Special to the Reporter

Somervell Master Gardeners last week held a Community Horticulture Education Session presented by two of its own Master Gardeners, Nelda Tandy and Jim Cheatham, on the subject of bluebirds.

Tandy began with the basics of how to build a bluebird nest box. Her instructions were simple and, according to Nelda, anyone who can hold a drill can build a nest box. For exact instructions, you can go to http://www.texasbluebird.org or www.nabluebirdsociety.org/eastwestbox.

Since bluebirds can have up to three broods per season, it's important to have easy access to the nest box for cleaning after each brood leaves the nest. Be sure to wear a mask when cleaning out the nest as bird spores can be extremely dangerous to your health.

Cheatham, who is not only a Master Gardener but also is a member of the Rio Brazos Master Naturalists and a member of the local bird club, spoke about bluebirds in general. There are three species of bluebirds in North America and the one we see most commonly in this area is the Eastern Bluebird.

Donít expect immediate occupancy the first year you put up your nest box. It may take one to three years for the birds to move in and set up housekeeping. Bluebirds are territorial and do not like their neighbors any closer than 100 yards.

Should you be lucky enough to attract bluebirds, you will know so when you see three to seven light blue to white eggs in a bowl-shaped nest. It takes 13 to 16 days for the eggs to hatch and then another 15 to 20 days before the babies fledge and leave the nest.

There will be no CHES program in December, but the Master Gardeners Education Committee is hard at work on next yearís programs, which are sure to be as interesting as those in 2010. See you then!