A tree swallow takes a breather on top of one of the older bird boxes that can be seen dotting the Somenos Marsh. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

A tree swallow takes a breather on top of one of the older bird boxes that can be seen dotting the Somenos Marsh. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Marsh Society teams with Brentwood School for new nest boxes

Minding their steps and balancing precariously at times, Brentwood College School students braved the rigours of the Somenos Marsh in the rainy season to install a new batch of bird boxes on Saturday, April 1.

Gina Barale, captain of the school’s environmental action team said they’ve dubbed the project ‘Home Tweet Home.’

“Every year we enter a contest, the B.C. Green Games, and this year our community sponsor is the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society,” Barale explained. “We’ve been working on a project partnering our Brentwood ecosystem and this ecosystem,” she said of the marsh, “so we built 40 nest boxes. They’re for local bird species to nest in and it enriches the ecosystem because this is one of the few pristine places around here they want to protect.

“At the same time we built them for our campus at Brentwood.”

A Science World program, B.C. Green Games projects feature a strong student voice, a connection to a place and a plan for ongoing environmental action advocacy.

The students plan to do a biological survey of the birds, to check on them periodically throughout the year, and to clean them out at the end of the season so they’ll be ready for the following year.

“We’re an environmental club so we like supporting not only community but protecting the earth,” Barale said. “I think often at Brentwood we are kind of isolated there so it’s good to get involved with the community. It’s not always just Brentwood, Brentwood, Brentwood.”

BCS teacher, Laura Richardson said the school’s relationship with the Marsh Society goes way back.

Albeit not these particular students, BCS pupils are also responsible for the site’s osprey pole, which was erected around 10 years ago. “It’s nice to have a long-term community relationship,” Richardson said.

To avoid letting the youth loose with power saws, Richardson played the lead role in getting the lumber cut down and into pieces. From there, team members armed with drills, took over the assembly — a project that with many hands did not take very long to complete.

“It’s so awesome,” Richardson said. “You just kind of come up with an idea and then you think OK, is anybody is going to show up? The kids are so busy and stuff and then you put the call out and the kids show up.”

The majority of the new boxes, about 24, are at the marsh, specifically along the east side of the new dike that parallels the highway, while 16 boxes have also been erected at Brentwood College. Somenos Marsh Society president Paul Fletcher said ever since the early 70s they have had bird boxes at Somenos Marsh, for the swallows in particular.

“They’re in very rough shape so we’ve started a bird box rehabilitation and replacement program,” he said of the partnership with Brentwood, as well as with a similar program based out of Cowichan Secondary.

Fletcher is pleased with how the students have responded to the unique challenge of installing the boxes — often having to wade into chilly knee-deep water to get the job done.

“It’s very neat.”

Saturday’s action team installation event was bolstered by other BCS students taking park in the school’s annual Charity Work Day, so when the nest boxes were installed, they turned to picking up garbage and clearing out debris.