Above: A Western Bluebird couple delivers an insect breakfast to their brood. (My husband thought they were feeding the babies wheat - that's just growing in the background.)
While on work travel, I took a Saturday morning off and headed out to Bickleton, of south central WA, population 113 (as of the year 2000) to see the Bluebirds of Bickleton. Bickleton is actually the first place I ever saw a bluebird.
In 1968, Jess and Elva Brinkerhoff traveled from Richland, WA to Bickleton to see wildflowers. (Source of date: The Return of the Bluebird, forward by L. Zeleny.) "The Brinkerhoffs spotted one of these graceful companions of summer. Hoping to encourage it to stay, they rescued a metal coffee can from the local dump to make a rough birdhouse and nailed it to a tree. As they stood by watching, two bluebirds moved right in." (Source: An American Profile.) The Brinkerhoff's received the John and Nora Lane award from the North American Bluebird Society for outstanding contributions to bluebird conservation in 1983. Elva passed away in 1985, but her legacy lives on.
The Brinkerhoffs (and others?) installed more than 2,000 (?) wooden bluebird houses in and around Bickleton over the next four decades. Bickleton bluebird brigade volunteers (residents, farmers, school children, etc.) build, clean, repair and paint the boxes. Some funding is obtained from souvenirs sold at the Whoop-n-Holler Museum (which I intend to visit on my next trip).
Most of the boxes are mounted on fenceposts; some are mounted on trees or buildings. Many are painted white, with blue roofs. Some are made in a style not well suited to monitoring (see photos), but they are probably only cleaned out once a year at the end of the season. Some are in disrepair, others are in excellent condition. None that I saw are paired. But most importantly, the majority are are occupied! Most boxes contained bluebirds, were fewer Tree Swallows, and some House Wrens. I did see a several nesting House Sparrows near residences or farms.
I read that both Mountain and Western Bluebirds nest in Bickleton - I only saw Western Bluebird adults. The town claims to be the "bluebird capital of the world." It is certainly the first place I ever saw Western Bluebirds.
- Bet Zimmerman, June 20, 2009
Above: Left - A female Western? Bluebird with an unidentified bug in her beak. Right - Neatly shaped cup with Western Bluebird eggs, which appeared to be a paler blue than Eastern Bluebird eggs. Two feathers in this nest - Western Bluebird nests sometimes contain many feathers and trash. See more photos.
Above (left to right): Decorated shed at entrance to town; Commemorative sign; the Bluebird which lays claim to being the State's oldest tavern.
Above (left to right): Typical habitat - open wheat fields dotted with wildflowers. Some pines and farms. Western Bluebird nestlings. The town is listed in Washington Curiosities. Bickleton is in Klickitat County. It is located off of Highway 22, near Mabton (take Glad Road and follow signs.)
You cannot begin to preserve any species of animal unless you preserve the habitat in which it dwells. Disturb or destroy that habitat and you will exterminate the species as surely as if you had shot it. So conservation means that you have to preserve forest and grassland, river and lake, even the sea itself. This is vital not only for the preservation of animal life generally, but for the future existence of man himself—a point that seems to escape many people.
-Gerald Durrell, The Nature Conservancy
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