Wildlife Habitat Projects at Ripples
Enjoy the wild with us!
Bluebirds. Frogs. Butterflies. We love them all here at Ripples. Besides feeding birds, hummingbirds and woodpeckers and reporting sightings to various citizen science programs, we recently installed a “bluebird trail” consisting of four eastern bluebird nest boxes in preparation for the 2016 nesting season. Check out the most recent Making Ripples column in the Free Weekly to learn more about these occasionally polyamorous, sometimes white, optical-illusion masters we know as Eastern Bluebirds.
Thanks to a generous donor and volunteer who meticulously repaired each old box to make it safer for bluebirds and monitors, we have four songbird boxes and a screech owl box ready to install far away from the songbird boxes, since they prey on both migrating birds and local birds’ fledglings. We bought a 5th bluebird box from the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market and plan to install it (along with another older box) before the 2017 nesting season near Hilltop Cottage, our soon-to-be-built earthbag home and educational center for Ripples.
That brings our total number of boxes on our bluebird trail up to six. But we’ve only installed the first four this year to get an understanding of good box placement and any challenges that may arise such as a repeat of last year’s fire ant invasion at Wilson Springs Wetland Prairie, where I helped monitor over a dozen boxes during the 2015 nesting season. Eventually we’ll purchase a wood duck box for the pond once it’s clear that the pond will provide appropriate habitat (rehabilitation may or may not be necessary, but from the current algae problem and my research on pond habitat for waterfowl, I assume at least some work will be required – I’m going to consult our local experts and the pond’s owner before taking any action).
I’m a NestWatch monitor and certified Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalist, which means I get to have a lot of fun (and put in some time and effort) counting bird eggs, cleaning out nest boxes, providing adequate habitat, and protecting the adults and nestlings from predators. The boxes help cavity nesters like Eastern Bluebirds have a home to raise their young in an age of habitat loss, and the data from monitoring helps ornithologists better estimate species populations across their range and respond to potential problems like population decline. Eastern Bluebirds are making a comeback thanks to these bluebird trails spread across their range.
Would you like to come by for a visit and learn how to contribute to FeederWatch and similar programs at your birdfeeder, or become a NestWatch monitor for a local bluebird trail or perhaps your own backyard box? Let me know if you’re interested by commenting below – at this time I’m just getting a feel for how many people would want some help getting familiar with these projects in the field and online, so that once our cottage is finished and all the feeders and boxes are installed, I could offer some assistance (free of charge, naturally). In my experience, it was fun yet daunting to acquire the physical tools and online data entry skills needed for this conservation work, and I’d like to pay it forward now that I’ve benefitted from the savvy of our local birders and organizations who taught me how it’s done. Here’s hoping for a great 2016 nesting season! -Amanda