Friday, March 31, 2017

Bluebird Update

 An exciting community project has taken shape in the small the town of Chatsworth, Illinois, in southeastern Livingston County. Years ago, a fourth grader wrote a report on the beautiful “bluebird.” This area resident had the dream of consistently seeing bluebirds on her family’s farm. Prior to the Chatsworth High School consolidating into the Prairie Central School district in 1985, the high school mascot was the “Chatsworth Bluebird.” With this memory and nostalgia, earlier this year (2016), someone came forward to help realize her dream. 
A generous anonymous donation of 36 bluebird houses has inspired the community to come together and bring more real live Eastern bluebirds into the Chatsworth area. Area residents are jumping on board, getting excited, and at last count over 100 bluebird houses have been installed in town and all over the countryside. 
In March, students from area schools researched the habitat, nesting & feeding of these small, beautiful blue, orange-breasted birds. They learned that erecting two houses not too far apart may increase the chance of getting a bluebird, since tree swallows also like these houses but will avoid the houses if there are tree swallow neighbors. They learned that bluebirds feed on insects, caterpillars, spiders, mealworms and small berries. The homes should be placed in a semigrassland area with scattered trees and short ground cover for easy prey visibility. 
With the support of the Chatsworth Citizen’s Advisory Board (CAB), county board members Joe Steichen and Paul Ritter, also a high school science teacher at PTHS, coordinated the placement and erection of these bluebird houses throughout the community with the help of dedicated students and some participating residents. Other area teachers participating are Jodee Ritter of CHS, Scott Saffer, a science teacher from PCJHS and Laura Baumgardner, the Lifeskills teacher PTHS.
 “This project is about the community pulling together to experience something that can be enjoyed by everyone. The bluebird is native to our area, is the old CHS mascot, and it is near and dear to our hearts. With the diminished population of these beautiful little birds, our community effort is not only a great thing for our residents but also for our environment,” says Richard Runyon, mayor of Chatsworth and member of the Citizen’s Advisory Board. 
A celebration, sponsored by the Citizen’s Advisory Board, was held at the Chatsworth American Legion to recognize the students and teachers on Saturday, March 12, 2016. All of the classes at the Chatsworth Elementary School joined in to create decorations for the event. Public attendance was welcomed and encouraged! That Saturday, approximately 150 attended the Bluebird Celebration. Hand-painted bluebird plaques were awarded to the teachers and students who participated in the placement and erection of the houses. It was a fun time of community fellowship.
 In May, 2016, the mayor of Chatsworth made a proclamation that all Chatsworth Elementary students are official “Bluebirds!” “We have had a lot of fun with this project,” says Mayor Runyon. “As the year progressed, more folks jumped on board and wanted to install their own birdhouses,” continued Runyon. “Folks from Strawn, Forrest, Piper City and Fairbury are also interested in this project. Our local Corner Hardware store has been stocking bluebird house kits complete with conduit and rebar to erect them. One of the greatest aspects of this project is that it involves the children, and it gives everyone in the community something to look forward to each spring.” Throughout the summer, bluebirds were spotted at various locations. Several nests were built and eggs were laid, a few babies hatched and fledged! It was an exciting beginning for Chatsworth. Now residents are looking forward to the spring of 2017 for a Bluebird Festival and the birth of more bluebirds! 

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