American Goldfinch nest

American Goldfinch nest

Friday, February 23, 2018


Hey hey, back to the Forgotten Land for a moment. I know my last blog regarding this area was a frustrating documentation of occurrences and I thank some of you who contacted me personally after reading it.

After the time down there with these people and the communication with those in charge in November, I took a break. I finally returned some where around New Year's for a look. East Ravine was cleaned now. Only 2 boxes remain. My Bluebird box and a nest box they donated to the area last Spring. All the other nest boxes were taken away for disposal. The 50+ t-bars were removed as well (not an easy task).

I then ventured over to West Hill and noticed they did not get that far. All the boxes were still standing, most barely as you can imagine.

I was not upset about this. I know the girls worked their asses off removing those t-bars from the ground in the east. It was a difficult time consuming chore. I'm sure it was a matter of them running out of time on this project and had other things to get on before the winter.

The weather has not been ideal to get over there and tackle the west. As March rapidly approaches, the thoughts of doing something drilled into my head daily. February 22 I put my head down and went to it. We had another thaw recently so all the snow melted away and it's been dry for a few days. It was -6 with the wind chill, not too bad for working outside. An hour and a half later I had taken down 27 nest boxes.

Some may remember this one below from an older post about the area.  Deluxe edition with 2 entrances!

One reason I am not keen about nest boxes in public areas...  people messing with them.  One of the others had a whack of sumac rammed into it.  Sure these are boxes falling apart, but it shows people do go off the path and someone idiot can muck around with them if he wants to.

A couple of these boxes are still rather solid but they have so many nails in them, one could never access them for cleaning.

I wasn't sure if I was going to get to them all. A couple times I thought I should stop, but then it was "just a couple more" I'd think to myself. I'm glad I stuck it out and finished this task.

I had a few dog walkers pass by me, giving me curious looks as to what I was doing. Only one stopped to say something which was about my neat piles of dilapidated nest boxes on the ground, which were well off path. His concern was his dog getting into those piles and possibly hurting himself. I replied about how if he kept his dog on leash, he would have nothing to worry about, because after all it was not an off leash area, there is one of those just down the road. That seemed to end the chat.

I left 4 boxes standing in the west section. Three are along one stretch where a pair of Tree Swallows nested successfully along with the failed Bluebird nest, plus one more box just because. The boxes are well separated with 30 or so feet from one to the next. The last box is further along where another pair of Tree Swallows had a successful nest. Actually this one I replaced with a box in better condition because the previous one was hanging by a thread. All the boxes are cleaned out and ready for the birds.

I may have added a few too many photos here but I really wanted to give a visual impact about how bad off this area was.

I fired off an email to these people about the latest progress. I've kept my promise about not setting up any more boxes. I still believe that leaving a few boxes up until they figure out their plan, if they have one, is a good idea. I will wait 2 weeks, and if no reply by then, I will start making some phone calls. At this point, I am fine if they want to abandon the project. No more waiting and wondering, no more feeling like I am answering to another boss. I'd like to add 4 more boxes; 2 in the east and 2 in the west. But I won't... for now.

This is going to be one very interesting Spring.

Friday, February 16, 2018


A magazine called Niagara Escarpment Views recently did an article on how to help Eastern Bluebirds. They interviewed the founder of The Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society Bill Read. The writer for the story sought out photos of Eastern Bluebirds to be used in the article. I submitted 6 and 2 were chosen. I love seeing any photo of mine make print anywhere, just so there is more use and purpose to a photo; but what I really like is both photos are of a dedicated male Eastern Bluebird, who despite losing his mate, 3 of the 5 eggs not hatching, he never gave up in the final days before his young fledged. Anyone reading the article and viewing the photos will have no idea about the background story with the photos of this pretty little bird but for me it is like a silent tribute. Most of my photos hold a fond memory and some just a little more than that, helping me tell a tale like this one of the struggle with a family of Eastern Bluebirds in Toronto in the Summer of 2017. It's gearing me up a little more for the oncoming season which rapidly approaches. I'm hoping for their return.

If you would like to find a free copy of the magazine, here is a link to places that should have the latest edition.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


Recently a friend of mine contacted me about an article in the local paper. I believe it was titled "BBQ for the Birds". There is an event coming this Spring where people can come out, have a burger and help build some bird houses as a community project. The area they want to revive is a stretch called The Lavender Creek Trail.

I was furious when I learned about this. The Forgotten Land I would imagine started out the same way.

I texted a few friends who have followed my nest box adventures. It was great to be able to vent to some who understood my upset. They are such friends I can properly vent to, using all the cuss words I want in the moment and no offense was taken.

I felt bad for my friend who told me about this. It was a bit of an educational experience for him. I apologized the next day.  He took it all in stride, appreciating my views on the project.

I wanted to blog about this immediately but couldn't. It was almost midnight Friday when I heard about it. I woke up the next day and decided to let it go. I can't worry about everything that happens out there. I did decide at some point soon I would visit this Lavender Creek out of curiosity, perhaps take some photos of the area and blog about it. And that is what this blog is about...

The following Tuesday I had to run a few errands which would take me over to this area. It wasn't the best morning to do so as we were in the midst of a snowfall that was making for some crappy road conditions but I had to be out there anyway. I dressed accordingly and away I went.

So, for anyone wanting to visit Lavender Creek. The first thing they will find is that there is no real parking to the area. When one drives around and tries to find parking, they may get confused about a lot of things and even forget why they are there. Green space? Birding area? Say what? These photos might explain a few things to you.

Lavender Creek is not a park. It is a ravine in a hydro field. It runs a couple kms starting at Weston Road in the Stockyards District and heads west.

I managed to find parking to the north, on a side street in the residential beyond a line of industrial buildings. A short walk down the street and I was on the paved trail.

The stench in the air can choke a person. Across the ravine and up the hill are the meat packing plants along with a few still existing slaughter houses. I don't know if that is blood and guts in the air, or just the smell of death, but it is almost a permanent odour that hangs over the Stockyards. I've seen new townhouses go up here some years ago, starting at half a million roughly. Imagine spending that kind of money on a home and not being able to open your windows or sit in what little backyard you may have because of this smell? It was below zero Celsius and reeking; imagine a stank hot August afternoon? Honestly, even for a moment, it would make most people re-think their eating habits.  Calling this "Lavender Creek" must have been a sick joke by someone.

I walked the path. I did not see a person through my trek. I guess I was the only one crazy enough to go for a walk in it. But I also did not see or hear much bird activity. One pair of House Sparrows, one lingering White-crowned Sparrow (which was a nice surprise) and a few Mallards down in the creek. My soundtrack to the walk was trucks running and cows mooing, awaiting slaughter.

I shouldn't put so much into this about the meat plants because in the big picture, the birds really don't care about such things, but people thinking of spending time in this area probably will. I understand the idea someone has to revive the area, awaken the community to nature and pay attention to what can happen in their little stretch of green space. Unfortunately the track record for most of these projects is ultimate failure. The Lavender Creek has the Stockyards going against it in every sense. As for the trail itself, see here.

The trail is narrow overall. The south side has a drop down to the creek and then a steep hill going up to the plants. It's a long narrow line of wooded area. I'm sure in the warmer months all the views of the plants and trucks disappear.

Half a dozen Mallards are calling this home for the winter.

The creek is not really accessible as there is so much growth along the steep hill.  Who would really have a purpose to go down there anyway?

To the north is various industrial including a scrap yard and many other businesses I had no idea existed.

Just before the line of industrial is a lot of growth, it's thick and dense in many spots, a lot of sumac grows along here too.

Hey, there's a Squirrel!

It seems a Robin made a home here last year.

There is a White-crowned Sparrow in there...  somewhere.

Lots and lots of Sumac.

There are no open fields for cavity nesters like Tree Swallows and Bluebirds. This is a haven for House Sparrows and little else. Nothing against the House Sparrow but they aren't high on a lot of peoples' lists nor other cavity nesting bird species. I suppose some House Wrens might find a box useful for nesting too.

My opinion is that this is good intentions but a bad idea.  It is going to be a waste of time, money and items that could be used elsewhere in a more suitable area PROVIDING people are willing to continue to monitor and care for the nest boxes. They don't have to keep track of bird species, hatches and what not, but at the very least clean these boxes out annually and ensure they remain in good overall condition for birds to use, even if it is just House Sparrows.

The Lavender Creek really could use a make over but sticking up a bunch of bird houses with any people willing to come out for a burger and participate is not the only way. Off the top of my head, a good clean up of the area would be a start, perhaps neaten up the existing landscape, remove any invasive species, and grow some native plants. Right now the area is shit. It looks like it and smells like it. You can put a bouquet of roses on a pile of shit and it's still going to be just that... shit.

I guess this Summer season photo could make one think it's a nice place to visit, especially with the name Lavender Creek.

I've pondered the idea of voicing my disapproval to the project. I think it will go on deaf ears especially since money has been given, plans are well in the making, advertisements have been sent out.  Aside from an email to them, I really do not want to involve myself in this.  I am busy elsewhere as you are probably aware.  I'd like to think there is more to this project than what they have posted but I wouldn't bet on it.

I intend on revisiting the area sometime after the work is done and will share my observations.  I am curious how many bird houses will be set up along this stretch.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

More Progress?

I did a very bad thing. I started this blog about 8 weeks ago and then never finished it.

Here we are in December now.  I didn't think I would still be doing nest blogs but here I am.

Today, it's about the Forgotten Land.  A lot has happened recently.  It's been back and forth with some people now over this spot, and things are a little jumbled in my head at the moment.  But I will do my best to relay all that has transpired.

I received an email a few weeks back from the individual.  I had lost faith with time passed and lack of replies to my emails.  But one finally came.  They said this had been passed on to another person, who would be contacting me in a week or so about meeting in the area.  There was a bit on the budget being spent for the year and they would re-visit this in 2018.  I felt like it was more of a brush off, but that was me with my current mood, and exhausted of how things had been going for quite some time now.  Plus I was already going to different places in my head on how to take care of things myself, and maybe just a little bit of help from some of you out there.

I went out to Rona and Home Depot on Monday.  I was pricing out new t-bars since I wasn't having much luck ripping out the old ones.  $15 each was going to add up very quick even if I only wanted to put in 4 or 5 as new boxes would need to be put in as well.  I did not buy any.  I ended up going back to the site with a little more fuel to my fire, and I managed to pull out 5 t-bars with my bare hands.  A lot of cursing and sweating, but I was successful.  I hid them deep in the growth and planned to return soon to set them up.

Thursday I ended up getting a phone call from this new person.  They were on site at 10:45 am and asked if I would like to meet them.  As much as I would have, I don't do last minute very well and was busy elsewhere.  What was I busy doing?  Well for one, borrowing a post driver tool from my friends in Area One to do some work in the Forgotten Land.  Go figure!  So I declined and made the promise to meet them the next day if they were coming back.  Today, they were going to assess the area.

Friday comes, they call me again, and give me their report.  Basically in their eyes, the whole area was deemed not suitable for nest boxes and everything must come down.  It seemed they were not given any of the nesting info I had been sharing from the Summer. I can't blame them for this observation. When I first explored the area, I too thought was a terrible place for nest boxes.

Of course I was quick to relay my results from the area.  Now that changed everything!  I did agree that just about everything currently set up should come down, that the initial 80 boxes was overkill, and that 10 to 15 would be plenty.

I had been taking more boxes down.  I left little piles scattered here and there.  I had taken a few home to try and salvage.  Some I disposed of myself.

I met them about an hour later.  They had printed off a map of the area and I marked off where the Swallows and Bluebirds had nested with egg and fledged counts, plus noted a couple older Wren nests I had found.  They were working in the far east section, taking out the last of the boxes and trying to pull t-bars out with some kind of tool.  I offered to help go at the remaining boxes with some time I had to spare.  I estimate by the end of this morning, in total I had removed over 50 since I started removing them some time ago.

I discussed with them about not removing everything because some boxes were in good condition. They donated 2 new boxes early in June and I salvaged a few.  I brought up about driving t-bars into some new spots and being prepared for next Spring when the birds would hopefully return.  New boxes could be set-up late in the Winter and I had a plan on how to get new boxes.  I was going to purchase new boxes from The Ontario Eastern Bluebird Society.  I was going to seek out people who would be willing to "sponsor a box" for the project.  I would keep them in the loop on what was happening through the season at their box.  Funny thing is conversation with some over the last few months, people were already inquiring about how they could help, where they could get a box to give to me, etc.  Great minds think alike!

The girls working on site couldn't say much because they were not in charge. 

I then passed this on to the individual via email and another who I learned was leading this team through a phone call.  I told them what I had planned since I had the driver tool with me.  It only made sense to get the t-bars into the ground now, before things freeze up.  Installing new boxes can be done anytime in the coming months before the birds start coming back.

This is where things got difficult.

I was asked to not do this.  They wanted to survey the area, draw up plans for a new set up for the next year.  The thing is they could not say 100% that they would get the funding.  That small bit of uncertainty I did not like.  It strengthened my point on what I wanted to do.

They also said if the winter was harsh, and the ground stayed frozen longer, that would delay things.  Another reason to go at things like I had in mind.  Why take these chances? The Bluebirds were here in March of 2017.

I didn't have 15 boxes set up in my head.  I had 5.  I had 5 t-bars sitting there waiting to be put to good use.  I knew getting 5 new boxes for Spring was going to be an easy task.  I even suggested that perhaps they could step back for one more season, take the data from 2018 and then figure out a better plan for 2019.  Having 2 seasons of data to work with.

I brought up the zero dollars needed to fund my idea.  There was dozens of good wood screws to be removed from the old boxes, that could be used.  There was more than enough sturdy and straight t-bars on site.  Between the few decent boxes already there and my idea on the sponsors, and if not, I would cover the cost myself for the 5 new boxes.  So what expense would this organization have to absorb?  Zero!  Maybe an hourly wage if they gave me some help but I was all set to go at this alone.

It was difficult going through this with more than one person and not at the same time, especially one through email and the other through a phone call.

Thankfully the man in charge now was via the phone and he verbally agreed to leave the current good boxes there.  Verbal agreements mean shit in court but to me it's all about word. I hold people to their word and if one doesn't keep it, that tells me a lot I need to know about a person. He did have a catch to this leaving the current good boxes though... he wanted to move them.

I argued this, not to be difficult, but because I did not see the point in moving boxes where birds nested successfully.  That still makes no sense to me.  I said I may not have some sort of educational degree about these things but I've got hands on experience, with a lot of care and concern for the birds.  That should account for something.

He was still quite persistent about moving them.  Funny thing is he had not been to the site himself.  He was planning to do so soon.  Fine.  But why make such decisions prior?

At the end of our conversation he promised to leave the one box where it was, and that would be the Bluebird box where I had success. 

I recently removed the old box and set up a new one. I can't say I like the color but the box is near new, very sturdy and the proper style for a Bluebird to use. It also has grooves on the inside wall to help young birds climb out which I did not see in any of the boxes that were initially installed.

I'd like to add that new box is currently a winter retreat to this Wooly Bear. I found him in another box my previous visit. A few years back I found one in a box I had at home. I will check on him in the early Spring and perhaps open the side wall so he can have an easier time freeing himself.

I know the spot does not seem ideal for Bluebirds but it worked (sort of). Something brought them here at least 2 years ago. They had a hard go this time around as you may recall but two pairs nested. The downfalls faced in 2017 really had nothing to do with the area, the things I had witnessed happens all over with nesting Bluebirds. The Spring of 2017 was also very unkind.

We cannot forget I had 3 successful Tree Swallow nests in 2017.

I guess what I did with the Bluebird box is sentimental. Young birds miraculously fledged from this spot. I will never forget that. Something should remain to mark this miracle, even if only for me. I've thought about further ways to help them if they came back, like invest in added predator protection such as a metal umbrella on the post below the box.

I drove my opinion on keeping the Bluebird thing quiet, sharing awful details of what happens at popular Bluebird nest sites.  The individual has agreed with me from day one.  I'm still unsure what this man thinks.

I brought up to him about me continuing to monitor the site in the years to come.  His reply was they have people to do this.  I'm unsure what he meant but of course I took it to heart.  If there's funding concerns, why not have someone willing to do this for free?  Someone who has proven they are dedicated and won't quit.  After the fact I think he meant people will check the boxes at the end of season, clean them out and inspect them.  I'm up for doing that since I see it is part of the task with nest monitoring.  As I clean boxes late in the Summer, it gives me closure.  I re-visit them in early Spring as I prepare myself for the new season.  The individual is all for me helping any way I can.  It is less burden for them. I believe there is a difference between a person wanting to be here of their own free will and free time compared to someone coming here because this is their job. I live 3 minutes drive from here whereas whoever might come to check may be coming from Scarborough or ??? Fuel is costly these days. This would help them save on such expenses. I've always promised to keep them informed on what is happening in the boxes.

I also concern over others coming in and finding things in the boxes, and not relaying important information back to me.

So I hung up the phone from the man.  I continued to help the two girls on site taking down more boxes. 

When I was ready to leave, they asked me if I wanted to take any decent boxes home because everything was going to be destroyed.  At first I said "no" but after some thinking, thought "why not?" and do some work on them over the winter because who knows what will happen in 2018.

Both this man I spoke with over the phone, and the individual, have agreed to keep in contact with me about the area, their plans.

I will admit I was a little bothered about how things were playing out.  I tried not to get my back up and I did my best to push my side of the overall debate.  Stepping away from this for a number of weeks has helped me clear my mind, let go of things that I did not like, cannot control, and install some new faith in everything.  After all, the individual did come through with the things she had said to me.  I just didn't like how long it took but I do realize this area was a big surprise to the current staff, and not in their already busy schedule for 2017.

I know I don't own the area.  But neither do they.  I don't own those boxes.  But in a sense they don't either because prior to me contacting them, this place did not exist.

I'm not seeking a pat on the back, or any sort of praise...  but because of me, things are happening down here once again.  Hopefully all for the benefit of the birds.

I feel a chapter closed and it's a new beginning.

How many of you are as curious about the next season as I am; and what these people plan to do at the site? What part will I play in all this? How many of you are still with me at the end of this blog?

So, ya, I should have published this weeks ago. I already have an update to share and will get working on it ASAP. Stay tuned.