Thursday, June 16, 2011
Bluebirds Along the Parkway
The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of Roanoke’s great treasures. If you’ve followed my reporting and maybe even some of my activities over the years, you may have noticed that it’s a resource I’ve always enjoyed.
With a natural calling to run, bicycle and more recently, drive my Mini-Cooper, I’ve spent more time on the Parkway than most. Despite the time and mileage logged, I’ve never known the story behind the bluebird boxes that dot the landscape along Roanoke’s section of the road.
Were they maintained by someone? Monitored? A Boy Scout project of some kind? A state or federal project maybe when I was young my folks saying that bluebirds were fussy. Boxes had to be a certain height, face a certain direction and that getting a pair to nest was a great accomplishment. That was all I knew about bluebirds – except that there were these boxes I had run and biked past literally hundreds of times.
It turns out they are maintained by the Roanoke Valley Bird Club, which monitors the boxes during nesting season. Only members of the club or approved volunteers may open the boxes. They count the eggs and the young and turn the numbers over to a larger organization, which presumably puts them in a database to track bluebird numbers.
The Bird Club also works to protect the nests from snakes and other predators who prey upon they eggs and the young. They allowed me to help install a snake guard during our story.
Kudos to Alyce Quinn, who along with her husband and another couple, have been chairing the committee that oversees this bluebird trail and two others in the region. Alyce has been in charge of the trail for 13 of the 30 years the trail has been in existence.
(By the way, Alyce says the birds are not particularly fussy here in Virginia, they just want a nesting site that is safe. She says they depend upon man-made boxes because cavities in trees are too scarce in our modern world.)
When you watch the story – pay attention to the part where Alyce demonstrates her ability to identify the birds in the trees by their songs. It’s clear that the members of the bird club are very good at what they do – and that birding can be a lot of fun.
Next time you’re on the Parkway slow down and take a look at the boxes. You might see a mother bird looking out at you. You’ll definitely see the results of a lot of hard work by Alyce and her team.
Other bluebird information: Virginia Bluebird Society