Heading up the NestWatch program at the General Motors Technical Center in Warren, Michigan, has been a rewarding, eye-opening experience. Rewards include working with others on the wildlife habitat committee at a deeper level, learning in much greater detail the workings of a nest, and thinking more day-to-day about birds nesting on the work campus, both in natural nests and in bird houses.
As I kicked off the NestWatch program, I was quickly connected to the tools available to support the site’s activities. It’s more than just diving into the website and entering data. By connecting with the NestWatch Project Leader directly, I found the program has ample support from the staff at Cornell. There is someone there to answer questions, join you on the first training or kickoff meeting through a teleconference, and provide interesting materials to communicate the program to people in the office. The strong support made launching our program much easier, but you really need to know to ask for this if you are trying to involve a new, widespread group of people in volunteering to contribute data to NestWatch. The success of the team really started by leveraging the resources available from Cornell.
More people than I could have imagined have participated in the NestWatch program. In the past, with citizen science projects like eBird, I had worked largely at an individual level. With NestWatch, the program worked really well as a group project. People that love nature photography, those that like getting their hands dirty building bird houses, and even managers who enjoy nature all teamed up to play roles in monitoring nests at the site. These people all came out to play their part on the team, and it has really helped to deepen the connection to the team working on the habitat committee.
I never imagined, back when I was checking the two bird houses and finding House Sparrows, that I would be writing about the success of a team that has, just in our third year, monitored the return of Cliff Swallows to nest, watched a Red-Tailed Hawk chick fledge from a nest, and teamed up to name and band Peregrine Falcons on the company’s engineering campus.