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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Spring Mix - Bulbs and Birds

February 27th, 2010

The last few weeks have been busy times. While we are still under snow - spring blooms here, and getting more, we are also heading slowly but surely towards spring. Gardeners are planning the changes to their flower beds and starting seeds indoors, kids are looking forward to outdoor activities without winter gear, and the snow shovelers are looking forward to stowing away their tools and readying their lawnmowers for the coming of the new season.

Me, I'm just looking forward to sunny days and balmy temperatures, the blooming of spring bulbs and the green of the grass. Summer days spent in the countryside or at the lakeside, lazing in the shade of a gazebo engrossed in a book, listening to the sound of the birds in the trees and breathing in the sweet fresh smell of growing things.


I love to watch the birds at any time of year, but the spring is particularly enjoyable. At the sanctuary, the geese and ducks are nesting, and so are the swans. The smaller birds like robins and sparrows are also building nests and preparing for their young. Watching the robins flying to and fro with bits of string, straw, paper and twigs makes one want to go hunting for the nests and watch for the small blue eggs and hungry little beaks. Having watched the babies grow into the youth stages at the wildlife center each year it's a season I never fail to look forward to. The unhappy part is often seeing the geese or duck babies disappear one by one, taken by snapping turtles or the aggressive trumpeter swans.

Around the house, several neighbours have had robins nesting over their outside lights, and although these often seem like a precarious place to raise their young, they are somewhat sheltered from the elements by roof and porch overhangs, and the heat from the lights helps to keep the eggs (and later the babies) warm in the cooler nights. In our yard, near the back fence we have an old bird feeder that has seen better days. The central V-shaped trough that fed the feed down to the feeding platform has long since broken apart and disappeared, leaving it no more than an open platform with a roof, and for several years we haven't put feed in it at all. Robins try to nest here, but although they get the nests built and the eggs laid, the starlings are aggressive and always manage to pull the nest off the platform and dump it (with the eggs) onto the ground breaking all the eggs. This spring I pulled down the "box" (quite a job since it's mounted on a 10' long pole that has to be dug out of the ground) and went to work "fixing it". Not to be a feeder again, but a nesting box of sorts. The back of the box has always rested against the top of the fence, making it dangerous for the birds to even feed there. We've seen other animals such as squirrels and chipmunks there, but even worse are the cats and raccoons.

Once the box was down, I glued (then screwed) a piece of tin that I cut onto the plug-hole in the top of the roof (that used to be where you poured in the seed). Then I used a small piece of wood to cover the back opening of the box, leaving a tiny open space at the top, under the roof overhange (less than 1/4"). The sides of the box were already enclosed from when it was a feeder, so I added several small pieces of wood to the front to create a partly enclosed environment, with enough room for the robins to come and go, but also with enough of a lip from the bottom up so that the nest can't be dislodged.

Hopefully, the next robins to try nesting here will have more success. When I resituated the box on it's pole, I dug a hole that results in the box being sheltered by the branches of a forsythia at the front opening, which makes it harder to see from the front, and difficult for larger animals (like cats and raccoons). They can't get at the back of the box anymore, and the narrow bendable branches of the forsythia won't hold their weight.  With any luck, we should have our own nesting robins over the next few years.

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