Well, do you? Notice anything new? If you do, you know what I’m referring to. If you don’t, grab a cup of your favorite warm beverage, relax and keep reading.
Today dawned windy, cold and clear with bright blue skies and a fresh coat of light snow. The temperature would be lucky to break 20 degrees. First things first. I filled the heated bird bath with fresh water and the hopper feeder with winter blend seed. Then, through the window of my sun-warmed kitchen, I watched three Downy Woodpeckers take turns at the suet feeder as I enjoyed breakfast. The clock told me it was time to finish my coffee and drive to the annual Bluebird Monitor meeting at the Forest Preserve District Grounds & Resources Complex. I had been looking forward to it for months, not only because it means the beginning of a new Bluebird Monitor season, but also because it’s a great time to enjoy being with like-minded friends and catch up.
No sooner had I pulled up in the parking lot than my friend, Chris, pulled in behind me smiling and waving to me. What a change from my first meeting in 2009 when I didn’t know anyone or anything about being a Bluebird Monitor. Chris and I exchanged hugs and confidently walked in like the veterans we’ve become. Well, I thought I was a veteran. But during the requisite go-around-the-room-and-introduce-yourself exercise, I was reminded that my three years’ experience pales in comparison to those with well more than ten years in the field. Oh well, I’ll catch up. Look how far I’ve come. I can hold my own in a conversation with these folks and ask intelligent questions.
The two-hour meeting was devoted to a review of 12 years of our data. The bar charts, graphs and spreadsheets told an interesting story about the relative success of our efforts to increase the Eastern Bluebird population. We studied data on Eastern Bluebird and competing species fledging rates and chick mortality over 31 routes. Most interesting to everyone was the percent of Eastern Bluebirds fledged against competing species for each route. The percentage ranged from 0% to 67%! Tree Swallows, House Wrens and the occasional House Sparrow or Black-capped Chickadee were the most prevalent competitors with Tree Swallows leading the pack.
After a morning of discussing the data and the implications of differing food sources, the presence or absence of water sources, types of vegetation and tall grass prairie versus short grass meadows, a pattern emerged. The most successful Bluebird routes were those that had short grass, no large areas of water (streams, marshes), a variety of trees and bushes on which to perch and the presence of fruit-bearing plants. So! We have a formula to follow and the result will be further work on re-structuring the routes to optimize our learnings.
All that hard study made us work up an appetite and the pizza arrived right at the stroke of noon as we finished up.
It was great to catch up with Chris on birding and non-birding related news. I warned her she might “see” herself on today’s blog entry … are you still reading, Chris? 😉
My Starved Rock Eagle watching trip was of interest to a few folks at the lunch table and we were thrilled for Don who will need a substitute monitor for his route when he heads to England to help Queen Elizabeth celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in early June … peak Bluebird egg hatching time!
Meeting adjourned, see-you-soon hugs exchanged, I just had to head for (where else) my place of peaceful thinking … the arboretum. I took a few pictures I thought you might enjoy.
So, what’s new? Well, if you have not already noticed, I added a “My Bluebird Journal” page to this blog that will be devoted only to my Bluebird Monitor activities. You can hop over there to come along with me on my route. Things will start slowly. But don’t you worry. They will pick up as the season moves along.