News and Muse from the Bluebird Trail

By Shayne Mitchell

I think it is safe to say that the East­ern blue­bird is the favorite bird of vis­i­tors to Lan­dis. In fact, blue­birds have to be count­ed among the most well-loved species of birds in the world. While there are many rea­sons for their pop­u­lar­i­ty, the great­est fac­tor is arguably their beau­ti­ful col­or­ing. They typ­i­cal­ly live in open coun­try around scat­tered trees and where there is lim­it­ed under­sto­ry and sparse ground cov­er. They pre­fer to nest in cav­i­ties, such as holes in trees, and in human-made nest box­es. These birds main­ly eat insects and fruit. Lan­dis has an abun­dance of habi­tat, foods, and nest cav­i­ties that East­ern blue­birds favor. 

I began vol­un­teer­ing at the Arbore­tum in Novem­ber 2023, and my assign­ment has been to come in on Tues­days to take care of the Blue­bird Trail. When I start­ed, many of the nest box­es along the trail need­ed repair. I met with Lan­dis Direc­tor Fred Breglia, who explained the over­all reha­bil­i­ta­tion plan and gave me some guid­ance on how to begin. I con­tin­ue to meet with Fred from time to time. 

Ini­tial­ly, I focused on assess­ing and record­ing the con­di­tion of the trail. Dur­ing Novem­ber, each nest box was vis­it­ed, pho­tographed, and cleaned out, and its loca­tion, struc­tur­al con­di­tion, and oth­er attrib­ut­es were entered into a spread­sheet. Required repairs were iden­ti­fied, and the nec­es­sary mate­ri­als scrounged – scrap wood from behind the Meet­ing House and unused hard­ware from the Barn. For­tu­nate­ly, the ground hadn’t frozen yet, so I was also able to straight­en and rein­stall posts dur­ing this time rather than hav­ing to wait for the spring thaw. 

By the end of Decem­ber, I had cut down encroach­ing brush, removed the nest box­es that need­ed repair, and brought them to the Green­house. Nest box repairs were begun and will be com­plet­ed by March. I am hap­py to report that weath­er con­di­tions did not inter­fere with the reha­bil­i­ta­tion project. I nev­er had to skip a week of work because of extreme cold or snow that was too deep. That’s not to say that we didn’t have any cold weath­er. For­tu­nate­ly, the Green­house pro­vid­ed a refuge from the cold as it hov­ers around 50° inside when it’s cloudy and is even warmer on sun­ny days. 

On a philo­soph­i­cal note, I’ve observed that win­ter is a qui­et time of year at Lan­dis, both out on the trail and in the Green­house. My Tues­days have been peace­ful, even med­i­ta­tive. Much as I have loved the com­par­a­tive soli­tude, I am look­ing for­ward to a tran­si­tion to spring­time, warmer days, and see­ing more peo­ple. Also, it will be great to see plant activ­i­ties ramp up in the Green­house, even if it means that I lose most of my office space”. 

Trail reha­bil­i­ta­tion by the numbers: 

40 nest box­es inspect­ed and cleaned

30+ nest box posts straightened 

20 nest box roofs replaced or repaired

18 weeks spent on the project (one day per week)

15 mice evict­ed dur­ing box cleanouts

• Many miles of hik­ing back-and-forth between the Green­house and the nest boxes

By March the reha­bil­i­ta­tion project will be com­plete, just in time to begin trail mon­i­tor­ing. Look for my first report on trail mon­i­tor­ing in the sum­mer issue of the Arbore­tum newslet­ter. In the mean­time, vis­it our new Bird Blog here, where you’ll find more infor­ma­tion on birds at Landis.

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Spring 2024

Volume 42 , Number 1

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