For Westborough man, building bluebird homes is a labor of love
By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Westborough resident Marty Newark turned 90 on June 9 and while he was looking forward to celebrating with his family, there was one wish he really had in mind. Newark hoped to finish his legacy project of building and installing 100 nesting boxes for bluebirds. And thanks to a local Boy Scout, Matthew Buffo, that dream became a reality on Newark’s birthday.
Newark was introduced to the Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School 8th grader in February when Buffo came for a hospice visit with his mother Leslie through St. Luke’s Parish. After the two spent time together, the conversation turned to discussions about the bluebirds and how Newark had already built and installed 58 nesting boxes scattered throughout the town at St. Luke’s cemeteries, Smith Street, Tufts Veterinary University in Grafton, and private homes. Buffo was committed to helping him meet his goal and knew he could help build the additional 42 boxes. He decided to take on the challenge as his Eagle Scout project.
Newark moved to Westborough in 1960, where he and his wife Faith raised four children. Although he is home-bound and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, he is a bundle of energy and has a wealth of information to share. He is most passionate about the reintroduction of the Eastern bluebird to this area.
“After my beloved wife, Faith, passed away, I was in need of a distraction. Growing up in New Jersey, I remember seeing spectacular birds, but the one that left a lasting impression for its beauty was the bluebird,” Newark said.
He noted that many things have contributed to this species almost becoming extinct, including pesticide use, a lack of nesting places and predators.
The nesting boxes are built with certain specifications. They consist of a wire grid floor and vented roof with a latch to close and seal the front portion of the house. The hole is a specific diameter so as not to allow other species of birds inside. This also deters other animals from being able to reach in and retrieve eggs or fledglings that have hatched.
Newark has researched extensively on the nesting structures, both building and caring for them, as well as placement. The birds tend to prefer areas such as open meadows, cemeteries, parks, pastures, and old orchards.
“It’s crucial that anyone accepting responsibility for these nesting boxes take their job very seriously. They have to check on the boxes, keep them clean, discourage predators and make sure when they are installed that they are mounted several feet above the ground… They may even need to be repaired at times,” Newark explained.
Buffo and his team constructed the remaining 42 boxes, and installed the 100th bluebird box on June 9, Newark’s birthday.
“I am really excited to be participating in this project,” Buffo said. “It means a lot to me. Mr. Newark has also taught me so much. I have learned to persevere, manage a team and more.”
Buffo noted that he has received support from his troop, Troop 100 of Westborough; the Westborough Community Land Trust, the project sponsor; Westborough Rotary and Civic Clubs; and Garner Girls Sawmill who donated the lumber.
Newark’s caregiver Karen Wiersma added, “We are so excited that the Boy Scouts are doing this. It is helping to build a community and has generated friendships with so many people coming together to make this happen. Marty can guide them and pass this to the next generation. He is so loved by so many. This will be his legacy.”
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