GARDENING WITH THE MASTERS: New bluebird trails in Veterans Park and in Ball Ground – Cherokee Tribune Ledger News


The “Vets Park Bluebird Team” from left: Mike Lloyd, Russell Brannon, Ron Fister, and Josh Fuder. Not pictured: Jerry Ince, Suzie and Quentin Thomas.
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“Ball Ground Bluebird Team” from left: Mike Smith, Diane Smith and Cindy Lloyd. Not pictured: Mike Lloyd.

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The “Vets Park Bluebird Team” from left: Mike Lloyd, Russell Brannon, Ron Fister, and Josh Fuder. Not pictured: Jerry Ince, Suzie and Quentin Thomas.
Ah, springtime! Such a wonderful time of the year! The green returns, flowers pop up, and the birds court again with sweet songs and colorful plumage!
One of my favorite springtime delights is the dazzling flash of a bluebird in flight. This sight seems to raise the spirit, no matter where you are on the happiness scale. Bluebirds are special: they are known as the “harbinger of happiness” and associated with good health and hope. And they are special in another way: they are ours, native only to North America, nowhere else.
This past winter, a dedicated team of Cherokee County Master Gardeners, Ron Fister, Russell Brannon, Jerry Ince, Suzie and Quentin Thomas, and Mike Lloyd built nest boxes in their home workshops using plans proven suitable for bluebirds. As a result of their work, that of Josh Fuder, Cherokee County UGA Agricultural Agent, and the permission and support of Cherokee County Recreation & Parks, twelve bluebird nest boxes were placed on the walking trail at Cherokee Veterans Park.
In addition, with the enthusiastic support of the Ball Ground Garden Club and with permission and support of the City of Ball Ground, Mike provided and helped to install an additional three bluebird nestboxes in Ball Ground parks. More are planned in that beautiful city. All nest boxes were placed in prime bluebird habitat and near walking paths so that they can be enjoyed by the public.
Although any native cavity-nesting bird is welcome to use our nest boxes, the main purposes of our project are to attract bluebirds to our area, to help increase their population (which was in decline in the last century), and to add to the quality of life of those who live in or visit our county.
We want to maintain these trails in a sustainable manner, so that they will continue to provide housing for our bluebird population and continue to keep us in good company. Part of this effort is to measure the impact of these nest boxes on our resident bluebird population. So, we invite any interested resident or organization to “adopt a bluebird nest box.”
By “adopting” a nest box, you will be able to periodically monitor one or more of these nest boxes and record the happenings of the bluebird residents. This job is not only fun and educational, but environmentally conscious. Please contact the Cherokee County Master Gardener organization at (info@cherokeemastergardeners.com) if you’d like to join the fun. We’ll help you get started. Visit www.cherokeemastergardeners.com for more information about this and other programs that we provide.
The new bluebird trails are the fourth and fifth bluebird trails established by this team of bluebird enthusiasts in the last few years. The other trails are located in Canton’s Heritage Park, in Canton’s Etowah River Park, and on the Reinhardt University campus.
There are three species of bluebirds: Eastern, Mountain, and Western Bluebirds. Georgia is blessed with the Eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis) as a year-round resident. Parks are the perfect place to for a bluebird trail, since these birds prefer large open fields with scattered trees and little underbrush. An open field provides them with their favorite food during the breeding season, namely ground crawling insects, like caterpillars, beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. During the cooler months, they’ll switch to a vegetarian diet, eating fruits left on mistletoe, sumac, blueberries, dogwood berries, hackberries, honeysuckle, bay, pokeweed, juniper berries, etc.
You can attract bluebirds to your own property, if you have the proper ingredients: a nest box built and placed to suit them and a large enough lawn area (it doesn’t need to be your lawn). Many reputable websites provide excellent guidance on how to establish your own bluebird sanctuary, for example, The Cornell Lab’s “All About Birds” site (www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern Bluebird). They will help you choose wisely when buying a bluebird nest box; and many will also provide nest box plans, if you want to build one yourself. And these sites also describe where and how to place the nest box. Happy bird watching!
Mike Lloyd is one of many UGA Master Gardener Extension Volunteers of Cherokee County. For more information or questions contact the Cherokee County Extension Office at 770-721-7803 or for upcoming seminars follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cherokeemastergardeners or at cherokeemastergardeners.com.

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“Ball Ground Bluebird Team” from left: Mike Smith, Diane Smith and Cindy Lloyd. Not pictured: Mike Lloyd.
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