The following is reprinted from December 2013.

I find that the older I grow, the less I care for earthly and material possessions. I would much rather see someone else receive and cherish something than to get it myself. I find comfort and pleasure in simple, natural things, such as a brilliant sunset, a bald eagle floating in the blue sky and a full moon lighting up the night. I find happiness and deep gratitude in genuine friendship. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I would rather give than receive. And I take comfort and find security in certain passages in the Bible.

One of those simple and natural things of which I speak happens right often. Here at the bluebird factory, when we build 1,000 bluebird houses, a few of them, because of a minor imperfection in a board or piece of lumber, cause what we call a “factory second” birdhouse, not quite good enough to ship or sell, but plenty good enough for a family of bluebirds to live in. I keep several of the factory seconds in my pick-up truck, and sometimes as I’m driving along, I see a light pole or lone tree just crying out for a bluebird house. I’ll stop, take a hammer and a couple of nails from the toolbox and nail a birdhouse on it.

My pleasure comes the next time I’m passing by and see a pair of bluebirds sitting on the power line close to that birdhouse. And later on I see the two bluebirds sitting on the line and five or six small bluebirds sitting in a row beside them. Then I know that something wonderful in nature has happened.

I was especially concerned one time when I drove past several power company trucks. Crews were taking down old power poles and replacing them with new ones. I was right disturbed because several of those old poles being taken down had my bluebird houses on them. However, the next time I traveled that stretch of road, I saw those new poles standing tall, and, with the exception of only one, my bluebird houses had been put back up on them.  

By now, most people around here have heard of and are aware of the Eastern Bluebird Rescue Group and its campaign to save the bluebird from becoming extinct. What you may not know is that the EBRG is a branch of Newell Farms Wildlife Center, of which our main project is to enhance the welfare of all wildlife. We at Newell Farms Wildlife are not animal rights activists. We condone ethical hunting and trapping. We know and understand that animals do not have rights, and ethical hunters and trappers are critical in helping maintain the balance of nature.

Just as the Eastern Bluebird Rescue Group manufactured our 200,000th bluebird house this year, and after the bluebird was removed from the United States endangered species list, we received a telephone call from a professor in the Ecology department of a college here in North Carolina informing us of a species of bird that, like the bluebird at one time, is currently in danger of becoming extinct, and asking if we would assist in the effort to save that bird. It is the brown-headed nuthatch, a non-migratory, very small, insect-eating bird, even smaller than the Carolina Chickadee.

While our primary interest is and always will be the bluebird, we agreed to do what we can to assist the nuthatch effort. What we were asked to do is to build nest boxes with a very small entrance hole that will prevent larger birds from taking over sites from the little nuthatch. To date, we have built several hundred of the nuthatch boxes, and they have been picked up at our bluebird factory by the Audubon Society and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

Winter is fast bearing down upon us, and it behooves those of us who like wildlife to do what we can to help the bluebirds that stayed here instead of migrating south. Those that did migrate will return on Feb. 15. Along about that date, you will probably notice an increase in the number of bluebirds in your yard. Between then and now, we will have good weather days and bad weather days. That makes it hard on the bluebirds because they are not designed by nature to withstand extreme or even severe cold weather. A prolonged spell of cold weather causes the death of many bluebirds. The ones that are provided for by people make it. An unknown number don’t.

What can we humans do to help bluebirds survive the winter? Provide a safe, comfortable house for them. Give them food, especially when snow covers the ground. The very best food for them is live mealworms. The second best food is freeze-dried mealworms. There are two kinds. One is basically a dry shell. The other, which is much better, is much more like live mealworms.

Bluebirds houses can be purchased for $10 each at State Employees’ Credit Union, 670 W. Ridgeway St., Warrenton.