As quickly as the rhythm of spring had begun at Shaver’s Creek — with a rush toward planning festivals, school programs, and camp trainings — it just as quickly came to a halt. Suddenly, the Shaver’s Creek team of interns and coworkers were forced to be physically distant.
“Fine,” I thought, “it will be okay; we can all just Zoom into meetings and reach out as needed.”
I decided that I would not let this pandemic ruin my limited time at this magical place. I decided that there is no adventure too small and that I would do everything possible to continue learning and adventuring — just from a distance. So naturally, when I was offered the opportunity to help check bird boxes, I enthusiastically said yes!
Now, for reference, I am trying really hard to become “a birder,” but in the meantime I merely know a limited number of backyard birds. I’m learning to use a field guide and eBird, which is a great way to record what birds I have seen into a database. This database can then be used to track migrations and populations, among other things — it’s a great citizen science effort!
After I agreed to check a few of Shaver’s Creek’s nearly eighty nest boxes, Jon Kaufmann, coordinator of the Creek’s nest boxes, explained the steps for nest watching. He then handed me a neat mirror tool that looks an awful lot like a dentist mirror, and even let me borrow a nest guidebook. I should have been set, especially after reading the NestWatch Code of Conduct and taking a quiz to be certified. Yet, tackling this new project alone, without a fellow intern by my side, felt so strange.
When I decided that it was a good day to check the boxes, I refreshed myself on the steps and headed to my first nest box. I made some noise, knocked gently to give the bird inside a chance to get out, and crossed my fingers as I opened the box. I opened the box slowly, knowing I should only be at the box for a minute. Carefully, I peeked inside and saw a nest!
I eagerly used my dentist-like tool to check for eggs, took a photo, closed the box, and exited on a different route in order to not attract predators. Sighing in relief, I knew that it was not bad and actually pretty exciting. I wrote down what I saw and then continued on. Each box became a little more exciting and a lot less nerve-wracking.
So, what did I learn? Perhaps right now is a good time to remember that even small adventures are worth taking. Even though I wished to have a fellow intern along to laugh at me as I knocked on the door of a bluebird box — as if the bird would greet me and invite me in — I knew that it was exciting and empowering to accomplish something on my own. While I may not have had an expert by my side, I was able to use guidebooks and the internet and email Jon my numerous questions.
I am still learning to adjust and to find a new rhythm of “normal.” I find comfort in the fact that while much of our world has come to a halt, the cycles of nature remain constant. The up-close experience of checking nest boxes excited me, and I was thrilled to see that one of my nests had three beautiful bluebird eggs in it. The joy of knowing that soon new life will appear and flourish will help me through this period. I invite you to try something new; maybe try partaking in a citizen science effort or even something completely different. You got this!