Thursday, March 27, 2014

Many Thanks to the Nest Box Pilot Project Citizen Conservation Corps!


by Keith Ashley
  
Thanks to the expertise, creativity, and brawn of many volunteers, the Nest Boxes for Urban Birds pilot project is up and running for the 2014 nesting season.  Tucson Audubon would like to recognize all of the people who made this infant program a reality.  Thank you!  We wish we could individually acknowledge each person whose donation of time and energy was crucial to the project.  While that’s not possible, we can celebrate the contributions of a few.


Early on in the production process Joe DeRouen of Oro Valley offered his home carpentry shop as a base for cutting more than half the wood that would later be assembled into 40 nest boxes by 30+ volunteers.  A master carpenter of beautiful furniture, Joe straightened out warped planks, smoothed over the rough edges of his carefully hewn oval entry holes, and—most amazing of all—took his carpentry shop on the road when we found that some last minute adjustments needed to be made in order to assemble the boxes. 


Carl Boswell
, also of Oro Valley, invited a group of nest box enthusiasts to his home to demonstrate the ins and outs of his highly successful box for Western Screech-Owls.  Carl’s box has fledged owlets for three years running—exciting activity he has monitored and recorded with a nest cam.  In addition to making home movies of his adopted birds, Carl reports his observations to Cornell’s NestWatch program.  (Mama owl has already laid five eggs for the 2014 Nesting Season!)  Carl has also been setting up his neighbors with nest boxes he is building and helping them to mount.


Meanwhile, recent NAU grad in Biology—Jessica Windes—designed a nest box observation protocol for the pilot project.   Jessica has devised step-by-step directions for Tucson Audubon nest box hosts to link up with the NestWatch program on-line and register observations that allow both Cornell and Tucson Audubon to gather important data.  Jessica helped build boxes along the way at assembly gatherings, proving herself a Jessica-of-All-Trades.

Chip Hedgcock also found a variety of valuable ways to support the project:  cutting box pieces at home, designing a low-cost closure for the box doors, attending assembly gatherings, and teaching other volunteers to assemble the boxes.  Most recently Chip expanded the program to include an 8 foot “nest ledge” he crafted for barn swallows at Manzo Elementary.  Manzo Counselor Moses Thompson is hoping to keep the birds at the school, but redirect their nesting to a more appropriate area. 

Tucson Audubon’s Restoration Ecologist, Jonathan Horst, volunteered his time to cut a shipment of boards at home and also helped Moses at Manzo to install one of the kestrel nest boxes 20 feet up in an Aleppo pine at the edge of the campus.  Tim Helentjaris helped to investigate the heat sensors that will be used to monitor nest box temperatures.  Around town, many volunteers have used our nest box plans to build and mount their own boxes at home—some   One project participant reports that a Western Screech Owl moved into her box just days after it went up.    Thanks again to everyone for your contributions!



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