Delaware resident Dick Tuttle has devoted his life to helping the birds of central Ohio, and though the birds can't thank him, his community has.
Tuttle recently was chosen as one of three North Olentangy Watershed Conservation Award winners, earning a 2014 Environmental Excellence Award.
He was nominated for the award by his chapter of the conservation organization Izaak Walton League of America. He is known for maintaining bird boxes at local wildlife locations such as Delaware and Alum Creek state parks, the Olentangy Environmental Control Center and Delaware Wildlife Area. His nest boxes have been used to raise more than 45,000 native birds since 1967.
Tuttle's interest in the environment started decades ago as he was being raised in rural Prospect.
"As a kid, I was very outdoorsy," he said.
When Tuttle was a young student, World War II veterans came into his school to teach gun safety and conservation. To this day, he remembers what those men taught him.
"If you harvest wildlife, you should put something back," Tuttle said.
That message inspired him to build his first birdhouse in eighth grade, after which he fell in love with birds, especially bluebirds.
"(The bluebird) is part of our culture," he said. "Listen to country-western music, poetry ... the bluebird was a big deal."
Tuttle was the first education chairman for the North American Bluebird Society and one of the Ohio Bluebird Society's earliest presidents.
His life didn't always revolve around birds. Tuttle taught for 30 years, both ninth-grade physical science in Marion and middle school life science at Big Walnut. Still, his passion for wildlife shone through.
"I took (the students) outside more than any other teacher except phys-ed teachers," he said.
Tuttle also has spent 26 years teaching a Bluebird Trail Management class at Ohio Wesleyan's OWjL camp.
But since that class requires only a few weeks of commitment, Tuttle now can devote the vast majority of his time to his bird boxes.
"I'm retired, but this is my job," he said.
Indeed, he must check on the boxes nearly every day in the summer. He even goes out in a canoe to raise the boxes above flood level along Alum Creek.
All this work produces masses of data, through which he can track the bluebird population and even see some of the effects of climate change.
"With respect to Al Gore, he would love to have my data," Tuttle said.
Tuttle's hard work paid off when he was recognized and given his award June 21 at the Northern Olentangy Watershed Festival.
A conservationist through and through, Tuttle said he particularly liked the festival because "it was near the river that they're trying to protect."