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Bluebirds should have no trouble finding a home in Western New York.

The Central and Western New York Chapter of Safari Club International began a house-building effort recently, calling it the Bluebird 5,000 Project. SCI coordinated the efforts of Boy and Girl Scout troops, BOCES students and many conservation organizations.

Those efforts expanded and nesting box numbers have nearly doubled. "We should have more than 10,000 boxes completed by Feb. 29," said Bob Keicher, SCI project coordinator.

The project went on display Friday with 500 bluebird houses exhibited during the Census 2000 dedication at the U.S. Dept. of Commerce Bureau of Census building on Ridge Lea Road in Amherst. Amherst Town Supervisor Susan Grelick presided at the ceremonies. Jack F. Quinn (R-Hamburg), Thomas M. Reynolds (R-Clarence), John LaFalce (D-Niagara Falls), and Robin Schimminger (D-Kenmore) were on hand to support the expanded SCI bluebird project.

Bluebirds, the New York State bird, require space and housing well above ground. Landowners interested in putting up a nesting box -- free to a good yard -- can call 668-1353.

G&R closing

Outdoor stores come and go. Operators, from the small bait-and-tackle shops to national chains, find it tough to survive in the business of selling specialized equipment to anglers, hunters and trappers. Ray Kegler has done just that -- for 54 years.

Kegler partnered with Gordon Ullenbrook in 1946 and opened G&R Tackle in West Seneca. They moved to 2895 Seneca St. in 1951. For more than half a century, G&R has supplied outdoors folk with rare items. Tiniest trout flies to the largest big-game rifle cartridges crossed the counter, along with good, first-hand advice on how to fish, hunt or trap.

Last week Kegler announced G&R will close, unless a buyer can be found. "Since I began telling people we would be closing, many of our regular customers recalled when they bought their first fishing rod or hunting gun at G&R. My retirement from here will be both happy and sad," he reflected.

Kegler wants to let his customers know, especially those who received gift certificates, that they are closing but will honor those purchases. "We will continue to take special-purchase orders until Feb. 1," he said. After that, the store will remain open for liquidation until April 1.

Ullenbrook, 82, retired from the business 15 years ago, but Kegler, in part because of the loyal customers he has had over the years, kept the store going. "I'm in good health and that's the way I want to leave," said Kegler, who turns 76 in March. Well known for his precious metal panning trips throughout the Western states and in Alaska, he looks forward to these trips as well as his area hunting and fishing forays. It's no small coincidence that he will, as he says, "turn the key for the last time" on April 1 -- the opening day of inland trout season.

Trouter tributed

Rick Kustich of Grand Island has been included as one of the "fly fishing gurus" in Russell A. Hopper's new book, "Angler Profiles: A collection of Some Legendary Anglers' Favorite Flies, Foods, Rods & Waters." For a copy, send $28.20 to: The Hope Group, 510 Fairmont Ave., Box 62, Bowling Green, Ky. 42102-0062.

Kustich, along with brother Jerry, just published "Fly Fishing for Great Lakes Steelhead" ($39.95). The book is available at most fly shops and book stores or by calling 773-5284 or visiting the website:

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