The Love Shack

The Love Shack

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Area One Hatches

On Friday June 15th I set out to do a round check of all 21 boxes at Area One. I prefer to try to do this area on the weekend since it takes me a while to do this walk but with the oncoming 40 c humidex, I went before work. I figure if the walk is going to burn me out, may as well do it on the last day of the work week.

It was an adventure along with some misadventure near the end as you will see.

The first box I checked, which only had 1 egg last visit, still remains with just one single egg. The adult birds were not impressed with my box inspection and swooped my head. This is way below average for egg numbers with nesting Tree Swallows.

My next box check... hatches! Young Tree Swallows I could just make out with a cell phone photo above the nest.

Onward to the next box. That Wren nest I previously thought was a dummy nest is well on it's way with a nest now. An adult bird flew out of the box as I approached. I may have mentioned already but the Wren nests I am going to leave be, only noting they nested. I find it much too difficult (and invasive) to get in there and count the eggs. I will make note of any finds when cleaning these boxes out later in the Summer.

From here on, it was a slew of Tree Swallow hatches in most of the boxes. I started using my phone right at the entry holes and gaps in the Guild style instead of opening the boxes unless I sensed something was wrong in a box. The time I spent at each box was less. The adult birds were still agitated nonetheless and even teamed up on me in one field area where 5 boxes are located.

An odd discovery in one box, which had 6 eggs, was me only finding one good sized young Swallow. There was a bit of a stench coming from within and I suspect other hatches did not make it. I pondered digging deeper but decided to leave things be. I would have to pull the whole nest out for a better look. It wouldn't be an easy task as I would have to hold this bird with one hand and make a real mess with my other. I made my notes and continued on.

A pleasant surprise in another box I assumed was abandoned now has 3 eggs! Perhaps it was abandoned by one pair and later taken over by another pair? Will we get more eggs? Stay tuned.

A lot of the hatches are many days old already. When I come out again over the Canada Day long weekend, I expect most to be fledged by then. I'm not very good with aging the birds. I always worry about early fledges when opening the boxes at this stage. I see young birds with their heads out of the nest holes, to me that's a sign their time to fly is coming soon. So my new tactic of not opening the boxes and snapping pics from the entries helps ensure I won't have any early fledges. The young birds drop right back into the nest boxes as soon as they see me, even from a distance. As you can see in some of the photos, it's getting a little crammed in the nests now. I should add that I don't linger, trying for a great picture at any box. A couple shots, I have a look, add some notes in my book, and onward I go to the next box

The former Chickadee nest box now has a Wren nest inside. I am wondering if it was Wrens that destroyed the Chickadee nest? It was less then 2 weeks ago that I cleaned out the Chickadee nest and now we have this.

A disappointing discovery in the old box I learned about this year is that the 6 Tree Swallow eggs got predated by something. The adult birds were swooping my head as I opened it up. All I saw was an empty nest. Some time ago (years?) the entry hole to this box was chewed open somewhat, most likely by a Squirrel. This enlarged opening could have helped something take those eggs out. You may, or may not be surprised to know that this box was set up by the same organization who set up the boxes in the Forgotten Land. It's tucked away, well off the paths, which is why I never knew about it until I was shown it this Spring. Proof once again that people setting up nest boxes and then forgetting about them does not help the birds.

I was given some plastic covers which will help prevent Squirrels chewing open the entry holes. I am going to try and attach one to this box, if it can screw on with what's left of the entry area. Since the adults are still here, they may try to nest again. This could help them with their second attempt. The humidity is supposed to break after today (June 18th), so I am aiming to be up there one morning soon to take care of this.

I'm in the home stretch now. The Love Shack is not being used this year. There is a lot of construction happening just to the north of the box which may be part of the reason the nest that was in process got abandoned. Alfie's box, the young Swallows are doing well, and thankfully we do not have an ant issue this year. The last 2 boxes, one being another Swallow nest, the kids look great from what I could tell. I observed the parents bringing food in so it was another box I only checked with a cell photo.

Lastly, the House Sparrow nest box. My previous visit almost 2 weeks earlier, I noticed the parents bringing food in. I opted to give them peace that morning and not inspect. Obviously things were going well.

This visit, I heard nothing and I saw nothing. I tried for a cell photo to see inside and got no signs of anything but nest material. I lightly tapped on the box with my screwdriver, still nothing. No adults were around scolding me. I assumed they were done nesting, and the young had fledged.

I unscrew the access door and open it up. Suddenly out comes a young Sparrow, going over my shoulder, flying about 10 ft and then drops into the grass. I know it's only a House Sparrow, but I'm yelling "FUCK" in my head. I have to turn my eyes away from where he landed so I could close the door and not have any others take an early flight. Yes, there was at least one other bird inside.

With the door shut, I turn and look back to the grass and I cannot see the Sparrow. I'm 2nd guessing where I think the bird landed since it was all just grass. Of course in those few seconds it took me to screw that door shut, the bird could have moved. I didn't hear any chirping. I didn't see any movement. The grass fairly long so I have to really watch my step as I start my search for the bird. How clever of him to stay very quiet while this giant scary thing (me) hunted him.

I picked up a stick and started brushing the top of the grass, hoping this would flush the bird. So far nothing. I next think to play a House Sparrow call from my phone. Perhaps that might get something out of him? Nope. This is not how I expected to end my walk today. About 10 minutes later I finally spot him. I quickly reach down and place my hand over him. I cup him with my other hand and bring him home. In the box he goes and now in comes dad. He's nattering away at me. but I am done, and back off. I bet he was proud of himself, scaring the giant away like he did. After the fact, I thought I should have taken a photo of the young bird for the blog, but getting him home was my priority and taking a picture never crossed my mind. I can say that judging by the looks of that bird, fledging was going to happen very soon. Still, I'd rather him fledge when he was ready to and not because of me.

So in Area One we've had 73 Tree Swallow eggs to date through 14 nests. I'm disappointed that we lost the one nest with 6 eggs. Still, we are doing better than the last 2 years of monitoring; even though this is not a competition by any means.

My next visit is slated to be over the July long weekend. As mentioned, I expect most of the birds to be fledged by then.

As always, thank you to those who are once again following me on this nest box monitoring blog.


  1. No, it's not a competition but it IS always good when one season improves over the last. Glad that last one had a good outcome!

  2. You've been so busy, Rob. I'm glad to hear the nests are doing so well.