The Love Shack

The Love Shack

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Promise

A few weeks back Angie and I met up with the Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society board members in Brantford. Angie is on the board. Me, I'm the driver... and I am totally okay with that (just saying). A few days before I had inquired about buying some boxes and they were provided for me. Four new ones, all ready to go. Bill Read, the founder of the OEBS also gave me a few older boxes to do as I wish; meaning touch up and set up where I wanted.


I'm going back and forth in my mind with locations for the new boxes. Since they are in public places and I haven't the highest of faith in humanity, I worry about where they will go. It's the main reason I have turned down a number of people who have offered to help me the last while, offering to buy me needed items for these projects, especially the Forgotten Land. Funny how in this same paragraph I mention my lack of faith in humanity, eh? Ha ha!

This week I cleaned up one of the boxes. I threw a coat of paint on it as well. A while back I was asking for anyone with some old exterior wood paint, in neutral colors, if they could spare some. It wasn't so much about the money being spent, but trying to keep this as cheap as possible, plus maybe help someone get rid of an old paint can or two. Well, recently I had to paint our porch, which meant buying some exterior wood paint. I've got some left over for other projects including painting a few boxes.

Today I went into Lambton and I've added a fourth box. That reddish box in the photo above is now this one here.


It's close to this box. About 15 ft away and on the other side of a large bush.


I am trying to leave the doors open on these boxes in order to deter mice from nesting inside. Even more so to keep Squirrels from chewing the holes open, thinking it may be a good place to hide out (or nest). We lost a few boxes last winter because of just that. The entry holes get chewed open enough to allow a Squirrel to "sort of" get inside, only to realize they cannot fit. Unfortunately the box is now not very good for a bird either. Sure they could try to nest inside but it would most likely fail as the eggs could easily be predated upon. You may recall that happened in Area One this year with a box we discovered that was long forgotten about by the organization. It's entry hole was chewed open. We found the box and nest after the Swallows had set up, laying 6 eggs inside. All were taken by something, Grackle or Jay is what I suspect from some observations.

Anyway, what I have noticed the last couple visits is someone has been going and closing the doors. I know they mean well, thinking these are birds' homes year round. It could be a losing battle for me so I'm thinking of investing in some metal protection rings at the entry holes to deter the Squirrels. I will worry about mice in the Spring, if any try to live within.

So, now for what really makes me title this blog "PROMISE"...

As I was setting up the new box, I heard a somewhat familiar bird call up the hill. I'm pretty good with some bird calls, especially the ones at home, or ones I really adore out in the field. Can you guess what bird I heard?


If you guessed Eastern Bluebird, you are correct. Funny because I've probably had no more than thirty encounters with Eastern Bluebirds since getting into birds a decade or so ago but I know that call.

I saw one in the area on September 12th.


I was still stoked to hear the call at this moment shy of one month later. I'm texting Angie and telling her what is going on. I quickly set the box set up, raced back to the truck and got my camera and binoculars. It took me a bit of searching but I found the bird high up in a tree.


It called a few times, then it flew off. The bird headed east, which funny enough is the direction of our house perhaps two thousand feet over. So darn close to home in the big picture. The bird returned, landing on a hydro pole, with a large catch of some kind of insect in it's mouth. It had a feast. Then landed on a wire below.


The bird I saw a few weeks ago spent a lot of time in this same spot. I'm betting it is the same bird.

Bluebirds in Toronto is not a common thing. We can see them during both migration periods but rarely outside of those two windows. Interesting that this bird is still with us weeks later. Will it overwinter? Is it just taking it's time? Bluebirds do overwinter in some parts of Southern Ontario, so not to fret over this one.

Male Eastern Bluebird we saw in Bronte Creek, January 2017. There was at least 6 adult birds in the area.


We still have many weeks of Autumn to go. Then hopefully not too long of a Winter this time around before we see Spring, and birds returning to the area to nest. Seeing this Bluebird here at the Lambton site does give me promise that maybe 2019 I will luck out and have a nesting pair again. This also inspires me to get back over to the Forgotten Land where Bluebirds nested in 2017 and get some things done. I did inform the organization that I'm not waiting for them anymore. It won't be a big project but 4 to 6 boxes will do. I have the boxes, now to find me some more t-bars.

I must not have promoted my last nest blog which has some numbers you might want to see from this past season. See here.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Area One - final tally for 2018

Finally, I got up to Area One, met my friend Jimmy, and we inspected those couple boxes to finish off the year. All were empty so it's safe to say that the late nest with 3 eggs in box #8 and the 4 eggs in the re-nest of #11 all hatched, and the birds fledged.


Upon cleaning out #11, there was nothing beneath this nest to say what happened to the previous nest. If you may recall, there was 6 eggs and when I returned weeks later, only one large juvenile Tree Swallow. My next visit, hoping to clean the nest out, and see with my own eyes if the eggs did not hatch or the 5 young perished, I found a re-nest with 4 new eggs. To be fair, I only counted that 1 hatched bird from the initial 6 eggs in the end. No sense in upping my counts for anything, it's not a competition.

It was a very warm walk through Area One today, in some jungle like foliage.


We did clean out a few other boxes where Wrens set up or created dummy nests, some after the Swallows left. A bizarre thing I've not seen since starting to monitor nest boxes, meaning so many sudden Wren nests. I know we had 3 active pairs for sure but found traces to say six boxes had something going on (maybe more when I do a sweep later in the fall).

So, final tally is 71 fledged Tree Swallows through 14 nests. We suffered more loss this year with eggs than ever before, but we also had a great year for fledges. I hate that this blog is coming out so late now, so many weeks after the birds left; but between the ridiculous heat and humidity, plus the wild parsnip growing in some spots, I/we just let things be for a while. I had collected enough data and wasn't worrying too hard about the last couple nests since I had egg counts at the very least.

Lastly, I bought myself a post driver tool.


It will be $60 well spent even if I only drive in the 7 t-bars I have here at home, and set up 7 new boxes in a couple areas. I'm debating on the Forgotten Land for one just because of that "organization". I know I want to put another one or two up in the Lambton site. I also have another area in mind I would like to experiment with. Sure I have 7 t-bars, but do I have 7 nest boxes to go with them, seeing as I need to replace a couple now in the Forgotten Land? No, but there's time to work on that.

Enough rambling. I will be back again in due time.

Thanks for following me in the 2018 season.

Friday, August 17, 2018

I'm Still Here

The nesting season is done, has been for weeks now. It's been brutally hot and humid, which hasn't helped me in getting up to Area One to check those last couple boxes, one being a late nest and a re-nest in the other. Also wild parsnip has spread in the area this Summer, and with the heat, I'm just not into covering myself from head to toe to get to those boxes. We've talked about moving some before next nesting season, making them easier to get to. Hopefully this becomes a reality.

As for closer to home. One of the boxes in the Forgotten Land now has a split down the front of the box. It will have to be replaced. It is one of the original boxes I salvaged so really, it owes me nothing. I'm happy to have gotten 2 nesting seasons out of and it helped bring 13 new Tree Swallows into our world.


In Lambton the lone box away from the other two I found knocked over. I know I drove this t-bar into the ground with my bare hands as the soil is rather soft. I will be dealing with this in the fall too. I don't want to move the box, or not too far anyway, as having Chickadees start a nest in there shows promise (or is it high hopes) to use another year. As I key this, it would make sense to me that an animal knocked it over, possibly a Raccoon trying to investigate it, because the box is on a steep slope that I even have difficulty climbing to check.


This was just a quick blog, like a check in, and to let you all know I'm still here.

I will be back again soon enough with my finds in those Area One boxes, plus anything I do to the other locations.

Cheers!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Area One - July 2, 2018

I put on my big boy pants and braved the high humidity this morning to check all 21 nest boxes in Area One today. Brutal about sums things up. It was over 30 c with the humidex when I started my walk at 8 this morning. To make things worse, I was almost fully covered from head to toe. Rubber boots, long socks, long pants tucked into those socks, long sleeved shirt, hat and a few pairs of gloves on hand for when need be. This was all about sun protection, insect protection and toxic plant protection. I've had my share of mosquito bites this year, I don't want to pick up any ticks, I don't want a sun burn, and I experienced my first ever slight burn from wild parsnip in 2017 and don't need another. I was a sweaty mess early on but I didn't end my outing with any of the above mentioned woes.

I expected most of the Tree Swallow nests to be done. I was going to acknowledge any active House Wren nests but leave them be. There was a few surprises throughout my inspections today and I'm wondering how to do this blog now because there's a lot of boxes to cover.

Perhaps individually? I hope I can match my cell photos to the noted boxes. Let's give this a go.

16M - still has just one lone egg inside. It's safe to assume this will never hatch. I feel bad for the pair of adults who are still on this nest, they were swooping my head as I took this photo from the entry.


15M - had 6 Tree Swallow eggs, all hatched, all young birds fledged.


I cleaned out the nest box. FYI - any empty nests I found through my walk, the boxes were cleaned out.


14M - active House Wren nest, adults seen and heard.

13M - had 6 Tree Swallow eggs, all hatched and it would seem all fledged. What I encountered is a Wren nest being built over top of the Swallow nest. I did not pull it apart but there was no stench emitting and I'd say it's safe to say all the young Swallows made it out. Of course I will inspect this box more in depth when cleaning it out in the fall. I do not think I will find any bird remains between the two nests.


12M - had 6 Tree Swallow eggs, all hatched but I found one egg with a pip (small hole). The other 5 birds successfully fledged. I wanted to take a photo of the egg but lost it in the tall grass because I set it on top of the nest box and it rolled away almost immediately. Homer says "DOH!"


11M - this is a box with much to tell. 6 eggs initially. Last check roughly 2 weeks ago I saw 1 large juvenile Tree Swallow in the nest and no other birds. There was the stench of death emitting from the box. I was certain I would be cleaning out the nest today and counting the deceased young. Well look what mom and dad have done, they are having a second nest. 4 eggs are inside.


10M - had 5 eggs, all hatched, all young fledged. Weird is the lack of feathers in this nest box unlike most others.


9M - no birds claimed this nest box, it's remained empty

8M - is a box I thought to be an abandoned nest but last check there was 3 eggs inside. This check we have hatched birds who are still fairly young. I took this photo from the entry hole and did not pry into their home for a harder look if there was more than 3 birds.


7M - had 6 Tree Swallow eggs, all hatched, all the young have fledged.


6M - nest box was packed full of Deer Mice nesting material. We were going to evict them until we saw wee young inside. We let them be. I stayed away from this box as this is where the wild parsnip grows and I will wait until later in the fall to inspect again.

5M - 5 Tree Swallow eggs, all hatched and it would appear all fledged. Interesting is House Wrens have begun building a nest on top of the old Swallow nest. This nest is newer and still shallow. I could get a better look at the bottom. I should add that this box was screwed to the t-bar improperly by someone, and we could only peek in through the hole. So today, before opening it, once I knew there was no Swallows inside, I took the box off the t-bar and screwed on properly so we now have access.


4M - had 6 Tree Swallow eggs, all hatched, all young successfully fledged.


3M - House Wren nest, did not seem active today but I chose to leave be this visit.

2M - had 6 Tree Swallow eggs, all hatched, all young successfully fledged.


1M - formerly the Chickadee nest, now an active House Wren nest. I observed adult bird flying to and from nest box.

I was happy to not find any dead Swallows through the 16 boxes I checked; even though I am pretty sure there are 5 below that new nest with 4 eggs. As I walked I remembered last year, finding the remains of that Bearded Dragon. A bit later in my walk I happened to look down and found something else dead on the ground. It's a Song Sparrow. The bird has been picked clean by whatever and/or insects. The feathers are still attached to most of it's body though.


I did have a lot of company in way of young Eastern Cottontails. Funny creatures who are rather naive. They would be out on the paths and suddenly freeze. I would have to pass them by to get to my next box, and the rabbits would not hop away until I was less than 5 ft from them. Cute little guys, eh?


From here I moved on to the lone box we've listed as 1W. I blogged about it recently. There was 6 eggs inside but they got predated by something. I repaired the box as mentioned in the blog. So far the birds have not re-nested. Odd is that while I checked this box, a pair of angry Tree Swallows started swooping my head, much like the day I was installing that plate. Are they going to nest? It seems a lot of time has passed with nothing now. Maybe they are nesting in a natural cavity nearby? Unless there is yet another box that I have not discovered in this area. There is no record of this box with the organization, so no sense even trying to find out from them if there are more.

I'm in the home stretch now. One more area with 4 boxes to go. It was here that I decided to head back to the truck, take a moment to cool down, chug some water which I should have brought with me. I also moved the truck closer to this last area, having to illegally park somewhere on the grass since the gates were closed.

1P - the Love Shack. It was not used this year.

2P - Wood Duck Alfie's box. It had 6 Tree Swallow eggs inside. All hatched. All young fledged. The box was cleaned out... after I took this photo.


3P - the House Sparrow nest. Some of you may recall I had a little mishap here the last visit with an early fledged Sparrow. I knew 110% that there would be no young birds inside today but I was still cautious. I ended up having "mom" come flying out but no young. She was giving me proper s**t. The fact she was inside told me they are re-nesting. No sense in trying to see what's going on in there with an egg count now. Holy developed or what?!?! They had 5 the first go. I will assume all fledged due to the lack of any smells. I do wonder how many they will have this 2nd time around?


Here's a shot from the entry hole.


Lastly 4P - a Tree Swallow nest with 5 eggs. All hatched. All fledged.


The nest box was cleaned out just like the others.


I left the remnants on the ground. Imagine if everything went perfectly this year, and the birds nested in an orderly fashion, this would have been my last nest to drop on the ground for 2018.


I will return in 4 to 5 weeks for another visit. I know I won't have to check all the boxes or at the very least, not look too hard into most of them.

Quick numbers about Area One as of July 2, 2018, hoping I have not missed anything.

14 Tree Swallow nests plus one 2nd nest
77 eggs laid
6 predated from 1W
2 did not hatch, 1 from 16M and 1 from 12M
5 presumed dead in box 11M
3 young that will hopefully fledge in a few weeks
4 eggs that will hopefully hatch and all fledge
57 successfully fledged
5 active House Wren nests which is the most we've ever had, prior 1, possibly 2. This may impact Tree Swallows in future years as Wrens can be destructive to other cavity nesting birds.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Lambton is Done

I checked the Lambton Tree Swallow box this morning. Actually I have passed it a few times this week as I knew it would be any day soon for the birds to leave the box. Sometime between yesterday afternoon and this morning they did. Yesterday morning there was still activity at the box and I could see an adult bird's head sticking out of the entry hole. Since I knew they were close to fledge time, I would view from a distance and leave them be.


This morning though, no birds to be seen nor heard. I still made a slow ninja-like approach to the box. It was very quiet. As I neared the box, I caught a whiff of something... dead bird. I placed my hand over the hole even though I was certain it was empty of any living birds, and I tapped the side with my screwdriver. Nothing. Even as I began to open the box, I still kept my free hand over the hole just in case. The smell was stronger now and flies began to fly out of the nest.

I pull out the nest and I see there is one dead juvenile Swallow. He's been dead for a number of days now judging by his size and the decay. I had a moment of sadness for him but reminded myself his brothers and sisters made it out.


I decided to lift his body and inspect the nest further. It was after this I found one of his siblings dead beneath him. This one died early on as you can see the difference between the two. Damn!


Who knows what the cause was for either birds' death? It's best not to think too hard into it now since there was no obvious signs to anything.

I cleaned the box out, setting the little ones in the grass, knowing what is left of them will feed other things. The nest remains will deteriorate and blow away over time.


Three out of five young Swallows successfully fledged. That's moderate success for the first season of having a couple boxes on this slope in the Lambton area. It keeps me in check too, since I had a fantastic 12 for 12 fledged birds in the Forgotten Land this year. Area One is up next and I know it's going to be full of ups and downs.

As you can see from this blog entry, cleaning out the nest boxes is important. It may not matter to some people what nests inside; how many fledged, how many died. But over time, of not cleaning them out, imagine what the inside of the box turns into? If I am able to educate and influence one person to do something with a neglected nest box trail they know about (even if it means taking the boxes down), or is planning on setting up a few boxes somewhere, then this nest blog has been worth it. Taking care of the boxes helps take care of the birds.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Forgotten Land - Success

On June 26th I checked the nest boxes in the Forgotten Land. Success sums it up nicely. Both nests are empty now. All the young have fledged. 7 from one box and 5 from the other.

As you can see, no birds got left behind from the nest of 7. I cleaned out the box but that may not be it for this box though. A pair of adult Tree Swallows were swooping my head. I'm not sure if it's the same pair possibly going to nest again or ??? I've been told it's unlikely the same would do a 2nd nest. There is another box very near here but it's still empty. I will check back in a couple weeks just because.


The nest of 5 now empty.


No birds got left behind here either.


I've always got my gloves come this chore of cleaning them out. I really should get a mask too. I do my best to not be in the face of the wind though as I am sure breathing in fecal dust isn't good for the lungs. Thank goodness for having a long arm reach! Sometimes I use a stick but not today, just my gloved hand.


I also cleaned out the abandoned nest.


The Forgotten Land didn't generate the excitement like it did last year. Just because the Bluebirds did not come back, doesn't make this spot any less special. Tree Swallows count too! I expect to up my nest count here in 2019 as I intend to turn my plan into a reality this fall.

I recently did a very short entry regarding something from Area One but never shared it. For anyone reading my adventures who wait for my public posts, here is the link. It may help fill in something with my next follow up coming next week.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Repair

Quick note, earlier this week I went to Area One and attached a plastic plate to the one box I mentioned in my last blog. It had been predated and all 6 eggs were removed. I figure the chewed up entry hole allowed something easier access to the nest. Upon this visit though, I noticed much of the nest material was on the ground (it was still in the box my previous visit). So whoever returned for another have at the nest, or possibly another predator. I suspect a bird, like a Grackle or Blue Jay, may be the culprit this time. The t-bar here is heavily greased.

I have my doubts the Swallows will try again here this season; none were seen this time unlike just days before when the adults were swooping my head. I will be happy to be proven wrong though.

Stay tuned!