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Steamboat Lake to add bluebird nestboxes on trails

Steamboat Lake State Park is home to many bluebirds. The park will have fourteen nestboxes for next year's bluebird nesting season.
Scott Franz

On Tuesday, Julie Arington, of the Steamboat Lake division of Colorado Parks & Wildlife, and Kevin Corwin, of the Colorado Audubon Society, walked the trails of Steamboat Lake State Park pointing out bluebird habitats across the meadow. With Corwin’s expertise on bluebird nest boxes — gained from years as the overseer of the Colorado Bluebird Project — Harington had locations for the first wave of bluebird nestboxes at Steamboat Lake.

Arington’s project will include the building of 14 bluebird nestboxes in the area, hopefully as a catalyst for the establishment of a larger network of nestboxes similar to 40 Corwin manages himself in Larkspur. The nestboxes have long been used throughout the United States as a way to help bird populations rebound.

“The birds have a great habitat at Steamboat Lake, and I expect great success in that area if people volunteer to monitor the boxes,” said Corwin, who spoke at the All About Bluebirds talk at the Bud Werner Memorial Library on Monday night.



Although too late for nesting season this year, Arington hopes to set up the 14 nestboxes next week. This week, the students at North Routt Preschool will assemble the boxes so Harington can hang them for the bluebirds’ nesting season next year.

“We’ve been trying to start doing a lot more citizen science projects to engage people in the outdoors, and this is a great way to do that,” Arington said. “We will also be looking for volunteers for next year to monitor the boxes so we can continue to add more.”



This type of project has seen success throughout the state since the Audubon Society of Greater Denver adopted the Colorado Bluebird Project from the Colorado Wildlife Division in 2004.

In 2003, before the transition of project managers, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which compiles data submitted by nestbox owners across the country, had recorded only 45 nesting attempts by the western and mountain bluebirds in Colorado.

In 2014, however, following 10 years of service by the Audubon Society of Greater Denver, the number of nesting attempts by the western and mountain bluebirds in Colorado had increased to 1,043. Eastern bluebirds also nest in Colorado, but data on their nesting attempts were not available.

Corwin attributes this considerable increase not to an increase in the number of nestboxes in the state, but rather to the way in which the boxes present were cared for.

“A lot of the boxes out there were just not properly taken care of,” Corwin said. “Part of our job is to educate the people who do have boxes so they know to check on the box once a week or so. Sometimes, if you don’t know what’s going on inside the box, you could be doing a bad thing like harboring aggressive house sparrows.”

One of the success stories of nestbox monitors is to be found in Moffat County local birder Allan Reishus. Reishus cared for bluebird nestboxes across Northwest Colorado for 20 years as both a hobby and his contribution to bluebird recovery efforts in the area. He currently has 120 nestboxes in 12 locations, with four to 20 boxes at each.

Reishus, who also spoke at the All About Bluebirds talk, similarly recognizes Steamboat Lake’s potential as a bluebird nesting habitat.

“Steamboat Lake, to my eye, is a beautiful area with wide open spaces that look perfect for bluebird habitat,” Reishus said. “If we can install boxes specifically for bluebirds, we can continue to magnify the population in this area, which is great because they not only are beautiful to look at and hear, but also eat a lot of insects.”

To reach Liz Forster, call 970-871-4374, email lforster@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @LizMForster


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