OUTLOOK PHOTO: TROY WAYRYNEN - Joe Brady installs boxes for tree swallows around Gresham.In between bouts of rain, signs of spring are beginning to pop and in Gresham, volunteers are too preparing for the change of seasons by installing bird habitat boxes around the city.

Joe Brady, one of two AmeriCorps volunteers assigned to Gresham for an 11-month stint in the ctiy’s Natural Resource Program, had stationed himself with a ladder and box of tools Monday, January 26, on a pathway adjacent to the waste water treatment plant surrounded by wetlands on one side and train tracks on the other ready to get to work.

Every hundred feet or so, on the long strip of pavement, were signposts affixed with brown-painted cedar wood boxes filled with wood shavings and a tiny hole for an entrance, or what will be the perfect hideaway for tree swallows during May’s mating season.

“Gresham, before it was all developed, was extremely rich with bird life,” said Brady.

On all sides flanking the pathway are industrial uses, with The Boeing Company and Odom Southern Distributers to the south and Rose City Printing and Packaging to the West.

“Birds use snags as resting spots,” Brady explained, referring to the sharp, jutting trees you might normally see peppering wetlands. “A lot of them have been taken out, cleared for development.”

Building bird boxes is just one component of the Natural Resouces Program that he’ll be working on in the coming months.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, the Natural Resources Program kicked off its learning series with a Raptor ID class at Gresham City Hall and events will continue monthly on a variety of topics - plantings, wetland birds, reptiles and amphibians, salmon, and dragonflies - through July.

“This is the first year that we’re trying to make an effort to offer classes and events to residents,” said Laura Guderyahn, the city’s Watershed Restoration Coordinator.

In 2002, the city launched the program and began hosting AmeriCorps volunteers and, with citizen volunteers, they’ve planted more than 115,000 native trees and shrubs, restored 56 natural area sites, documented 300 wildlife species, removed more than 11,000 pounds of trash from streams, and built and installed more than 200 shelters for birds, bats and flying squirrels.

Brady, an Ohio native, has been living in the northwest since 2010 but was amazed, as Gresham residents probably would be too, about the diversity of wildlife in the city.

“I didn’t have a whole lot of exposure to Gresham,” Brady said. “I was initially surprised by the quantity of natural areas that we have. There’s really great hiking opportunities and a rich diversity of wildlife that I really had no idea about.”

The habitat boxes he’s installing will also serve as temporary shelters for flying squirrels, chickadees, northern flicker woodpeckers, and owls, and the wetlands surrounding the area attract wood ducks and turtles.

As part of his work, Brady has surveyed the existing habitat boxes around the city along with installing the new ones, but was disappointed to see that some in public areas had been vandalized or knocked down. Other than people, though, raccoons are the biggest threat facing the tree swallows.

But Brady’s hoping some knowledge about the feathered creatures will cut down on destruction of their homes.

He said, “We want to educate everybody about what’s in their backyard.”

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