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Westwood Garden Club Creates the Bluebird Trail

Members of the Westwood Garden Club always participated in the Great American Bird Count, counting birds they spotted from their yards and often going out to the Indiana State University-Evansville (ISUE) campus as well. A 1972 bird count showed a sharp decline in the local bluebird population. Members of the Club and local Audubon Society pointed to habitat loss as Evansville was rapidly developing commercially. Former countryside was being paved as progress pushed through. Banking on their friendship with ISUE President David L. Rice, himself a great outdoor enthusiast, Club members Helen Buck and Doris Eicher proposed the construction of a bluebird trail on campus. 

With Rice's blessing, members of the Garden Club met to put together 22 bluebird houses with wood donated by the Audubon Society. Virgil Eicher and Richard Buck put the houses up on ISUE property. 

The first year, the newly-named Mid-America Bluebird Trail counted 11 fledged bluebirds and one chickadee. Buoyed by their success, the Garden Club spent the rest of the year learning as much as they could about the identification, migration habits, feeding and horticultural needs of birds. The following year, the Buck and Eicher families created a paper log in which they recorded daily observations. 

Inspired by what they learned about the bluebirds, the Buck and Eicher families put together a slide presentation of their research. They began speaking to local groups, churches and schools about the observations on USI's trails and their conservation efforts of behalf the eastern bluebirds. Donations began pouring in. Everyone was interested in the bluebirds, from church groups to local elementary schools.

USI Takes Over the Bluebird Trail

By the mid 1980s, the trail had fallen into a gentle neglect so the Westwood Garden Club passed the torch to USI education professor, and outdoor enthusiast, Dr. Charles Price in the early 1990s. Price teamed up with USI Property Supervisor Don Fleming to replace and repair the existing boxes. He also wrote a grant to ensure the trail's success by paying students to monitor the boxes. 

Dr. Charles Price preparing the boxes for their fall cleaning.

Students continued to monitor the boxes under the watch of two more professors as the years passed. Biology Professor Emeritus Dr. Jim Bandoli took the baton from Price. He expanded his interest in the undeveloped property around USI. Along with Fleming, he wrote up a proposal for the maintenance of the natural areas surrounding USI. 

Ornithologist Alex Champaign, Assistant Professor of Biology took over after Bandoli retired. A long-time birder, Champaign and his students continue to study how global warming and urban sprawl effects the bluebird population.