Daniel Reilly, a boy scout of Troop 423 of the Plainview-Old Bethpage area, is currently working towards his Eagle Scout rank. As part of the process to reach the highest achievement in the Boy Scouts of America program, he was tasked to work on a project that involves giving back to community through improvement projects, charity drives or general fundraising.
“I wasn’t sure at first what I wanted to do for the project,” said Reilly. “But I looked into it and saw the work of the ranger who helped me with this project.”
He teamed up with Ranger Eric Powers, who works for the Center for Environmental Education and Discovery (CEED), and serves as host of the Town of North Hempstead’s nature program Off the Trail. But he is also the main keeper of the town’s Northern Bob White Quail program. Over the last two years, the town has been raising these quails, which are native to Long Island, to combat the tick population in the town’s parks without using any pesticides.
In the past, after the quail were hatched and raised for several weeks inside a brooder at the “Yes We Can” Community Center in Westbury, the chicks had to then be transferred many miles away to Caleb Smith Park in Smithtown for six to eight weeks so that they could mature and learn to fly. To make things easier, Reilly and Powers thought it would be a great idea to build a quail flight pen so that way they can keep the quails local instead of being sent away.
“First, I had to make a plan of how to build it and what materials to use,” said Reilly. “We also had to set a price for the project as well.”
Among the most important steps in prepping the pen was getting the necessary funds to get the project in gear. After doing some fundraisers, Reilly bought materials at Home Depot and got his troop to come help him build the 8×12-foot pen, which was constructed in just a few weeks at Clark Botanic Garden in Albertson.
“[When it was finished,] I felt really happy and accomplished that I got it done,” said Reilly.
The brooder, which is located near the greenhouse in the garden, will hold up to 100 fledgling quail. The quail pen will also function as an educational tool for visitors to the garden. Informational signs will explain to the public what the quail project is all about, as well as illustrate the life cycle of the Northern Bob White Quail.
Shortly after the pen’s completion, the town held a ceremony to present an award to Reilly for the hard work he put in to building the pen. Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth noted how much it means to the town that these quails can grow up in sight and have it serve as a learning tool for local residents and children.
“We are so excited about the town finally having its own flight pen for our fledgling quail right here in our own backyard,” said Bosworth in a statement. “It will be a wonderful educational experience for visitors who come to Clark Botanic Garden.”
“It was a great experience,” said Reilly. “Getting to have that whole ceremony was great. I love the outdoors, and part of the scouts responsibility is to help the outdoors.”
Along with the program in the Town of North Hempstead, Powers also works with dozens of schools across Long Island that set up incubators in their classrooms and raise the quail as part of their animal life cycle studies that teaches science, environmental studies and responsible stewardship.
For more information on the quail pen, call 516-869-6311 or visit www.northhempsteadny.gov.