Help preserve bluebirds in Mashomack Preserve

Credit: Don Bindler

Credit: Don Bindler

Mashomack Preserve is home to many species of birds. Osprey are regular residents, while bald eagles, hawks and owls have all nested there.

But the Eastern Bluebird has been one of the preserve’s target species in its conservation program for the past 15 years, according to Dr. Bill Zitek, a retired veterinarian from the North Fork Animal Hospital and a Mashomack Trustee.

“Bluebirds have been visitors to the preserve for years, but when their numbers plummeted in the 1970’s, people recognized that our New York State bird needed help,” said Zitek, who heads the Bluebird Nestbox Project at Mashomack.

Volunteers on Shelter Island have since been building and setting up nest boxes for the bluebirds and monitoring the population growth, reversing the drop in numbers caused by habitat loss and pressure from non-native birds like starlings and sparrows. Along the way, Mashomack became an excellent habitat for bluebirds.

If you are interested in joining this conservation effort, the season’s first nest box trail informational meeting will be held on Thursday, March 31 at 5:30 PM at the Mashomack Preserve Visitor Center education building.

“Volunteers on the Nest Box Trail Project helped the eastern bluebird recover on eastern Long Island,” Zitek said. “Also the population of tree swallows, which share the nest box sites, has also grown.”

According to Zitek, volunteers of the Nest Box Trail Project check each of the 56 nest boxes on the trail once a week from March through August. This has helped fledge 520 eastern bluebirds, along with 1,272 tree swallows.

The natural history of the Eastern Bluebird will be reviewed during Thursday’s event along with information on how volunteers participate in monitoring the nest boxes. Come meet other volunteers and learn about this successful bird conservation project.

Call (631) 749-1001 for more information and to reserve a spot. Refreshments will be served. The Mashomack Preserve Visitor Center education building is located at 79 S. Ferry Road.