By Tim Cherry, Belvoir EagleMarch 29, 2013
Fort Belvoir community members can help safeguard reproducing bird species on post by monitoring bird boxes now through September.
The Fort Belvoir Directorate of Public Works environmental department is searching for volunteers to monitor bluebird boxes, house wren boxes and Prothonotary warbler boxes, which the birds use to build nest and hatch eggs.
Volunteer responsibilities include cleaning the boxes and tracking the number of birds using the habitats. The opportunity is open to servicemembers, retirees, civilians and Family members of all ages living on and off post. Youth and children under 18 years-old are asked to be accompanied by an adult.
"This almost becomes a hobby for people," said Kevin Walter, Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources specialist. "They do it out of sheer enjoyment knowing they were part of raising birds."
Community members have monitored bird nesting boxes on post for decades, according to Walter. The boxes, which are owned by the Virginia Bluebird Society, provide the species additional locations to nest on post. The Bluebird boxes are located throughout post, Prothonotary warbler boxes are located in the Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge and the house wren birds, which enjoy nesting near homes, are located in the village areas. Each manmade habitat is designed to look like a part of a tree which makes birds comfortable with using the structure.
"They look just like a hole in a tree, which is what those birds prefer to nest in," Walter said. "Because you don't always have a large amount of nesting areas, we're providing the unnatural manmade place for them to nest in."
The size of the hole dictates which bird uses the box, Walter said. The hole for a house wren box, for instance, is small and only big enough for a bird of its size to fit through. The bluebird, which is larger than the house wren, has a larger box. Each bird species uses the box to build nests and to hatch eggs. The job of DPW volunteers is to monitor these birds and the boxes to ensure a safe reproduction process.
Volunteers will receive two hours of training prior to performing their duties. Once trained, volunteers will check their boxes weekly. A few required tasks for volunteers include removing hatched eggs, removing debris and tracking the bird species using the boxes. The data volunteers collect is used to tally the numbers of boxes used, the number of eggs laid and the number of eggs hatched.
"I keep track of all the data and monitor how the boxes are used," Walter said. "Sometimes, depending on the data, it'll allows us to move a box if it's not being used. We have the ability to move it to a better location."
The volunteering activity provides a great learning opportunity for students as many home-schooled youth and youth seeking community-service hours participate, Walter said. The activity is also used by adults seeking to help raise birds.
"This provides personal satisfaction for the helpers," Walter said. "We get a wide range of volunteers."
For more information call (703) 805-3969.