Calgary Area Nestbox Monitors Society

Tree Swallow banded and released by Jim Critchley at the Ellis Bird Farm; photo by Jamie Bussey

Calgary Area Nestbox Monitors Society (CANMS), formerly Calgary Area Bluebird Trail Monitors (CABTM), has been around since 1979, when a small group took over Harold Pinel’s nestboxes as he no longer had time to monitor them.

Harold had been monitoring 400 nestboxes along Hwy 22 from Chain Lakes to Sundre and then to east of Didsbury. CABTM began small in 1979 and gradually expanded with more monitors, and more nestboxes. A sample of the number of monitors over the years who were involved: 1980 – 7, 1987 – 24, 1994 – 42, and 2009 – 49.

The latest Annual report for 2018 showed a total of 73 monitors (Teams) of 108 individuals who monitored 5254 boxes. They fledged 7679 Mountain Bluebirds and 14310 Tree Swallows. (A team may be an individual, or more than one individual such as a husband and wife.) A sample of CANMS’s recent annual reports can be found on the Ellis Bird Farm website. Go to and go to Resources.

More details on the early years of CABTM can be found in an article in the Fall 2012 issue of Nature Alberta – see the citation at the end of this article.

Calgary Area Bluebird Trail Monitors (CABTM) changed their name to Calgary Area Nestbox Monitors (CANM) in 2009 to acknowledge that not every trail had bluebirds. They became a Society on April 12, 2018.

The reason for becoming a Society: Gord Orchard of Nanton who had been monitoring boxes on the Stavely Research Ranch found that he needed $2m liability insurance under a Society to continue monitoring his boxes. We then applied to Nature Alberta to become a Society to take advantage of Nature Alberta’s $2m insurance policy. We appreciated that Nature Alberta was prompt in accepting our request, and that Gord Orchard is again free to monitor his boxes.

About one third of CANMS monitors also band their birds. Of particular interest in 2018 was the recovery of the mountain bluebird listed below.

Steve Wainer took the photos below on Apr. 1, 2017 on Priddis Valley Road a few kms S of Hwy 22X and on the inside front cover on April 22, 2018 at box 35 on Priddis Valley Road near Plummer’s Rd. where it was originally banded. Here are the notes from the bander, Melanie Rathburn:

Mountain Bluebird by Nature Calgary

“First, I wanted to comment on the fantastic photos by Steve. This male was banded with the following ID number: 2571-23906. I first banded this male as an adult on June 4th, 2013. I trapped him at box 35, which is located on Priddis Valley Road, the second box north of Plummer’s Road (south of 22X). In 2013, this male successfully raised 6 nestlings and then had a second brood with 4 eggs. In 2013, he was paired with a female that I originally banded in 2012 as an adult at box 38 (only a short distance away)."

In 2018, this male Mountain Bluebird would have been at least 6 years old. It was first photographed in 2015 by Rick Robb and reported in our Annual Report of that year on page 17.

Stiles, Don. Which were the Best Years for Mountain Bluebirds on Calgary Area Bluebird Trails. Nature Alberta Fall 2012 p24-29

This article originally ran in Nature Alberta Magazine - Spring_Summer 2019.