View All Jan 14, 2016

Found on the Greenway: Walk to the Graham Cabin

by Sara Lee, Greenway Environmental Educator and Catawba Master Naturalist

Just the other day I decided to take a short walk from the Greenway Headquarters to the Graham Cabin. It was a gorgeous day and I enjoyed a lovely stroll along a portion of Nation Ford Road, past the Dairy Barn and the horse fields until I arrived at the Graham Cabin.

The Graham Cabin is a beautiful cabin that was inhabited for around 200 years before being donated to the Greenway. The history of the cabin is not totally clear although an 1870 census shows us that Billy Graham’s (the evangelist) grandfather was born there and possibly lived there for a time. His son, William Franklin Graham was born in 1888 as child number nine of eleven.  William married Morrow Coffey in 1915 and the couple had four children, the first of which was Billy Graham, born in 1918. Billy Graham quickly became known for his preaching and reached true fame in 1949 when preaching at an L.A. Revival.

The cabin itself has seen a lot of change over the years. The house that currently resides on the Greenway is the restored version. In recent years the house had been weatherboarded and painted white on the outside as well as having boards put up inside. When the house was moved to the Greenway in 1999 it was restored to its original state. Now you can see all the original American Chestnut Tree lumber which the house was built from, a tree that is now nearly extinct due to a fungus. There are some pictures in the cabin of the old aesthetic and the process of moving the house. The house was originally located about 2 miles away in the area that is now known as Baxter.

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Having explored the Graham Cabin, I started to head back for the office. As I was walking back I noticed some movement in the leaf litter just ahead of us. It was an adult bluebird lying on her back trying to move. I watched the bird for a second as she flipped herself onto her stomach. My first thought was that this was a female bird using a distraction display to attract us away from her nest. Many birds will fake an injury to try and tempt a predator to chase them instead of finding their nest. Fortunately, my brain quickly kicked in and reminded me that despite the 70 degree weather it was December and it was unlikely that she was nesting! She also clearly lacked the use of one wing. Slowly I approached her and picked her up– she offered no resistance.

When you find an injured bird you have a few options. If it is an uninjured baby bird – DO NOT TAKE IT HOME. A young bird that has fallen out of the nest is often still being cared for by the parents. Walk away and watch from a distance. The parents should fly by to check on their young. If you are able to find the nest or are able to make one then you may put the baby bird in the nest. It is a myth that a parent bird will reject a baby because of the smell of a human. It survival of the fittest out there! Those parents want as many babies to survive to adulthood as possible and perpetuate their genes!

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In the case of our adult bird who was clearly injured we took her back to the office and placed her in a box lined with some tissue with NO FOOD OR WATER. I immediately contacted the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center (if you need to contact them please text, not call: 704 684 9247). They were able to take the little bluebird so I drove her out there and handed her over.

Here at the Greenway we have a whole nesting program dedicated to the bluebirds (also now to nuthatches) and you can see these nest boxes scattered around the Greenway. These are monitored and maintained by Dick Metzler and Catawba Master Naturalist volunteers. For more information and to see the yearly report please check our website http://www.ascgreenway.org/education/special-interests/breeding-birds.

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Bluebirds tend to prefer an open field environment with trees around the edge. They are territorial and the male will find and defend a nest cavity. He will then place some nesting material in the cavity in an attempt to attract a female. To catch the attention of the female the male will sit on top of the box and wave his wings around (sound familiar? We see this in many species – including our own!). Once the male has attracted the female she will build the nest and incubate the eggs without the male’s help, although the male will help with providing food. The eggs will be incubated for 11-19 days before little hairless chicks are hatched out. The young will be ready to leave the nest within 21 days. Once an adult, the bluebird will feed primarily on insects and berries, although they have been seen taking salamanders and small snakes!

The information in the last paragraph is from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology page (allaboutbirds.org), which I highly recommend. 

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