Connecting with wildlife in one's backyard is being made easy by the Pennsylvania Game Commission through its annual bluebird nesting box sale at its headquarters located at 2001 Elmerton Ave., just off the Progress Ave. exit of Interstate 81, Harrisburg. Both assembled boxes and kits are available for $7, and sales will continue while supplies last, and office hours are Monday-Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. and may be ordered by phone by callomg the PGC office at 1-888-888-3459.

"Bluebirds are early nesters, so now is the time put up new nest boxes, as well as to clean and repair existing boxes," PGC Wildlife Diversity Division chief Dan Brauning said. "These bluebird boxes enable Pennsylvanians to help wildlife in a natural way.

"Building nesting boxes is a great project for individuals, families or civic organizations interested in connecting with wildlife. These box designs are proven to attract bluebirds and other native species, such as tree swallows and house wrens."

Bluebirds live in open country, and are a beautiful songbird native to Pennsylvania. They are cavity nesters and have become less common due to a lack of suitable nest sites.

Many nest sites have been lost through changing land-use practices, as well as to urban and suburban sprawl, but the introductions of house sparrows and starlings in 1851 and 1890 have been the primary reasons for the bluebirds' decline, as these non-native species took over native bluebird nesting cavities. Bluebird boxes offered by the PGC include an opening that is the prescribed one-and-one-half inches in diameter to preclude starlings from being able to enter.

House sparrows, however, still may be able to enter the boxes, and if this occurs, the house sparrow nests should be removed immediately. Boxes should be erected on a free-standing pole three to five feet above the ground facing south, if possible and facing a nearby tree or fence where young birds can safely land on their initial flights from the box.

To reduce predation and competition from other species, no perch should be placed on the box; as they are not needed by bluebirds. Boxes placed in pairs, about 20 feet apart, may help reduce competition from swallows.

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Sportsmen have the opportunity to support youth educational opportunities by attending the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association 28th Annual Sportsmen's Auction, Sunday, beginning at 2 p.m., on the closing day of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg.

This year's show concludes today, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information and tickets, visit the website at www.easternsportshow.com [1].

More than $350,000 has been raised by the POWA through these auctions, with 100 percent of the proceeds funding programs that introduce young people to the outdoors through youth field days, conservation camps, shooting events, fishing derbies, public school classrooms and others events. For several years, POWA grants have helped underwrite youth events sponsored by the Schuylkill County Sportsmen's Association and member clubs.

Highlights of the 2011 auction include a Smith & Wesson .460-caliber stainless steel revolver, a Coleman canoe, an original acrylic by award-winning artist Gerald Putt and a two-person, eight-pheasant hunt by Martz's Gap View Hunting Preserve.

For information, to donate items and to apply for a grant, contact auction chairman Kermit Henning at KGHenning@aol.com [2].

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Jonathan Sauers, promoter of the Greater Philadelphia Outdoor Sportshow, is today's guest of Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association member Doyle Dietz on "Experience The Outdoors," 7:30-8 a.m. on WLSH 1410-AM, Sunday, from 9:30-10 a.m., on WMGH, 105.5-FM and on the Web at www.wmgh.com [3] by clicking the "Experience The Outdoors" link.

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A trap shoot will be held, Thursday, Feb. 17, beginning at 6 p.m., at Orwigsburg Gun Club, Gun Club Road, off Route 443 East, Orwigsburg. For information, e-mail jafone@comcast.net [4].

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This year's Greater Philadelphia Outdoor Sportshow will be held, Thursday-Sunday, Feb. 17-20, at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, Oaks. Show hours are: Thursday and Friday, 12:30-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information and tickets, visit the website at www.sportshows.com/Philly [5].

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This year's Schuylkill County Pheasants Forever banquet will be held, Saturday, Feb. 26, with doors opening at 4:30 p.m., at the Community Fire Company, Landingville. For information, call Lou Dallatore at 570-345-4337.

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This year's United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania Winter Rendezvous Banquet will be held, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 26 and 27, at Sheraton Harrisburg, with the Saturday dinner beginning at 6:30 p.m. For information and reservations, call 800-279-2024 or email ubofpa@yahoo.com [6].

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Schuylkill Spurs Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation meets, Thursday, March. 3, beginning at 7:30 p.m., at West Penn Archery, South Tamaqua. For information, call Kevin Titus at 570-668-5903.

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Schuylkill Spurs Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation Banquet and Non-Perishable Food Drive will be held, Saturday, March 12, with doors opening at 5 p.m., at Community Fire Company, Landingville. For information, call Jeff Post at 570-366-7783 or Kevin Titus at 570-668-5903.