The People Behind the Program
In Part 1 of this series Titled “Making a Come Back” written by volunteer Louisa Romaine, it focused on Eastern Bluebirds and Tyler’s bluebird box program. Forty boxes are currently cared for by a small, but very dedicated group of volunteers. I had the opportunity to talk with volunteer Suzanne Clauser, who has led this team since 2000. While Tyler has so much information for the recent 20 years, details on how the program started and who was involved in the early years was not as complete. We knew Tyler was the first location in Delaware County to install bluebird nest boxes, but who was it that understood the call for help and focused on a solution? How did the program grow and who helped to sustain it?
Tyler has a few old snapshots of people with bluebird boxes. One was undated, but labeled Rod and Vic Davis. In sharing the photo with the group, Suzanne knew the Davis brothers had been volunteers who were instrumental in the bluebird program, but not active for quite a while before she took over in 2000. She was glad to actually see them in action as they had just been names she’d heard up until then.
Another picture had no details written on the back, but a man was showing 6 children an open bluebird box which contained a nest and eggs. It’s easy to imagine this man teaching the children about the importance of providing a safe habitat for a species facing decline. Suzanne knew it was a very early bluebird box by its design, and wondered if the man might be Bob Bodine. Bob was very active locally, delivering programs on bluebird conservation. We quickly had confirmation that it was Bob Bodine (aka Mr. Bluebird), active at Tyler in the 1970’s.
Bob Bodine educating children on Bluebird conservation, with a bluebird box from the 1970s
More clues regarding the early days, and some answers encouraged more investigating. A google search produced an article written by C.U. Atkinson titled “The Bluebird Program at Tyler Arboretum, Lima, PA”. Mr. Atkinson was a Delaware Valley Ornithological Club member (oldest bird club in the country) and seemed to be writing his article for that audience. The article begins the story in the late 1960’s, with the author noticing Eastern Bluebirds nesting in tree cavities at the edges of Tyler’s large fields. Soon thereafter, gourds with nesting entrances appeared, followed by Mr. Atkinson nailing six bluebird boxes to trees. Long time Tyler volunteer and birder Tom Reeves recalls Sid Atkinson purchasing these first bluebird boxes and the successful nesting of bluebirds which followed.
The article goes on to describe the growth and maintenance of the program through 1979, giving us a clearer picture of the early days. Please click here to read C.U. Atkinson’s article: https://dvoc.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/C58Page9.pdf
Our Blue Bird Box program is entirely coordinated and executed by volunteers. Limited volunteer opportunities are available and the best time to check with us is March, just before the season starts. Training is provided.