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OPG teams up with local high school to build new habitat for barn swallows

Barn swallows near OPG’s Whitedog Falls Generating Station (GS) in northwest Ontario have a future home ready to go thanks to the hard work of three area high school students.

Grade 12 students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Kenora answered the call to build a new barn swallow structure for use at OPG's Whitedog Falls Generating Station.
Grade 12 students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Kenora answered the call to build a new barn swallow structure for use at OPG's Whitedog Falls Generating Station.

Teacher Gerry Bozzo and Grade 12 shop students from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Kenora answered the call to build a timber-frame barn swallow structure for future use at the site.

Many of the medium-sized songbirds currently call the station and the surrounding area home. The provincially threatened species build their mud nests almost exclusively on human-made structures, such as barns and bridges.

In Ontario, barn swallows were added to the province’s species at risk list in 2012. To mitigate any potential impact of planned work at the station on barn swallow habitat, OPG reached out to the local high school to commission a nesting structure for future use.

OPG provided the materials for the construction and the students provided the elbow grease. Working for two periods a day, the Grade 12 students started the project last September and finished in November.

The students at work on the barn swallow structure.
The students at work on the barn swallow structure.

It was a great learning experience, teacher Bozzo said.

“They worked through rain and snow, and loved the challenge of building this nesting home while working from real life drawings,” he said.

The new nesting house, measuring 3.84 metres tall and 2.34 metres wide, was brought to site in December 2019 and is ready for occupancy should the need arise.

“If we disrupt one barn swallow nest, we are required under the Provincial Endangered Species Act to offset that loss by building another nest nearby,” said Scott Hurley, Site Environmental Advisor with OPG. “We haven’t actually disrupted any barn swallow habitats at the site, but this structure is there now just in case for future projects.”