Only time will tell if the hard work of biology students at the University of North Georgia Gainesville campus will pay off.
In spring 2016, a few of biology professor Dawn Lubeski’s students focused their attention on a semesterlong project of constructing, placing and watching over nesting boxes in the campus’ Tumbling Creek wooded area and trails.
In the fall semester, biology major and sophomore Josie Orr continued that project with nesting boxes for 20 Eastern bluebirds, whose population declined between the 1920s and 1970s.
“Some people tend to think that once the damage is done, there is no undoing it,” Orr said.
That is not the case. People have built boxes for the Eastern bluebirds and their population rose again.
“I believe that if humans focus their attention on any problem, they can fix it, like we can see with the bluebird population when we put a little effort into keeping them around,” Orr said.
She wanted her project to have a similar effect. Therefore, she installed boxes that were 5.5 inches by 4 inches by 9.5 inches around campus last month in Oakwood.
Now Orr has to sit back and watch.
“I will be monitoring the boxes throughout the spring semester to see if bluebirds can live in close contact with human activity,” she said. “ ... I will be documenting the success rates of the nest boxes and writing a research paper on the project.”
Lubeski has already heard of some results. She said multiple people have told her they’ve seen pairs of bluebirds investigating the boxes.
“(The boxes) are attracting a lot of interest from the birds,” Lubeski said.
So far, Orr has documented a number of boxes with nesting material in them.
“It is early for them to formally commit to which box they would like to nest in,” Lubeski said. “However, placing nesting material in the boxes is the first step. If the weather continues to warm, we might get some eggs laid within the next few weeks.”
In 2016, one UNG student chose to build nesting boxes for owls and another chose ducks.
“An aspect of their projects (was) to select nest box building instructions and appropriate locations for us to install these boxes,” Lubeski said. “UNG Facilities and Operations built the boxes and installed them.”
In March and April 2016, four barred owl boxes and six eastern screech owl boxes were installed. Two duck boxes were meant to attract wood ducks or hooded mergansers.
“Both species (of duck) compete to use these boxes,” Lubeski said.
Lubeski hopes for nesters sometime this year or next in the duck and owl boxes, since it usually takes a year for the birds to acclimate to and find the boxes.
“Personally, I would be surprised if they have settled in this quickly ...,” Lubeski said. “My husband and I are going to bring a ladder to campus in a couple of weeks and check all the boxes.