By Helga Meyer

Ask just about anyone who volunteers for Douglas Land Conservancy why they decided to volunteer with DLC, and you will get a pretty consistent response: they enjoy being outdoors and in nature. The volunteers at Hidden Mesa Gardens—one of DLC’s newest bluebird sites—all expressed a similar sentiment, plus they enjoy birding and observing the growth and development cycle of birds during the spring and summer months. DLC currently hosts 9 bluebird nesting sites around Douglas County that host between 8-45 nesting boxes each. Each site has 4-10 volunteers who monitor the boxes for the various developing stages—from nest building to egg laying and hatching, baby bird development, and finally to fully developed birds fledging the nest. These volunteers rotate weeks, which allows them flexibility in fitting the monitoring into their personal schedules. They check the boxes once a week, and then record their findings into the NestWatch app. The data is collected and utilized by the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. In addition to the monitors, there are also several volunteers who provide assistance in building and maintaining the boxes, and several who assist with data entry.

Sandy Stavnes, who is site leader at the Hidden Mesa Gardens, has been with DLC for around three years. She became a master gardener and found that her new skills and passion for gardening had an instant home in volunteering with the Hidden Mesa Native Plants and Pollinators Garden, located at 3217 CO Rd. 83 in Franktown. She suggested that this1,200-acre site could also serve as an additional location for bluebird boxes, so 10 boxes were added to the site in 2023, where not only bluebirds but tree swallows and house wrens happily built nests last year for their offspring. Sandy is joined by fellow volunteers Mary Anderson and Helga Meyer who volunteered at this site for its initial opening last year, and Nancy Page Cooper who has joined the team this year. All expressed appreciation of the flexibility they have in volunteering for DLC, as well as a deep affection for being outside, the ability to observe the birds in their natural habitat, and the knowledge that they’re contributing to efforts to boost a dwindling bluebird population.