Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

Meadow Mueller 07/2003 - 04/2015

April 23, 2012

Waiting For Warblers

Here we are at the last days of April and I'm still waiting for the Warblers. Reports are coming in of the early migrants, Yellow-rumps, Pines. But I am just not seeing them yet. Even looking back to last Spring's photos, which was a far worse Spring than this year, I was seeing both species mentioned a week ago from this day. March was rather balmy and it sure was looking like we were going to have the migrants rush through here early. But April went and put things back in order, even slowed things down a bit... for me anyways. I am enjoying some other sightings in recent weeks which are satisfying my "birding urges" but the need to see and hear them Warblers builds with every passing day. A female Northern Flicker. Lovely Woodpecker species and I happened to see 5 in one small area not too long ago.
A female Hairy Woodpecker. Funny I see them more in the Spring and Summer than I do in the winter. I know others where it`s the opposite. I look forward to the summer days when the adult Hairys bring their babies to our backyard for peanuts and suet.
I am still crossing paths with Eastern Screech Owls. The Chickadees have been pointing them out to me in some of my walks. Tuning in to the natural world around us sure can bring out some of the more hidden treasures in the woods.
A Friday the 13th Screech Owl sighting. Last year I was pondering the idea of putting up such a size of a nestbox and see what larger creature might come for a stay over. But I argue with myself on whether I`d truly want such an awesome little predator on my property. The stress and chaos with my other visiting friends, and if I ever saw it catch one of my favorite visitors, eg: Northern Cardinal, would just break my heart. The surprise visits from the Hawks are enough. The Sharp-shinned caught one of the Grackles a couple weeks back; a species of Jay hated by many, but I like the Grackles and was saddened to see him get carried off in the talons of the Hawk. I also like the idea of Screech Owls, like any other Owls, being a treat to see out in the wild... it doesn`t happen all that often.
Angie and I are on vacation in a couple weeks. Much of our time off will be seeking out birds migrating through. Praying for great Spring weather and finally some Warblers!

April 16, 2012

There's Room For Everyone

Since my last blog, much has happened out back with the little outhouse nest box.

The Chickadees have been working away on it, hauling wood chips out, bringing odds and sods of other nest material in. The latest being pieces of old Pussy Willow blooms. The green fluffy bits surely must be pillowy soft for a little bird.

And just like that, along comes a male House Sparrow and his mate, deciding they want the outhouse nest box. I somehow believe this to be the pair, or at the very least, the male House Sparrow from the previous year. He was rather persistent on obtaining this house from the Chickadees.

male House Sparrow waiting to lay a smackdown on one of the returning Chickadees

The first day of this all had me stuck at home for a number of reasons... until I had to go to work that is. The best I could do was continuously step outside and chase these little pesty birds away from the home of the Chickadees. The biggest problem of all though was that the entrance hole was large enough for the House Sparrows to get into. A much worse outcome was possible with the Sparrows having access to the interior of the nest box. Too early for babies, but if there were eggs inside, they would destroy those for starts and possibly kill the smaller Chickadee pair. And then build their own nest on top of whatever remained inside. These are the horrifics I have read about from other people with similar situations.

I asked a web forum for advice and got a few suggestions. I called my local feed store, Wild Birds Unlimited in Etobicoke, and they had exactly what I needed. Seems the entrance hole to the nestbox was one and a half inches; but I needed to reduce the size to one and one eighths which would stop the Sparrows from getting inside. It was an easy job of just screwing in what looked like a large washer over the hole to reduce the size of the "cavity entrance".

Great success as the Sparrows could not enter the house anymore. But the problem was not entirely solved at this point. The Sparrows could not get in but that didn't mean they weren't going to give up trying or just hang around the house and bully the heck out of the Chickadees. And that is what they did. Which still left me quite often stepping outside to shoo the Sparrows away.

I noticed a change in the Chickadees as well. They became much faster now with getting in and out of the house. A blink of an eye and you would miss them. And much of the time they were hiding in the lilac tree that overshadows this old birdhouse as the bullying Sparrows sat and waited for their return.

one of the Chickadees making a quick exit, I swear he was sitting at the entrance when I took the shot

The next couple days were trying. I was thankful the end of the week was coming and I had a 4 day weekend to look forward to. One of my main plans was to be home more and monitor this situation and if I had to spend much of my day outside being a bird bodyguard, so be it.

The Sparrow attacks became less frequent each day but even one attack was still one too many for me. Or having one sit at the entrance way blocking the Chickadees from access or exit to the house. A part of me wished I had a pellet gun to end this nonsense.

And then Sunday, we noticed the Sparrows took an interest in a new house I put up outside the backdoor. A Woodpecker nestbox.

The world surrounding the Chickadee house became peaceful as the Sparrow pair moved on to this house and have been working at a steady pace of bringing nest material to it. I have to mention also a lot of work in the process of creating a new family as well... if you get my drift.

a familiar sighting now as the Chickadees are less stressed and able to rest at their home

and the same goes for the Sparrows too as mother Sparrow seemingly mocks the Chickadee down the yard

I know House Sparrows are not a native species. And am well aware, even more so now, of how much of a pest bird they can be. But after all this, I am happy to let them do their thing right outside my back door. The fact we have two active nests in the backyard this Spring is pretty exciting. It's like having my own nature channel.

House Sparrows mating. What can I say? "Tis better to see love making than war making" about sums it up

And the fact I can sit in the comforts of my kitchen and watch through the window without a pair of binoculars is alright. Perhaps next Spring I will have a different opinion of those Sparrows? Especially if a Downy Woodpecker comes along and would like the "Downy House".

April 5, 2012

Welcome Home

For almost as long as we've been feeding the birds in the backyard, there has been birdhouses set about the grounds as well. And I figure it took about 3 long years before we finally had any activity with them.

To our surprise and delight, a pair of Black-capped Chickadees took over the funniest house of them all... a mock outhouse. See, Chickadees were a rarity for us over the first number of years. Sure we could go to the local parks and see them but none were found on our property until the Winter of 08/09. And come the Spring of 2009, a pair began excavating this birdhouse. It was an exciting number of weeks after once we knew they had settled in. So often we'd see Dad coming in with insects non-stop for hours at a time. Kinda weird really, seeing there are half a dozen feeders the adults normally pick from. But no, he was bringing his children natural food sources, the things they would feed upon in the wild with no bird feeders around.

In the final days of them here with us, we could hear the babies within the nest box. Angie would stress over them one minute and giggle like a school girl another when she heard the "peep peep peep". We left one day in June for an overnight to Niagara Falls. We were gone only 30 hours and in that time they fledged. I remember it drove us crazy the first couple days with not hearing or seeing any Chickadees. I believe it was one of the first things we did when we got back... walk in the door, drop the travel bags, I hugged Meadow and then we went outside to check on them. The silence drove us mad. About 4 days later I finally decided to open up the bird house and see what or if anything was inside. I was happy to only find a perfect looking nest and one that was very clean too. No egg shells remained, no feathers, just twig fragments and grass bits all firmly patted down into a perfect square (the shape of the box). So, yes, the family moved on with the young fledging successfully.

We began to see Chickadees more often after that, and more of them come the following winter.

2010 rolled around and nothing happened.

2011 a pair of House Sparrows took over the nest box, or so it seemed. We never heard much in the way of a new family inside. But those Sparrows were in and out of that box for weeks last Spring. Checking later in the year, it sure didn't look like they did anything in the box. Wood shavings remained but nothing looking like a nest.

Come 2012, early March and it seemed the House Sparrows had returned once again.

The male sat out front of the house, like he did last year, chirping away happily much of the days. Other Sparrows would come and check out the box too. Males and females. He wasn't defending the box like he did the Spring of 2011. It was almost like he was showing it off, to sell it. Well this is what it looked like to me, coming from the guy with the big imagination.

And at other times it appeared excavation had begun.

But I hadn't put any wood shavings in the box yet. And now with him going in and out of the box. I didn't want to disturb it.

After about a week and a half, he left. Did the lack of excavating material put him off? Perhaps the lack of a potential mate? I didn't see any pairing up with him and a female this season.

A couple weeks passed with nothing going on at the outhouse. And then last week Angie texted me to say she'd been noticing some Chickadees checking out the box. I watched the next day, didn't see any action, and decided to get out there and put a couple inches of wood shavings inside. Finally come yesterday, April 4th, I watched a pair of them really begin excavating. Both working at it, flying into the house, and removing the shavings. It was funny from where I stood, almost directly across the yard from the house, with a branch over my head and the Chickadees were landing above me and releasing the shavings. I watched them fall to ground as the birds would fly back into the house for another piece.

I, or rather we, are hoping that they do nest here. It's an exciting thing to have happen right in our own backyard. We will once again be full of excitement over the little family and often full of stress as we watch and worry with the neighbourhood cat population, visiting Hawks and other threats for a wild bird.

Could this be the same adult(s) from that first year? It is possible. But if not, we are both quite certain one of them is from the initial family line.

"Welcome Home!"

here is a shot from 2009... a sight we'd see often