We are a dedicated group of volunteers who, every year for over two decades, have installed and monitored nest boxes for cavity-nesting bird species at Quail Hollow Ranch County Park.
The Project's Beginnings
The Nest Box Project was started in 2002 by the conservation arm of the Santa Cruz Bird Club, with the general goals of providing more nesting habitat for local cavity-nesting birds, and gathering important information about the basic breeding biology of these birds. The project’s founders initially focused on the Western Bluebird, whose numbers in the county were declining. In the early years regular users of the boxes were Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Oak Titmice, and Violet-green Swallows. Although the first successful Western Bluebird nest did not occur until 2008, to date over 200 of these beautiful birds have fledged from our boxes.
The nesting season at Quail Hollow runs from early March through late July. About 20 volunteers divide into two teams and each team is responsible for checking assigned boxes at least twice a week. Spot checks may be necessary more frequently in order to pinpoint the timing of a hatch or fledge event. We carefully note and report our observations to the rest of the group, and also submit the data to the Cornell Ornithology Lab for its national NestWatch database. Our records include comprehensive nesting data for each species that has used our boxes over the years. (See our Cumulative Statistics Chart and Detailed Statistics pages.)
Gathering and reporting the data is not only fun, it is an exciting process of discovery as we learn the behavior of the nesting birds and see the eggs appear and hatch and the chicks grow into fledglings. And walking around the beautiful nature preserve at Quail Hollow, which is home to many birds and other wildlife, is itself an enjoyable experience.
The Nest Boxes
Our nest boxes are installed on PVC poles (to discourage climbing predators) and are situated 6-7 feet off the ground. The poles telescope up and down and the boxes are hinged to open so that observers can monitor the progress and timing of nest building, egg laying, hatching and fledging. Approximately twenty boxes are put up every year in varying habitats around the ranch, in order to attract different birds. (See our Nesting Characteristics page.)
If You Are Interested
For more information about the Quail Hollow Nest Box Project, please see the May-Aug 2014 article in the Santa Cruz Bird Club Newsletter, the Albatross. A detailed description of our monitoring procedures and practices can be found at this link: Training Materials. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Margaret Ingraham, County Parks Volunteer Coordinator at 831-566-6529. Volunteers should have an interest in, or experience with, either Quail Hollow Ranch or birding, or both, and be willing to commit a minimum of two hours every other week from mid-March until the end of July.