If you didn’t find all you needed on Black Friday for those on your shopping list, here’s a suggestion. The Lee and Lois Herndon Chapter of Tennessee Ornithological Society, also known as the Elizabethton Bird Club, has produced its annual calendar featuring bird photographs by its members and friends of the organization.
A bluebird sighting just can’t help brightening any day. The Eastern bluebird is a beloved bird, but this is the first time one has graced the cover of the club’s annual calendar. A cavity-nesting member of the thrush family, bluebirds will accept bird boxes for nesting provided by human landlords. The photo of the bluebird for the cover was provided by chapter members Paul and Emily Bayes, who also contributed numerous other photographs for the calendar.
The inside pages of the professionally-produced calendar feature dozens more full-color photographs and an informative and educational grid. These calendars sell for $15 plus $2 for shipping. All sales help the club fund birding programs, public park feeders, conservation efforts and other activities in upper Northeast Tennessee.
For more information on how to obtain a calendar, email me at email@example.com.
Here’s a little more on the Eastern bluebird, which is a year-round resident in the region and can be found in open yards as well as the rural countryside.
People have known for generations that bluebirds make good neighbors. A pair of bluebirds in your yard or garden provides hour upon hour of free entertainment as one watches these birds go about their daily routine. At this time of the year, much of that routine is focused on finding and claiming the best possible nesting location for the upcoming spring season.
The Eastern bluebird is one of North America’s best-known cavity-nesting birds. About 85 species of North American birds use cavities in trees for nesting purposes. Cavity-nesting birds include ducks, such as buffleheads and wood ducks, as well as birds of prey such as Eastern screech-owls and American kestrels.
Over the years, I have found bluebirds nesting in cavities inside wooden fence posts, but there are fewer wooden fence posts every year. This reinforces the idea of how changing landscapes have affected these birds. Instead of wooden fence posts, many farmers now use metal ones, and dead or dying trees — a much sought-after resource for cavity-nesting birds — are often removed from woodlands.
Fortunately for bluebirds, this species will also accept lodging in a nest box, or birdhouse, provided for them by human landlords. One of the simplest ways to bring bluebirds close is to offer wooden boxes, constructed to their specific requirements, for their use as nesting locations.
Because of their trusting nature when it comes to their human neighbors, the Eastern bluebird is one of our most beloved birds. In fact, bluebirds are such popular birds that interest in them and their well-being has inspired the foundation of organizations such as the North American Bluebird Society. The Eastern bluebird has also been designated the official state bird for New York and Missouri, which provides more testimony to the immense popularity of this bird.
The bluebird belongs to the Sialia genus, which includes two other species: the mountain bluebird and the Western bluebird, both ranging throughout the western half of the North American continent.
Perhaps the poet Emily Dickinson summarized it best with these lines from her aptly named poem, “The Bluebird.”
“Before you thought of spring,
Except as a surmise,
You see, God bless his suddenness,
A fellow in the skies
Of independent hues,
A little weather-worn,
Of indigo and brown.”
Other great American poets, including Robert Frost, have also waxed poetic about bluebirds. Before poets wrote their poems, many Native American tribes, including the Navajo and Cochiti, paid special reverence to bluebirds. Russian folklore and Chinese mythology also offer interesting tales about “blue birds,” but those are not species closely related to any of North America’s three species of native bluebirds.