By LOIS KINDLE
The Sun City Center Audubon Club will host the dedication and naming of the Ed and Clara Clancy Bluebird Trail at 1 p.m. Feb. 19 at a nest box in the field directly across from the Atrium building’s back parking lot.
“We fledge more than 100 babies per year in these boxes, but only half ultimately survive,” said Audubon member Melanie Higgins. “Some of our boxes have three broods per season; others don’t get used at all.
“They’re secondary cavity nesters whose habitat has been greatly reduced by human development. So the boxes provide an alternative to woodpecker holes and other cavities.”
The “trail” was established in 2015, when the club’s Conservation Committee partnered with Eagle Scout candidate Robert Leonard to construct 20 bluebird boxes and install them in the backyards of residents who signed up to adopt one. Five more were eventually added.
The pine boxes are faithfully monitored weekly by volunteers during nesting season, from the end of February through mid-August, and reported to Higgins, the project manager.
Over the more than seven years since they were installed, these 25 nesting boxes on private properties off the closed North Course Golf Course in Sun City Center have seen their share of wear and tear.
Now, thanks to a generous donation by Sun City Center resident and SCC Audubon member Mariclaire Jones, the nesting boxes recently have been upgraded to cedar, which will last at least 10 years and need fewer repairs.
“I wanted to support something the club needed on behalf of my [late] father, Ed Clancy, and the club identified the new nesting boxes,” Jones said. “I wanted to honor him and my mother Clara for their 20-plus years of participating in Audubon and their contributions to the club and the bluebird project.
“The Clancys have been longtime members and supporters of the club and also stewards of a bluebird nest box from the project’s inception,” said Higgins, a master naturalist and 12-year Audubon member. “They were instrumental in securing participation of the Eagle Scout who originally took on the bluebird project.”
For Clara Clancy, having bluebird box No. 4 in her yard is delightful.
“My husband and I enjoyed birding and being active in the club,” she said. “We liked the idea of helping bluebirds and restoring their habitat. I thought the bluebird boxes would be a great project for an Eagle Scout and after talking with the mother of one at my church, I presented the idea to a local troop.”
Nadine Cornell was immediately onboard.
“I love having the box [No. 6] in my yard so much,” she said. “It gets people interested in bluebirds first, but then birding in general.
“It’s important because bluebirds are not very plentiful,” Cornell continued. “My box usually produces at least three broods per season. The birds are so beautiful to watch. They’re absolutely gorgeous.”
The Sun City Center Audubon Club partnered with the SCC Sawdust Engineers to construct the 25 new nest boxes. All were recently replaced and their poles reset ahead of the upcoming nesting season.
Eastern bluebirds are native to the eastern half of North America and are year-round residents of Florida. They start looking for viable nesting boxes in late February and early March.
Medium-sized and striking in appearance, these birds are members of the flush family, which includes robins. As insectivores, they feed mostly on mosquitoes and bugs and can fly up to 45 MPH when needed. They also like berries.
The main predators of Eastern Bluebird are cats, snakes, English sparrows and other non-native birds, fire ants and raccoons.
For more information on bluebirds or the SCC Audubon Club, call Higgins at 813-625-1271.