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Live Bluebird Nestbox Camera Debuts on Pennsylvania Game Commission Website

June 25, 2009

HARRISBURG, Pa., June 25 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — In an effort to garner appreciation for wildlife, and especially the state’s bluebird population, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has debuted on its website a live video camera feed from a bluebird nestbox on the grounds of its Harrisburg Headquarters. To view the live feed, visit the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on the “Bluebird Live-Feed” icon in the center of the homepage.

“The best way to get Pennsylvanians – in fact most Americans – excited about wildlife is to show them what makes wildlife so irreplaceable and priceless,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “We decided to set up and use this live video camera feed to help us educate the public about the importance of wildlife, how to make backyards friendlier to wildlife and also provide a way for folks to simply get closer to bluebirds. So far, it’s been a huge hit in our lobby, where a television showcases the live feed, and now on our website.”

The bluebird camera is the agency’s first foray into the world of live nest cam feeds. It provides a color video feed plus audio from the bluebird nestbox quarters. The box is directly behind the agency’s headquarters. Power to the camera is run through buried conduit.

The conduit also houses the cables that deliver the audio and video signal to an AV splitter before being sent to the editing computer of Eric Miller, an agency wildlife education specialist, who designed the system and worked with the agency’s maintenance crew – Dusty Mitchell and Cory Smith – to construct it.

“We started the project back in February and managed to install the system by March,” Miller said. “We began offering a live feed to a television in the agency’s lobby on March 15. In late May, we received internet access for the camera and, on June 2, we began offering a live feed off the Game Commission homepage.”

There were problems along the way, though, initially with interference from a nearby power-line. After that was straightened out, problems with fog temporarily disabled the camera. Caulking was used to better seal the nestbox. Now, if the camera does become disabled by moisture, direct sunlight on the box usually straightens it out quickly.

Steps also had to be taken to deter English sparrows from using the nestbox. After removing their nesting material, monofilament fishing line was hung from the roof over the entrance hole, which compelled the sparrows to stay away. Bluebird nestboxes placed close to buildings almost always attract competition from sparrows, which annually chase native bluebirds from nestboxes and nesting cavities.

“The nestbox camera provides the public a closer look at the entire nesting process of bluebirds,” explained Miller. “I’m not sure how many people have ever seen a bluebird form a nest by plowing the materials with its wings. But I found nest-forming to be a fascinating example of nature at work. And it’s something you’ll never see unless you’re checking out a nest cam!”

As the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were invading America in the early 1960s, the Eastern Bluebird was hanging on for dear life. The species was suffering from another European invasion, that of the English sparrow and the European starling. Today, it’s not hard to imagine the harm that would come from releasing starlings and house sparrows in New York City during the 1800s. But back then, at a time when people were trying to reverse declining songbird populations, it seemed like the right thing to do in New York.

The starling spread quickly across America. Released in 1890 and 1891, starlings were building nests in California by the 1940s. What our forefathers didn’t expect, in addition to the rapid range expansion of these alien species, was that they would almost immediately begin competing with bluebirds and other beneficial songbirds for cavity nesting sites.

Bluebirds were enjoying a satisfying existence around 1900. It is when some ornithologists believe Pennsylvania’s bluebird population was at its largest, because fully two-thirds of the Commonwealth was farmland. But the runaway populations of starlings and sparrows would begin to compete with and ultimately cripple the bluebird’s ability to secure adequate nesting.

The species’ problems would be further compounded by farmlands reverting to forestland or being swallowed by development, the increased use of pesticides, and the replacement of wooden fence-posts with metal posts.

By 1960, the bottom was ready to fall out, and the Game Commission and many other conservation agencies and organizations launched an aggressive campaign to rescue the species. With the aid of its Howard Nursery, the agency manufactured inexpensive bluebird boxes and bluebird box kits for the public to place afield. Boy scouts became involved. So, too, did 4H clubs, schools and Audubon chapters. Bluebirds became the poster child for efforts aimed at getting people to do something for wildlife in their backyards.

Today, bluebirds are back in a big way today, even in the southeastern counties, where they compete heavily with large populations of English sparrows. It’s fair to say that our bluebird population is stronger today than it has been in 50 years. With time and continued assistance from caring Pennsylvanians, it seems likely bluebirds will continue to prosper.

For more information on bluebirds, visit the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on “Wildlife” in the left-hand column and then click on the bluebird photo in the top row of photos.

Note to Editors: If you would like to receive Game Commission news releases via e-mail, please send a note with your name, address, telephone number and the name of the organization you represent to: PGCNews@state.pa.us

    For Information Contact:
    Jerry Feaser
    717-705-6541
    PGCNews@state.pa.us

SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission


Source: newswire



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