CLINTON —  Bickelhaupt Arboretum, 340 S. 14th St., now has a bird haven where people can sit to look and listen to birds. This new area was planned and built by a local Boy Scout.

Taylor Hicks, 14, has been in the Scouts for approximately eight years. This summer he began looking for an Eagle Scout project. Taylor said the arboretum had sent out a message to local Scout troops with suggestions for Eagle Scout projects. He thought it sounded interesting.

“He came to me and said he'd like to do a project and he didn't really care what it was. He said he'd like to do a project at the arboretum and I said ‘Well fine.’ I said ‘We've got just the one for you,’” said Francie Hill, executive director of the Bickelhaupt Arboretum.

Taylor said he knew little about birds and their habitats and was unsure how to begin the project of making a bird haven. Hill put him in contact with Linda Boardsen, a volunteer of the arboretum and a Quad-City Audubon Society member. Taylor said Boardsen was extremely helpful throughout the project. She also directed him to contact Ed Franks, a retired Western Illinois University ornithology professor. Taylor said Franks was extremely helpful in the planning of the project.

“He was ecstatic that someone was trying to make an impact on the environment to get birds a little more noticed,” said Taylor.

During an approximately two-week period, Franks and Taylor were in contact with each other through e-mail. Taylor said Franks provided him with a great amount of information about local birds and their habitats. Franks also advised Taylor on what type of bird houses and nesting posts should be used at the arboretum.

Taylor’s plans for the bird haven included a split-rail fence around the area. He decided to build three nesting platforms and three bird houses. These structures will be put in trees with an adjustable band. As the tree grows, the size of the band can be increased to prevent any damage to the tree. Taylor also decided to build benches for the area. He based his bench design on those created by naturalist Aldo Leopold. However, Taylor said the classic Leopold bench was not overly comfortable. He adapted the bench to increase the comfort level, slanting the seat slightly.

Another main part of Taylor’s project was designing a bird poster for the haven. This poster will contain the 50 birds that are most common to the area. A picture of each bird will be featured on the poster, as well as the bird’s common and scientific name. The birds will be listed by families and groupings. The poster also will list where each bird is found.

“So the idea is that when people see a bird, they will recognize what it is,” said Hill. Taylor is still finishing the poster, which will need to be laminated and placed under Plexiglas.

After Taylor’s design was created and approved, he began working on building the various structures. Taylor and his father, Walter Hicks, worked together on the benches at their home over four or five weekends. Taylor said they spent approximately three or four hours on the project each weekend. Taylor and his crew of helpers worked on the split-rail fence. He said that project took them a little more than a day. He even worked during Labor Day weekend on the fence. Hill said she was impressed by his commitment to the project.

“And I thought of all the people on that beautiful Labor Day weekend, all of the kids who were out on boats and things like that and he’s in there putting a fence in. I mean, that’s pretty neat,” said Hill. She said Taylor really put his heart into the project.

Taylor said he was fortunate to have received as much help as he did. He said all together, he had approximately 10 people help him with the project. Some members of the Webelo Den 515, for which Taylor is a Den Chief, helped with the work. He also received help from is Scout Troop 22. Taylor’s mother, Christine Hicks, said she was really happy the four Webelos were able to help on Labor Day. She said she felt this was a great way for the younger boys to learn more about giving back to the environment and the community.

“It's been a real eye opener just in having to design the benches and the bird poster; having to find funds for all of the materials and to organize the work, like who's going to do what and just finding a bunch of facts on birds and where everything would need to go. It's just been a real learning experience,” said Taylor.

Taylor said raising funds was a new experience for him. He went to various local stores for donations of building supplies. Taylor presented the stores with a list of needed materials and explained his project to them.

“And they were all really eager to hop on board,” said Walter.

On Sept. 13, Franks surveyed the bird haven. Taylor said it was great to meet Franks face to face. Hill said she is thrilled to have the bird haven and grateful to Taylor for all of his work. She said the arboretum works to connect plants with people.

“This goes a step further because this is saying that there's something really important in the world that we need to care for,” said Hill. “We have taken away where the birds live for a long time. We've made a parking lot. We've made an entrance here. We've made a path. We've taken their area away, so we owe it.”

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