Nesting boxes offer hands-on exercise in new beginnings
Oxford Treatment Center’s residential campus will be a more welcoming haven for wildlife this spring, with the installation of new nesting boxes for Eastern bluebirds.
A collection of more than 50 nesting boxes are currently being installed on the 110-acre campus and surrounding properties. While the boxes are built to suit the species’ standard preference for nesting sites, they are also unique: Each one features the brightly painted designs of a person entering recovery from drug or alcohol addiction.
“This is all about new beginnings,” said Sid Russell, Oxford Treatment Center’s director of operations, who initiated the project.
Russell oversees the center’s facility management and maintenance. He conceived the project as a way to use leftover lumber from projects on the campus, rather than throwing it away. The boxes were built by the center’s maintenance team.
Recognizing the opportunity for therapeutic use as well, Russell offered the boxes to Art Therapist Resa Frederick, M.Ed., NCC, LPC, who has incorporated them into her sessions with patients this spring.
“Every project we do allows the individual to express themselves, while incorporating themes of addiction, recovery, reflection and hope,” Frederick said. “The birdhouses provide a perfect ‘canvas’ for that expression. They symbolize recovery as a new beginning, along with the importance of having a firm and solid foundation, being surrounded by a positive community, and having a place to belong.”
Those themes were apparent to Russell, who is in long-term personal recovery from addiction. An ardent naturalist and outdoorsman, he looks to nature as a way to shape his own perspective in recovery. He maintains a collection of bluebird houses, wren houses, squirrel boxes and hummingbird feeders at home.“I respect and admire the wildlife the Lord gives us and try to learn from them,” Russell said.
“When you’re in active addiction, it’s all about you. You’re the center of attention. But being in nature helps you see that you’re a very small part of a very big world, and that all of creation works together.”
Russell was previously involved in the development of a bluebird trail in Tupelo. At Oxford Treatment Center, he contacted the owners of surrounding properties for permission to install some of the bluebird boxes on areas around to the campus.
According to the North American Bluebird Society, nesting boxes hung along prescribed routes help bluebird populations to grow and thrive. To best attract bluebirds, the boxes must have the right depth and entry-hole diameter. They also must be hung at a specified height, preferably facing southeast. And they must be at an appropriate distance from each other, since bluebirds are territorial during nesting season.
In addition to the bluebird boxes, Oxford Treatment Center’s maintenance team has also begun building and installing wood duck houses, to attract the beautiful migratory birds to areas around the center’s private lake. Such wildlife conservation projects are rooted in another central tenant of recovery — giving back.
“We’re here to be stewards of the earth,” Russell said. “If we can help a little bluebird along its way, that’s a worthwhile effort.”