A birds’ eye view of feeding time on Cattle Point Road.
Video via GoPro 3 by Evan Foley

Working closely with Ecostudies Institute, the San Juan Preservation Trust entered its 9th field season (!) aiming to re-establish a healthy breeding population of Western Bluebirds in the San Juan Islands.    Following a protocol that has been continuously successful,  three pairs of adults, and their nestlings, were translocated from  from Joint-Base Lewis McChord and released on San Juan Island.  All three pairs re-nested  (or, “double-clutched”) on the island.

By the end of the season, the population rested at around 44 birds; (9 adults, 15 translocated fledglings, and 20 young born on the island).  Keeping in mind that juvenile survivability rate is fairly low (around 20% typically),  we’ll keep our fingers crossed that a good number of both adults and surviving offspring will return to our island in the spring of 2016.  Regardless, after a near total decline of the San Juan Island population due to cold, wet springs in 2012 and 2013, SJPT, working with partners, are committed to continuing these “emergency translocations” to give this struggling population another chance.

As we move into the our 10th anniversary of the project, we’d like to emphasize that one of the goals of this project from the outset was to not only establish a healthy breeding population on SJI, but to expand the population to ALL of the former range.  We’ve always considered the birds of Vancouver Island to be part of a larger regional population, regardless of divisions of water and geopolitical boundaries.  In fact, we’ve seen one natural dispersal event of a female Western bluebird from San Juan Island to Vancouver Island, perhaps a hint at their former movements when their population was more robust.  Those who have been following this project for some time know that since 2011, reintroductions have been ongoing in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, led by Ecostudies Institute and several Canadian partners. When you combine the population data from the entire region, not just San Juan Island, it paints a clearer picture of how regionally the birds are faring.

Number of adult Western bluebirds found on San Juan Island and on Vancouver Island as of June 2015 (Graph courtesy Ecostudies Institute)