Almost two years ago, I began this blog with two purposes in mind: to learn how to identify birds and to learn how to photograph the birds I identify. In the process, I also learned a disturbing fact. Songbird populations in North America have declined over 40% since I was a child. Shorebird, grassland birds, and waterfowl have faced similar declines. Some species have lost 90% or more of their population. It’s just not enough anymore to document the birds I see. It’s time to advocate for the birds.
So today, my friend Annie and I began monitoring Eastern Bluebird boxes at a local environmental research refuge.
That’s us, with one of the 23 Bluebird boxes we will be monitoring. The Eastern Bluebird is one of the success stories in the efforts to stabilize populations. From 1920 through 1970, there was a dramatic decline in Bluebird populations. The Bluebird went from being as common as the American Robin to being extremely rare. There were many reasons for the decline, including the loss and fragmentation of habitat, pesticide use, dead tree removal, and the introduction of the House Sparrow and the European Starling to North America.
In 1978, the North American Bluebird Society was formed by citizen scientists and birders determined to reverse the Bluebirds’ trajectory to extinction. They established a network of Bluebird box trails across the historical range of the Eastern Bluebird, carefully monitoring the Bluebirds. As a result, it is once again a common sight to see these beautiful birds.
So, what’s our job? Every week, we will open each of the boxes and record the species, nests, details about the nests, eggs, and fledgling age and health. We will make minor repairs to the boxes, inspect for ants, spiders, or wasps, and clip brush growth from around the boxes.
Our boxes are spaced approximately one hundred yards apart around the perimeter of this field, and the field on the other side of this hill.
The property was once a colonial estate, built in the 1670’s. Those chimneys are the ruins of the original estate home, and are at the crest of the hill overlooking the fields where we will be monitoring the boxes.
I’ll keep you posted. Hopefully, in a few weeks from now, we’ll be taking pictures of active nests and bluebird eggs. In the meantime, as I post about the birds I see each week, I will be reporting about the many threats to our bird populations. I hope you join me in this adventure to advocate for our natural world.