Donald County Park is an excellent place to view and enjoy the sky blue color of Eastern Bluebirds. The birds usually arrive at the end of February, and leave in flocks beginning in mid-September.
The Friends of Donald Park have an active Bluebird Group of volunteers, which have constructed 32 bluebird nesting boxes in the park. The boxes are monitored weekly throughout the spring and summer. Due to the group’s meticulous monitoring practices, making sure the houses are in the proper habitat for successful fledges, the park has attained the “Trail of Excellence” rating from the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin several times.
Bluebird Watching Tips. While it is fun to hike the Bluebird Trail, please DON’T OPEN the bluebird nest boxes. This disrupts the birds using the nest box and could lead to problems with the eggs or hatchlings. It is best to observe the nest boxes from a distance and watch as the parents go in and out of the boxes tending to their young. Binoculars can give you a great close up look without intruding on the birds.
What do Bluebird Monitors Do? A trained group of volunteers from The Friends of Donald Park check the nesting boxes weekly. Being a monitor involves putting nesting boxes up, repairing boxes, watching the boxes weekly and keeping notes of activity seen at each nesting box. The boxes are monitored spring through summer.
Each box is checked to see if a pair of bluebirds are nesting, have eggs been laid, have chicks hatched, are chicks ready to fly and will a second brood be hatched. At the end of each season, records are kept and shared with the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin.
Proper location of nest boxes important. Nesting boxes sometimes need to be moved if wrens or swallows are trying to take over the boxes to nest. Placing nest boxes away from the woods edge helps keep wrens out, as they like to nest close to the woods. Bluebirds like to nest near the open grassy areas like at the edge of prairie fields. Predator guards placed on the poles holding the boxes protect the nest from animals robbing the nests.
Nest boxes are numbered. To help the monitors keep track of information and collect data each nest box is numbered. Box #1 is placed in remembrance of Pat Hitchcock, who donated some of the park’s land and was a major supporter of the park until she passed away in 2009. She was active in organizing volunteers and was a member of the board of directors. Pat had a keen sense of stewardship of the land, so it was fitting that the #1 box would be set in her honor.
If you are interested in volunteering to help monitor bluebird nesting boxes, or simply walking along with the Bluebird Group, contact them at email@example.com
For further information about eastern bluebirds visit the Bluebird Restoration Association of Wisconsin (BRAW) website, www.braw.org. The website includes photographs of the life cycles of bluebirds and other cavity nesters. There are thorough descriptions of how to establish and monitor your own Bluebird Trail, including a downloadable Info Packet. For a detailed description of how to build a bluebird house, including the best box styles and dimensions, check out these helpful Hints & Tips.