Continuing our series focusing on the contributions of Black Americans, Latin Americans, Native Americans, and other historically under-recognized groups to conservation and environmental sciences, this month we are featuring local Eastern Bluebird hero Charlene West.
Charlene is retired from the US Navy and in 2014 her son left for college, leaving her more free time for exploring nature and the outdoors. She and a friend began participating in local hiking trips with various groups and started attending bird walks hosted by Duval Audubon Society as well. She has been a nature and bird enthusiast for many years.
In early 2020 Laura Johannsen, the Northside Bluebird Trail monitor, needed assistance with monitoring while she was out of town for work. Charlene volunteered to help and started monitoring the more than thirty Eastern Bluebird nesting boxes in the Yellow Bluff Road area of Jacksonville in March.
The original boxes were set up over thirty years ago by Duval Audubon members Mildred Dixon and Pat Anderson, and about ten years later Laura took over the responsibility of checking each box weekly during nesting season and reporting the status of each box to Cornell Lab of Ornithology's NestWatch program. Over the years Laura has created a valuable dataset on Jacksonville-area Bluebirds (not to mention helping these birds survive and breed), so it was critical to be able to continue this effort while Laura was away.
Charlene’s commitment to monitoring the Northside Bluebird Trail during this year’s nesting season has been invaluable, and she went out at least once a week for the entire six months (March to August) to check all of the nesting boxes, a chore that took about two hours each time. She reported a total of 32 nesting attempts, 112 eggs, and 99 fledglings. Charlene tells us that it was a memorable experience.
Charlene, we thank you for your dedication and hard work on behalf of Jacksonville’s Eastern Bluebirds!