While attending camp last summer at Lime Hollow Nature Center in Cortlandville, 12 year-old Hunter Barlow of Brooktondale found a piece of wood in a wood shed and wanted to make a bird house.
That wish came true Saturday as Barlow and four other visitors worked on building barn owl boxes as part of the Building a Better Nature series program at the nature center.
The five visitors made measurements, drilled holes and put pieces together to assemble barn owl boxes.
“This is a great way to build community and get stuff done,” said Peter Harrity, the senior naturalist associate director at Lime Hollow Nature Center and leader of the program.
Harrity was Barlow’s counselor when Barlow came up with the idea for building bird nests, Harrity said. After speaking with Barlow about it and coming up with the name, Harrity then talked about the idea of having a week-long program dedicated to projects with Glenn Reisweber, the center’s executive director. Reisweber liked the idea so much that he wanted it to be a yearlong program.
Since the fall, Harrity has led groups on the second Saturday of the month in projects relating to the season.
For the winter, it has been working on making three barn owl boxes.
Barn owls nest in tree holes, Harrity said, though the holes in trees at Lime Hollow Nature Center tend to be too small for barn owls, which was what the boxes could help with.
“Often times in these species, you might see a lack of suitable nesting is part of limiting their population,” he said. “So we thought, we have wood duck boxes and boxes for blue birds and screech owls so maybe we can build barn owl boxes.”
Barlow said that building the owl boxes was important as it could help preserve the barn owl population.
“If you have one animal fall out of place, cycles of life will break,” he said. “Yes, animals could evolve in a way that don’t need that animal anymore, but it might mean a lot of loss and it might be a struggle to get back up to that point where it’s healthy again.”
For the children in attendance, Harrity hoped the program would help them think about how to give back and help out the environment.
“It gives kids a chance to realize they are stewards of the land and they can do things that are not out of reach of ordinary people,” he said.
Hunter Barlow’s mother, Laura Barlow, echoed this sentiment.
“I think he’s growing up in the age where they’re (children) very environmental conscious and for me, we didn’t really have that,” she said.
Laura Barlow, who said she was in her “late 40s,” said her generation was more focused on convenience than conservation and environmental protection.
“So for him (Hunter Barlow) to grow up in an environment where he’s learning environment consciousness and doing that is so important because it’s going to be the history of our world,” she said.