By Joan Asling
For the past 2 years Jerry and I have been constructing new boxes to replace the 400 plus boxes we still had in place after building and hanging over 500 in 1995/1996. The lumber then was free thanks to the Findlay family who operated the Scone Pallet Mill and gave us free lumber from their reject pile. Now our lumber comes from an Amish sawmill near Scone and Grey Rd. 3. We are buying 6″ and 8″ cedar boards and pay by the linear foot. We have made most of our new boxes in the long-box design and are making them without ventilation. We’ve also made 50 or so upright boxes that are also airtight. Air circulation to help keep boxes cool in a heat wave also causes hypothermia in cold, wet weather. The theory is that more birds die of cold than heat. In the past 4 years we have had many deaths in mid-May due to cold, wet weather. Our dismal numbers for those years are 2008 – 24 nestings, 90 fledgings; 2009 – 28 nestings, 145 fledglings; 2010 58 nestings, 143 fledglings; 2011 – 38 nestings, 145 fledglings. We speculate that many adult birds likely perished as well during those miserable days.
We are very happy to announce 2012 was our best year ever with 61 bluebird nesting and 254 young fledged. Out tree swallow numbers were 145 nests and 682 flew the coop; 7 house wrens raised 39 babies and 3 pairs of chickadees had 18 fledge. All told 216 nestings resulted in 989 young off the nests. Some of our bluebird parents raised more than one brood and those double nestings are included in the 61 count. (We clean out any house sparrows that attempt to nest as they are an introduced species and would take over every box if they were allowed to nest successfully.)
Jerry, Angus and Kim just hung 6 new boxes at Kinghurst near where the barn and house used to be.
A huge disappointment has been the removal of sturdy fences around large grassland pastures west of Paisley. The posts were pulled out and burned along with our expensive boxes, and we lost 24 boxes in that area, and another 28 boxes in Grey County in 2011 and 2012. Roadside fences are fast disappearing as more and more farmers cash crop and fewer pasture livestock. Experience has taught us to avoid horse pastures as horses knock our boxes down with their heads. Mouse nests are also a big problem so we are now leaving our boxes open on our last inspection tour in late summer.
On a typical bluebird day, we load our car with 3 drills and their charged batteries, predator guards, pieces of lumber, screws, tools and replacement boxes. With our packed lunches, thermoses of water and/or tea, we head out for the day and don’t get home until 8:00pm. Our Lake Huron run is over 150 km round trip. We try to check all of our boxes at least four times a season to record species, eggs, hatches and fledges.
In April 2013 we will start the rounds all over again.
Dave Schaus – Conservation Award Winner 2012