Lucas McKay, a scout from BSA Troop 2810 chartered out of Salem Lutheran Church of Sycamore, recently completed his Eagle project benefiting DeKalb County’s Forest Preserves. He built bluebird houses and cleared brush after removing some remaining barbed wire fencing at Merritt Prairie in DeKalb.
McKay has always loved nature and wanted a project to reflect that, so he consulted with Patrick McCrea, the restoration ecologist with the DeKalb County Forest Preserve District and came up with the project.
Newly restored prairies such as Merritt Prairie have invasive and non-native shrubs that threaten bluebird habitat and prairie ecosystems, thus these bird boxes will help restore bluebird populations as they have been driven out due to competition for nesting areas with other birds. Plus, by clearing out invasive brush the natural habitat is being restored to a proper balance.
Marc Shipman, committee chair for the troop, helped McKay cut the wood needed for the boxes in his woodshop. The two first pre-cut the necessary pieces and then McKay had his fellow troop members assist him in assembling the boxes. They remain unvarnished, as to prevent poisoning the birds, so McKay made extras as replacements as the boxes will weather over time.
The last step was installing the boxes in pairs according to research that showed bluebirds and tree swallows could both successfully nest and benefit from paired boxes.
McCrea said McKay was a pleasure to work with and that his research into Eastern Bluebird habitat and great work ethic led to the successful improvement of nesting habitat at Merritt Prairie.