B’dale students’ Eco-Club builds bluebird houses

BLOOMINGDALE – At a meeting of Bloomingdale Elementary School’s newly formed Environment and Nature Club (Eco-Club) at the school on Jan. 30, students assembled bluebird nesting boxes, to be set up on school grounds at a later date.

All the wood that went into the boxes was provided by Olly Burgess of Specialty Wood Products of Bloomingdale. Local northern white-cedar was used because of its rot resistance. The wood was milled at the company’s Bloomingdale sawmill. The stainless steel nails that hold the boxes together were donated by Ed Kanze and his Adirondack Naturalist Company guiding service. Ed also pre-cut the 60 box pieces required to make six boxes and worked beside Eco-Club coordinator Jen Perry and faculty adviser Nora Lanigan to supervise the students in the building.

The boxes follow an original design by Beresford Proctor, a retired banker who lived in Westchester County. Proctor devoted his retirement years to helping restore the eastern bluebird to southern New York. He built and donated more than 3,000 boxes to parks and nature sanctuaries before his death in the 1990s. His design is attractive, endorsed by bluebirds, and features an easy-open door.

The eastern bluebird, the New York state bird, declined dramatically in number after the introduction to North America by the European starling and the Eurasian house sparrow. Both introduced birds are aggressive and often out-compete bluebirds for the abandoned woodpecker holes they nest in. Proctor and others developed birdhouses that provide bluebirds with alternative housing. The entry holes are too small for starlings to fit into, and placement of the boxes in open areas at relatively low height can discourage house sparrows. Bluebirds are among the most beautiful and beloved of North American songbirds. Among other things they feast on common insect pests of lawns and gardens. There are three species: the eastern, the western, and the mountain. The eastern is native to the Adirondacks and breeds in sunny open places wherever they occur in our region.

John Burroughs (1837-1921), naturalist, author, and poet wrote in his poem, “The Bluebird”:

O bluebird, welcome back again,

Thy azure coat and ruddy vest

Are hues that April loveth best,

Warm skies above the furrowed plain.

Burroughs, who was born in the Catskills, bushwhacked in the Adirondacks, and lived most of his life in the Hudson Valley, also wrote: “The bluebird enjoys the preeminence of being the first bit of color that cheers our northern landscape. The other birds that arrive about the same time … are clad in neutral tints, gray, brown, or russet; but the bluebird brings one of the primary hues and the divinest of them all.”

The Eco-Club is open to Bloomingdale students in the third, fourth, and fifth grades. Its aims include getting kids outdoors in nature, doing hands-on science, and involving the kids in service projects that will have positive impacts on the environment. Other activities planned include animal tracking, conducting a biological survey of the school grounds, starting seeds, vegetable gardening, and building worm boxes.

“Yesterday we were building solar powered fans, last week we were building birdhouses, and in a few weeks we’ll be starting seeds for the Bloomingdale School garden,” said club coordinator Jen Perry, herself the mother of two Bloomingdale students. “It’s going to be an exciting few months with a really enthusiastic, and creative group of students. I am so thankful to Teresa Lindsay and the Bloomingdale staff for supporting us with this great opportunity.”