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Volunteers at Sharon Audubon help in myriad ways, including  helping care for the Chimney Swifts, above. Photo Courtesy Sharon Audubon

Volunteering at Audubon in all seasons

There are infinite ways to get involved in the community by volunteering. Many volunteer opportunities are geared toward helping our friends and neighbors, during the good times in their lives (child care, ski jumping) and the hard times (food pantries, medical assistance).

And there are many opportunities related to protecting our natural environment, whether it’s trail clearing or fundraising for easements or caring for wildlife.

The Sharon Audubon Center is hosting a volunteer  event on Oct. 14 at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. Volunteer Coordinator and Naturalist Bethany Sheffer will host, and will explain ways that volunteers can help with, for example, rehabilitation efforts for birds that have been injured or abandoned.

One recent seasonal volunter activity was the rearing of Chimney Swifts over the summer. The birds began their winter migration in late August, but from late spring until end of summer, there were a number of birds who needed care and hand feeding at the center.

Chimney Swifts are actually in decline right now, Sheffer said, because modern chimneys aren’t lined with brick.

“Chimney Swifts are unable to grasp the metal liners of more modern chimneys,” she explained. “Only a single pair of Swifts occupies a brick chimney, regardless of size, so the fewer of these chimneys are available, the fewer young are reared.”

Chimney Swifts are usually seen in our region between June and August, she said. Sharon Audubon rescues enough of the birds (20 to 75 each summer, on average) that the rehabilitation center now has a little faux chimney made from wood slats that the birds can grip with their feet.

“The most common reason Chimney Swifts are admitted into rehabilitation,” Sunny Kellner, Sharon Audubon Wildlife Rehabilitation and Outreach Coordinator, said, “is that individual babies or entire nests fall from the chimney and get stuck in the fireplace. This can happen as a result of high heat and humidity, or from a buildup of creosote on the chimney walls.”

Sheffer shared some tips for protecting Chimney Swifts next spring and summer:

• Take the cap off your chimney but keep the damper closed from May to August, to keep the birds from falling down into the fireplace

• Don’t use pesticides in  your yard (one more reason to love Chimney Swifts: They eat as many as 10,000 insects a day)

• Call Sharon Audubon if you find any nestlings in your fireplace. Leave a voicemail at 860-492-0106 or email sunny.kellner@audubon.org.

And email Sheffer at bethany.sheffer@audubon.org to either take part in the Oct. 14 volunteer Zoom presentation, or to discuss opportunities with her directly.

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