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Call for Volunteer Birdbird Monitors

By Mike Lloyd, Cherokee County Master Gardener and Master Naturalist

BRRR … winter has finally arrived. Although winter is a time for nature to sleep and recharge, to me, it is the season to prepare … to prepare for Spring.

 

One item on my springtime prep list is maintaining bluebird nest boxes. We all have our favorite birds; bluebirds are among my picks … just seeing one in its bright blue plumage brings joy … they are known as harbingers of happiness. They are great birds to have around gardens, too, since they eat crawling insects on the crops but do not peck the produce; thus, these guys make organic
gardening easier.

 

Bluebirds were once headed towards extinction. This was mostly due to loss of habitat (including loss of tree cavities) and competition from other cavity dwellers. This trend was reversed by the   construction and proper placement of bluebird nest boxes, i.e., man-made cavities. So, they need   people to provide them with a place to live. So, to help them, for more smiles and better gardens, it’s a great idea to put and maintain a bluebird nest box in your yard and help them in any way you can.

 
Kevin and Mike finishing winter maintenance on a Bluebird House in Heritage Park
The Eastern Bluebird in Georgia is a small thrush and remains in Georgia year-round. They are native to North America. In the summer they eat crawling insects, such as, caterpillars, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. In the winter, when insects are not available, they switch to a diet of berries.  Given that they eat crawling bugs in the warm months, the ideal bluebird habitat is a large, open grassy area with scattered trees and sparse ground cover. The availability of high and   open tree branches to perch helps them spot those bugs. They can see them from 60 feet away!  These perches also provide handy places for their fledglings to land. 

With the encouragement and help from our UGA Extension Agent, Josh Fuder, and with the permissions and materials provided by the county and cities, in 2019, a small corps of our county’s Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists started building bluebird trails. Currently, the Cherokee County Bluebird Trail System includes nearly 50 bluebird nest boxes located in Heritage, Etowah River, and Brown parks, on the Reinhart University campus, in Ball Ground parks, in Veterans Park, on the Cherokee High School campus, and on the CORE Community School campus. This system  will be further expanded in 2024. These trails have helped increase the bluebird population in our county, which, in turn, has added to the quality of life of those who live in or visit our county.  

 Monitoring the bluebird nest boxes on our bluebird trails is an integral part of the trail maintenance. It involves peeking into the nest boxes weekly during the nesting period and  documenting what is going on inside … observing nest building, counting eggs, counting young, and counting fledglings. Since bluebirds are people-friendly, they don’t mind having someone
peeking into their homes.

 

This article is a call for volunteers to monitor a nest box on one of our park bluebird trails during the upcoming bluebird nesting season (March – July). It is an extremely rewarding way to learn about these beautiful birds and a fun way to share a truly educational experience with your children and/or grandchildren. The nest boxes in parks are all near walking paths, so it is very convenient to participate. 

 

If you’re interested, and I hope you are, CLICK HERE and fill out the contact form with “Make Me A Bluebird Monitor in 2024”. We’ll give you all the training that you need and will assign you to a nest box or two in the park of your choice.

Female Bluebird with nesting material at atop nest box on bluebird trail.

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