Ogden Nature Center offers contest for the birds

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(Source: Brandi Bosworth) Handcrafted birdhouses, like this entry from last year’s contest, line the Ogden Nature Center’s Birdhouse Trail.

Springtime at the Ogden Nature Center means 152 acres of wildlife, education and some of the world’s most unique handcrafted birdhouses.

“If somebody has never visited here before and arrived for the first time, it is a wonderful surprise,” said Mary McKinley, executive director of the Ogden Nature Center. “It’s actually beautiful year round, but with the spring temperatures and the sunshine and warmth, it’s a very pleasant place to come take a walk.”

The community currently has the opportunity to create a home for Utah’s avian population and enter the 21st Annual Birdhouse Competition. Each participant may enter up to two birdhouses, which must be original works created completely by the exhibitor. The contest is open to all ages and has no entry fee. All entries are due the week of March 24-29.

The competition has adult, youth (unassisted) and team-family divisions. An interdisciplinary jury will judge the entries, and top winners will receive cash prizes. Participants are encouraged to use non-toxic finishes and incorporate recycled materials. An awards presentation will be held April 9, and birdhouses will go on display the following day.

Linda Babcock, chair of the Birdhouse Competition, said the goal of the event is to showcase local artists and inspire nature-friendly backyards. She suggests entrants do some research before building the birdhouses.

“They (participants) should build one that’s sturdy enough and will attract the right species, whether they want wrens or sparrows, or whatever it is they’d like to attract,” she said. “They should make their birdhouse worthy of that.”

Select birdhouses from the contest will be displayed along the Nature Center’s Birdhouse Trail, which is currently lined with more than 120 birdhouses. With past years of the competition yielding more than 80 birdhouse entries, Babcock predicted that this year will provide nice additions to the path.

“It’s really fun to walk down that Birdhouse Trail and see over 100 different ways to do a birdhouse,” Babcock said. “It’s just amazing to see all of the different things that people come up with.”

The center offers 1.5 miles of walking trails, treehouses, picnic areas, a spotting tower and a visitors center.

McKinley said her favorite part of the competition happens after the new birdhouses are installed.

“The very most fun for me is watching people walk down Birdhouse Trail and enjoy looking at them,” she said. “By the time they get to the end of Birdhouse Trail to our visitors center, it’s like there’s been a relaxation and a joy of just being here.”

Paul Vlaanderen has participated in the Birdhouse Competition multiple times. Last year, he received the Best of Show award.

“There’s really no plan to them,” he said of his birdhouses, which are often made of old barn wood or metal. “It’s just kind of something that comes together that fits the material that I have.”

Vlaanderen said his favorite part of the competition is having the chance to create something the Nature Center can display.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for young people and old people alike,” he said.

McKinley said she invites everyone to take a look at what the Ogden Nature Center has to offer. For almost 40 years, the Ogden Nature Center has worked with schools and the community to promote education of nature. McKinley said the center does this partly through its classes and programs.

“The ultimate goal is to get people comfortable in being in an outside setting, to get inspired by nature, to inspire a desire to be a good steward of our natural resources, and to provide a connection with the natural world,” she said. “So whether it’s our Earth Day celebration or a run or a concert, we always keep those goals in mind.”

The Ogden Nature Center is located at 966 W. 12th St. in Ogden. It is open six days a week all year long. The Birdhouse Competition entry form and other event information can be found at www.ogdennaturecenter.org.