AboutReinventing Sialis.org

Reinventing Sialis.org

More than two decades ago, I cobbled together my very first webpage consisting of list of bluebird resources. At the time, I only knew a bit about Eastern Bluebirds, scientific name Sialia sialis. So I chose their species name for my domain (website address) name.  (For the record, the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis went on the market LATER that same year.)

If I had it to do it over, I would have used the more inclusive genus name for all bluebird species, Sialia.  Which, by the way, I was pronouncing wrong for YEARS until veteran bluebirder Ron Kingston (1943-2023) gently let me know it’s pronounced cee-AL-ee-a.  I do rent the domain name Sialia.org, so if someone accidentally types that in, they are automatically redirected to my website.

Although I’m not registered as a non-profit, I went with an .org (versus .com) domain because my primary goal for the website has always been educational.  I want to share information that will enable native small cavity nesters to survive and thrive, and help prevent their landlords from making the same mistakes that I have.

Screenshot from mobile version of updated website
Screenshot from mobile version of updated website

Because the site has grown ginormous and enjoys a lot of traffic, marketers have offered me large sums for it.  But I have no interest in using it to make money, or clogging the content with annoying ads or pop-ups.

When I get sick of maintaining it or croak, Sialis.org will be donated to NABS to do whatever they want with it.  If they’re inclined to use it to generate income for grants and education, I’m fine with that.  As a NABS Board Member, I know that 100% of every donation and membership dollar is directly funneled back into their mission.

In fact, in 2023, I was fortunate to receive a generous grant from NABS to bring my dated website into the 21st century. That award enabled me to hire the talented web designer Joe Chapuis. I needed help from an expert in WordPress software, which is free although fancy extensions are not.  The original website was created in Dreamweaver, which fewer developers use these days. He is also adept at Search Engine Optimization and other Internetty stuff.  Joe and I worked together for a long, painful year to launch the redesigned site before the 2024 bluebirding season began.

Changes to Sialis.org were needed for a variety of reasons.

  • The existing website had a ton of broken external links – more about that nightmare later.
  • It was slow to load.  Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter.  If you are old enough, you can remember how long it used to take to get online while listening to the screeching landline connection.  Today, if a webpage doesn’t load in a fraction of a second, many people (including my impatient self) move along.
  • Although I would never share or sell someone’s private information, I did not have a security certificate for the site.
  • And last but not least, the pages looked like crap on a mobile device. This was an issue because nowadays, about 70% of users view websites on phones or tablets.
Screenshot of new home page

Joe improved the search engine, and I updated the table of contents so users could still find what they were looking for, even though the new site is laid out differently. I’ve added a bunch of new posts that now show up at the top, followed by basics/popular topics, links to bluebird societies, NABS factsheets and more.

Despite having access to the fabulous photography of friends like David Kinneer, I needed more pictures.  Joe pointed me to Wikimedia Commons, Pixabay and Pexels for royalty-free photography. (Note: be careful when using their pictures, as birds may be mis-labelled.  Some photographers don’t realize that not all blue birds are bluebirds!)

I hope people find the new format and content useful. I know that every time I write or update a webpage, *I* learn something (usually that I was wrong!)  That’s the reason I’ve gravitated towards a website versus publishing a book.  Online content is etched in whipped cream.  If I’m not too lazy, I can update pages in an instant with what I learn from books or experience – or, as is more often the case – from YOU.

We are finding out more about cavity nesters every day – from citizen scientists glued to a backyard nestcam to research scientists conducting international experiments with dataloggers strapped on the backs of migrating birds. We can crowdsource information from across the globe!

Back in the early days of bluebirding, information was shared by word of mouth or snail mail.  Now, anyone with Internet access can email, access listservs, books and data online, create a website, or post on forums like Facebook, etc.

Unfortunately, that also means anyone can post anything, including misinformation, on the Internet.  Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s true.  I strive to keep the content on Sialis.org as accurate as possible.  And since we are constantly learning, I had (and still have) a lot of updating to do.

I don’t claim to be an expert. Since I live in New England, I lack direct experience with all small cavity nesters that might use nestboxes.  I have never even SEEN a live Lucy’s Warbler, or a Pygmy Nuthatch. But I am willing to do my homework and rely heavily on others for information.

I try to never say never because I am often surprised.  Until it was captured on a nestcam, who expected a father eagle to eat his own nestlings?  Or that rarely, a gynandromorphic bird can actually be split down the middle – half male and half female?  Maybe you were aware that Carolina Chickadees sometimes remove bluebird eggs from nestboxes, but I was somewhat skeptical until I saw the videos.

Updating a website with over a 1000 pages WAS a lot of work.  Many of my external links broke over time as website owners shut their sites down, or moved pages without redirecting.  All of my links to an early treasure trove, The Bluebird Box, which was maintained by Jim McLoughlin, were dead.  However, generous Jim is allowing me to scavenge his content (which I can access through the archives on a cool tool called the Wayback Machine) to re-post on Sialis.

Joe worked hard to make sure that if someone had linked to an earlier version of my own site, or typed in an old address, they would automatically be redirected to the new page.  I really wish everyone with a bluebird website would take the time to do this – it would save us all a lot of headaches!

There have been unexpected problems. Most of my old videos were lost.  Tables I had on the old site did not display properly in WordPress (still working on fixing that.)  Formatting got messed up in the transition – e.g., spaces between words were deleted.  There are several other troublesome glitches that we’re still addressing.

The bottom line is that Sialis.org will always be a work in progress. Some things are still out of date – for example, my website predated Cornell’s NestWatch program, so I need to post about that.  Please know that I am happy when someone contacts me to tell me I’ve made a mistake, or that something on the website is malfunctioning.

I’m not a phone talker, but I do try to answer all emails.  You can contact me at contact me the address embedded in the image below (to foil spambots.)  I occasionally post on Facebook.  (FYI, my profile says I am from Timbuktu, but that was just to mess with Mark Zuckerberg.) And you can always reach me via the About webpage at Sialis.org/about.

I hope you will bear with me as website clean up proceeds, and continue to help me keep the content useful, accurate and current. I am beyondvgrateful when others allow me to share their stories, photographs or videos on Sialis.org.

Thanks again to NABS for helping me improve Sialis.org, and to YOU for all you do to fill the skies with blue.

May all your blues be birds!


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