Nature's trail takes me to bluebirds this week. These sweet birds have always had a special place in my heart and its not just because they are so beautiful. Their haunting songs identify with them perfectly and the way they flutter about reminds me of the gentle swallows.
As a boy growing up in small southern Wisconsin town, I was always overwhelmed by the sight of a bluebird. The truth is that they were quite common then and nested right in town. There was a bluebird house at the end of the garden in our backyard. I remember how much nicer garden chores were, because of the bluebird.
Then all at once, they were gone. Didn't seem to be any in this part of state. I was literally shocked to think this special bird may be gone forever. I kept watching for them till my early twenties. Then I thought it was time I find out if there were any more bluebirds. The plan was to spend the winter of 1973 making bluebird houses. I was determined and spent a lot of spare time at it. I finished them just in time to get them up. That was the toughest part of the experiment, and took me the whole month of February.
I remembered how excited I was when it was time to drive around and check the houses. The bluebird houses were one-forth of a mile apart, often along a roadside, and spread out over a twenty-mile area.
I was simply deeply disappointed when the summer came and left without a single pair of bluebirds in any of my houses. Lots of wrens, tree swallows, a few chickadees, and some deer mice, but no bluebirds.
The next year was the same and that made me even more determined. The third year gave me one of my life's biggest thrills. I drove up right next to a birdhouse and a bluebird flew out. I was so happy; I drove out to see them nearly everyday until the young were flying. Was it a sign that there may be a few more next year? Sadly no! The next two years were without bluebirds and my five-year study ended with only a single pair using only one of a possible 15,000 nesting sights.
For the next ten years, to catch a glimpse of a bluebird was rare. Then conservationists from all over the state started a campaign to bring these lovely birds back. In only five or six years there seemed to be bluebirds showing up everywhere. Today they are once again quite common here now, and I, for one, will never take them for granted.
You don't always know were nature's trail may lead you and who knows, you might see a bluebird along the way.
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