The Friends of Topsmead State Forest in Litchfield is partnering with area schools to reestablish the bluebird box trail that runs through the state forest. The project is funded by the Friends of Topsmead State Forest and private donations.
The Friends of Topsmead State Forest is a non-profit organization whose mission is to preserve, protect, and enhance the experience of Topsmead State Forest. Incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in August 2017, the Friends have already made a positive impact on Topsmead by initiating several projects. Along with the bluebird box trail project, restoration of the butterfly garden has begun and plans are in place to create a temporary welcome center in the carriage shed. The organization held its first Field Work Party on April 27 to prepare Topsmead for the growing season.
Janet Blauvelt, a Friends board member and chairperson of the education committee, leads the bluebird box trail project. She, along with Larry Short, a special education teacher at Charter Explorations School in Winsted, have been working with students from various local schools on different aspects of the project. Eight students from Explorations Charter School in Winsted, one student from Wamogo Regional High School and one student from Torrington Middle School are participating.
Their responsibilities are to inspect nesting boxes and record data on the bluebirds' and other birds' usage of the boxes; determine cleanliness of boxes; and report results to the Connecticut Bluebird Next Box Survey and Peter Piccone, a wildlife biologist at Sessions Woods in Burlington. Students are also responsible for building new boxes and repairing old ones. In addition, the Friends will add ten to fifteen new nesting boxes which will be built by Ms. Blauvelt and her husband, John Blauvelt, who is the Grounds Chairperson on the board of the Friends. The boxes will be built to specifications created by Art Gingert and Peter Piccone who designed the original bluebird trail at Topsmead.
This project owes a big debt of gratitude to Jane Golding, a Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection employee who works at Topsmead, as she has played a critical role in initiating the new bluebird box trail.
Students began checking the nesting boxes during the first week in March. Since then, they have spotted bluebirds starting to nest in several different boxes. Currently, there are five pairs of bluebirds nesting in boxes. On April 30, project participants were delighted to find one nesting box with four bluebird eggs in it. Recording nesting and egg status are vital to monitoring how the bluebird population is fairing at Topsmead State Forest.
According to Ms. Blauvelt, "I wish to create educational programs in collaboration with local schools and community organizations to make Topsmead State Forest an outdoor extension of the classroom. My hope is to provide students and the public hands-on experience with nature and to grow to love the outdoors and the creatures that inhabit it."
Ms. Blauvelt seeks the public's assistance in providing program ideas to the board of the Friends of Topsmead State Forest via the group's email address: Friendsoftopsmead@gmail.com. Email subject line should read: "Educational Program Ideas."