It all started when I was probably around ten or eleven. I was, at the time, very big into hunting even though I only had a pellet gun. I used to go in a field behind my house and try to find birds to shoot for target practice. There were a lot of days during the summer when I didn't have much to do, and this seemed like a fun way to fill the time. One day I was out in the field with my cousin, and we were both trying to shoot this Morning Dove down from a tree. Surprisingly my pellet actually hit the bird, which hadn't ever happened before. For a split second I thought that what I had done was cool. Then I walked over to the quivering dove, and saw the blood flowing out of its mouth. The bird was making an unsuccessful attempt to screech at me, but the shot must have injured its vocal cords. I then decided to shoot the dove one more time to put it out of its misery.
I couldn't believe what I had just witnessed. I had never thought before hand about whether the bird, after being shot would suffer. I never quite realized the full affect that a little pellet gun would have after I had pulled the trigger. I knew that the bird might end up dead, but I never thought that this would happen.
That experience I guess you could say got me into birding. I figured that I owed the bird that I had murdered something. Especially since I had shot it for no practical reason. I realized that I could not go back and change what I had done, but I thought that by doing something good for birds it might make me feel better. I never though that I would end up being as into birds as I am today, but after researching for just a short period of time I realized that this was something that I wanted to stick with. The more that I watched and found out about these animals, the more fascinated I became. When I was eleven I found a book that my grandpa had given my mom about bluebirds. I was trying to find out all I could about all of the different songbird species in North America, so I decided to read it.
For some unknown reason I found this bird the most interesting of them all, and that is why I am what you call a bluebirder today. A bluebirder is not really a word. At least not one that you can find in any dictionary, but that is what people like myself are called in the bird watching community. Bluebirders are people that are very interested in bluebirds, and like researching on one or more of the three species of bluebirds found here in North America (Western, Eastern, and Mountain Bluebirds). Here in Kansas, the only species of bluebird that we have is the Eastern Bluebird.
I really started getting into bluebirding after seeing a flier that said, "In Need of Bluebird Enthusiasts to Help the Bluebirds", during one of the long bike rides that my family took once a month in Shawnee Mission Park. Since I had been reading up on eastern bluebirds, was knowledgeable about the species, and was interested in finding out how the program worked, I decided to call the number. When I called they told me that they would send out a bluebird volunteer to talk to me about possible things that I could do to help. They also said that they didn't want anybody who wasn't serious about really getting into it.
That weekend the volunteer came to my house. When he had realized that I was serious about getting into it, we began to talk about possible things that I could do. I obviously was too young to drive to a far away bluebird trail, so I told him about Stoll Park, and about how I had seen bluebirds there before. He agreed that that park would probably be the best place for me to start. Since Stoll park is about one half mile away from my house it was perfect. After we had chosen to use Stoll Park for my bluebird trail, we set up a date to flag the area (to indicate where the best locations for the 15 boxes that I was going to make were).
After flagging the area my grandpa, my dad , and I met up with the man responsible for the great bluebird program in Johnson County, Frank Rolf. We were then shown how to make the complex bluebird box (The Peterson Box), and were given plans for the predator guards and other various things that we would need to make in conjunction with these bluebird houses.
Over a period of about four weeks we worked on these boxes, trying to fit the very harsh guidelines that Frank Rolf had set. He must first approve all of the boxes used in the parks, so we wanted to make them perfect the first time. When the boxes were approved we picked up the steel poles from Mr. Rolf to mount the bluebird boxes on, and put them up in the flagged areas. It was then June of 1998, and I was 12 about to turn 13. I was now monitoring the boxes once a week, and recording the results on a table. The results that I took mainly consisted of the number of eggs that the bluebirds laid, the number of bluebirds that hatched from the eggs (fledglings), and the number of bluebirds that fledged (or flew the coop). I also recorded the type of birds that were nesting in the boxes other than bluebirds. During the nesting season, which for my boxes was from June to July, I had a total fledge number of seven bluebirds out of the 15 boxes (which is a pretty good number in two for two months out of the nesting season).
At the end of the year I sent my bluebird results into the Bluebird Recovery Program (BBRP), and Kansas Bluebirds. There they total the results of all of the members, and send out an annual bluebird statistical report in September. That year the Johnson County Bluebird Program had a record fledge number that no other county could even think of competing with. All of the parks in Johnson County fledged over 1,000 baby bluebirds that year combined. We then received a resolution from the Kansas House of Representatives, naming Johnson County the Bluebird Capital of Kansas.
During the off season I still check the boxes to make sure that the do not become badly damaged, vandalized, or stolen. I also apply different chemicals (non-toxic) to the box in order to preserve the wood and protect it against weather damage. I also started a website for the sole purpose of helping beginning bluebirders get started and informed. (which you are visiting right now.)
This year (1999) was not, in my opinion, a very good year for the bluebirds. I had been to many different online bluebird communities and my results have been consistent with those of people from around the country. We believe that the problem was most likely the weather (too much rain in the Spring, too little in the Summer, and other unusual weather patterns of that nature). During the whole nesting season my 15 boxes only fledged 12 bluebirds. I also believe that pesticides and insect problems contributed to my low fledge number. The whole county had fledged only 866 bluebirds, almost 200 less than the previous years' total.
That is my story (summed up) and if you have any more questions for me about bluebirds or anything else please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.