The tree swallows are back, settling into a familiar neighbourhood along the fences at Maple Creek Landfill.
Up to 50 birdhouses, each about 6 by 6 inches, have been built over the years, their paintwork and designs brightening up the area.
In the May sunshine last week, blues, yellows, reds and greens could be spotted from a great distance.
For the next four months, this will be a thriving community as tree swallows, so distinctive with their glistening blue feathers, make nests in their little wooden homes.
Some are thought to return to the same boxes, year after year.
To Lynn Needham, the Town’s environmental manager, it is a welcome sight, with the birdhouses serving several purposes: they support his efforts to create a landfill park that contradicts stereotypical images of a so-called dump; and they attract birds that keep the mosquito population down, reducing the risk of West Nile Virus.
As importantly, they are an example of what can be done with discarded material, providing a valuable lesson in our throw-away society.
“It shows how things can be re-purposed, and given new life,” said Needham.
The Birdhouse Project is a partnership between Needham, Ray Broderick and students at Sidney Street School.
It was Broderick’s father, Ben, who first started building birdhouses out of waste lumber dropped off at the landfill. Since his death in March, his son has taken over the construction.
The boxes are decorated by Mrs Ashley Currie Graves’ students, who normally go to the landfill to install their work along the fence.
This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that responsibility has fallen to Needham.
Last Friday, the Advance-Times watched him attach two out of 14 new boxes to the fence.
Currie Graves said her first birdhouse project was in 2018 with Grade 4 students. It came about after she was contacted by Needham.
“In years past we have gone on a field trip to the landfill to help hang the birdhouses,” she said.
“With COVID protocols this year the grade 3 students decorated the birdhouses and will pass them on to Lynn to hang, instead of the field trip.
“In Grade 3 we focus on communities, and this is a great way to volunteer and add visually to our community.”
Currie Graves said Sidney Street School had recently become more involved with Communities in Bloom, with Laura Skrumeda Sawby acting as a liaison.
“The birdhouse project also coincides with the mission of Communities in Bloom. A big thank you to Lynn for including us in this project yearly.”