Birds get upgraded houses thanks to volunteers

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Gary Kent opens a kestrel box today and discovers two baby birds in the bird house on a telephone pole in the town of Gaines.

Kent is a leader of the Orleans County Bluebird Society and also a director with the Albion Betterment Committee. The groups have put up about 150 bluebird houses in the past decade and 45 kestral boxes.

The kestrel boxes are mounted about 15 feet high on a telephone pole. The bluebird houses are on metal poles about 7 feet high.

Kent climbs a ladder to check on a kestrel box this morning in the town of Albion.

Kent wants to encourage birds in the county. He believes the birdhouses are paying off with a greater concentration of birds, especially kestrals and bluebirds.

“We’re trying to capitalize on some of our assets in Orleans County and wildlife is one of the principal assets,” he said today.

Two Albion High School seniors, Chris Rivers (left) and Moises Garzo, joined Kent today. They helped set up the ladder and retrieve tools while Kent cleaned out or made repairs some of the boxes. Some of the boxes are being taken down and replaced with new ones made by students in Doug Mergler’s middle school shop class.

Rivers met Kent 10 years ago when Kent and volunteers from Habitat for Humanity helped build a house for Rivers and his family on Lydun Drive.

Garza admitted he didn’t pay too much attention to birds before helping Kent. This was Garza’s second day out with Kent.

“We’re learning about all the different birds and how they nest,” Garza said.

He noticed a large bird fly overhead and asked what is was. Kent told him it was a turkey buzzard.

Three kestral eggs are in one of the boxes.

When a new box is mounted on a tree, Kent will add cedar shavings to give birds a soft spot to lay their eggs.

Kent has been checking on the boxes and saw many with eggs or hatched babies.

He has 143 more bluebird boxes that were made by students at Oakfield-Alabama. He wants to get those installed and also wants some out for wood ducks. He knows of one with 12 babies. (Kent asked that specific locations not be published because some people will raid the boxes if they know they have eggs or babies.)

He would like the wood duck boxes to go near the many farm ponds in the area. A more active bird population coexists nicely with local agriculture. Kent said many of the birds will eat voles, mice and other rodents that can damage crops.

The boxes gain quick acceptance by the birds. He has been checking them since 2004, and most of them are used every year. Besides kestrals and bluebirds, Kent has seen starlings and screech owls in the birdhouses.

“Kestrals are supposed to be in decline in New York State, but they’re not in Orleans County, I can tell you that,” he said.