The Love Shack

The Love Shack

Friday, June 30, 2017

Empty Nest

Short blog folks. Busy week. Canada Day long weekend is just about upon us. I checked the box where I found the first Tree Swallow eggs of the season earlier this week. You may recall my mention of this dilapidated box that I vowed to leave be until I was certain the birds would be gone. Ya, that one. Well, I am happy to report that the nest was now empty. All 6 young successfully fledged! The box did not fall apart as I opened it, which is good; but I am glad I left it be just in case.
I cleaned it out and will check again in a couple weeks if the birds are going to re-nest.
Great news, eh? If you feel like some more happy news, please check this other blog of mine out from this week. I will be checking other boxes in the coming weeks. I am really trying to time it right that they should be empty at my next visit. I worry about spooking young birds and causing early fledges. I noticed one of the other boxes nearby had young birds, big young birds, all fighting to get their heads out the nest box. I don't want to be the reason they take that first flight when they might not be quite ready. Because once a Tree Swallow fledges and is out, that's it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Another Sweep

So with the success, nothing short of a miracle to me with those Bluebirds, it was time for another sweep of the other nest boxes. What a change from the last sweep and seeing so many adult birds sitting on nests! Suddenly there was lots of hatches, and many weren't that new either. Great parents keeping their young warm during the cold wet days we endured! I will break this blog up with photos from my walk and share some of my finds. This lone box was my first to check. It sits to the north end of Area One.
Interesting is once again, just like last year, a beautiful nest was built up inside, but then abandoned. I wonder why?
New hatches in the next box I checked! These chicks are mere hours old. This is the youngest bunch of Tree Swallows I found in my check.
Older hatches in the next box. Anyone remember this one from my other blog? There's that Blue Jay feather in the nest. During nest building one of the adults picked it up somewhere in the field and brought it back as nesting material.
More hatches, days younger than the last box.
Even more hatches! Aside from that first box with nothing, every other box through my inspection is doing great. As you can see, it's not easy to count heads in the nest at this stage, which is why I try to get egg counts before the hatches.
I'm heading to the B-section of Area One now. I'm really happy with how it's going this season. So many nests. So many hatches. And then this was my next find.If you look closely at this photo, you can see there's an adult bird in the nest with the 5 young birds. The adult is dead. I could smell it as I neared the box. I knew something died inside but didn't know who.
The chicks were alive and well. I saw momma Tree Swallow nearby, watching me. Dad died inside the box. How? Why? I don't know. But in nature there's no time for such set backs, life must go on, and I believe that the female pushed the male off to the corner of the box the best she could. It gets pretty crammed inside these nest boxes in the last days before the young fledge and having a dead adult sure doesn't help. I removed the stinking decomposing body and hope everyone is going to be okay with one adult tending to all 5 young. Interesting additional bit is that this box had the nest with the 5 very young birds I found dead inside from last year.
This unfortunate discovery is good reason for nest box monitoring. Some scenarios both adults disappear and abandon the young. I've heard of people relocating the young birds to other nest boxes that could accommodate them. Sometimes it is successful. Sometimes it's too late. But still worth a try. I am glad I saw the female otherwise I don't know what I would have done other than stress. All our boxes are maxed out with young, most containing 5 or 6. I've had a couple occasions recently where people have questioned all this nest box monitoring. Here ya go people! Next up was Wood Duck Alfie's box. Success! And no ants. Big shout out to a friend of mine who stepped in and got that t-bar greased.
Last box to check was the Love Shack. As mentioned in another blog, past years we had an abandoned nest containing eggs and full of ants, a dummy Wren nest, and last year no activity. This year success.
It was difficult to see inside because of the nest height. I gently felt around for eggs or little birds. There was 5 just days old Tree Swallows within.
I would like to add that I do not make a habit of handling the birds like here. I really wanted to get an idea of what was going on inside. I took a couple cell phone photos before I placed him back inside with the others. The myth about holding a baby bird and your scent would have the parents reject it is just that... a myth. I sometimes think that myth should continue because it would keep a lot of people from curiously handling baby birds. It's one of the top questions I get down at the Peregrine Falcon watch "won't the parents reject the chick after you picked it up off the sidewalk?" If I had not been shown all about nest box monitoring through a few guided walks, I would never touch any of the young birds. I still don't but in a situation like above mentioned, really wanting a count of the hatches, I did. I also went through the Forgotten Land. Everything going well in that area with the 3 nests I've found. Here is a YouTube link to the sounds from outside one of the boxes, just to give you a little more of an experience. The young birds promptly shut up when I stepped closer. Oh, and the parents came swooping down at my head. Hard to tell that there are 5 birds in this box, eh.
And here are 5 new hatches in one of the other boxes.
I passed the third box, but did not open it. It's the box that is ready to come apart and I have decided to leave it be until after I am certain the nest is done, the birds are out and about. There was 6 eggs in it when I discovered it. They should be gone any time now according to my day counts. So, in all, we've got 71 hatches through 13 Tree Swallow nests. It's quite a year for them, almost doubling everything from last year. Let's wish them all the best, hope they all make it out of the box and help continue the existence of their species. It's hard to believe that one or two more blogs to go for my Toronto Nest Blog and that's it until 2018. I do have a couple after season blogs in mind as I've been in communication with "The Individual" regarding the Forgotten Land and I have an idea to propose to some of you reading my nest blog for next year. But ya gotta wait until the snow is falling for that one. See you all again in a couple weeks. As always, thanks for checking this blog out and sticking with me through the season.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Bye Bye Blues

Well the Bluebird saga has come to a close. What a ride it has been. But I am happy to report that the two little Bluebirds fledged! It was a fantastic ending to such a bumpy ride with the 2 pairs I had near our home. I can admit my anxiety as I neared that nest box yesterday. My senses were full throttle as I looked for flashes of blue around me, hoping to hear the call of one, and taking in the air as I neared the box, hoping to not breathe in the smell of death and decay. Let's not dwell on the 8 eggs that did not hatch. Let's not dwell on the adults that died for one reason or another. Let's celebrate the lives of these two new Bluebirds in our world. I have no photos for this one. I should have snapped one of the nest box with the empty nest other than the unhatched eggs. I did clean it out immediately as Bluebirds often do re-nest; although with everything that has happened, I really doubt it here. Regardless, I'm still ecstatic about how this has ended. Aren't you?
Links to the previous stories if you need catching up. FCUK. And this one.

Monday, June 12, 2017


My wife Angie joined me on Sunday June 11th to check in on the Bluebirds. Normally she does not go out with me because of mobility issues the last year and walking these uneven trails wouldn't do her any good. Broken foot this Spring. She's also dealing with left knee woes that are from a car accident over 20 years ago. But despite the very warm temperatures and always concerning about her mobility, she joined me this morning, in support for me and these birds. She could either share joy with me or be a shoulder for me to lean on if things went downhill since my last blog which I must apologize for the pity party I rallied. It was a real blow and I had little time before work to cope with my terrible discovery. I am happy to report that the young birds are still alive as of this check. We also saw dad nearby, keeping an eye on us near his kids. So it's safe to say he is looking after them with mom's absence (unless that was another Bluebird and I've just been missing her).
The kids are about 17 days old now, possibly 18. If all goes right, they should fledge later in the week. Hence this blog title "HOPE". Please wish them the best in the coming days.

Friday, June 9, 2017


It's Friday! It's a beautiful sunny warm day in early June! Angie's birthday is tomorrow. We start the Peregrine Falcon fledge watch next week. I wasn't going to blog for a bit but after this morning's events, I have to, I need to get it out of my system. And reaching out to others who give a shit like myself might help. I'm sure the blog title gives enough away that something bad happened. I decided to check the boxes close to home before the busy days ahead. I'm stoked about the Bluebirds, staying positive despite the setbacks. I checked a few other boxes first and saw my first hatched Tree Swallows. There are 6 in this box. It's a crappy phone photo but it's for the record and to share here.
I check another Tree Swallow box and once again find myself face to face with this female. This is the third time in 4 weeks where I've checked this box and she has been inside every time. What gives?
I pass another Tree Swallow nest box and eyes are upon me.
As I near the Bluebird area, I see an adult male. It must be dad!
I was happy to see a few Butterfly species including Monarch, Canadian Swallowtail and a Black Swallowtail. It's been a while since I saw this species, meaning a couple years. What a treat! Man I am having such a great morning. I am distracted from my purpose of this outing because of the Black Swallowtail. I happily snap some photos and got a couple cool accidental captures. Neat that I got a couple other insect species flying in with the first shot.
Traditional still pose.
In flight and respectably clear for my old camera body.
Okay, back to what I am here for... check on the young Bluebirds. I open the box and am shocked how much they have grown in the last 7 days. They stirred with my quick peek but went back to sleep.
I close the box back up and am about to make a fast exit, hoping I haven't upset the parents too much when I spot something in the grass and it's got blue feathers. Talk about a really hard slap to the face, taking that grin from me in a flash. This is what I found.
Bluebird remains. FCUK! But who is it? Is it mom? I haven't seen her today, but I did last Friday. Is it dad? Did I not just see him? Or is that another male? The remaining feathers are very dark blue which I don't associate with females but I really don't know. I'm very confused. I'm trying really hard not to be sad about this. I am having moments where I wish I never knew about these Bluebirds that have tried to nest near our home. I wish whoever set these boxes up never did. I wish I never threw myself into this, trying to ensure they had proper nest boxes to raise young in. I mean, I was doing a good job of that as the nests did stay dry through the wet Spring and none fell off their posts after some minor repairs. But what I couldn't do was protect them from everything. Those negative things I thought, the feelings I'm battling with, I turn around momentarily. I think about the joy of seeing these beautiful birds so close to our home. I've spent a lot of time focusing on them, not just when in their presence and territory, but even after the fact, thinking about them while working and elsewhere. It's been some real highs and some of the lowest of the lows I've felt while watching over wild birds and their young. It makes me nervous about next week with our Peregrines. We've had 50% mortality 2 years in a row. I helped one morning at the Mississauga site, almost like a bit of a warm up, and sadly one of their two young birds lost it's life to a window strike earlier this week. It's a dark reality and I try really hard to suck this up, mentally prepare for the choas that can occur at the Falcon watch; but this Bluebird stuff has really hit. It's not about liking Bluebirds more than another bird species. It's the emotional investment. I don't know if I have enough to share among everything at this time of year. It's suddenly too much in such a short span of time. Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, Peregrine Falcons, my Pigeon friends and local Raccoons at home. *sigh* I wonder what got this Bluebird. To me it does seem to be a victim of predation as it's picked pretty clean. I've seen Cooper's Hawks in the area since I discovered it. I found a Screech Owl here last November. This is the Screech in a tree very near where months later I found the Bluebirds and the box
I ask myself if these young Bluebirds need help? Since I don't know, I won't do anything. I have to remind myself as well that this is nature. This stuff happens all the time. Nature is beautiful and harsh. But I can't write this off just yet. Let's see how this plays out in the coming days. I won't be waiting another week to check on them. Unfortunately I cannot sit there and watch the box all this afternoon either and try to assess this any further. It will be a mystery until next visit. Let's hope I find the 2 still alive and well. Thanks for reading this as unhappy as it's turned out to be. Thank you for following me on this journey. Stay tuned... work becons now.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


I did a sweep of the boxes before the weather turned cool and damp once again, hence this blog title. I was due anyway for "Area One". In my mind, I had it figured that all the birds would be settled. The nests would be built. All the eggs would be laid. How wrong I was! It was a mixed bag of what I found from one box to another. Six contained female Tree Swallows incubating. I felt bad for disturbing these birds. They just lay there in their nests, glaring at me, one even lightly hissed. I took quick pics with my phone of a few and then closed the boxes up. I'm sure I lightly said "sorry" as I did. I still cannot figure out what is wrong with this blog and paragraph spacing. I guess it doesn't totally matter since this is more of reporting than story telling anyway. I will break it up with photos and share a bit with a few... Nice start with 4 eggs!
Tree Swallow on nest. Where did that Blue Jay feather come from?
Six eggs! Now we're talking.
Bizarre find in this box. Last check there was 2 eggs. Now the nest is double in depth and I could not find any eggs. A pair of Tree Swallows were annoyed with my invasion and swooping me.
Five eggs. Are we done?
Sorry for disturbing you.
Halfway through my checks of Area One, I discovered a House Wren nest.
The Wren nest is quite close to a Tree Swallow nest. I sat on a log just over the pond and watched the birds. They seem to be ignoring each other which is a good thing.
My view of the two boxes from where I sat across the pond.
The Wren was quite busy going back and forth, gathering more nesting material.
This nest box was abandoned since my last check.
Another 5 eggs.
Another nesting bird I disturbed.
The "Love Shack"! I found 2 eggs within.
I felt really bad for this bird. One, I disturbed her and she is the one who hissed at me. Second, there is an ant invasion in the box. In early April I moved this box, but did not grease the t-bar. I could not pound it into the ground and had someone take care of it a few days after I moved it. Then getting the grease to it... well, didn't happen. It's since been applied and hopefully will help with the situation. I should have photographed the mass of ants just under the nest inside the box.
I made the best of this lovely morning. I had a leisurely pace about the area. I took in all the sights and sounds around me, even trying to list all the bird species I saw and/or heard that I recognized. I ended up with about 30 species and there was a number of calls I just couldn't nail. I had a few mammal sightings through the woods as well. This Eastern Cottontail led me up the path.
This time of year I'm always looking and hoping to spot a Raccoon family. Area One had been great for years but not the last few. I did find one sleeping adult.
I spotted a Belted Kingfisher as I crossed the river heading to the next set of boxes.
The Swallows could see me coming a mile away.
No shortage of curious Red-winged Blackbirds in my travels.
As I trekked through the woods, I heard the call of a couple Wood Thrushes. At least I am quite certain they were Wood Thrushes only going by sound. I admit I have been mixed up between Thrush songs in the past. I'm calling it "Wood Thrush" unless someone corrects. Regardless it was a nice time out, listening to the soundtrack in the woods. Play the song of the Wood Thrush while I lay on my death bed and I will peacefully go. I took a short video, recording the call. I've made this more than just a nest blog update, haven't I? It was my intention to show that it's not just work, although it's good work in my opinion. It's another reason to get outdoors, to go for a walk, to enjoy the natural world around us, to take in all the birds and wildlife. Nothing wrong with that, is there? I visited the other areas I'm monitoring boxes. I had to check the Bluebird nest as I was very curious if the other 3 eggs hatched. Unfortunately that does not look like it's going to happen. Here are the 2 chicks at approximately 7 days old.
We had 10 eggs, 5 and 5 from 2 Bluebird nests. I prefer to look at it as we've got 2 hatched Bluebirds over we lost 8. And in the Forgotten Land, I discovered a third Tree Swallow nest. There were 2 eggs within.
I also discovered another House Wren nest in the area. So right now I've got 14 Tree Swallow nests, possibly 15 if that nest where the 2 eggs disappeared turns into something again, and 1 Bluebird nest (still hoping for a 2nd... there's always hope) and 2 House Wren nests. I'm not really monitoring the Wrens but since they are in vicinity of the other boxes, I will observe. There may be a delay for the next nest update here as very soon the fledge watch will begin for our resident Peregrine Falcons in Etobicoke (Islington/Bloor site). They have 4 chicks once again and let's hope it will be a better year than the previous 2. We have had 50% mortality both years. It is truly heart breaking stuff. But we carry on for the ones who do survive. One of our birds from 2015 has surfaced in Ohio. That was amazing news since that was one of the years where we lost 2 of the 4. Perhaps I will do a Falcon fledge blog here at some point? It is nest monitoring. Okay, time to end this long blog. Thanks for staying with me! If for some reason you are still in the mood for some reading, here is a link to my latest blog on my original blog page Rob and the Animals. And my wife Angie did one about our weekend at home which you might also enjoy, see here.