“It is so easy to fall in love” with a western bluebird, said Nancy Fraser, a volunteer bird bander with Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project, an all-volunteer conservation organization with a mission to help sustain a healthy population of the birds in the northern portion of the Willamette Valley.

by: PHOTO BY JONATHAN HOUSE - Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project volunteer Dana Sue Robinson shows homeowner Irene Dietz how to place mealworms in a holder for her bluebird box. Unfortunately, bluebird habitat is decreasing, due to pesticides killing off the insect population that the tiny birds eat, and because of the removal of downed trees, called snags, and wooden fence posts, that provide crucial nesting spots.

But volunteers with the Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project are trying to educate the public about bluebird habitat, and more importantly, the group is seeking more volunteers to help monitor the birds.

On Saturday, March 8, the group will hold a workshop to train people who wish to be part of the project, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Champoeg State Heritage Area Visitors Center.

Volunteer training workshop

The ideal volunteer would be a person with an interest in field work with native species, who also is eager to get out in the country and monitor and help the birds, Fraser said.

“It provides another method to connect with nature in a whole new way. You get a sense of what the bluebirds’ life is like and how tough it is to beat the odds for these birds,” said Dana Sue Robinson, a volunteer with the Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project and Oregon City resident.

People who attend the workshop will learn about the project and will be told up-front about the time commitment it takes to be a bluebird monitor, Fraser said.

Volunteers monitor nesting sites, watching the birds build nests, lay eggs and hatch their young. They work over the summer, and must drive a car. They also may be given a route that is not just around the corner in their own neighborhood.

“We do try to match volunteers with routes,” she said, adding that bluebird-monitoring routes are in Clackamas, Marion, Multnomah, Washington and Yamhill counties.

Robinson, who will teach the workshop, noted that there are a number of nesting sites in Clackamas County, including the upper highland area of Oregon City, and along Spangler and Springwater roads. There also are nesting sites near Howard’s Mill Road in Beavercreek, and a couple in Canby and Sandy.

Attendees at the workshop will learn what is “the approved way to approach a nesting box and how to keep records of what they see. They also will learn how to approach and leave a landowner’s property. We are all about the safety of the birds, the volunteers and the property owners,” Fraser said.

Each new volunteer will be assigned a mentor and also will receive field training, she said.

Habitat dwindling

The Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project is always on the lookout for landowners who are willing to put up one or two bluebird boxes on their property, Fraser said.

“The birds need nesting sites that are adjacent to a nice mowed yard with trees and shrubs interspersed. They also need perching areas near the nesting box and a birdbath nearby,” she added.

One of the reasons for the habitat going away is that homeowners will remove downed trees or use non-wood fence posts.

“If someone can leave a snag down safely, all creatures will benefit,” Robinson said.

Bluebirds and plenty of other birds make nests in cavities, and there is lots of competition for those cavities from other small birds, so field workers have to go to a homeowner’s property and determine if the site is promising for nesting bluebirds, Fraser said.

If the landowner has used pesticides, there may not be enough insects for the birds to eat, Robinson added, noting that volunteer bluebird monitors often leave mealworms on the tops of bluebird boxes to augment the diet of the tiny birds.

Irene Dietz lives just off South End Road in Oregon City and has hosted two bluebird boxes for five years.

She sees the birds nearly every day, and says they look at her as if they are expecting her to feed them.

“We always have them, and I’ve noticed that the bird families hang around to help the next set of families,” Dietz said.

She always has been interested in bluebirds, dating back to when she was a child in the 1930s and had to bring in the cows.

“I walked past a fence post with a nest inside, and I would always peek in there,” she said.

Hosting bluebird boxes and volunteering with the recovery project is rewarding, Robinson said, adding, “You meet such a diverse group of people and connect with those individuals. It gives you a tremendous sense of community. And people have told me they can’t believe how much better they feel being out in nature.”

How to help

What: Volunteer workshop for the Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project

When: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 8

Where: Champoeg State Heritage Area Visitors Center, 8239 Champoeg Road N.E., St. Paul

More: Register in advance by visiting or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Be sure to include a contact phone number and street address.

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