Bluebird Update
September 23, 2013

Each fall I prepare a report for the Bluebird Society of PA on the activity I have recorded at the various bird nesting boxes I have put up. The society keeps records from anyone who sends in a report, in order to monitor the bluebird population in our state.

For any reader who is not familiar with the Eastern bluebird, here is a photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Bluebird - Cornell Lab of Ornithology


And here is a typical nesting box that bluebirds find attractive.



Other cavity nesting birds such as tree swallows, chickadees, titmice, wrens and house sparrows find this kind of box attractive, too.

I live in a suburb of Harrisburg, PA. There is enough grassy area and scattered trees, that bluebirds nest here, despite the noise of vehicle traffic and (this summer) of a new condo unit being built.

This year I had a total of 23 boxes in three different counties: Dauphin, where I live; Cumberland, where the Brethren in Christ denominational offices are; and Franklin, on the campus of Roxbury Holiness Camp.

Number of bluebird eggs laid – 50

Number of bluebirds that fledged – 43

Number of tree swallows that fledged – 1 (very low; most years I have many more.)

Number of house wrens that fledged – 18 (5 from one nest, and 8 from another!)

Do you see bluebirds where you live? Do you put up a nesting box?


An Unexpected Trip to Aurora
October 4, 2012

On Friday, September 28, 2012, we received word that our good friend Ed Rickman died unexpectedly. He and Martha live in southwest Missouri, in the town of Aurora.

Martha asked me to conduct the funeral service, so we immediately made plans to go to Aurora. We traveled there the next day by plane and rental car.

The viewing was on Sunday evening and the service on Monday afternoon. Because of Ed’s clear testimony of faith in Christ the funeral was a time of celebrating the grace of God. We also celebrated the life of our brother Ed, who had been a pastor, church planter and an administrator in several Christian ministries.

For my message I chose the text of Ephesians 4:24: “…put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” An amazing claim! Because of Ed’s commitment to the tradition of Wesleyan holiness, I commented extensively on this in my message. I will not take time to define Wesleyan holiness here. If you wish to learn more, you may enter this term in your search engine, or send a reply to me, and we can talk by email.

I also enjoyed in-depth conversations with Shane Chellis, a son-in-law of Ed and Martha. He has been on a spiritual journey of considering other denominations after having been in the United Methodist Church for some time. As a result of his journey he joined the Anglican Church of North America, a “province” newly formed in 2008, consisting now of 1,000 congregations, and planting one new church each week.  The group is described as Catholic, evangelical and charismatic. Shane was ordained as a priest in this denomination three weeks ago. His ministry is that of serving as a chaplain at The Rescue Mission in Fort Wayne, IN.

In Missouri the birder side of me was so pleased to see many Scissor-tailed flycatchers. Here are two views of them.

The first photo is by Brenda (last name unknown.) The second is by Christopher L. Wood and appears on the web site of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Seven of these striking birds hung around the motel where we stayed. It was a delight to see them.

We returned home on Wednesday, October 3.

The Joy of Bluebirds
September 24, 2012

As you may know from previous blogs, one of my hobbies is nature study, especially bird study. And the Eastern bluebird is of special interest to me because of the beauty of the creature and the situation with their nesting behavior.

This photo of a male Eastern bluebird is from Cornell Lab of  Ornithology – Cornell University. The female is less brightly colored than the male.

While bluebirds are fairly common in PA, and indeed in all of eastern USA, they are  quiet and somewhat unobtrusive, so many people have never seen one. Most people are more familiar with the blue jay, which is larger, noisy and very aggressive at bird feeders.

Back to the subject of bluebirds’ nesting behavior, they are cavity nesters but cannot hollow out cavities themselves because their beaks not designed for hammering or drilling like woodpeckers. The natural nesting sites for bluebirds have diminished in the 20th century because of changing farming techniques. So humans have discovered that bluebirds are quite willing to nest in man-made boxes. Therefore, thousands of birders, including me, set out nesting boxes, hoping to provide a safe home for these birds.

Here is the box across the street from our home here in the suburbs of Harrisburg, PA.

I paint the roof of the box to preserve it longer. The light blue color is incidental. Any color would do.

This year, 2012, is probably my best year for successful fledging (flying out of the box) of bluebird young. I had 21 boxes out:  6 in this area, 4 at Grantham on and near the campus of Messiah College, and 11 at Roxbury Holiness Camp which is located at the village of Roxbury, not far from Shippensburg.

In these boxes the female bluebirds laid a total of 74 eggs.

Number of eggs that hatched – 57.

Number of young that fledged – all 57.

I also had 9 tree swallow chicks that fledged, 6 house wrens (all in one box), and one chickadee.

I know these numbers because I am a bluebird fanatic, keeping record on index cards of every box and the activity in it.

I also set out on our deck dried mealworms and suet and raisins for the bluebirds, and occasionally, but not every day, they come for a snack.

What do you do for fun? If you enjoy your hobby as much as I do mine, I am happy for you.