Welcome to the News section of the iNSiGHT Ornithology website (
www.simoncherriman.com). This blog contains updates about various things I've been up to, interesting environmental issues and observations I make regularly while going about my day. It is designed to be fun AND educational, and inspire you about our wonderful natural world. Happy reading!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Nest Boxes: Off the Ground!

The Schools Nest Box Program "Home Among the Gum Trees" has finally begun, with our visit to the first school today.

But to start with, we need to say a BIG THANKYOU to the fabulous, generous staff at Mundaring Hardware. Last week we were thrilled to receive a phone-call from Carolyn and Rusty regarding our sponsorship letter to say the shop was willing to donate various material to help us build nest boxes with school children. They happily gave us hammers, screwdrivers, screws, paint and several other bits and pieces to help us run the first workshop, and are insistent on providing ongoing support to our cause. Our sincere thanks to these kind-hearted people.

Today we had the pleasure of working with 24 Year 8 Students from Tranby College, Baldivis, who were all enthusiastic and had fun with woodworking. We started the session with some indoor talks, giving background information about hollow homes in Australian Gum Trees (by me), and the importance of reducing our waste, recycling, and information on how the students could recycle materials in their area (by Gill). Then we jumped outside and began the construction!

A sign overhead told me this activity was going to be a success when I noticed a pair of my totem Wedge-tailed Eagles, specks in the sky soaring high above in the distance. Each box was made in kit form, so the students’ task was (with some helpful hints) to nail a wire ladder inside the box, assemble the front, back, base and sides, fix the lid with a hinge, then give the whole box a good lick of fresh paint! All the groups showed great teamwork skills and the six boxes were pretty much finished by lunchtime, with some extra keen students choosing to complete their nest box after the bell, before getting their lunch :-)

In our afternoon session, I gave a tree climbing demonstration while setting up ropes in a massive Tuart tree, situated at the edge of the oval, which (with the students’ help) we had selected to house one of the large Black Cockatoo boxes. This took much longer than expected: the children learnt some of the difficulties of climbing when fishing lines get tangled up in the canopy! Gill did a fantastic job of explaining all the intricacies of tree climbing while I attempted to untangle my lines - without success - so we returned to the centre of the school and I installed a smaller box instead (see picture below). This one proved much more straightforward, and afterward the students had to rush off to catch buses home (it was now 3:15pm).

Gill and I had a short break then ‘stayed back after school’ to continue hanging the remaining smaller parrot- and possum-sized boxes, choosing situations close to the school buildings where they could be kept under close watch. I then returned to the big Tuart, which had been beckoning me from the top of the hill overlooking the school. From high in the tree I set up a pulley system, and with Gill’s helping heaves we hoisted the box into position. You can see it in the picture below, about half way up on the right side of the tree.

As we packed our gear into the car we heard the grating ‘Karaak’ call of some Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, and several birds flew low over the tuart tree containing the new nest box. Was this a welcoming visit to a future breeding site? We sure hoped so.

In the meantime it would be up to the Tranby College Year 8’s to keep an eye on their new wildlife homes - and write down details of any promising tenants in the Baldivis area.

Our thanks to Rachael Bullock and Jenny Florence from Tranby College for organising the day. If you like the sound of this and would be keen to have us visit your school, please email me.

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