The Woodside community in Aiken was recognized Nov. 20 by the South Carolina Bluebird Society as the state’s first designated bluebird habitat.
The society's mission is to promote, conduct and educate the public on bluebird conservation projects, primarily through collecting and sharing nesting data.
The society also promotes, sells and installs nest box sets that serve as homes for local and migrating bluebirds.
In order to receive the award and recognition, Woodside had to meet several criteria points including demonstrating two years of successfully establishing a bluebird trail with a least 35 nest box sets, setting up monitors to collect data and having at least two presentations per year to the community, society President Mike DeBruhl said.
Woodside currently has over 200 bluebird boxes that are on an official bluebird trail.
The community is expected to install more boxes in the spring.
DeBruhl said Woodside's developers have been supportive of the society's mission and was specifically grateful for Diana Peters, Woodside Development L.P., who is instrumental in the community's continued work in bluebird conservation projects.
Woodside has also provided golf carts for bluebird monitors to use to drive from box to box while making documentations.
"We're very pleased to be recognized as a habitat because from the development company perspective, one of our business goals is to preserve and protect the best that we can," Peters said. "We're a developer of homes and, yes, that does entail some clearing and some removal of trees but we try to do it wisely as possible and when we have the opportunity to add to it."
The SCBS was established on Oct. 19, 2010, by Woodside community members and was the first North American Bluebird Society affiliate to be organized in South Carolina.
In the 1950s to the 1970s, the bluebird population almost became extinct due to a building boom following World War II, DeBruhl said.
"Bluebirds are cavity dwellers," DeBruhl said. "They live inside trees or fence posts or logs. When you cut down all of that habitat, you destroy it and almost decimate them."
The society monitors each bluebird nesting box and records each stage of the blue bird's life from eggs hatching to new birds flying, or fledging, from the nest.
At the end of each year, the data is reported to Cornell University's school of ornithology.
"We just got special recognition from them because we just uploaded 6,000 data files to them from our data we have been collecting," DeBruhl said.
Bluebirds have made an impressive comeback, DeBruhl said.
Since the SCBS formed, over 20,000 blue birds have fledged, DeBruhl said. In 2018, the society fledged almost 6,000 birds with the efforts at the Woodside community contributing to almost 1,000 new bluebirds.
"We're very pleased that our first ever award goes to Woodside," DeBruhl said. "It's been primarily through the development offices that we have been so successful."
DeBruhl invites the public to get involved with the SCBS and its mission of bluebird conservation.
The society hosts meetings every fourth Monday of each month at H. Odell Weeks Activities Center in Aiken.
For more information, visit https://southcarolinabluebirds.org/.