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Ron Jensen takes his Mule ATV around town checking 44 bluebird nests each week. Below, a bluebird had just hatched when Jensen opened the house to check in on the nest. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

Hubbard County's 'bluebird guy' branches out

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outdoors Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Once a week Ron Jensen hops on his Mule (4-wheeled, not 4-legged) and runs his route through Park Rapids.

He checks the 44 bluebird houses he has scattered throughout the city.

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Forty-nine babies and counting.

And that's not including the chickadees.

"Gee there must be 25 or 30 of the little buggers," Jensen said. "They have seven, eight, nine" at a time.

Chickadees have nested in the bluebird houses. As soon as their broods have hatched, or fledged, a bluebird family moves right in.

That was the case Saturday during Ron's rounds.

"Bluebirds moved right in before I had time to clean out the other nest," Jensen said, opening a nest on Western Avenue.

"I was going to do that today but they'd already moved in. What I do sometimes is if a bluebird moves in on a bluebird nest, I just lift the new nest up and clean out all the little particles and other stuff underneath and lower the new nest to the floor."

One tiny awful-looking bluebird had just hatched when he peeked inside.

Veiny skins and purplish colors, the babies have a few spiky black hairs poking out.

If the weather turns around it'll be another great year for bluebirds in the area. Cool rainy conditions don't bode well for the hatch.

Many of the nests are on public property: Century School and the municipal softball complex.

Then there's the houses on the area golf courses and on the Heartland Trail.

Those are individually monitored by volunteers, who send reports to the state bluebird count.

"Last year on my trails, on one golf course and the rest of them I monitor, 283 fledged, which was a phenomenal year," Jensen said of the 2009 season.

"I have someone that does Blueberry Pines and John LaFrance at Eagle View is a new volunteer," Jensen said. "He lives a mile from there. I talked to him a couple years ago and he said he couldn't get bluebirds (at his Island Lake home) so I asked if he'd like to adopt one. He monitors that course once a week."

Jensen's newest passion is purple martins. For the past few years he's been helping people install martin houses on shore areas.

Monday night one of his handmade homes was installed on Ingram Lake

He was thrilled 24 hours later when he got a call saying martin tenants were moving in.

He's building a small martin colony at his home on Fish Hook Lake. He finds martins much more sociable than bluebirds, which are notoriously shy.

So many birds, so little time?

"That's what's nice about being retired," Jensen said. "I can sit and watch them and watch what's going on."

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