While spending a few days staying at the Trinity River Audubon Center in Dallas, Texas, we had the great opportunity to get to know the staff, the landscape, and the birds. All of which are awesome.
Along the way, we learned two stories about how nature can make a comeback if we give it a chance, and work to make it better.
The center itself lies on land that was once an illegal dump. But, a team of people fought to have the land taken over and cleaned up. Then, an award winning, LEED certified Audubon Center was put up in it’s place. Today, both wildlife and wildlife lovers flock to hang out at this great place. They also host thousands of kids from surrounding schools to come out and learn about nature. This building also features class rooms that are not only state-of-the-art, but also beautiful.
Secondly, we had a chance to do a bit of birding ourselves. On one morning walkabout, I shot a not so great photo of an eastern bluebird. But even though the photo wasn’t all that great, I was able to work with it to turn it into a painting. In the process, I learned about the recent history, threats, and the comeback of this little thrush species.
It turns out that these birds were once as common as a robin. However, their population plummeted during the 1900’s. There are many reasons why, but mainly:
– Habitat Loss – As more and more people moved to North America, more and more old growth trees were logged for lumber and to make room for urban sprawl.
– Pesticide Use – Chemical pesticides like DDT, once in the food chain, worked it’s way into the bluebird’s bodies. Though the parents weren’t affected, the chemicals caused their eggs to develop thin shells. Birth rates went down as a result. DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, helping numerous species live healthier lives.
– Invasive Species – Animals from abroad moved into the American landscape and wreaked havoc on bluebird populations. And, the domestic cat (both feral and non) and birds like the European Starling and the House Sparrow moved in and took over nest sites.
Nesting for these birds was a big problem, and between 1920 and 1980, bluebird populations went down over 90%.
Then, a group of concerned scientists and naturalists decided to do something about it. They founded the North American Bluebird Society and began educating the public and building specially designed nest boxes – and telling others how they could do the same. If you have a National Geographic subscription – you can read a great article from back in 1977 that explains this whole problem:
National Geographic Magazine – June 1977 Issue – “Song of Hope for the Bluebird” – by Lawrence Zeleny Ph.D. – Co-Founder of the North American Bluebird Society – http://archive.nationalgeographic.com/?iid=54268#folio=854
Check out Trinity River Audubon Center: Click Here
If you’d like a great list of how to attract bluebirds to your backyard, check out this great list by Garth over at World Birds:
Watch the 22 minute documentary, About the illegal dump and transformation: “Out of Deepwood”