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Save the bluebirds: Attend the New York State Bluebird Society’s annual workshop in Boston

The eastern bluebird
BOSTON — Since the eastern bluebird was, at one point, considered a point of concern by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the Upstate New York Bluebird Society was developed, in a stated attempt to address the issue, in 1982.

“There were a number of individuals in the Syracuse/Utica area that were concerned about the bluebird population, which at that time was very, very low,” said Rich Wells of Springville, the first vice president of the New York State Bluebird Society. Bluebirds fell among the three-tiered rating system developed by the DEC: special concern, threatened and endangered.

“It was right after World War II,” Wells said. “There were historical reports of people seeing hundred of bluebirds together at one time. Shortly after that, the population started going downhill. The reason for that downward trend was – and this is all guesswork – they think maybe DDT had something to do with the downward dive.”

Wells said that, as the English began transforming the New World, house sparrows were among the imports. This aggressive species, which he described as vicious, “had really dire effects on the native nesting birds.”

By the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the North American Bluebird Society began gathering information; this was “how the bluebird movement took off,” Wells said.

The society, originally located in the Central New York area, changed its name to the New York State Bluebird Society, to encompass the whole state. Through memberships and seminars, participants are educated about bluebirds, and learn what the species need to survive and how to help.

“They need habitat,” said Springville resident David Hofer, area-1 coordinator for the NYSBS, adding that a decrease in natural land has come with the rise of developments, which eliminates natural nesting cavities for that type of bird.

Hofer entered the bluebird society in 1994. He set up a nest box – a man-made cavity for bluebirds to inhabit – and later found the female dead, with only the male left to take care of five chicks. Hofer sought out Wells, whom he said was known for his bluebird expertise.

“I was checking nest boxes one day on a road near [Hofer’s] home, and he pulled over to stop and started talking to me,” Wells said. “He had bluebirds at his house, and that’s how we met.”

“Rich came over and probably saved my bluebirds,” Hofer said, explaining that Wells fostered the bluebird chicks into another nest.

Those interested in participating in bluebirding must set up a nest box, which needs to be checked by opening the box on a weekly basis.

“You’ll see it happen,” Hofer said, explaining that a nest may begin to develop.

Bluebirders also practice the process of banding, in addition to providing nesting for the birds. Aluminum bands, provided by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, are numbered and subsequently attached to a bluebird’s foot. Information about the bird is submitted to that service, along with an assigned number. If a banded bird is found, data will be reported back to that service.

The compiled information allows for a variety of studies, including of flight patterns, Wells said.

A free, public Western New York Bluebird Workshop is scheduled for 1 – 3:15 p.m. on March 22 in Boston. Refreshments will be provided.

During the meeting, Wells will present information about bluebirds. Judy Derry of Lockport will then explain details about what being a NYSBS member entails.

Afterward, a Q&A segment will also take place; attendees may ask questions of a panel of bluebirders, including Wells, Derry, John Ruska and Carl Zenger.

A bonus offer is available for those interested in joining the society: three-year members will receive a free nest box and one-year members will receive a free bird feeder, while supplies last.

Wells said that approximately 100 – 150 attendees showed up at past meetings. “Hopefully we’ll get some new members,” Hofer said. “[Bluebirding] is a very rewarding thing to do.”

Although this is an open meeting, the society is requesting that attendees register in advance, to provide a head count for refreshments. Register by calling Hofer at 592-5735 or emailing dchofer@hughes.net.

BLUEBIRD TEAM, ASSEMBLE! — The Western New York Bluebird workshop will be held Saturday, March 22 at the Boston Town Hall, located at 8500 Boston State Road in Boston. Photo by Alicia Greco.
The bluebird workshop will be held at the Boston Town Hall, located at 8500 Boston State Road in Boston.
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