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Job Corps students build home for bluebirds

April 21, 2006|by DAVE McMILLION

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. -As far as the eye could see across the open field, new pine boxes glistened in the sun waiting for new tenants.

After working this week and last week building nesting boxes for bluebirds, students at the Harpers Ferry Job Corps took to the field Thursday to install the boxes on posts, hoping to help the small birds battle loss of habitat.

It was part of the center's Earth Day activities, which also included learning about outdoor ethics, viewing conservation films and planting trees at the facility, officials at the center said.

Earth Day will be celebrated formally Saturday, center officials said.

Bluebirds have unique characteristics, like being picky about their nesting sites, and many bird enthusiasts enjoy attracting the birds.

The entry holes on bluebird boxes must be 1 1/2 inches in diameter and must be facing away from the prevailing wind, said Steve Bish, a carpentry instructor at the Job Corps who helped the students with the project.

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The boxes must be 3 to 5 feet above the ground and, while bluebirds like to be in an open area where they can catch bugs, they also must have a place to perch, like a tree, within 25 to 100 feet of the box, Bish said.

"A lot of their natural habitat has been destroyed from development," said Clark Dixon, chairman for the community relations council at the local Job Corps.

"Our homes are replacing theirs," added Bish. "So we put up free housing for them. Government subsidized," Bish said, laughing.

Last week, about seven students began cutting pieces of pine for the boxes on a table saw and cutting angled pieces with a miter saw, Bish said.

The students made 20 boxes and some posts to hang them on, Bish said.

On Thursday, the students installed the boxes along the perimeter of the field. Boxes were placed 120 paces apart through the rolling farmland.

Job Corps students like Dominque Lee of Newport News, Va., Dwayne Smith of Philadelphia, Anthony Pringle of Richmond, Va., and Remi Tolson of Washington, D.C., talked about the project Thursday afternoon after its completion.

Tolson said the carpentry job was an interesting one.

"It was hard work. We just couldn't get things to go our way," Tolson said.

Bish helped guide them through the process, Tolson said.

Pringle boasted about the virtues of Earth Day, and said the celebration can be as simple as tidying up in front of one's house.

"Earth Day is everyday," Pringle said.

Students ages 16 to 24 at the center learn trades in carpentry, brickwork or the computer field, Bish and Dixon said. Many of the students are from inner cities.

The center, on about 77 acres along Job Corps Road between Charles Town, W.Va., and Shepherdstown, W.Va., serves about 166 students.

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