My name is Hannah Thomas and I am a junior in high school. I started as a bluebird box monitor at Deer Creek State Park this past spring 2019. As a bluebird box monitor, I collect data on the nests in the boxes and watch for invasive species, such as House Sparrows. House Sparrows will kill other birds, take up all the nesting space, and ruin other nests to build their own. By monitoring the nests we can prevent invasive species from using them and gather information about our native species.

I learned a lot this past year from monitoring the 24 boxes and 2 open nests species. At Deer Creek State Park, we get House Wrens, Tree Swallows, and Eastern Bluebirds in the boxes. They all build a different style of nest; House Wrens use sticks and grass, Tree Swallows use course grass and lots of feathers, and bluebirds use grass and pine needles. Bluebird and Tree Swallow boxes can also become mite infested and if there are young in the nest then the mites can weaken them. The only time a nest had to be replaced was when the cold set in near the end of summer for a bit. The babies are not fully feathered and since they have an insect-based diet they would get undernourished and cold. We lost several boxes of tree swallow young, but we had one box where there was still one live young. We had to remove the baby, clean out the nest, use some dried grass, pine needles and feathers we had collected earlier in case something like this happened, and built a new nest. That baby did end up fledging and was the last to fledge from that nest. Many of the feathers in the Tree Swallow nests were Pekin Duck feathers. A pair lives at the pond at Deer Creek State Park.

The House Wrens were the last to use the boxes and know how to protect their nests. We had a nest where the House Wrens had wrapped a snake skin around it to scare off other predators. It works well on people too when they’re not expecting it.

Collecting data isn’t hard to do with the Cornell NestWatch app. NestWatch gives you options to choose from and you enter the data the best you can. The app asks for the date, species, the state of the nest, the number of eggs/ young, if a parent is at the location, any maintenance activity, and any extra notes. NestWatch is a citizen science activity done through Cornell so all the data is available for studies.

I am going to be a monitor at Deer Creek State Park next year and would recommend that others wanting experience also become a monitor. Darlene is the one who suggested I become a monitor, and I’m glad that I listened. She got me in touch with Bob Kruse, who is the Maintenance Supervisor for ODNR at Deer Creek, and he showed us where the boxes are. Being a bluebird box monitor is not something that you’ll ever forget doing and it’s worth the time you put into taking care of the boxes.

Hannah is a member of the central Ohio Young Birder’s Club, a member of the Kountry Kids 4-H club and also on the Pickaway County Junior Fair board.

 

Nestwatch Trail data for 2019

TRES 99 eggs and 84 fledged

EABL 12 eggs and 12 fledged

HOWR 18 eggs and 18 fledged

Killdeer 8 eggs and 8 fledged

Barn Swallow 4 eggs and 4 fledged