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May 23, 2013

Swallows at Cold Creek Conservation Area declining

Photo by Barry Wallace
Tachycineta bicolor
I noticed in the recent 2012 Cold Creek nesting report numbers that Tree Swallows seemed to be down a little, while wrens, bluebirds and chickadees appeared up quite a bit.   I went back seven years and compared nesting numbers for 2005.  There were only 33 bird boxes at Cold Creek in 2005, compared with 55 boxes in 2012.   Taking that increase into consideration, one discovers that Tree Swallows occupied 15 of the 33 nesting boxes in 2005 or 45%.   In 2012, Tree Swallows occupied 12 of 55 boxes or 22%.   Other national bird surveys have shown even larger drops in Tree Swallow nesting numbers.   On the other hand, Cold Creek's number for wrens, bluebirds and chickadees are up much more, percentage-wise, than national bird surveys.   Obviously, Cold Creek's nest-box program has been very successful (for many different reasons) with lower rates of declines for some birds (swallows) and higher rates of increases for other nest-box birds.   Let's hope the Cold Creek Conservation Area's Stewardship Committee continues its fine work with its bird box program and that it contributes in its own way to fight the decline of many bird species in North America.
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May 20, 2013

First wrens ever, nesting in backyard

For a number of years, but not every year, chickadees have nested in a bird box attached to our garden shed.   This year, for the first time ever, House Wrens have taken over the space and we are delighted.   They are currently filling the box with twigs that will fill the box almost to the top, leaving just enough room for a nest full of 5 to 8 tiny hatchlings, and the parents to feed them.   I have heard wrens before, of course, out in the fields and woods, but I now think one never really appreciates how loud they are until they are right over your head in one's backyard.   
Their song is a rapid, liquid, bubbling chatter and loud, often given throughout the day.   They also give a rapid churring note and rough, buzzy scolding chatter, a sound I have heard quite a lot over the past few days.  
No twig or stick seems to be too big for the House Wren to get inside its new home, once it has decided it is the right spot to nest.   It wiggles and jiggles every stick until one end goes in and rest is academic...a push and a tug and and it's off to get another stick.
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May 10, 2013

First hummingbird shows up

Photo by BarrytheBirder
Hummers arrive on May 10th - (3 of last 4 years)
It had been raining most of the day today and it was chilly (16C), but at 4.40 p.m. the first Ruby-throated Hummingbird of the season showed up at a feeder, just outside the kitchen window.   May 10 has been 'Hummer-day' for three out of the past four years (2010, 2011 and 2013).   May 3 was the 2012 arrival date.   The weather forecast for the next few days indicates a challenge for hummingbirds with cold temperatures and even a bit of snow in the forecast!
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May 6, 2013

Rose-breasted Grosbeak arrives

Watercolour sketch of Rose-breasted Grosbeak ~ Barry The Birder

Above is a copy of part of page, from a bird list I created many years ago, at a friend's cottage on Clam Lake, just west of Algonquin park.   I am using it here because the photos I took today of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak turned out badly...unusable, in fact.   I can't bear writing about a bird when I can't illustrate it with a photo.   In this case, I'm reduced to using a pen sketch I did,  way back when, with a bit of watercolour paint.   My friend and neighbour Ed Millar emailed me to say that Rose-breasted Grosbeaks had returned, as they always do, to his backyard.   I replied that I hadn't had one in my backyard ever!    I checked my records, and discovered I did see one in 1975, the first ever in the backyard.   My wife assures me we have seen a couple more over the years.   The day after Ed's email, guess what showed up in the backyard: a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak.   I emailed Ed to say I thought I had his bird in my yard and that he should come over and get it.   Ed told me how they always a number of grosbeaks each year the feeders but he had only one this year.   Our village is undergoing huge housing development this year and Ed wondered if the stripped landscape hasn't altered spring grosbeak migration in our little village.   That would be a shame.   Rose-breasted Grosbeaks sound a lot like robins, but even cheerier.
Ps. The Clam Lake bird list (partially reproduced above ) included 32 species, including five warbler species...not bad for a couple of warm May days in central Ontario.  
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