, fire also encourages diversity since honeysuckle competes with native woodland wildflowers and trees for sunlight for germination and growth and for soil nutrients.
   Some of your young charges might question whether prescribed fires hurt or kill wildlife. We need to keep in mind that just as native plants are adapted to deal with fire, so too are our native animals. Although some might not survive a fire, most animals that are active at the time of year (after the breeding season and prior to the start of the next one) prescribed burns are conducted do escape. Those that burrow underground will retreat into their burrows while birds fly away or take shelter in tree cavities above the fire. Other animals hide under logs and others run away from the fire. Those insects that over-wintered as eggs or larvae and were overlooked by hungry burns might not survive. In the end however, enough insects do survive to quickly repopulate the area. Since fire maintains or creates suitable habitat and encourages the growth of nutrient rich food resources, wildlife in general benefits from fire.