With my year two of nest box monitoring, I've ironically adopted a second area of nest boxes. I did not expect this to happen but life works in funny ways at times.
Last Summer a couple friends of mine were seeing an adult male Eastern Bluebird near our home. The bird and the time of year tells me it would (should) be nesting somewhere in the area. Some light searching for the bird in the following days came up with no sightings but we did find a couple dozen nest boxes in some green space. It was heart breaking to see that the boxes were in really bad shape. Cracked side walls, missing roof tops, entry holes chewed open by Squirrels and many were just hanging by a nail or two.
Once a home to ???
Facing north towards the fence line and industrial beyond.
Enlarged entry hole and nothing to secure the opening side door.
Many are just like this now.
Another enlarged entry hole chewed open. I even found some with holes chewed through the back as well.
I had a screw driver in the truck, I keep one in there all the time now since I started the nest box monitoring. I went and grabbed it and started opening up some of the boxes that were still together. I found a couple old House Sparrow nests, they were made of grassy material and had pieces of garbage thrown in here and there (traditional for a House Sparrow nest... hey at least they are cleaning up after us and making use of cellophane cigarette wrappings). I also found a Tree Swallow nest with a dead bird inside. And lastly I chanced upon an active House Wren nest. A Wren came out of the box right at my head as I walked towards it.
So while most of my findings were sad, I could see the potential, and the fact that there was life here amidst the weathered forgotten boxes.
I had no idea who set them up. Initially I thought it was a project done by a nearby middle school. I tried making contact via email and even a phone call. None of which got me anywhere. No replies whatsoever.
I left the area for the season. I never did find the Bluebird. But I did not forget about any of this.
Jump ahead to 2017, somewhere in the last days of Winter and the first days of Spring. I decided to explore the area even further. What I discover is that this nest box project runs a stretch of nearly 2 kms and in total there is approximately 75 boxes. More than half the boxes are ready to come down (or fall down). Posts are leaning at a 45 degree angle. There is no rhyme or reason to the actual set up. This is what lead me to believe it was a project with children. Boxes face every direction. Boxes face each other. Boxes face the fence line. Boxes are lost in the growth about the area. Many are coming apart at the nails.
It was with this new search that I discovered a sign lost in the growth that helped me take this further, actually finding out who and what organization started this lord knows how many years ago. I will not post the name of organization. At this time I don't think it would be fair to them.
I called the number and spoke with a man who had no idea about any of this. He said he took over this desk and extension a few years back; the person prior is no longer there. He did make a promise to me to look into this and find the right person for me to discuss this with.
The sad reality is this often happens in many green spaces by various groups and organizations. Let's get young people into nature. We will do a nest box set up and people can watch what happens. Often there is a decent turn out. People have fun on hopefully a nice sunny mild Spring day building some boxes, putting them up, maybe fill a bag of trash from the area... the end. Some forget about it when the day is done. Some might last the season. But sure enough, over time, the boxes get forgotten about. However, the birds don't and still try to use them even as the boxes weather and slowly come apart.
I know I've mentioned it before... it becomes our responsibility to help these creatures when we do these things. This is something I've learned about in the last 5 years and am a firm believer in this. We can't just walk away now and let nature take it's course. That's not fair to the birds. If nothing else, it becomes a sad and unsightly state in good green space. Those rusty nails sticking out every where are just begging to be touched.
So in the last month I have been in communication with an individual from this organization. It is going to take some time and planning to turn things around in "Area Two". I think the fact there's so many boxes in need of attention is overwhelming to them. Actually I know it's overwhelming, it is to me. I have spent a few hours in the area and often say to myself "What the hell? How the hell?" shaking my head and standing there dumbfounded at it all. It's a ridiculous number of boxes.
I've taken it upon myself to start the change. "The Individual" as they will be known for the time being is grateful for what I am doing and promises to send help in due time. Nature organizations have planned agendas for the season and this forgotten land is not part of this organization's Spring agenda.
I have started taking down the worst of the boxes. I've re-positioned others. I've repaired a few even though I am not much of a handy man... just hammering some nails in, adding a screw to the side doors where needed. "The Individual" gave me a couple new nest boxes to set up (which I did on April 24th). I'd like to move some of the boxes out of the overgrowth but the t-bars are so deep in the ground, difficult to get out and even more difficult to drive into a new spot. I don't have a post pounder, just a hammer and it's useless for this.
This is probably the most interesting find in a box so far. That is an old Tree Swallow nest inside. The sumac on top is odd. A mystery as to how it got there but I suspect some human, uh, interference. The box was cracked across the roof and right down the front. I pried it open further to have a look when I could see this was coming out of the entry hole.
I am not a hero for doing this nor am I a fool with too much time on my hands. I'm just a guy who gives a crap about these things and am making use of some of my free time before work to possibly help nesting birds in our area. It's a great distraction from the bump and grind and good for my soul.
New box. There was a couple pairs of Tree Swallows circling the area as I set this up.
I donated a nest box I won at a bucket raffle during an OEBS annual general meeting a couple years ago. I did have it in our yard for a while and a Downy Woodpecker used it as a night roost a couple winters ago. We have plenty of boxes in our yard even without this one.
I've thought about calling on friends and acquaintances who enjoy our feathered friends to help out. Say five people tackling 75 boxes is achievable in a couple hours compared to one person. Since there is no real plan, I don't see the point right now. I will putter away at it the odd morning when possible. I will observe any boxes that any bird(s) are trying to make use of and see what I can do for them.
I will not share what my species finds are just yet. There is activity early on in the season and I am waiting to see who sets up nest, and where.
So for "Area Two", let's just say it's a work in progress and it will be interesting what comes of this through the current season and in the years ahead.