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By DAVID WINTERS, Watertown Daily Times. link to original post
As spring rolls around, the state’s official bird is beginning to piece together nests. And the Eastern bluebird will get some help. Volunteer monitors from around the state are preparing for another season of ensuring the growth and success of the bluebird population, which increased slightly to 668 last year.
“We hope to see that continue,” said Colton resident David W. Heidenreich, the Route 11 bluebird coordinator and former president of the New York State Bluebird Society.
The Eastern bluebird fledgling population along the Route 11 trail dropped to 498 birds in 2007, but rebounded in 2008 to 576. In 2009, the number of bluebirds jumped to 660.
In St. Lawrence County, the number of fledged birds increased from 71 to 75. In Jefferson County, the number increased from five to seven. The greatest increases came in the counties of Clinton (128 to 152), Oswego (91 to 115) and Franklin (52 to 64). In other counties, the numbers dropped: in Broome (73 to 34), Onondaga (26 to 17) and Madison (78 to 71).
Mr. Heidenreich said some places around the state experienced bad weather, which did not allow for bluebirds to find as many insects.
The trail runs from Rouses Point to Pennsylvania. There are satellite trails in Essex, Clinton, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Oswego, Madison and Cortland counties. More than 30 volunteers watch over and maintain 546 nest boxes.
Nest boxes are man-made replacements to help the bluebirds breed. The natural nest sites for the cavity-nesting bluebirds, typically holes in standing trees, are difficult to find. Bluebirds also face pressure from more-aggressive invasive species, such as European starlings and house sparrows.
The best sites to place nest boxes include a large lawn, a livestock pasture, a cemetery or the rough found at golf courses. Bluebirds feast on insects in manicured areas that are either chewed or mowed down. The nest boxes are erected in pairs about 8 feet apart and mounted on pipes to let other birds to have a home as well.
Mr. Heidenreich said tree swallows usually take over one nest, and the Eastern bluebirds house themselves in the second.
Some bluebirds spend winter in the area, while others head south. With those bluebirds beginning to migrate back to the north country, they’ll be searching for suitable habitats to live in during the spring and summer.
The Northern New York region of the state society is hosting a meeting from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Jefferson Community College’s Jules Center in Watertown.
For more information about erecting nest boxes or the Route 11 trail, call Mr. Heidenreich at 265-3271 or e-mail davewh@ northnet.org.