The colorful and cheerful bluebird is often called the “Bluebird of Happiness.” Hearing their first spring song or seeing their bright blue bodies coming to land on a fence post is as joyful to me as having one land on my shoulder. They bring life to a landscape, and that’s the truth.
When I talked to my brother recently, he was sitting on the front steps of our house on Whirlwind Hill drinking a glass of wine and looking over the front yard to the reservoir. I asked why he wasn’t sitting out back on the deck, which is the usual place to relax on a late spring evening. He told me it was because of the bluebirds. They had returned, and he didn’t want to disturb them.
My mother, Janet Hall Crump, kept a pair of binoculars close by in winter when she sat at the kitchen table looking at the bird feeder and in summer as she enjoyed the peaceful view over the fields toward the ponds. She grew up watching birds and learning their habits, songs, and nesting patterns. In her later years she got more and more involved in the fluttering and tweeting world of her back yard. I know she was lonely much of the time, and for her the birds were cheerful, entertaining, and often dramatic neighbors.
In the 1980’s, when an effort to bring bluebirds back to the New England countryside caught her fancy, she joined the crusade. Because these birds like to nest near open fields, experts advised building nesting boxes to certain specifications in order to encourage the “good” bluebirds and discourage the “bad” imports – European starlings and English sparrows.
My mother had birdhouses built out in the fields along the fence line and around the horse ring. She read books, followed the directions for maintaining the nesting sites, and spent hours behind her binoculars watching and waiting. Her obsession led to many years of her giving and receiving bluebird-related greeting cards, gifts, and trinkets.
On a June day in 1992, my mom, my daughter Mara, and I drove to Cheshire, Connecticut to watch a “bluebird banding.” In a letter to a friend I wrote about that event:
June 23, 1992 – “I had wanted to draw a bluebird house. But the day got away from me. We were busy all day. Went at 12:30 to see a man band baby bluebirds – they are trying to bring bluebirds back to this area. We each held one (5 altogether) until he put them back into the nest. What a beautiful spot it was.” – Carol Crump Bryner
Determined to raise as many bluebird families as possible, my mother waged a one-woman war against the English sparrows. She was unabashedly anti-immigration as far as this bird species was concerned. Through her we got excited about the nest building, suffered through the waiting and hoping and watching, and then all too often received sad news about the dramatic destruction of the bluebirds’ nest, eggs, and babies.
When I was on Whirlwind Hill this spring I didn’t see a single bluebird. But after I left, my brother cleaned out one of the old nesting boxes, and shortly after that a bluebird family moved in. They built their nest, laid their eggs, and now it’s my brother’s turn to be the watcher. He tells me that Mr. Bluebird sits on top of the house all day long, guarding his potential offspring. We wish him well and hope that the children will come back year after year with their songs of happiness.