Six bluebirds are ready to fledge.

The Smith Mountain Lake State Park bluebird monitoring report for 2019 has been submitted to the Virginia Bluebird Society and showed substantial increases in the number of fledglings.

Last year, there were 45 young birds who took flight; this year there were 59. Fourteen bluebird boxes, equipped with predator guards, were positioned throughout the park. The birds seemed to have their preferences. Some boxes produced three broods, while four boxes were never used.

Dick Hendrix, coordinator of the Friends of Smith Mountain Lake State Park’s bluebird nesting box monitoring program, said this year he had 20 volunteers who got trained for monitoring. The first egg appeared on April 6, and the date of the last fledge was Aug. 16.

Hendrix said the monitoring routine hasn’t changed. He provides volunteers with a putty knife, a screwdriver, unscented soap and an information packet with pictures of various types of nests and eggs that might be encountered.

He said there is a regular protocol for inspection: knock before opening the door, check for blowflies or ant infestations, keep track of the age of the eggs, try to account for all egg hatches, estimate the age of the young, note when they fledge and keep detailed notes to pass on to the next team scheduled to check the boxes.

Volunteers spent a total of 90 hours in the program, Hendrix said, adding that he hopes to get more people involved in the future.

Anyone can help by installing a nesting box in their own back yard, by monitoring the box and identifying and correcting nesting problems to help the bluebirds’ chances of survival.

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