The KCES greeted the nesting season this spring with a gift to the bluebirds--fifteen bluebird houses, donated by local girl scouts and set out along a new "bluebird trail" that winds through Center lands around the Visitors Center.
Junior Girl Scout and Brownie Troops 229 and 287 of the Danville/Howard area built thirteen of the birdhouses at the Cen-ter in late March with kits supplied by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Two additional houses were donated by Dale Glass of Fredericktown, a member of the Ohio Bluebird Society.
The trail was designed by KCES Volunteer Coordinator Marilyn Stokes with the help of Glass and bluebird society president Doug LeVasseur. Student volunteers and some of the girl scouts worked with them to mount the houses on metal poles roughly a hundred feet apart along the route. Glass also trained volunteers to monitor the houses.
Bluebird houses are now essential in sustaining the population of the Eastern Bluebird, because the speciess natural nesting sites--cavities in trees and fence posts--have been dwindling in number. As agriculture has shifted toward large grain operations, there are fewer small farms with orchards and tree-fringed pastures; and wooden fence posts have been giving way to metal ones.
In addition, two species introduced from Europe in the 1800s, the English sparrow and the European starling, aggressively take over many of the available cavities. Male sparrows will kill adult bluebirds and destroy bluebird eggs.
Bluebird houses can keep out starlings with small entrance holes. Some designs replace holes with rectangular slot openings, which allow bluebirds to escape from inquisitive sparrows. The KCES bluebird trail features three house designs, including two slot-houses.
A "bluebird trail" refers to a set of bluebird houses placed in an area and generally monitored so that eggs can be checked, old nests cleaned out, predators (like blowfly larvae) controlled, and repairs made. Kenyon students and community volunteers will be monitoring the KCES bluebird trail throughout the year. Ideally, during the nesting season the houses should be monitored every day or two, or at least once a week.
The bluebird-trail project proved fulfilling for everyone involved. "The girls considered it a community-service project," said scout leader Lu Ann Foor. "Im glad to see theyre interested in carpentry and environmental issues."
Kenyon students enjoyed helping the girls build the birdhouses. "I sat on the floor with a very small brownie, held the nails, and helped her to hold everything steady," smiled Michelle Santangelo 99. "She swung the hammer, and I hoped fervently that she didnt smash my fingers!"
Katie Patt 02 added, "It was a great experience because I didnt always know what I was doing, so the kids I helped were really helping me, and we had a great time laughing and hammering."
Other students helping with birdhouse construction were Becky Chamberlin 02 and Helen Veit 00. Helping LeVasseur and Glass set up the houses were Stokes, Foor, Foors daughters Tansy and Tara, Margaret Gilbert 02, Ben Hahn 02, and Mount Vernon High School student Devin McCarthy.
Additional Bluebird Images
Heather Grgsby 01