The Love Shack

The Love Shack

Friday, November 17, 2017


Good things continue to happen in Area One. Many of the old nest boxes are being replaced with a Gilwood Slot style box.

Actual boxes.

Close up image I borrowed from a Google search.

Some Peterson's Bluebird boxes will also be repaired or replaced.

Actual box in Area One.

Image borrowed from a Google search.

My friends who work on site in Area One are doing a lot this fall, taking pressure off me (us) come next Spring when the birds return. Big shout out to them all!

Now I can put a little more focus on The Forgotten Land.

I've had hopes the individual I have mentioned was going to come through with a few things we communicated about over the last 7 months. We even chatted in September about the fall plans. Here we are mid-November and nothing has happened. I attempted contact two more times the last couple weeks. Nothing.

I know the thought of some 80 rotted boxes is overwhelming but I've taken a number down myself. Most are so far gone now that no bird would even attempt to use them. Many are so deep in the growth too. I made the promise I would continue to plug away over the winter and take them down.

All I've asked for is a little help and hopefully a little donation. Help would be setting up 4 to 6 new boxes, the biggest part for me would be getting some t-bars into the ground. As I mentioned, I don't have a post pounder. If I did, my recent e-mails would not sound like I was near begging for help. After that, setting up new nest boxes I could do on my own, hoping they would donate them since they gave me 2 back in the Spring. I don't mind buying a couple but since this is public property, I don't want to invest too much myself. For all I know the city could come along one day and have other plans. There's always the risk of some douche bag coming through and knocking them all down for fun.

Yes, there are approximately 80 t-bars present in the area, varying lengths. The problem is taking them out of the ground. Whoever put them in, put them in deep. Some are bent. Some are too short for my liking. That one Bluebird nest box isn't more than 4 ft from the ground. I can't take them out by hand. I suppose going in with a shovel and digging a few out is an option. But then, it's a matter of getting them back into the ground in the new chosen spots. Really a quick and easy job for a few people with proper tools. For one guy, without the tools, far from easy.

I tried to sell the individual on the no need for such a ridiculous amount of boxes as 10 to 16 would do. I would monitor and care for them in the coming years. I promised to give them all my data too. They don't really need it for anything but someone might like to know what is going on in this dumpy little forgotten area, especially if Eastern Bluebirds returned and had better success in the coming years.

I don't know what's going on, why they have not gotten back to me. I won't bash them because that's unfair and unprofessional. It does prove to me about that old saying "if you want something done, you do it yourself".

I may have to try and enlist some help from others. Problem is my Bluebird friends don't live any where near here. I know a few guys I could ask, who would help me even though some aren't into birds and nature but still would because they are my friends, but without having a post pounder, there's no point.

I've thought about going public on social media to ask for help but I can't bring myself to that. It's partially my own problem, my mistrust or perhaps "my fear" is a better term. My fear is word getting around about Bluebirds nesting here. As I've said before, "no one gives a shit about the Tree Swallows, but them Bluebirds, now that's something else". There's enough known Bluebird nest areas outside of Toronto, but next to none in the city. The thought of not having to drive 90 minutes or more for these beautiful birds on nest is very appealing. I've been asked many times where these boxes are. Can't some birds just be without all eyes upon them? The boxes are not on private property so anyone can go, do what they want, get as close as they wish, spend as much time as they want without a frown or scolding from anyone. I'm not there more than I say which is once every 10 to 14 days during the season. My time near any box is less than 5 minutes. It's unfortunate I've seen so much crap from a handful of people that I'd rather suffer in silence and tackle this on my own if I can.

Honestly, with that last paragraph, I'd like to believe it's one idiot per 100 people... meaning the majority wouldn't mess with the birds in any way. All it takes is one person though. One to harass. Hell, even one to blab to another, who may blab to another, who may tell just one more.

The area wouldn't give much bang for the buck aside from the Bluebirds to most people. There are birds. I've seen a wide variety here especially during migration. My mental list is growing but it doesn't take a lot to make me happy. I will take one or two great bird sightings without a sea of people. That is why I often hit areas less traveled and finding new areas to explore away from the crowds. That is how I've really come upon this forgotten land.

I really want to have a few things ready for next Spring. I'm excited, not impatient.

So anyone reading this, be happy for the progress in Area One and wish me luck as I work on The Forgotten Land. If you think you have a suggestion with my plight, please comment.

Did you notice I've fixed my paragraph issue? That itself is progress too!

And just when you and I thought I was done this blog...

I was ready to hit publish but then I got thinking. Uh oh! I decided to trek to the Forgotten Land and see what I could do with a shovel and a pair of gloves. I managed to take out 2 t-bars. I re-located them. I ripped up the grass and dug down a couple inches. I managed to get the t-bars about 10 inches into the ground. They need a good pounding yet. But it is some progress.

I scoped out further along the stretch of green space, figured out 3 more spots where I would like boxes to be set up. I went at a few more t-bars and I was not successful in taking them out. I dug out the ground around them, over a foot deep, and still could not pull them out. Whoever put them in, really drove them down. I tried and started bending them, so I stopped. Last year I actually broke one trying to take it out; which almost sent me flying as it snapped. So I gave up. Now the search is on for a couple t-bars and I might just say "F-IT" and go buy them. Stay tuned.

Here's a few pictures from this morning.

Relocated post with old nest box moved.  That box will be coming down, the hole is too small for Swallows and Bluebirds.  Another old box in the background I may leave up for next Spring.

You can see a green nest box I set up earlier in the year off in the distance.

I swear every time I visit I find yet another box lost in the growth.

This box is very special to me.  That blue band of tape should give you all the hint you need.

Another box deep in the growth.  It's never been used.

Natural nest that a pair of Flickers set up shop in this year.  I'm not sure how things went as another part of the tree came down during the nest period.  I saw and heard Flickers in the area but not again in or near the cavity.  Maybe next year?

Two Flickers this morning.  Are they going to over winter?

A couple more boxes lost in the growth that spreads through this area.

I thought I heard a Cedar Waxwing with that "tse tse tse" call but it then turned into a short song.  To my surprise it was a Brown Creeper.  November 17th is getting pretty late in the season although I have seen the odd one over winter in our area.

Even more surprising was the Creeper was followed by 4 more Creepers.  They moved from one tree to another, one by one.  And a couple of them were singing.  It was a great end to my outing this morning.

I heard a couple Gold Finches fly over, some Chickadees and a Cardinal. I also saw these Mallards sipping from the run off.

For an area that looks like it wouldn't be home to anything, I sure have found quite a list of birds to date.

Back in due time with another update.

Thursday, November 2, 2017


Well here we are, this is a long overdue blog with the final count of the boxes I monitored in 2017.
Now give or take a bird or two in Area One because of how bizarre the weather was through the Spring, being so cold and wet, and I had adult birds refusing to leave their nests for egg counts. Then come hatch time, it's not easy to do head counts in all the nests. I don't like making it a habit of pulling baby birds out. In the end though I am confident my numbers are fairly accurate. The ground was so saturated throughout the Spring with all the rain. It was hard on the returning insectivores like Tree Swallows; and while Bluebirds will eat berries, it wasn't any easier on them as they return many weeks before the Swallows.
Perhaps this will give you an idea on the amount of rain we were dealing with. That's the same run off.
Area One... 13 nests and 65 fledged. The Forgotten Land... 3 nests and 16 fledged. For those who suck at math, that's 16 nests and 81 fledged Tree Swallows. I'd say...
Wouldn't you agree?
In 2016 I was monitoring 19 boxes in Area One. Seven pairs of Tree Swallows nested and just over 30 fledged. We took down 3 boxes this year, not expecting our pairs of nesting birds to pretty much double. In 2016, The Forgotten Land was not known to me. It was great discovering this slice of paradise so close to my home. It brought me the Bluebirds. Despite all the disappointments and tragedy, in the end 2 Bluebirds fledged thanks to a devoted father Bluebird who did not abandon his children after the loss of his mate. It has been a mission to attract Bluebirds to Area One, and I feel it will happen one of these years. Discovering The Forgotten Land and being blessed with that species was a gift and also educational. Monitoring wild birds is not all farting rainbows and fairy dust. Shit happens, lots of shit, but that's their life in the wild. It's difficult to be passionate about this and not get emotionally involved, taking the defeats to heart. I'm already excited for 2018.
Good things are happening this fall but they will be shared in another blog later this month. So, for the moment, let's celebrate the success. I have proven that all these birds and boxes needed was a little love. As you can see, I've still not figured out how/why this blog won't separate my paragraphs. Can anyone offer me a little assistance here? It would eliminate my silly photo adds here as I try to break the blog up.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


Hello everyone! I finally made it out to the last nest box I had to check in Area One. Blame it on my recovery, then getting back into a normal life with work, and then the heat wave we recently endured added to the delay. 40 celcius humidex and working just destroy me. Anyway, here we go...
It was a colorful walk much like this which I saw in another area I traveled yesterday. There were a lot of Blue Jays present on the grounds. White-throated Sparrows were popping up, resting here during their fall migration journey. I have seen this species over winter in Area One some years. Three Red-tailed Hawks had the Jays in a tizzy. A couple Cedar Waxwings flew overhead which I always enjoy seeing. Then I spotted this wild one.
It had a friend and they both watched me from a distance. As I neared the box, I thought to myself how funny it is I am checking it almost 3 months after when the birds would have fledged. The remains in the box hopefully were nothing more than old nesting material, fecal sacks and no bodies (although by this time they wouldn't be much of anything). But for me, it's about completion, finishing the season off as I meant to. I should have taken a photo of the last box as I neared it, but I did not. I could tell something was going on in there by the nesting material sticking out from the sides. As I opened the box, it was as I now expected... a little face was looking out at me in total fear.
He too had a friend (much like the Deer), with him inside the box. I silently apologized for the disturbance, grabbed a nearby stick and removed some of the nest material. One of the mice jumped out of the box and landed on my arm. I let out a giggle with a slight "ARGH!" of sorts. I was not afraid, more like shocked, and had no idea what this mouse was doing. I gave my arm a shake and down into the tall grass he went. I had this Mighty Mouse vision playing in my head; super rodent here wanting to kick my ass for breaking into his house.
I found no signs of any bird remains inside. No feathers, no bones, nothing. I will chalk this last nest up as a success.
I'm going to have to go over my notes later and confirm the numbers I have in my head regarding the Tree Swallows for the 2017 season. There is no denying that it's been a very good year for them here. Lastly, as I got back on the trail, leaving the box, I made this discovery.
I knew it wasn't a mouse and was guessing a Shrew of some sort. A friend of mine confirmed it to be a Short-tailed Shrew. I've never seen a Shrew before and while it's deceased, it's interesting to know these creatures are in Area One along with so many others. Anyway, I will be back soon with my data to share. Cheers!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

1 To Go

So, as I recover from my injury, I had a friend of mine check the last 2 nest boxes for me. He was able to check the one and happy to report it was empty. Everyone fledged. Now we have one to go.
He observed the remaining nest box from a distance and saw no activity. Unfortunately he was not properly dressed to go into that section of the field and inspect it. Never mind the ticks, there are some harmful plants we have to be wary of. In "Area One" the plant in particular is wild parsnip. A helpful article can be viewed here.
I dress the best I can, long pants that are tucked into my socks, long sleeve shirt, disposable gloves, and usually I do not experience this harmful weed when in bloom. I admit there are times I don't think too hard about the plants I may come across and really I should. Wild parsnip can cause permanent blindness in worst case scenarios but even the skin rash and burning should be enough to ensure not coming into contact with it, even covered up. It's just not worth it. It's bad enough we have had to worry about poison ivy for as long as I can remember. Now there's others like this parsnip plant and Giant Hogweed. I borrowed this image from a Google search to give you an idea why it is called "Giant Hogweed".
I've only ever seen this plant when on a bird walk in Riverwood Park, in Mississauga. It was massive! I recall they were working on a plan to remove the plant but am not sure if they did. There was a large patch of it just off one of the paths near the river north of Burnhamthorpe. Might as well add a little visual scare factor for impact.
And it can harm animals too.
I had intentions on sharing about these things we all must think about when out in the field and figured with what would have otherwise been a very short blog, it was a good time to bring it up. It's another reason that it's best to stay on the paths when out enjoying nature. But yes, 1 box remaining to be checked, and it will be a little while yet before I (or my friend) will get to it. It was not my intention to drag this nest blog out so long. Believe me, I'd rather have my health, be working and finally kicking my feet up until next Spring regarding nest box checks.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

What's Your Take?

I checked my last box in the Forgotten Land late last week. This was the view I had every visit prior but I knew by this visit, the young birds would have fledged. I was excited to add these results to my growing final list.
Well, this is what I saw upon arrival. Can you imagine what I suddenly felt?
Confusion? Yes. Sadness? Yes. Anger? Yes. I really cannot say for certain what happened, but I was sad for the possible outcome of those young birds, and the more I thought about it as I looked at this broken piece of wood, I could only come to the conclusion that someone broke the box off the t-bar, smashing it perhaps. I searched the ground, kicking my feet through the grass, looking for any sign of the box, or what was left of it. Nothing. I was really upset now and even more confused. What? Why? How? It's not supposed to end like this! I went for a walk through the area. I needed to back away from this and calm myself. I scoped out other bird houses and the variety of species around me, most with young birds.
I took in the butterflies too, like this Question Mark.
Can you see why it was given this name?
With a slightly clearer head and emotions cooled off, I started to head back. I wasn't sure if I was just going to keep going back to the truck or have another look around. I knew I would be looking but how hard, that was yet to be determined. As I neared the location from the other end, it is when I saw the box.
Another mix of emotions now. There was no time to acknowledge any of them though. I had to get to that box. First view, doesn't look too bad off.
Might as well build the suspense to what I found.
It's seen it's last days now, that's for sure.
I was happy to not find any little bird bodies inside. The nest was also relatively intact despite what it went through.
It easily pulled apart in my hands. I'd like to think it served it's purpose for one last time. I'm not sure what that black larva is. It was wiggling around pretty good. I put the box back in the tree, letting that unknown creature continue it's life journey.
So, what do I make of this? What do you make of this? Did someone knock the box down? Was that wood already split and finally came apart? It's nice to know someone who walked by noticed it and had the care and concern enough to pick it up and set it in a nearby tree. Proof once again that setting up these nest boxes and then forgetting about them is something that should not be. This box is one of many in the area that should have come down before this season started. I'd like to think that with how the nest looked and no bird remains of any kind, that the 5 young birds fledged. It's like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" and I'm going with a positive ending. It's not because I want to add to the successes and not to the downfalls. Without any valid proof to go either way, I'm choosing the better ending. What's your take?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Area One - Empty Nests Galore

A couple days ago I went through Area One again. It started off quite cloudy with sporadic drizzle but by the time I got moving about the grounds the sun came out, it turned hot stank humid and fast. It reminded me of every walk I did in 2016 as that was one of the hottest summers I can recall in my entire life. Anyway... today I had some company, which was nice for a change. My company was my wife Angie. She mostly "chased" butterflies and dragonflies throughout, and took a couple pics of me out there.
That's okay. She just recovered from a broken foot and it was better for her to stay on the trails and not venture into the tall grass with some very uneven landscape. I like to look at those small creatures myself but my focus is on the boxes; so having her eyeing what else was around us was great. I keep a species list and will start adding these things in a sub-list. Now for the boxes. It was as I expected. Box after box contained empty nests. I cleaned them out as I went through the area.
The nests all look rather different compared to the big feathery pillow top nests of last year.
I'm such a litter bug.
Then I found a couple throughout with ant infestations. I need a better grease and I am open for suggestions. Yes, all those little dark things are ants. Thousands!
Empty nest.
Another empty nest. I assure you those are just feathers and not bird remains.
Then I busted this guy hiding in another box.
He quickly vacated.
Then to my surprise, checking the few unclaimed boxes, as I ignored them the last few checks, now have nests and hatches within.
I've only been carrying my cell phone this season. Having a screw driver, pliers, bag of gloves, water bottle, etc is enough. So not all quality photos to be shared. But it's not about that anyway, right?
I didn't poke around too much in these 2 new discoveries but I could count at least 4 birds in each box. This is great! I'm very happy with the results so far. Of course, just like most things in life, you can only ride the highs for so long until something happens and with the last few boxes, it did. In the back of my mind, I was expecting it though. As I walked towards a pair of newer boxes we set up last year, I could only see one. I was concerned that perhaps someone took the other. This would really suck because the missing box contained 5 young in it last check. As I got closer, I saw the box, face down to the ground. Damn! Someone, something, or somehow but who really knows. Unfortunately I found the remains of the 5 young within. This happened many days ago judging by what was left. My last check was 18 days ago; perhaps I should not have waited this long?
I feel this is a cursed spot. Last year, this same box had the 5 dead young within. This is the box that I found the dead adult male inside on my last check. Now this! All I know is that the box will be moved before the start of next year's nesting season. I have 2 boxes left to check... Wood Duck Alfie's and our "Love Shack". They are no more special than any other box but there is that something, you know what I mean. First up is Alfie's box. We had the ant issue and that was taken care of. More bird remains awaited though. Two of the five young did not make it.
We are at 7 who did not make it. That is the same number as last year; but this year we have 13 nests compared to 7 in 2016. Now for the "Love Shack", the box a friend of mine built for Angie and I as a wedding gift. Deep breath. No smell of death. I am happy to report that all the birds fledged!
I need to go over my notes for all the numbers of eggs/hatches and will give a final tally in another blog. I did stumble upon a rather odd find in my walk of the grounds. I must say it is upsetting. I don't want it to take away from the success of the nesting season though. So let's try to keep this separate in our minds. I found the remains of a Bearded Dragon. This was way out in a field, far far away from any residences. It is obvious someone dumped their unwanted pet in the area. The poor thing didn't stand a chance. This was a cold hearted, thoughtless, selfish, cruel act of a person who should never have had such a pet. Taking an animal in, no matter what it is, is a lifetime commitment. Whoever did this could easily have found it a new home, giving it away for free, or turning it in somewhere.
I don't want to end the blog on this note but felt it was necessary to share. It was part of my journey on this morning. We've still got 2 nests on the go, let's hope they are both empty with my next check in a couple weeks. I've still got one to go in the Forgotten Land as well. 2017 has been a great year for Tree Swallows around here. Imagine if all those boxes never got tended to early in the Spring? Where would the birds have gone? Whoever would have thought seeing all these empty nests could bring a smile to our faces?