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Bluebirds Take Flight in Montgomery Parks: Thanks to Volunteers More than 1,200 Fledged in 2010 | Events

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Bluebirds Take Flight in Montgomery Parks: Thanks to Volunteers More than 1,200 Fledged in 2010
Bluebirds Take Flight in Montgomery Parks: Thanks to Volunteers More than 1,200 Fledged in 2010

From Montgomery County Department of Parks:

SILVER SPRING, MD—This past Saturday current and new bluebird monitors met to discuss their bluebird trails, receive data sheets, new boxes and other supplies to continue the work of building and monitoring hundreds of bluebird nest boxes throughout the county’s more than 34,000-acre park system. 

“These volunteers are largely responsible for the more than three-fold increase in the native bluebird population we’ve seen,” said Montgomery County Department of Parks Natural Resources Manager Rob Gibbs. “We see a good bit of fluctuation in the numbers from year to year because of weather conditions and other factors, but 2010 was our best year yet with 1,286 baby bluebirds fledged from park nest boxes.”

By the 1970s bluebird populations in the United States had dropped by 70 percent due to competition with non-native bird species and loss of habitat. Populations are rebounding some as a result of efforts to provide nest boxes. It is extremely important that all nest boxes be designed properly and monitored regularly. Otherwise they can provide nesting space for introduced European starlings and house sparrows, which compete with bluebirds often killing adult and young bluebirds in the process.

Scout troops and others have built many of the parks’ 540 bluebird boxes. Parks staff installs the boxes in appropriate nesting habitat and volunteers (adults and families) monitor them weekly during the nesting season, which is now, March, through mid-September. This Montgomery Parks volunteer program includes more than 50 existing volunteers with several in training. 

“We have some very dedicated volunteers, some of whom have been working with our bluebird program for more than 15 years,” said Denise Gibbs, park naturalist, Montgomery County Department of Parks.  

As part of their duties, these volunteer monitors remove nests of non-native house sparrows that have been part of the cause for the decline in the bluebird population. Volunteers also document how many bluebirds, chickadees, tree swallows and house wrens are fledged from the boxes. The program began keeping records in 1992. 

“Before taking on the trail, I had never seen a bluebird, and here I am meeting them regularly, from a close distance,” said Ed Escalante, a Parks bluebird monitor since 1997. “I was hooked!” 

Escalante’s found interest and enthusiasm for bluebirds led him to become a founding member of the Maryland Bluebird Society.  He is currently president of that group. For more on the society, bluebird habitat and care, seewww.MDBlueBirdSociety.org

Another Parks volunteer Jim Cook, who monitors 25 boxes at Little Bennett Golf Course, had this to say about the program: “I feel privileged to be able to get so close to nature. I take a special delight in those bluebird pairs who recognize me each time I show up. Others will swoop down and try to chase me off, but the ones that know I’m not doing any harm will just perch in a tree nearby and watch me.” 

To become a Parks bluebird volunteer monitor look for annual volunteer opportunities, in January, at www.ParksVolunteers.org.  

Also, mark your calendar for the Bluebirds Forever Festival, Sunday, May 15, 2011 from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm at the Black Hill Visitor Center, 20926 Lake Ridge Drive in Boyds. This FREE festival is a celebration of the beautiful Eastern bluebird.  The afternoon includes special programs, crafts, bluebird games and activities, exhibits and demonstrations and more. For more information, visit www.BlackHillNature.org.

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