local Raccoon

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April 16, 2014

Getting Ready for the Bluebirds!

This past Sunday I joined some fellow members from The Ontario Eastern Bluebird society for a trip about part of Bronte Creek Provincial Park. The purpose for the trip was a maintenance check of the nest boxes, see what needed cleaning out, what needed some repair, and see if any nest activity had begun yet.

We were doing the east side of the park. The team, who looks after these boxes, did the west side of the park earlier in the week. Their find was one nest on the go already. And I hope it's survived what must be old man winter's last throw of snow and cold temps at us until next fall.

I had never been out with this group before, nor really done much trekking about this side of Bronte. We visit a couple times a year, we have our spots we frequent, and never go out of what we know because the park is quite large. So this was a good way to get to know more of the park, and some people I've briefly met at the OEBS general meeting(s). Unfortunately Angie could not join us because she was not feeling well.

There are 33 nest boxes on this side of the park, the west side has 38. Last season, the east side had 3 Bluebird nests while the west side had 8. Apparently there was some re-nest activity but those numbers escape me. And I forget how many fledged overall. I should try to get those numbers before I finish this blog.

Funny enough, we started at box #1 and #2. Coincidence? I think not! LoL!

The houses were in good condition overall. One contained the remains of a "dummy nest" that a House Wren threw together last Spring. That was removed. And I learned what the feeding station was for. Yes, feeding of course. But the OEBS only puts food (meal worms) on the platform through the early part of Spring, if Bluebirds are around. Why? The weather is unpredictable, as like this year, winter still comes back to haunt us some days, and natural food sources of insects are almost non-existent. I'm all for that because after all we feed our birds all year but come Spring when the Robins return, they need other things than seed or peanuts, and we are happy to provide them with meal worms and left over blueberries.  FYI...  Bluebirds being a Thrush species like the Robin, feed on the same things.

I should introduce the team, eh? There's Sylvia and Bert for starts. Sylvia bands the chicks about the park. And on these trips she makes records of everything they come across on the maintenance walk. A lot of things they try to get at right then and there, but if something needs a little more work, and they must come back... Sylvia has documented it all down. Her husband Bert opened up all the boxes, gave them a good cleaning, and he maps out the boxes for future reference, who is in what box, be it a Bluebird, Tree Swallow, Chickadee. And then there was Tom with them whose main objective on this day was to grease the poles in order to deter predators like Raccoons and Snakes.  Tom had his own Bluebird trail in the past before he ended up selling the land. I followed behind with a lady named Joyce, who is also a part of the South Peel Naturalists Club and a member of the OEBS. She is a wealth of information, not just about the Bluebirds, but birds in general, here there and so many places about Ontario. She shared many stories with me in our travels, and was kind enough to pick me up at a car pool spot to save on park admission (and gas).

It took us just over 3 hours to inspect all the boxes. In my head, when I heard of "Bluebird Trail", I had envisioned a line of nest boxes along a fence, or edge of a field. So I was surprised at first to find two boxes here, drive a bit and find two more boxes, go a bit further and find another two, and so on. There was only one spot where there was a single box which was soon to have a second one set up nearby. Having two boxes close to each other ensured a Bluebird got one box (hopefully) and a Tree Swallow would get the other one. I learned some time ago that two Tree Swallows would not nest next to each other unless it was absolutely necessary (desperate, lack of nest boxes). So this helped give the Eastern Bluebirds a better chance at nesting successfully without disturbance from the Tree Swallows. The nest boxes are set up in open areas more favorable to the Bluebird and less likely to attract a House Wren. Sadly, as time goes by, suitable nesting spots for the Bluebirds are growing over, making them more House Wren friendly. The boxes either must be placed elsewhere or the members must seek permission from the park to do a little bit of grounds work around the boxes, clearing them up some and making them more open for the Bluebirds.

I kept hoping through the trip we'd see a Bluebird. At one point apparently we did, but with the hard sun in front of us, I couldn't make it out until it flew off. We enjoyed all the birds we saw and/or heard; and actually accumulated quite a species list. Birds like Song Sparrow (there were many about), Field Sparrow (didn't see but heard them in many spots), Tree Swallows a plenty at every nest box location, Blue Jays, Chickadees, RWBBs, Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds, a couple Killdeer, Robins at every turn, Flickers scattered about the park, and heard the sound of a few Red-bellied Woodpeckers too. A few small flocks of Gold and House Finches were also seen. I saw my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the season as well as a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Lots of Turkey Vultures glided and circled over us. One Red-tailed Hawk. And an Osprey! Another first of season for me. The Osprey put on a lovely show over our heads for a brief moment. Here's a few pics of the birds, none are frame worthy by any means, just record shots for the blog.

So many Song Sparrows about the trek. All singing away.

Highlight was this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Then again, the Osprey overhead was pretty freakin' cool too!

But never mind the birding, there was work to be done about these nest boxes, and Sylvia, Bert and Tom did a great job in great time with the 33 houses. I felt a little bad just standing back and watching them but Joyce assured me all was good. I bet they would have let me do something if I asked. But I figured with so many houses to check on and the weather wasn't going to stay great for long, I would watch and take photos like I intended.

So, enjoy a few photos of the OEBS members at work on this day.

Sylvia (purple coat), Tom with bucket and Bert making repairs to a nest box.  Notice the pair of Tree Swallows behind observing?

Box #17 appears to have over wintered a mouse.  His nest remains, mouse left for the Spring if wasn't scooped up by a predator over the winter.

Oops, out of order...  here's the nest box from photo number one before taken down and being worked on.

Another nest box with a left over nest in it from last year.  The only photo of Joyce that I got.

Tom applying all purpose machine grease.  Works great!

These three work great together.

Nice to see a husband and wife sharing a common passion.

Sylvia redoing the numbers on the exterior.

They use a few different designs of Bluebird houses.  Some are donated from others.  Some have replaced older ones over the years.  Whatever works!  Bluebirds have used all kinds, just as long as the dimension to the entry hole is correct.

Onward to the next box!

Gotta give a shout out to their dedication to the Eastern Bluebirds and all these nest boxes they look after.  And this is just one small group in Ontario who help out the struggling species.  Angie and I have plans to visit some others and their Bluebird trails in the near future.

So ya, it was a fun few hours out and about with these people.  And guess what?!?!  I finally got to see an Eastern Bluebird on this walk right near the end of it.  We were on the last couple houses and this male appeared along side of the road.  I somehow knew it was going to end like this.  It was getting pretty dark out at this point, skies looked like they were just about ready to rain down on us...  so the shot is kinda blown out, but whatever, I was so happy to end the day with him showing up.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and maybe would consider joining The Ontario Eastern Bluebird society.  For a single person, it's $10 per year, and a family membership is $15.  I tell you the trip to the annual general meeting is worth it alone.  You meet some great people and listen to some really interesting talks.  Angie did a short blog about our last general meeting, see here.

April 11, 2014

Where'd They All Go?

Oh boy, aren't you all so lucky to see another blog about my Pigeon friends!

Things are a little strange lately and I'm unsure why. The regular visits, hand feeding multiple birds, has almost come to a stop. I say "almost" because there are still very random sporadic visits the last few weeks, never really knowing who is going to show and when.

Pierre last visited me on April 5th. He did have some 3 day stints coming to the back door in March which was nice, then off and away for a week or so.

Red was here on or about the 3rd or 4th.

A peaceful Saturday morning not too long with Red and one of the others.

Walter and Skye on March 29th.

And of course there's the new one, Mickey. It's the name I've given him/her after much thought and many suggestions. I do have a hard time differentiating Mickey from Jesse and even Skye is she's around without Walter. So hard to tell at times until they come right to me. Mickey and Jesse sit a certain way on my hand. Jesse prefers the finger tips and digs his little claws right in. Mickey lowers his body over the grub to hide it from anyone of his flock watching. And of course as you can see in the photo, Mickey is a bit of a mess on his underside, those feathers are ruffled.

But anyways, visits are less and less now. Is it because of nesting season? I've seen some Pigeons come in and take small twigs from the lawn. There are a few birds visiting but suddenly not my hand feeders like before. Maybe they are cheating on me and have another house they visit for some grub? As Spring is really feeling like Spring now, it seems the Hawk activity has died off. Nesting time keeping them closer to home, no snow and ice on the grounds, small mammals running about and to pick off. But are the Pigeon crew still uncertain about regular visits? Who knows?

I can't help that some negative thoughts come to mind. Dark shit I'd rather not spew here at this time. But knowing there are demons in the area with no appreciation for any wildlife, my thoughts do wander to them coming across such an individual. I assume they live in the high rises down the road from us and residents sure don't like Pigeons on their balconies and have done some very drastic things to remove them. Enough said or else I may start keying out examples and personal re-tellings of such things.

Anyways, the weekend is almost upon us. I plan to spend a lot of time out back cleaning up and keeping an eye out for my gang. Wish me luck, wish them good health and let's hope for some reunions very soon. I'll keep yas posted!

Cheers and have a great weekend!

My fave pic of Pierre and a friend on Valentine's Day.

April 9, 2014

Raccoon Release

On Saturday April 5th I participated in the release of 4 young Raccoons. From what I know of them, they were born very late last season and orphaned. And the kind people of Hobbitstee were once again willing to help.  I photo'd their release of 5 young Red Fox last year, see video here.

At a meeting with Hobbitstee last fall about a fundraiser, see blog here, we learned about the Raccoon young'uns, and Angie and I offered to "sponsor" them through their over-wintering. A small monthly donation I suppose, but adequate enough to help look after them. If we could afford more, we certainly would, for them and so many other wildlife creatures in need of help throughout the many places we are in contact with.

We never met the Raccoons, the animals are stressed enough as it is, no need for people peeking in on them, and the little human interaction keeps them wild. I agree with that completely due to the evil people in the world who have a hate on for Raccoons. I've seen enough terrible things here in the west end of Toronto the last few years and know of even worse stories about Ontario. They are living creatures and sorry to say, they bleed and feel very much like we do. Live and let live.  Anyways, enough about that.

Really there isn't much else to say about these creatures except that we wish them the best of luck as they get a second chance at life in the wild.

I was given the opportunity to come see the release, asked to take photos to share with Hobbitstee, and of course my wildlife and nature enthusiasts. Unfortunately Angie was unable to attend.  Here's a bunch of photos from beginning to end of their release.

You probably didn't need any commentary from me through the photos to figure out what was going on. And by the looks on their faces, you probably felt some emotions like I did. I was happy to see the little ones who aren't so little now go out and get a second shot at a life. But watching them, not everyone is as brave as the first to leave the carrier, and as it went down to the last one, you could sense his fear... and that made me sad. I'm sure they all had some fear to this new surrounding and uncertainty. But in the end, once they realize they are free, and in an area well away from traffic, with lots of big trees and a variety of foliage, landscape and water sources, that things will be pretty good in the end. I know they have a few things to learn as they tred the woods and fields, and I just have to have the best of hope for them.

Two of them ran off together after finding water nearby, having a quick drink and then gone. The other two also stuck together, climbing up the trees that were nearby the release. One went right to the top of a barren tree, scoping out the new home. And the other, was pulling bark from a cedar tree and picking at insects found underneath. That eased me some to see this.

And to my surprise, release time was not over as there was a Common Golden-eye ready to go home as well. The shores of Lake Ontario was only a few kilometres south of us, so away we went. I'm unsure what his story was, but they had over 165 water fowl come through the centre this past winter. Sadly so many did not survive as they were in really bad shape by the time they were found. So the ones that do make it, are all the more special, and a reminder to a rehabber on why they do this.

This Golden-eye was so cool and calm about his release. You could see how happy he was as he figured out he was going home. He got quite eager upon seeing the lake and the hundreds of water fowl out there in front of him. He put up no fight and as he went back into the water, he shook his tail feathers, slowly swam away like he owned the place, dipping and sipping the lake waters, and exploring as he swam away from us, never looking back.

I've not been to many releases in my life but have gotten quite familiar with them through others. So nice to see the wildlife return to the wild, happy and healthy. This Duck made that very clear. I should have video'd his cool calm behavior in the water. Oh well, perhaps another time with another Duck?

A few photos from his release. Good luck little guy!

I love this photo of him.

The next bunch of shots need no explanation...

Not all of us can spare the time to help, and sometimes just a small donation can make a difference. So many centres, so much can be done for them, even donating items on their wish lists. In the end, knowing you helped some of the wildlife you adore, is good for your soul and as I key this, know this will get me through a dark dreary Monday.