May of 2002 was the time
that I believed I could help increase the Bluebird's population. I started with the idea that I would work within Sarasota
County. Sarasota County is located about 50 miles below Tampa, FL.
What really helped convince me
that I could help, was when I saw on the Internet that Joe Huber lived in Venice, FL, which is about 15 miles below
the city of Sarasota. Joe is the inventor of the Huber Sparrow Trap, which you can find information on this site, or you can surf
the Internet. I live five miles north of the city of Sarasota, almost to the county line. Joe made me believe
I could get Bluebirds, even in late May of 2002. Knowing that an expert lived in the area made me feel better.
I then visited the Hardee County
Bluebird Trail, and for the second time, got to see a Bluebird. I saw Bluebirds everywhere, and there were lots
eggs and babies. John Maddox who was the Trail Monitor, also made me believe I could get Bluebirds that year.
Since the Hardee County Trail was doing so well, that would be the box I would copy in setting up my Trail.
John sent me simple box plans,
and I used his 1 1/4" thick wall PVC pole cut at 6' 8". The box is set from about 5 feet from the hole to ground level.
Then I found the Bluebird-L list,
and through their help learned that I wanted to use the Ron Kingston's predator guard. At first I had had to order the
stovepipe. On the first 25 boxes I used the 6" guard. I now am ordering the 8" pipe. Since beginning, I
have found that Home Depot does carry stove piping; they just did not know they had it! I wanted to use an effective
box, easy to handle pole, and best predator guard. So the setups we have are just about the best we can use!
After reading most of the
Bluebird books, and all the Bluebird-L e-mails, I am finding that
Bluebird setups are like mouse traps. Everyone is trying to build a better one! (After two years, I stopped making
all my Trails have predator guards. Mostly because of cost, and it was also time to see if we truely needed them on
all boxes, all of the time. I find all boxes do not need them, but if you can make/get one, that you should go ahead
and place one on.)
Now that I had the best equipment,
I needed the best habitat. I have driven just about all of the back roads and paths in Manatee, and north
Sarasota counties. At first I searched only Sarasota county, but after finding that the county wanted up to $50.00 per
box for roadside permits, and to sign my life away for liability, I then tried to go to the large land developers.
Again, I found the thought of liability was to great for them to let me on their properties.
This was a turning point in what
my Goals would be. I realized I probably would not be just monitoring my one little trail of 20 boxes. Bringing
Bluebirds back to an area is a job for many people, not just for me to do. I then turned to friends who owned large
areas of land. Both ladies jumped at the idea to have the First Monitored Bluebird Trails in their areas, which were
Manatee County, and the Venice Area. Then came our first Sarasota Trail, which a son of a co-worker and his wife, who
is a Veterinarian, was honored to have this trail on their property. They also are the first to spot Bluebirds
on our Officially Monitored Bluebird Trails.
In looking for land which is wide
open, and not in House Sparrow territory, I searched the phonebook for a contact in the Myakka City area. This is a
city of only a couple of gas stations, community center, and a school area. But there were lots of large land owners.
I was lead to the lady who writes the areas newsletter. And she offered, for me to write an article about
Bluebirds, which I did. From that article we started with six more Trails. I have also written for their Myakka
Livin' magizine since then! Also, the number of Trails we have in our areas is still growing.
During the week, when I was
not building the predator guards, and working on the poles, I worked in other Bluebird related areas. There now are
at least eight libraries in four counties which have purchased three different Bluebird books, and a video for their
communities. I have also written a 22 page Bluebird Project Booklet which the county of Sarasota has printed,
and is be available to be chosen as a pilot project. Now available in Manatee county. The booklet has also
been sent to the state 4-H level to be brought up to state and national project levels. At this time it is in the works
to be published, and should also be able to be sold Nationally!
There are not close to 90 of our Project Trails, and other
private Trails in our Southwest Florida area. Plus, there are undocumented single boxes which have been put up.
Our official count of fledged Bluebirds to Cornell University is around 400 each year. There is more like 600 fledgings
I hear about, that I do not have complete information on. The areas large private and public Bluebird Trails report
close to 1000 fledgings each year. Each year is bringing us more and more successful fledgings. The year of the
five bad hurricanes in our area, has appeared not to have hurt the Bluebird's breeding.