Saturday, May 05, 2012

Bluebirds and Volunteers


This is the post I did for the park's facebook page yesterday.

Although I'm not a birder,  I sure do like birds.

For thrity-three consecutive years Antietam volunteers Mark and
Jean Raabe have been tending, counting, and housing the bluebird
and tree swallow population of Antietam National Battlefield.
Working with the park's Natural Resources Division, Mark and
Jean maintain, inspect, and audit the nesting boxes and fledgings
 of the battlefield.

Through improved predator-resistant boxes and restored habitat, 
the bluebirds of the battlefield have experienced an increase in
 fledglings from an average of 300 per season five years ago to
an average in the high 400s as of last year.

Dedicated volunteers like the Raabs are one of the great strengths
of the Park Service, spending countless hours making our parks a
 better experience for everyone...

even the birds!

Although often unnoticed by visitors, these nesting boxes can be seen all
along the park roads.

While Jean is in the car "doing the books" Mark is carefully opening and
 inspecting each of the nesting boxes, counting and checking on the
 condition of eggs or hatchlings.

Although the boxes are associated with bluebirds, two species
actually set up hosekeeping; in this instance a pair of tree-swallows
have produced four beautiful pearlescent eggs.

Several boxes down the road we found this clutch of powder blue
eggs- soon to be bluebirds.

Three more boxes down the road and we came to this feathery jackpot. 
Four little bluebirds - eighteen days old, bags packed, and ready to leave
the nest by tomorrow.

Think of Mark and Jean as you are serenaded with birdsongs this season
as  you visit Antietam National Battlefield.

The Raabes are super-nice people.  I'd hoped to run into them
as I thought their work would make  a really good post for the
park.  Yesterday as I was going home I encountered them
checking bird boxes - what great timing!  I spent about 45 
minutes with them, taking pictures as they made their rounds. 

This place just gets better every day!

Ranger Mannie


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