The Love Shack

The Love Shack

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Forgotten Land AND...

Since I was on a roll with Area One earlier in the week, I decided to get to the Forgotten Land a few days later. It's not booming and exciting like 2017 because the Bluebirds did not come back (nothing against the Tree Swallows). I am sad about this and hope for another time with them, another year, either here or some place else I am monitoring. It was a dramatic adventure and something I won't ever forget.

Anyway, let's get on with this. 7 boxes stand in the Forgotten Land, well, actually 8 because I discovered another box that was missed in my many walks of the area. I decided to leave it where it stands. It's a reminder of what once was in the area and no bird would ever use it because of where it is and the shape it is in.


Two other boxes have active nests. One has 7 eggs! That's a record high for me with a Tree Swallow nest.


It's nice to see them in a much more stable and secure box this year. Last year, they were on the same post in a dilapidated box I was fearful of inspecting again after discovering them. They had 6 eggs in 2017, and all successfully fledged. I'm curious if it's one of the same birds from last year?


The other box has 5 eggs inside. Also Tree Swallows. There is another box nearby, which has the start of a nest and hopefully it turns into something by next visit. All these boxes are in the section I've named West Hill. The other section, East Ravine, has 2 boxes and no activity.

The walk through the Forgotten Land isn't easy ever since that wind storm from earlier in the month. A few large trees were blown over and still lay across the paths.



If you caught my blog regarding the Forgotten Land from a few months ago, you might remember that I took down 27 boxes and left them in 3 neat piles off the path. They sat there until sometime recently cleaned them up. My last visit 2 weeks ago, the boxes were still there, but now they are gone. I'm going with either a community clean up or the city took on this task. I know it's not the people I've been in contact with about the area because there's still 30+ t-bars still in the ground. I have given up entirely on that group now. I have plans in the works for 2019 already which I hope to start up this fall; nothing big but hopefully a little more appealing to the birds.

AND, now for the last area which I have named Lambton since this is right around the corner from my home. I put one box up in 2017 and it had no activity. Earlier this Spring I put in another 2 that were given to me. One of those boxes has a Tree Swallow nest and 5 eggs.


When I first opened the box, I found a female Tree Swallow inside and she had no intention of leaving. So I closed the box up and walked away.


I went to check the other box which is about 60 ft east, it has no activity. I noticed her flying out while I was at this box. I took the opportunity to have another look now and saw the eggs.

The initial box has the start up of a Chickadee nest. I'm unsure if it's in development or they have since abandoned it and chose to nest elsewhere. I did notice an active cavity not too far from this box where Chickadees were seemingly nesting. This tiny cavity has had Chickadees in the past and another year some Downy Woodpeckers. We will know what's going on here by my next visit.


That mossy nesting material is a sure sign of Chickadees in my past experiences.


In 2 weeks time I will do another check of everything and hopefully have a total egg count for the season; unless we get a surprise second brood somewhere after.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Area One: Great Start



May 21, 2018. Angie and I went for a big walk through Area One. We've been on vacation for the last 2 weeks and I really wanted to do this before getting back to work as I know the first couple days back to the grind are gonna be rough.

It was a sunny warm morning and I enjoyed having my wife accompany me. It doesn't happen that often as I usually try to do these things during the work week since we work opposite shifts.

It was a bit of an adventure because some new boxes were set up that I had to find on my own, as I was not present during the install. Hopefully we found them all, but if not, I'm sure my friend and I can sort this out.

Okay, now for our finds in no particular order.

4 nest boxes with work in progress it would seem. I'm hoping they are in the early stages of development with some Tree Swallows. Last year I had a few that were started and then abandoned. It's a mystery as to why this happens.


2 nest boxes are empty.

8 nest boxes are just that... nests. 43 eggs in total so far. Many have 6 eggs within, a few 5's and one with 4 (which may have more in the coming days).





You may notice a Blue Jay feather was picked up somewhere for this nest below. We had one in a box last year as well.


Then, the really nice surprise is that Black-capped Chickadees have also taken up nesting in one box. They had 7 eggs, 4 of which hatched early that morning, and hopefully the other 3 will too. I could not see into the nest so I held my phone up over it to snap a photo, as I have to with many of the nests.


To give you an idea on the size of a Chickadee egg, here is a photo of mine from a few years back when Chickadees used to nest in our backyard. This egg came from a 2nd brood that did not hatch with our pair. The egg is on a 10 cent Canadian coin.


1 new nest box is active but whoever installed it, screwed the door side to the t-bar and it's currently not accessible for inspection. There was a pair of angry adults buzzing my head so I am going to leave the box be for the season. If they have eggs already, I'd rather not disrupt their development by moving the box. I will go with an average egg count (5) for this box until I can properly inspect later in the summer when the birds are done. NOTE: this number of eggs guess is NOT in my count of 43 so far. It will be a side note

1 nest box had a female Tree Swallow sitting in it. She was adamant about letting me have a peek. So I just closed the door, made a note and will check this box next visit in a couple weeks.

The Love Shack (cover photo) has a shallow pit of grass in the bottom. We shall see what, or if, anything has come of this with next visit.

1 House Wren nest well under way. I'm not going to do anything with this nest because they build them thick full of sticks and trying to catch a glimpse inside is too difficult without disturbing things. I borrowed this image from a Google search to give you an idea on what their nest looks like. It's amazing that such a tiny little bird like a House Wren can gather and set so many sticks inside a nest box. This one here actually built their nest over a Tree Swallow nest. I don't think this particular Wren nest is complete because in my encounters with them, you cannot see through the nest at all.


1 House Sparrow nest with 5 eggs. I borrowed this image from a Google search.


House Sparrows are no friend to Tree Swallows and Bluebirds. I know others would destroy this nest for many reasons but I will not. The box is well away from all the others, in the B area. Plus I have recently learned everything in the B area must come down in August due to some major development. There's only 4 boxes including our Love Shack and Alfie's box but we already have a plan on where they will go for 2019. I'm doubtful the House Sparrows will follow as I've not seen them in other areas.

I'd say this is a great start for the season. Ten nests for sure with four others potentially becoming. The Chickadee nest is a wonderful addition to the area.

Angie did a bird census for me during the walk.


I like to do this on occasion, especially in the month of May. This wasn't hard birding so I'm sure we passed a few Warblers high in the leafy tree tops. 19 species during a leisurely stroll is pretty good.

American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Common Grackle, American Goldfinch, Red-winged Blackbird, Baltimore Oriole, Black-capped Chickadee, Tree Swallow, Cooper's Hawk, Mallard Duck, House Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Philadelphia Vireo, Eastern Kingbird, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellow-throat, Cedar Waxwing and House Wren. She also spotted the first Black Swallowtail Butterfly for the season.

I will be checking my other areas later this week. Stay tuned.

Wow! I can't believe it's all happening once again, just like that. It wasn't much more than a month ago since we had the ice storm.

I've since done a follow up of the other two areas, you can check it out here.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

On Vacation

I'm on a much needed vacation with my wife. Be back soon! Until then, here's a sneak peek about a little nest box I was monitoring the best I could.


Enjoy the birds out there!

Friday, April 27, 2018

Area One "Return"

A visit to Area One this week had us seeing the return of some Tree Swallows. Amazing what a week of nice weather can do, eh?

Tree Swallows on the Love Shack.


Tree Swallows on Alfie's box. Sadly Alfie passed away over Christmas and I won't be able to share any news to him of how his box did this season. Of course I want to do everything I can to preserve this box now, I think of this kind man every time I check it.


My concerns about this new style of nest box, the Guild style, have been put at ease with the interest shown by some of the Swallows.


And as you can see, my friends have been busy tagging the boxes as well for better documentation of the season, and future communication about anything to do with any particular nest box. Big shout out to them!



They also built a few new boxes of the style that most of us are familiar with, and set them up. I will be meeting with them next week, getting a total box count now and going over any last must do's before things really get going with the birds.


It was nice to take in some other Spring sightings. A Great Egret was seen flying over. A Belted Kingfisher was heard flying down the river.

I did come across a sad sight. A Skunk laying dead on the trail, in full view for all to see. I picked him up and moved him well out of public view to give him a little bit of dignity. Plus I'm sure most people would rather not come across this during their walk. Anyone on my Facebook or reading my other blog knows I have a love for Skunks.


And then this. Cottontail perhaps? *sigh*


Chancing upon 5 White-tailed Deer perked me up after those sad finds.



Heck, even the half dozen Cormorants was like eye candy to me being first of year with my walk.


I discovered a "new" box off the path and it seems to have Swallows claiming it already. Oh boy! More nests! I didn't have my screwdriver with me to open it up and have a look to ensure it's clean and good to go. It's on the list for next week. As you can see, something else was going at the entry hole some time ago.


T-bars will be greased next week. I hope with my next entry of Area One I will have a total of how many boxes have been claimed by the Tree Swallows and maybe some other species.

Thanks for stopping in to give this a read. Cheers!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Waiting...

Last year by this time I was pretty stoked about the Eastern Bluebirds showing themselves in the Forgotten Land. This year I am looking out to a landscape covered in ice pellets after this past weekend's never ending ice storm and days after of precipitation.

Our backyard on April 18th with a photo bombing Pigeon.


The crappy weather and me being unwell for a week have put a damper on things. I guess it was a good time to get sick though.

I am feeling much better now and the coming days are looking a lot better. In the meantime, a little filler blog with a a bit of this and that from the areas.

For starts, the area around the corner from us is about ready to go. The t-bars just need to be greased but the boxes are up.

Here is one of the boxes. It was a rather standard and plain looking nest box when it was given to me. I decided to fancy it up a bit, I know the birds don't care, but I like it.


The other box that was given to me. I nailed a piece of roof shingle to the top. The bottom piece was split apart and I was able to use a piece of another nest box that I brought home from the Forgotten Land to make it usable once again.


This is the box I set up last Spring. It did not get any tenants. I have thought about moving it for this season but might leave it for one more year. It's about a 5 minute walk from the above two boxes but that's okay, I can handle it. If I ever take any of you out for a walk of Area One, you will get that last comment.


I have yet to name this area.

A few weeks back I was in the Forgotten Land. A Squirrel recently chewed the hell out of one of the newer boxes. Argh!


I brought the box home and tried a couple ways to repair it. I had a great idea of framing the hole and attaching a metal ring predator guard but with what I had laying around here, it wasn't working out. The thin wood quickly split apart when I tried to screw it to the remains of the box's front access. Remember I am trying to keep this as least costly as possible especially in the Forgotten Land because of all the hoopla with others. I next took the front wall off that same nest box which I used the bottom piece for the box I posted about above. It's not the most attractive box right now but this will work for 2018. Talk about not letting anything go to waste, eh.


I will be returning to the Forgotten Land soon to set it back up.

Lastly regarding this area. I was speaking live with "the man in charge". Unfortunately he had no answers, no decisions had been made about what, when, if they will come back and do any more to the area. I'm okay with them not coming back but I think it would be fair to me if they would give me a straight answer. He asked me to email him about everything once again, and give him a reminder. I have done that. It's been 3 weeks since and I've still not heard a thing.

Before the weather went for a shit and before I got sick, I was in Area One. It was great to have some company and some huge help from a guy I now call a friend of mine. We accomplished a lot in such a short amount of time. I won't deny that being chauffeured around in this brand new Gator was pretty freakin' sweet!


We assessed the last of the old boxes standing. We took down the 2 that were wrecked by Squirrels. The "mouse houses" were lowered considerably. I should note that we are 7 for 7 of the mouse houses being occupied with mice. They will be dealt with in the coming weeks, meaning the houses will be opened up for the season. The mice will vacate the houses on their own. We will re-visit this "mouse house" idea in the fall, allowing them shelter through the next winter. Predator protection will be applied to all t-bars soon. Boxes are being tagged which will help with notes through the nesting season and communicating in the future of any that need special attention. All that has happened in Area One is wonderful. Talk about a revival of an area that while was not forgotten, it wasn't getting the full attention needed to make for a successful breeding ground for the birds. My numbers from 2017 compared to the first year of monitoring in 2016 are proof to that.

I've been tweaking a couple other nest boxes I brought home from the Forgotten Land. These boxes are surprisingly in decent shape but they have been nailed shut from every side, making them not accessible for monitoring and more importantly for cleaning. It was almost like performing surgery trying to take the nails out because the wood is dried out and while not exactly brittle; force from a tool like a hammer can split the wood without much effort.

This first box, nails removed, front screw which is like a lock for the side access door. Whatever the reason, that side board pushes inward upon loosening of the front screw instead of pushing outward like all the other boxes so I put a small screw I found in my tool box which is now like a door handle.


Of course all this messing around simply cannot go without any sort of personal injury. That's not paint on the wood, that's my blood from one of my OOPS moments. Really I am not much of a handy man but I'm learning as I go and often it's a few "shit, that's not gonna work" moments before I get it somewhat right.


I should note both boxes contained remnants of Tree Swallow nests inside. They were from a few years ago and since have been home to wasps. A rude awakening for the wasps as I cleaned out the nests but that's what must be done.

I recently posted on social media asking anyone for any exterior wood paint they may have in their homes. You know, left overs from a finished project and willing to donate to my projects. The two above houses could use a coat of paint. It could be helpful to someone who may be holding onto a small amount of paint just because or too lazy to dispose of it. The last bit would go to good use here. And as I've mentioned, less out of pocket for me. Win win.

I had a couple offers.

One to meet a friend and get some paint but I would have to drive out to Cambridge. It's not that far really but the fuel spent in my truck for the drive would pay for a can of paint. I plan on meeting my friend one day, when the weather is nicer, and it won't be just about picking up the paint but about having a little social. That would make more sense to me with the drive.

Another made the generous offer to buy me the paint I needed. That was incredibly touching especially from a person I've only met twice but we are fellow Falcon watchers and have a bond of sorts. For the time being, I did pass. One, it goes against my keeping this low cost. Secondly, I have a difficult time accepting such kindness with my mish mash of projects. Like the uncertainty of the Forgotten Land keeps me from investing much other than my time. The spot around the corner is a little experiment of sorts and won't get any bigger than what it is. Area One I would have to discuss this with my friends since they built all the new houses. I'm sure they would say "yes" but I'd rather go over this with them first. Meh, I'm rambling now.

They are calling for double digit temperatures by early next week. May is just around the corner. I hope to have some cavity nesting bird sightings in these areas with my next blog. The waiting is killing me.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Quick Update

Spring is here, and it's time to get ready for the birds who will be back before we know it.

I did a walk about Area One this week. The new Guild style boxes are all set. Unfortunately I found two of the old style boxes, which have only been up for 2 seasons have been chewed to hell by a Squirrel.


Frustrating because the spot normally does not have Squirrels running through it. The boxes may be salvageable with a little exterior framing around the gaping holes. Lesson learned that in future, we will just leave the side doors open through the off season. The t-bars will soon be greased and that's about it.

We did have a little experiment going through this winter, keeping the old boxes on the t-bars, below the new ones. Mice took residence through the winter in these boxes like past years. Of course the mice and these boxes cannot stay on the posts and will be relocated (not harmed very soon). We have a great and healthy ecosystem in Area One which attracts all sorts of wildlife. Mice can be seen as vermin but in a field they feed other creatures. Now as nesting season nears, we have to get back to the mission of helping the birds we attract to these boxes. The mice can stay, even in these old boxes, just not on the same posts as the birds.



At least 3 mice were, and still are, in this one box.


A cool find from my walk of Area One. This piece will be going to Toronto Wildlife soon as an enrichment source for some animals in care. Nothing gets wasted, does it? If anyone reading this ever comes across any antlers, pick them up and give them to a wildlife rehabber. Or pass them along to me and I will get them to one.


I will be meeting some people from Area One next week to go over the last things we need to do before the birds return. We are all excited for another season.

I will admit my hesitation to this new style of nest box. I'm not big on changes, especially when it's something to do with what I am passionate about. You know the whole "if it's not broke, don't fix it" saying? The Guild style was far easier to build for the guys. I get that. The old boxes needed replacing for the new season. I'm told Tree Swallows and Bluebirds will use the Guild.

I've been in contact with the man regarding The Forgotten Land. As I key this, they still haven't made any decision about this location. There are some big factors that I choose not to discuss at the moment, which are out of our control. What happens here seems to effect their decision. So, for now, 6 boxes will stay standing. I'd love to add a few more but I won't this year. I may not ever if things go the way they are looking for the area. I'm anxious about if the Bluebirds will return. I've walked the area once a week the last couple weeks, no birds yet.

Last year I set up a lone box around the corner from us. A male Bluebird was often seen in the area but by the looks of things, he never attracted a mate. This morning I pounded in a couple more t-bars in the area and hopefully put up a couple boxes I salvaged from The Forgotten Land sometime next week. I don't mind doing this since it's costing me nothing other than my time. Stay tuned for what comes of this and what I might name this location. Pics to come.

How's that for a quick update?

Be back in a few weeks. Cheers!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Demolition

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.