Two years ago Jim Bearden put up the first nesting box at the county-owned Green Meadows Preserve near the intersection of Dallas Highway and Old Hamilton Road.
The next thing he knew, six bluebird eggs had been laid and fledglings soon made their first appearance.
Since then, Bearden has poured his time and his money into cultivating the bluebird trail at the park that was once an 1830s farm.
He estimates about 250 people have taken tours he gives to civic groups, children and seniors.
“It’s something they can do on their own when the weather is nice and they want to come take a walk,” Bearden said.
About 25 nest boxes are sprinkled across the 2.3-mile trail alongside feeding stations. Those nest boxes produced 111 fledglings last year, 100 of which were bluebirds. The remainder were a combination of chickadees and Carolina wrens.
Bearden hopes to see 150 baby bluebirds emerge from the nest boxes this year.
“I track them all,” he said. “During nesting season, I check them all.”
It’s a precise science.
Bearden uses premade nest boxes built from untreated cedar with 1.5-inch holes so only small birds are allowed inside. He then mounts the boxes on top of a pole equipped with wire mesh to ward off snakes and other predators.
Feeding stations with dried mill worms and sunflower hearts are also placed throughout the trail.
“They have to have available food sources nearby,” Bearden said. “We hope they go get insects but if not, this is what I feed them.”
Bluebirds are selective nesters and don’t build in areas that other birds do, like crawl spaces.
“They started declining in numbers because they didn’t have a place to nest,” Bearden said. “They prefer open space. They prefer gardens, pastures, meadows.”
Commissioner Helen Goreham, who represents the area, said Bearden is creating a sense of community.
“It’s another example of volunteers we have here in Cobb County,” Goreham said. “We’re blessed to have so many volunteers.”