Contributed photo/ San Juan Preservation Trust
                                A Western bluebird

Contributed photo/ San Juan Preservation Trust A Western bluebird

Students help Bluebirds | Guest Column

By Kristin Pluff and Claire Rathburn

Friday Harbor High School students

For our class, we made a project to help our community. We wanted to work with the Western bluebirds of the island. We both knew very little about them and weren’t even aware they were on the island. By contacting the San Juan Preservation Trust, we learned more about their project to reintroduce Western bluebirds and wanted to help.

The San Juan Preservation Trust began the reintroduction in 2007 and have had a small, but consistent, return of birds. In the winter of 2016-17, some of the birds have stayed the whole year when they’d usually migrate. Preservation trust staff is still unsure if the bluebirds have been eating insects or berries through the winter.

We scheduled bird watching eight times for a couple of hours to track the bluebirds through October and November, mainly to observe what they’ve been eating. The other part of our project was to inform the public of the bluebirds and the San Juan Preservation Trust’s project.

Lucky for us, the island has many prime spots for bluebird watching. Good places to look for bluebirds would be American Camp, Cattle Point and many locations in the valley. We’ve checked at a number of locations and have gotten activity with just a few. The most bluebirds we’ve found was at the Oaks and off of Telegraph Lane, but only because of people reporting bird sightings. We’re never certain where the birds are because they are always moving; it’s the same for the staff at the San Juan Preservation Trust.

There are a few ways the community can help the western bluebirds. If you see bluebirds, you can contact the preservation trust at 360-378-2461 and inform them of where you saw them, if the bird was male/female, and if you saw any colored leg bands, which helps identify individual birds.

If you have nesting boxes on your property, clean the nests after the birds migrate. Bluebirds don’t like to come back to boxes that have old nests in them. Also contact the preservation trust at 360-378-2461 if you find a nest that is made up of only grass, as it could possibly be a bluebird’s.

When we learned our project was going to be bird watching, we were both hesitant. However, we soon realized that bird watching was quite relaxing and sometimes exciting; especially when you’ve been looking for hours and finally see their bright blue color.

Unfortunately, our project is ending, though I feel bird watching could be a new hobby of ours or just mine. This doesn’t mean the project for the San Juan Preservation Trust is ending, though, so they could still use help in the future.

It is up to locals to help our bluebird friends back to the island.