Monache High School Manufacturing and Construction Technology Academy students and River Ridge Institute located above Springville recently invented a way to teach students at home and offer them something a bit different.
Eight student interns, sophomores and juniors in MCTA had the opportunity to experience assembling bird nest boxes and to learn how construction of these birdhouses relates to the environment.
River Ridge Institute, led by Volunteer and Event Coordinator Rob Hodges, pre-cut and packaged kits made of locally-harvested and milled white fir. The nest box design came from the Audubon Society and was modified to exclude exotic birds (e.g., European Starling) to prevent them from interfering with the native birds’ nesting.
Six different species have been documented using similar boxes on River Ridge Ranch in Springville: Western Bluebird, Ash-throated Flycatcher, House Wren, Oak Titmouse, Violet-Green Swallow and Tree Swallow. A recent survey on the ranch noted about 90 percent of boxes that had been in use for two years were being used this spring.
“That high use indicates that there is a shortage of sites for what are known as cavity-nesting birds”, said Gary Adest, co-owner of River Ridge. T
These species nest only in holes that usually form naturally in trees or have been created by other species, such as Acorn Woodpeckers. One of the reasons may be former landowners have cut down trees for various reasons and grazing by livestock reduces the ability of young trees to survive. Adding nest boxes compensates, in part, for this shortage of mature oaks.
Adest said it’s like the saying, “Build it and they will come.”
Porterville Unified School District Superintendent Nate Nelson, PUSD Pathways director Cindy Brown, PUSD’s Sonya Lopez, Joan Parker of the Tulare Kings Audobon Chapter and Nancy Bruce, lead teacher at Circle J. Norris Ranch/SCICON all helped to make the project possible.
The next step will be to place the boxes on fenceposts and poles in late Fall when birds begin to show up and search for nest sites. The Monache students will be invited to help set up the boxes and learn further about managing ranches for a variety of resources.