By SHERIDAN CYR
Eight brand new, hand-built bluebird bird houses have been installed around town by Southington High School students in the Southington Regional Agriculture Science and Technology Program.
As part of a bird-watching and ecology class taught by natural resource and ecology instructor Owen McLaughlin, nine students collaborated with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to build and install the birdhouses.
“A lot of open, grassy land is disappearing in Connecticut,” said McLaughlin. “By using the town’s GIS program, we figured out 11 places in Southington that are sustainable for these birdhouses that will give those birds the opportunity to settle and create a habitat.”
The students were joined by DEEP wildlife biologist Peter Picone at Novick’s Orchard on a Wednesday morning in early June to install four bird houses and learn different facts about the field.
“This particular field has milkweed, orchard grass, and all kinds of different wildflowers here,” said Picone. “The goal with these particular houses is bluebirds. They will feed off of use this type of environment.”
With a 1.5 inch opening, Picone said the houses will be fit for tree swallows and house wrens as well. Students build the eight bird houses as part of their class using material provided by DEEP. Picone said the porous wood is great for the houses, because it won’t trap heat and make an undesirable habitat for the birds.
To fend off competitor bird species, the birdhouses do not have perches on the outside. Blue jays and house sparrows that typically can’t fit in the 1.5 inch hole can sit on the perches and peck away at the wood until the hole is large enough for them to slip in. For predators such as the white footed mouse, and even small snakes that Picone has seen climb their way up the post, the students included a blocker midway up the post.
The Regional Agricultural Science and Technology Program allows students to take courses that interest them, and often times, kick off a career. Students take classes to meet high school graduation requirements, and additionally, most of them take a college preparatory course of study. They can take courses in agriculture mechanics, animal science, plant science, career preparation, record-keeping and leadership development, and McLaughlin’s current course, natural resources and environmental science.
“I wanted to try something different and this course sounded interesting to me,” said Caleb Richert, one of the students who installed bird houses. “I like all the wildlife activities we do, and I’ve seen a lot of things that I didn’t even know existed.”
The class meets every school day for one quarter of the year. In the classroom, they spend time doing research, identifying and learning about different species, and working on projects. They also go on field trips and put their knowledge to the test. Students maintain a portfolio throughout the course of the work they’ve done.
The regional program is open to high school students from Southington, Berlin, Farmington, Bristol, New Britain, Cheshire, Plainville, Terryville, Waterbury and Wolcott. For more information about the program, call (860) 628-3229 ext. 415.
To comment on this story, contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.