American Goldfinch nest

American Goldfinch nest

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

First Hatch!

Okay, so I had another secret... a 2nd Bluebird nest... somewhere. Why do I keep it a secret? Well anytime I talk about seeing Bluebirds, someone (times a few) asks me where they are. No one ever asks where that Tree Swallow box is. No one cares where a Robin's nest is. Those birds are in so many parks. But Bluebirds... Is that selfish of me? No. As excited as I am about having Eastern Bluebirds nesting in the area, I am not spending any more time with them than any of the other boxes I am monitoring. The birds need the distance. They deserve the respect. So about every 10 to 14 days I am checking in on how things are going. On May 1st, I discovered 2 eggs in the box they chose. May 12th I was delighted to now find 5 eggs. Then on May 26th I find this! Two newly hatched Bluebirds and hopefully their siblings are soon to follow.
There are a good number of Eastern Bluebirds in Southern Ontario this Spring. The Bluebirds nest earlier than most other songbirds. Some think this is an adaptation, getting in early and doing what they have to do before the other birds start up. Bluebirds really do have a hard go at nesting time, competing with other cavity nesters. It makes sense but who really knows? Sadly, with the cold wet Spring we are having this year, there is a lot of mortality with the young Bluebirds. A combination of the adults struggling to find insects in this weather plus keep their young warm. People are checking their boxes and finding all the young dead. Devastating. But there are survivors out there too. It's just with how many are not making it is overwhelming. Let's hope many of these adults re-nest, which some do, and produce a second clutch. I was happy to see the female fly out of the box as I approached. I then saw the male as I left the area.
This gave me the push I needed to go check on the first Bluebird nest which I had a tragic discovery within the other week. I had mixed opinions on what to do with the nest after removing the dead male. Leave it and possibly the female would keep up with it or dump it and start over. I was not ready to dump the eggs. I held out hope as I saw the female in the area days after. Opening that box, seeing the 5 eggs still there, I accepted that this nest was a failure and it was time to clean it out. I removed the whole nest in one piece and set it out in the tall grass. I figure something else will come along and make use of the eggs at some point or they will just go back to the Earth.
I am anxious to visit the existing Bluebird nest again. And soon! But Mother Nature doesn't rush things. Good thing I have other boxes and areas to check in the meantime.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Discovery

On May 21st I went out for a walk through the Forgotten Land. It's overwhelming the number of nest boxes that are there and while I do what I can, when I can for the boxes I see, be it remove them, repair them, replace them or just make them unusable until I can deal with them... I just can't get to them all. I walked to the farthest point west, where they begin, shaking my head at how low some are (2 ft off the ground is ridiculous) and then there was this one in particular.
Who in their right mind thought this was a proper nest box to set up? Entry holes on either side! In my waking moment here I think about a day like today; heavy rain and high winds getting in and going right through that box. This is not a deluxe feature having both a front and back door. Then I saw a sight very much like this photo I took on our vacation recently down in the Long Point area. A Tree Swallow sitting on a post.
It suddenly took flight. Then from a nest box nearby, out flew another Tree Swallow. Hence the title of this blog "Discovery".
So obviously there is a nest going on inside and I had to give the box a once over. It was hanging off the t-bar by one screw. The walls were coming apart. The front wall had a large gap as it was also coming away from wear over the years. I opened it up and this is what I found inside.
Woo hoo! But I felt bad that they are using this crappy box I did not get to doing anything about. I closed it back up and did my best to tighten it up with a couple extra screws I took from some of the other dilapidated boxes around me. The wood is so old and dry, it was making cracking sounds as I tried to add a support screw to the back wall along the t-bar. I decided it was best to not go any further. I did not want the box to break apart due to my efforts to secure it. Now I know where the box is, I will leave it be and not check it again until later in the Summer when I know the young birds would be out of it. I don't want to risk it with that brittle wood. Also in my walk, I checked a box I repaired and it has a Tree Swallow nest now. There were 3 eggs. How many more to come?
It shows the Forgotten Land has potential, and that the birds will try to use these nest boxes even as they age and start to fall apart. While in the natural world, natural cavities do not get maintained, and life goes on one way or another; it's still unfair for any cavity nesting bird to have a failed nest when trying to use a box humans put up but did not maintain. It is really frustrating that this blog will not separate my paragraphs in the final publish. I'm not doing anything different than what I do on my regular Rob and the Animals blog, which never has these issues. It all looks fine as I key it out but then everything condenses. Anyone familiar with Blogger and what might be my problem? I noticed a "send feedback" option and did just that now. Hopefully I can get this straightened out. Apologies for the mess here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Updates and Set Backs

Hey all who may be stopping in for an update on things. Here I am, going to try and be brief because we are on vacation right now. Angie went out for part of the day so it gave me the opportunity to check all the nest boxes and hopefully finish this blog before she returns and we head out back for the remainder of the day. We do hope one day her mobility issues will not be such an issue and she can join me on one of the nest box walks in the future. Okay, here we go... I started off with a box I knew of but have not mentioned about it on here so far. It was going to be kept secret until end of season and have a special blog about it. Eastern Bluebirds have been seen in our area this Spring and I found their box of interest. Sadly, checking in today after a couple weeks, I found the male dead within the box.
He was on top of 5 Bluebird eggs.
It was a crushing moment. And a mystery as to what happened. Friends believe he was defending the nest from another bird, maybe another male Bluebird, maybe a House Sparrow or House Wren? I've not seen nor heard either of those species in my walks about the area but can't rule it out. I did notice the Bluebird male fighting off a Tree Swallow last visit but the Swallows have set up in a box about 35 ft east of the Bluebirds. That's ample space for the two if I'm not mistaken. I removed the male from the box but left the nest and eggs inside. Rest in peace little one.
Thank you for the joy you have given me the past month!
I had seen a female Bluebird about so we shall see what or if anything comes of this now. It's a very sad moment for me though as I was very excited about having these birds so close to our home. It reminded me of last year with my first monitoring walk and finding the 5 dead young Tree Swallows at my first box check. I hope this is not an on going thing having me dread the first walk in years to come. But now I've got a Tree Swallow nest to keep an eye on here. I continued my trek into Area One. I was amazed to discover out of the 13 nest boxes we have in one field, that 10 are active with Tree Swallows! I ventured to the other field where we set up 4 boxes and 3 of them have active Tree Swallow nests. In 2016 we had a total of 7 nests for Area One. Now we have 13. Incredible! Add that other nest I have under my watch... 14. I'm going to be a busy boy. Tree Swallows lay an average of 5 eggs, sometimes 6, sometimes 4, but usually 5. We have the potential for 70 fledges this season if everything goes perfectly. That would double last year's. Here are some photos from my walk about. I found a single egg in a couple boxes.
Most were well under way and pretty much ready for eggs.
One box had 3 eggs in it already.
Hooray, Wood Duck Alfie's box has a nest! Trust me, there's one in there.
Double hooray as our "Love Shack" has a developing nest as well!
Incoming Tree Swallow, at my head, as I approach his nest box.
Standing ground until the last steps I take.
I don't like stressing them out but it's been 3 weeks since I've checked how things are here.
I'm applying yellow vinyl tape to the posts this year, keeping the red bands from last year, just for my own curiosity about nest boxes being used 2 years in a row. I probably should have applied the tape first but you can see last year's red band still.
As always, I thank everyone who stops in to have a read about the nest monitoring. Let's wish all the Tree Swallows a great nesting season and maybe hold out a little hope for the female Bluebird now without a mate.
I don't know why Blogger is being a pain today, not allowing me to separate my paragraphs. Grrr... This is why I've gotten creative and bolding out every other sentence. Hope it's helped with reading. Back in about 2 weeks with another update after my next round of box checks.