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Vickie Nevius, coordinator of the Pleasant Hill Bluebird Project, uses a mirror to check inside the nest in her bluebird house. 

Pleasant Hill is getting on the bandwagon by joining Crossville, Cumberland County and Fairfield Glade in naming the bluebird as the official town bird. 

Roane State Community College’s Cumberland County campus has recently joined the effort to help preserve bluebirds in this area with 11 nesting boxes on their campus. 

In 2018, 14 participants in Pleasant Hill joined the Cumberland County Bluebird Club after a presentation and a discussion on the importance of “protecting the Eastern bluebird and other native cavity nesting birds in Tennessee.” The club also provided detailed plans for bluebird houses, which inspired Pleasant Hill’s woodworkers to get busy making them. Vickie Nevius agreed to collect the data provided by Pleasant Hill “monitors” to send to the club for Audubon.

Monitoring a nest box may include regular observation from nearby and periodically opening the box enough to take a peek to see what phase of the process the nesting birds are in. Each box has its own number. Monitoring a bluebird nest box can be a quick process and doesn’t need to take longer than a minute or two. 

It’s important to remember that bluebirds are accepting of human interaction and will never abandon a nest because of monitoring. There may be up to three batches of baby bluebirds in a season. The houses have a side that comes down to check weekly on the state of the nest, the number of eggs, and how many babies hatched and left the nest.

At the end of the summer in 2018, the Pleasant Hill count was 51 bluebirds and 20 house wrens fledged.

One family of young birds was destroyed by a predator. 

Nevius says, “We have enjoyed the antics of our bluebird friends, survived the dive bombings of protective mothers, and marveled at the development from egg to fledgling.” 

This year 24 bluebird monitors report to Nevius weekly about what is occurring in their bluebird houses. She charts their reports and in turn, contacts Don Hazel, club president, who collates reports from the other club members in the county. This count is added to Tennessee’s and helps the Audubon Society with tracking for cavity nesting birds’ population, their range and the effects of climate change on these birds.

The monitors’ reports are both heartwarming success and sometimes discouraging failures. They are elated when a pair of bluebirds take up residence, but allow the other native cavity birds to raise their families. Wrens, chickadees, swallows and titmice are protected species and may use the nest boxes. The monitors are allowed to remove their nests unless they have laid eggs to encourage the bluebirds to nest. Since bluebirds usually have more than one brood (family of young birds) each summer, they may nest after another species has completed its brood. Bluebirds take about a week to build their nest. The female lays one egg per day, usually 4-6 days, but does not begin to sit on the eggs until all eggs are laid. It takes 12-14 days for the eggs to hatch. The monitors may open and look into the nest box anytime up until the 12th day after hatching. They are given pictures of the birds, nests and eggs so they can determine who is in habitation. During this summer, there have been reports of other native cavity nesters, a flying squirrel and bluebirds. Sometimes after the bluebirds have successfully produced their eggs, disaster strikes and something gets in to destroy them in spite of all of the precautions. Most nesting boxes are on a pole with a baffle in the middle of the yard to discourage intruders. Predators might be other birds, snakes and raccoons.     

There were an estimated 20 million bluebirds in 1900, but that count plummeted to about 2 million in 1960 partly because of the invasion of non-native species, starlings and house sparrows. The bird population has since rebounded, thanks in part to ongoing restoration efforts including the placement of specially designed birdhouses. The birds prefer open, grassy areas as opposed to woods. The colorful creatures are also territorial, so nesting boxes have to be spaced widely apart. They are insectivores and will keep their territory free of many insects. This makes the golf courses in Fairfield Glade, the Roane State campus and widely spaced Pleasant Hill homes, yards and dog park ideal sites. At this time, more than a quarter (26%) of Tennessee Bluebird Society members live in Cumberland County. 

This week in Pleasant Hill:

Tuesday & Thursday Grab Thrift Shop at 9547 Hwy. 70 W. Regular store hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Due to theft problems, donations need to be left inside during business hours. Call the manager at 931-287-3018 for large items or a big load. The shop is collecting paperback books for inmates at the Cumberland County Justice Center. 

Wednesday morning, July 3, is the Pleasant Hill trash pick-up instead of Thursday, July 4.

Wednesdays, 9-11 a.m., sorting books for Used Book Sale, books and volunteers needed, call Ted or Marty at 931-277-5853. Donations accepted.

Wednesdays from 10 a.m.- 4p.m. and Sundays from 2-5 p.m. Pioneer Hall Museum is open for visits until the end of October. For visits at any other time, call Sharon at 931-277-5226 or Chris at 931-277-3742. They will try to arrange a special tour.

Wednesdays, 6 p.m., Bible study and prayer at Pleasant Hill Baptist Mission at 39 Browntown Rd. near Main St.

Wednesday, July 3, 7 p.m., Community Bridge, Fletcher House dining room, all welcome. Call 931-277-5005.

Tuesday, July 9, noon, Pleasant Hill emergency siren test.

Tuesday, July 9, 6 p.m., Pleasant Hill Town Council meeting at Town Hall, 351 E. Main St., 931-277-3813.