ALMONTE -- Birds are a welcome sight at any time.  But during the pandemic, glimpsing a chickadee or cardinal at the feeder is a much needed gust of wind beneath our wings.

So, it seems fitting to say 'thanks' to our feathered-friends.  We need to find a way to make the birds feel at home. 

In Almonte, Ont., a group of enthusiastic community builders are doing just that, by shaping elaborate nests—birdhouses that shatter all traditional stereotypes. 

Real estate for roosting has never looked so good.

"We had no idea it was going to explode the way it has," said Almonte resident Glenda Jones.

"We’re overjoyed with how the community has gotten on board."

Jones and her friend Barbara Carroll hatched a fun fundraising idea back in snowy February.  Over a glass of wine, they came up with a plan for a birdhouse auction. 

The event would help a local community organization while giving pandemic-weary Almonte residents something creative to do.

The Birdhouse Blowout Auction

Neither was sure the idea would catch on.

"We had said if by the end of February, we haven’t gotten ten birdhouses, we'll just cancel the thing. And then they started coming in," said Carroll.

The co-organizers were pleasantly surprised.

"We’re over 35 birdhouses now. Everyone in the community from an 8-year-old to an 88-year-old. From little tiny ones, to great big ones," said Jones.

"And it’s been so satisfying to have people enjoy what they’re doing and want to share it with us," she said.

The birdhouses are crafted in all shapes and sizes.  Every piece is an invitation for highflyers to live in style.

"My bird house is a mosaic piece. It was designed by my son who is a designer at Lee Valley Tools," said Jones.

"It’s meant to not have one square angle on it anywhere. It’s got mirrors and depending on where the sun is, you get glitter all over the yard. It’s just a joyous little piece of work."

Birdhouse Blowout Auction

Barbara Carroll used her skills as a fibre artist for her creation.

"I had a friend who was getting rid of a piece of fibre art and I had a friend who was getting rid of an old birdhouse. So, I covered the old birdhouse with fabric," said Carroll.

After Marc Rochon built his first birdhouse some time ago, customers started lining up.

"So, the next thing you know, I’m building 10-20 birdhouses," he said.

For the auction, he’s going with a nautical theme.

"This birdhouse is a lighthouse built with recycled barn board that I’ve salvaged," said Rochon

"It’s got a removable, hinged bottom.  I had a couple of telephone insulators and I thought they’d be perfect for lights.  I put a railing on it, so I’m trying to make it look authentic," said Rochon.

Neil McBride and his friends at the Naismith Men’s Shed have crafted and donated seven creations.

"We want to give back to the community in any way we can," said McBride.

"We had the wood and all we had to do was take it home to make the birdhouses.   We hope they can raise sufficient funds to help their bursary," he said. 

The Cliff Bennett Nature Bursary is awarded annually by the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists, a local organization encouraging people to enjoy and learn more about the wonders of the natural world.  

Birdhouse Blowout Auction

The organization’s young naturalist program is held at the picturesque Mill of Kintail. Money raised through the birdhouse auction will help support a local graduating high school student.

"It’s designed to encourage kids to go into studies that have to do with the environment and nature, science, biology, or forest management, either at community college or university," said Brenda Boyd, a spokesperson for the Mississippi Valley Field Naturalists.

"We’re extremely appreciative of what Barb and Glenda and all the artists are doing because it’s going to help one or two students go on to post-secondary education," said Boyd.

Boyd also plans to make a few bids of her own.

"I love them. They’re so fun.  I want one," she laughed.

And if you want one, you can go online at auction runs from April 12 to 23.