American Goldfinch nest

American Goldfinch nest

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?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Another Empty Nest

Hey all, not trying to drag this blog out by any means but I visited the Forgotten Land earlier this week and checked another box I was confident would be empty; and it was! 5 more successfully fledged of Tree Swallows!
Tree Swallows leave quite the mess after they are done. The box was full of ants as well. I've come to the realization that white lithium grease does not have a seasonal lifetime to keep ants out. Thankfully not every box is effected by ants.
I cleaned the box out. I use gloves. I still haven't picked up any facial masks so I go for the old school bank robber look and use my t-shirt over my nose and mouth.
I checked the last known nest in the area. I knew the birds would still be inside and still a week or so away from fledging.
All is well inside with 5 healthy young Swallows.
Things are going very well so far with 11 hatches and 11 fledged. I will be going through Area One in the next week or so. We've got 60 more to leave their nests. It will be interesting to see what the final numbers will be. Have a great weekend!

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.