The Garden has started a blog to share the community’s thoughts and impressions about the Garden, so we can include your voices. Our second blog entry is by Clark Walters, a Bluebird enthusiast with many ties to the community. Clark previously headed the Cleveland Zoological Society. He is a Certified Virginia Master Naturalist and serves as a Virginia Bluebird Society Member [link this to the VBSM website:, a VBS Bluebird Trail Leader, and a Botanical Garden of the Piedmont Volunteer.  In 2015 he was the Virginia Bluebird Society volunteer of the year and he continues to spread the word about these charming residents in a variety of ways.

In my humble opinion….. 

All the signs are there and the truth must be told.  Whether you know it or not, Botanical Garden of the Piedmont (BGP) is making a huge contribution to our community.  A monumental work is in progress as they forge important collaborations that maximize their unique natural resources for the benefit of all. This is not the only wonderful thing BGP is accomplishing, but in my humble opinion, it’s a story you’ll enjoy hearing. 

This story started a couple of months ago when BGP invited the Virginia Bluebird Society (VBS) to visit. It was hoped that the VBS could identify suitable locations for Bluebird nest boxes.  VBS accepted the invitation and toured the Garden and the results were better than terrific.  In addition to identifying locations for Bluebird nest boxes, BGP has been officially designated as a Virginia Bluebird Society trail.  In the big picture, the Virginia Bluebird Society plays a major role in a nationwide effort to save Bluebirds.  BGP now joins 400 Virginia Bluebird Society’s trails that include 35 trails in Albemarle County, and the Garden is now an official participant in this meaningful contribution to an important conservation project passionately embraced by hundreds of thousands of people nationwide.

BGP has also forged a strong collaboration with Virginia Master Naturalists (VMN).  More than 3,300 certified Virginia Master Naturalists donate 200,000+ hours each year participating in conservation projects and programs statewide.  Monitoring Bluebird trails is only one of a multitude of citizen science conservation projects involving VMNs.  Most Albemarle County Trail leaders are also Virginia Master Naturalists from the local Rivanna Chapter.   Trail volunteers gather data that flows directly to Albemarle County which  in turn flows to the Virginia Bluebird Society which in turn flows to the North American Bluebird Society’s national database.   

So, the good news for the Garden is that they are contributing to bluebird conservation in a very meaningful way globally while at the same time providing new opportunities for BGP volunteers locally.  Vitally important in fulfilling their mission, BGP’s Bluebird trail is providing new environmental education opportunities that will enrich the BGP experience for all visitors for years to come.  

For the curious minds who want to know, there are 3 species of Bluebirds in the continental United States; Eastern, Western and Mountain.  Each of these species occupy different geographical regions of the United States with virtually no overlap between them.  The Eastern Bluebirds of Virginia occupy all states East of the Mississippi.  

Long ago, invasive species of Starlings and House Sparrows were introduced to North America.   Bluebirds, Starlings and House Sparrows are cavity nesters all competing for the same natural cavities in the wild.  Bluebirds are no match for Starlings and House Sparrows when competing for nesting space and Bluebirds were soon driven to the brink of extinction.   Thankfully, over 100 years ago, astute people noticed what was happening to Bluebirds and they intervened by providing manmade nest boxes.  How cool and unique for the early 1900’s!  That auspicious beginning mushroomed into what is now a highly organized national effort to save Bluebirds by providing nest boxes designed specifically for Bluebirds.

The journey continues.  In my humble opinion, the widespread, focused and sustained effort to save Bluebirds is succeeding thanks to the North American Bluebird Society, the Virginia Bluebird Society and Virginia Master Naturalists all of whom are now joined by the Botanical Garden of the Piedmont.  

“Thank you and congratulations to Botanical Garden of the Piedmont!”  Here’s to a bright future in our community!
Clark Walter
Botanical Garden of the Piedmont volunteer
Certified Virginia Master Naturalist, Rivanna Chapter
Virginia Bluebird Society member, 2015 VBS Volunteer of the Year
VBS Blue bird Trail Leader “Owensfield Trail”


If you have an anecdote about a Garden visit, plants/wildlife you’ve discovered there, or a volunteer experience you would like to share, we would love for you to write a blog entry about it. Send questions and ideas to