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RECAP: Blue Bird Project in Forest Hill Cemetery

Submitted by Editor on October 26, 2017 – 3:43 pm | Print or Email »No Comment

by Shelly Sutley and Andrew Schlitz

The Eastside Hill Neighborhood Bluebird Trail is helping enhance our quality of life, one NestBox at a time, for this part of Eau Claire we call home. The Bluebird Trail was established April 5, 2017 by Andrew Schlitz, Boy Scout Troop 31 as his Eagle Scout Project.

Location: The ten Bluebird nest boxes located around the Forest Hill Cemetery were provided by Larry Bennett, of Beaver Creek Reserve.  Together Larry Bennett, the Bluebird Experience Team and Andrew Schlitz guided the construction, installation and maintenance of the Neighborhood Bluebird Trail (aka Bed and Breakfast for the Birds)

Experiences: The Eastern Bluebird inherently travels to Wisconsin in order to breed. Therefore we do our best to provide accommodations Bluebirds desire, so they feel like they are staying at a five star Bed and Breakfast.  We offer a wonderful location, clean cabins (nest boxes), an abundance of insects, cleaning services, and security so that cavity nesting Songbirds have a cozy place to breed.

B&B Operations:

Preseason: February-March
Prime Season: March – July
End of Season: August – September
Weather Refuge: October – January

NestWatch 2017 Visitor Outcome

Guests and Breeding Outcome by Species
Eastern Bluebirds: 6NA, 18E, 13C, 13F
Blacked-Capped Chickadee: 5NA, 34E, 17C, 12F
House Wren:  2NA, 13E, 11C, 11F
House Sparrow:  6NA, 11E*, 0C, 0F

* House sparrow eggs mailed to Sparrow Swap
Abbreviations: (NA) Nesting Attempts, (E) Eggs, (C) Chicks, (F) Fledglings

Lessons Learned: As our Neighborhood was dealing with vandals, we also dealt with the Bully Birds (aka House Sparrows). We gave these invasive Birds some leeway, such as letting them occupy three of our 10 cabins for the SciStarter Sparrow Swap Project . The Bully Bird took advantage of our cabins and started destroying nests and even killed a Bluebird who also wanted to stay in NestBox #1.  Such invasiveness led us to install fences (aka fishing line) to deter the House Sparrow from using our boxes. Once Eastern Bluebird eggs began disappearing we added Security Flags (aka Sparrow Spookers) to cabins occupied by Bluebirds. As we continued to experience robberies (stolen eggs), and vandalism (eggs broken on ground), we needed to take further action.  Following the code of conduct when monitoring bluebird boxes, we knew it was essential to ensure the House Sparrow would not reproduce at our Bed & Breakfast.  This invasive species is why we are trying to restore habitat for our Wisconsin cavity nesting songbirds.  It is up to us to provide a 5 Star Bluebird Experience when Songbirds visit the Eastside Hill Neighborhood in Wisconsin.

Andrew Schlitz: From the moment the project began, I was very excited to work with Shelly Sutley. I have learned so many things and improved in so many areas from working on this project. First and foremost, I improved my leadership skills. One example of this was instructing my whole troop on how to build the nestboxes. A second example would be going in front of the Eau Claire Parks and Waterways Commission to propose my idea. Another skill I have improved on is Communication. I had to communicate with many different people to just get permission to build the trail. One example of my communication skills improving was setting up and coordinating my whole troop’s assembly of the nestboxes. Also I would say that I have learned the value of perseverance. Sometimes this project would become challenging, but I learned to just push through and persevere.  Lastly, working with various nonprofits taught me collaboration is necessary to succeed. I am so grateful for this opportunity, and I will remember it fondly for years to come.

Yelp Reviews – Visitor Comments 2017

Pros
• Locals celebrate our arrival- sometimes even feeding us mealworms!
• Clean, well-constructed cabins at a great location

Cons
• Vandalism from House Sparrows was higher than anticipated
• Neighbors use cracked corn in feeders, unknowingly feeding the vandals

Suggestions
• Need to beef up security in Neighborhood- frequent patrol can not be just once a week, perhaps every 3-5 days
• Add more mealworm feeders and replenish often

How to participate in the Neighborhood Bed and Breakfast for the Birds: Adopt a box- visit your box every 3-5 days to check in on guests.  Document observations to ensure a positive experience for songbirds during their stay.  Training dates for monitoring and NestWatch.org will be announced in April 2018.

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