The Eastern bluebirds are once again plentiful near Pot Spring Elementary thanks to the efforts of Katie Doyle, Audrey Hoffman and Christina Sousou of Girl Scout Cadette Troop 3948. All eighth-graders, these Girl Scouts embarked on a campaign to revitalize the Bluebird Trail at Pot Spring Elementary as a part of their Silver Award project. The Silver Award is the highest award a middle school-aged Girl Scout Cadette can achieve.
With an interest in helping animals and improving the environment, Katie, Audrey and Christina, with the help of Troop leader Kirsten Hoffman and Michelle Doyle, teacher at Pot Spring Elementary, and under the guidance of Maureen Larkin, certified environmental educator, repaired, monitored and maintained the Pot Spring Bluebird Trail. Their project was a great success, and these hard-working young ladies were honored with a Silver Award by the Girl Scouts.
Revitalizing the Bluebird Trail was quite an undertaking as this seven-month project ranged from constructing and installing seven new nesting boxes to weekly monitoring starting in snowy March, continuing through a hot and humid summer and ending during a rainy September. The original Bluebird Trail was built at Pot Spring Elementary in 2007 as a part of the Green School initiative and was originally a mile-long trail of 15 bluebird nesting boxes that were constructed and monitored to increase the bluebird population.
The native bluebirds had been declining in the area due to the invasive practices of other birds, like the house sparrow. The existing trail had fallen into disrepair until 2013, when Maureen Larkin took on maintaining and monitoring it once again. She was thrilled when the Girl Scouts offered their help on the trail, and she acted as their mentor during the Silver Award process.
The first step the girls had to undertake was rebuilding nesting houses to replace the missing ones, and they earned their woodworking badges along the way.
Next came the monitoring of the trail, which is a very hands-on experience, as Katie, Audrey and Christina had to learn how to identify the different types of nests that might be in a box and remove the invasive sparrow nests. This included some surprises like when a baby bird fell out as the box was being opened, and they were dive-bombed by the baby’s protective parents. The girls shared this chore with Maureen on a twice-weekly basis, and they kept specific records of their findings.
The girls took pride in the measurable increase in the bluebird population, noting that the number of fledglings increased from just five in 2013 to 15 in 2018, as a result of their care and attention. As Audrey reflected, “We helped make this happen and we were able to help an endangered species.”
Christina enjoyed working on this distinctive and original project and found it intriguing to help the passive bluebirds survive in their native environment, and she especially enjoyed being able to see the clear impact their project had on limiting the invasive sparrows.
Katie and her family also constructed a mini-Bluebird Trail in their own backyard, and she reminds us that “every little bit can have an impact.” She was happy to report that a bluebird used one of the nesting boxes! Congratulations to Katie, Audrey and Christina for all their hard work and for achieving this high honor.