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Julie Buntjer, Worthington Daily Globe, Published June 23 2009

Groups hope to attract songbirds

WORTHINGTON, Minn. – In an effort to boost interest in the outdoors and create additional habitat, the Nobles County Pheasants Forever Chapter and Ocheda Beavers 4-H Club have paired up on a project to build bluebird houses.

Bluebirds are not commonly seen in the area, but with recent Pheasants Forever acquisitions in Worthington’s wellhead protection area south of town, the groups hope more nesting opportunities will attract the songbirds.

“We were told that to get more bluebirds, we have to build more nesting options,” said Les Johnson, the Pheasants Forever board member who spearheaded the bluebird house project. At this time, there is too much competition between the starling and tree swallow populations, leaving the bluebirds to seek out other areas.

On Saturday, Pheasants Forever provided approximately $250 in cedar lumber and supplies – along with four of its board members – to help the 4-H’ers construct 19 birdhouses.

Once the houses were completed, half a dozen of them were erected on wooden posts on the Hallstrom High Point property, which is part of the Wachter Wildlife Management Area. The land is one of the latest parcels the Pheasants Forever Chapter has purchased and turned over to the Department of Natural Resources for habitat development.

“We’ve spent a lot of time on the (Arvid) Hallstrom property,” said Johnson. “We’d love to have some kind of observation point where people can hopefully watch (wildlife). That’s my goal in this.”

Johnson said with the site located so close to Worthington, he’d like to see more young people take an interest in the area.

“Hopefully, they will take enough interest to show up periodically during the nesting season with binoculars,” he said.

It isn’t just bluebirds that they might find.

Earlier this spring, Pheasants Forever planted 1,300 trees on the 88-acre tract, including willow and small shrub-type varieties that will provide a nice cover for both the pheasant and deer populations.

While Johnson hasn’t noticed any of the bright blue birds with their orange-colored chests on the Pheasant Run parcel, he has seen them on his home place near Rushmore.

“They would reproduce quite quickly if we could get an established population,” he said, adding that the birds typically nest twice each year. “The incubation period is only two weeks long, and within three weeks after hatching, the new hatch is ready to leave the nest and be on their own.”