By Ilana DeBare
This is not a big dramatic story, just a little slice of daily life at Golden Gate Audubon. But it shows the power of informal partnerships to help birds — in this case, Western Bluebirds.
Earlier this year, we received a call from an Eagle Scout, James Clifford, who had built a number of nest boxes and was looking for places to install them.
Unlike some other local Audubon chapters, GGAS does not own or operate its own land or wildlife center. So we rely on partnerships with other local land-owning organizations at times like this.
Our Eco-Education Director Anthony DeCicco knew East Bay Regional Park District ranger Jeff Bennett from years of taking Richmond schoolchildren on Eco-Ed field trips to Point Pinole. So Anthony asked Jeff if he needed more boxes at that park.
Jeff didn’t. But he put Anthony in touch with Georgette Howington of the California Bluebird Recovery Program.
And Georgette had a perfect site for James’ boxes — at Valle Vista Staging Area, a restricted-access watershed owned by East Bay MUD off of Canyon Road in Moraga.
Last week, James and a slew of friends/family poured concrete and installed five boxes, hauling all the materials into the site by wheelbarrow. It took them five cold, windy hours! Check out the photos.
The Bluebird Recovery Program suggested mounting the boxes on metal poles rather than trees to reduce predation. According to Georgette Howington, the boxes can serve not just Western Bluebirds but Tree Swallows, chickadees, Titmice, Ash-throated Flycatchers, Violet-green Swallows, House Wrens, and on rare occasions nuthatches. Each box can support up to 5-6 nestlings per season.
“While most fledglings do not live to see their first year, one can see how important those numbers are in terms of salvaging and building a healthy population of birds,” Georgette said. “James’ contribution is significant because the boxes are so well-made they could last for 20 years or more… Almost 90 percent of all the nest boxes installed in the right locations will be used during the nesting season and as roosting in winter.”
Again, this is not a big dramatic story. But five organizations — the Boy Scouts, GGAS, East Bay Regional Parks, EBMUD, and the Bluebird Recovery Program — played a role in helping James Clifford help birds.
It shows the power of partnerships… and how groups like Golden Gate Audubon can draw together both individuals and organizations to make things happen.
About the California Bluebird Recovery Program: CBRP was formed in 1994 by Don Yoder of Walnut Creek, in response to declining numbers of bluebirds due to DDT poisoning and extreme weather conditions. It’s an affiliate of the North American Bluebird Society. CBRP monitors install nest boxes, check them every 7-10 days during nesting season, record data, and clean the boxes after nesting season.
Golden Gate Audubon volunteers have been involved in monitoring bluebird nest boxes in Golden Gate Park. And GGAS birding instructor Rusty Scalf has overseen successful nest boxes in San Pablo Park in Berkeley.
In 2012, CBRP monitors reported over 20,000 fledges in California. For more information, see www.cbrp.org.