Just southeast of the intersection of Highway 31 and Bermont Road is Footprints Trail at Babcock Ranch Preserve, bordering Lee and Charlotte Counties. This 2.5 mile loop traverses pine flatwoods, live oaks, cypress strands, and open prairie, featuring wild turkeys, warblers, woodpeckers, and bluebirds. Near the old Babcock commissary building on this state-owned property, Audubon of Southwest Florida's Dan VanNorman assisted in establishing a dozen bluebird boxes.
Along with Mike Krzyzkowski of Peace River Audubon, VanNorman built several boxes. And Tony Encalada built eight more of them to complete his service learning hours requirement at Florida Gulf Coast University. They mounted the boxes to secure more nesting habitat for bluebirds who must compete with other species, especially invasive European Starlings, for valuable and viable tree cavities.
This summer, VanNorman monitored the boxes during bluebird breeding season.
“When I checked the boxes on June 8, there were four eggs in the nest,” he wrote in an email. “The eggs were still there on June 15, but were gone when I checked it on July 21. I do not know if the eggs hatched or a predator ate them.” Bluebirds typically fledge three weeks from hatching, and so we are hopeful our friends took flight.