Around the Island

Mashomack Musings: Harbingers of happiness

A new column on all things Mashomack debuts this week.

It is often said that bluebirds are the harbingers of happiness. Those looking for a delightful diversion will be pleased to know that our official New York State state bird has begun displaying its annual courtship ritual.

Although most active in spring and summer, bluebirds are here year-round. They live in open fields, plucking insects from short grasses. Males sport a brilliant blue on their backs and wings, with a rusty chest and white belly. Females are a more subdued hue.

Bluebirds are cavity nesters, similar to woodpeckers. However, pre-made bird houses, armed with predator guards and placed in their favored habitat, are prime real estate on Shelter Island.

There are 57 nestboxes dotting Mashomack’s meadows, with some of them already attracting pairs of bluebirds.

One enterprising pair at Mashomack Point already are the proud parents of a five-egg nest.

This spring marks the 20th year of Mashomack’s Nestbox Project. Last year, 55 bluebirds fledged (survived to fly from the nest), bringing our 19-year total to 735 baby bluebirds.

Observations from this community science project are part of a national effort to protect the beautiful bluebird.

Long term projects such as this help pool thousands of records, establish baselines, and shed light on the many ways that animals are affected by environmental change.

It is a treat to witness the process of nest building, egg laying, hatching and fledging of young birds. In it lies the assurance that nature, whether a flock of birds or a community of people, is persistent and resilient.

An eastern bluebird in Mashomack. (Credit: Derek Rodgers)