Tricounty News

'Brad's Birdhouses' in the park

By Jean Doran Matua, Editor

Brad Mies, son of Linda and Brian Mies of Kimball, is Kimball's most recent Eagle Scout. Number nine, if anyone's counting.

To achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, a young man must complete a project that involves coordinating volunteers and be located on non-private land. He must keep (and present) meticulous records. And any funds for the project must be raised by donations.

Brad started his project in March 2010: building and installing eight bat boxes and three wood duck houses in Willow Creek Park.

Each bat box can house up to 20 bats in a separate sleeping chamber. Each night the bats emerge and consume up to 1,000 mosquitoes. (Eight boxes times 20 bats, that means as many as 160,000 fewer mosquitoes each night in Willow Creek Park. Thanks, Brad!)

The idea actually came to Brad when he and the Boy Scouts were removing an old bridge from the park and they were so badly bitten by mosquitoes.

The bat box design is Brad's own. He took about three designs for boxes, combined them, and added extra features. (For instance, all the bat droppings fall onto a special platform to be blown away by the wind; no clean-up.)

The bat boxes are best placed about 8-10 feet off the ground, preferably on a large tree, says Mies. He also noted that the most common bat here is the little brown bat. There also is a big brown bat, but it is less prevalent.

The Kimball Legion and Kimball Lions donated money for the project. Kimball Boy Scouts constructed the boxes and later installed them in the park.

The addition of three wood duck homes to the project seemed natural for Brad. He saw that there were none near the creek, and thought that the box houses might attract the colorful birds.

"I thought they would be a nice addition to the park," he said.

Each box will hold one wood duck. The boxes are placed near the creek, as wood ducks prefer to live near food sources but not too close.

Brad is a sophomore at Kimball Area High School. At 16, it's a bit early to be thinking of future careers, but he'd like to do something outdoors. Marine biology is one possibility.

There are three levels of Palm Awards beyond the Eagle Scout rank in Scouting. But they must all be achieved by the age of 18. Mies has nearly completed the first level Palm, bronze.

Through the process, Brad has learned a lot.

"I've met new people, been the only leader in a big project, and have the pride of being an Eagle Scout," said Brad.

Meanwhile, he'll be building bird houses and bat boxes this winter, preparing to sell them in the spring. He makes wooden homes for bats, wood ducks, wrens, and bluebirds.

You'll find "Brad's Birdhouses" again next season at the Wright County Swap Meet near South Haven.