Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

How can you protect birds during nesting season? (Short answer: don’t cut trees). And, BirdFest.

Migration is pretty much over now, and all birds are where they want to be if they’re sitting on eggs in a nest, or raising a clutch of nestlings. It might give us an opportunity to have a peep into their nests and niches and see them raise their babies (mostly by web-cam – this is something we all love!), but it doesn’t mean the dangers they face are completely over. There are still things to watch out for in the city…

Tree Felling During Nesting Season

Every spring, members of my local birding club notice incidents of tree cutting and felling in and around Montreal during this period, when birds are nesting. Even trained ornithologists have difficulty locating nests, so we’re concerned that these activities may harm or even be fatal to nesting birds.

Perhaps making matters worse is that while tree felling is an activity a homeowner needs a permit for, the permit process might not take into account the time of the felling  – and the businesses that fell trees, like landscaping services, haven’t needed to have a license from the RBQ – the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec. We can’t know whether a license would necessarily help birds, but it’s at least one avenue of contractor education.

What can you do if you witness tree felling during nesting season in your neighbourhood? One or all of the following:

  1. Take photos. Note the place, date and time of the event, and any other pertinent information. Send an e-mail to ec.priseaccessoire-incidentaltake.ec@canada.ca. If there is a concern, they  might investigate.
  2. Send an e-mail to your municipality AND to the contractor (take note of the company) that is cutting the tree, so they both have an official reminder of the law against interfering with birds of migration (Reducing risk to migratory birds). You can include the link in the e-mail, which provides the information we all need in order to ensure that all industry meets  obligations under the law. Make sure that both are cc’ed because… just saying… a lot of contractors do not care about your complaint, and if they respond at all, they could be belligerent about it. You want to keep the discourse civil. That also implies, too, that you emphasize to the facts you observed and not throw unwarranted assumptions into the notification or complaint. While people can be ignorantly focussed on the bottom-line, very few are intentional and cavalier about hurting other living things.
  3. Ask your municipality to verify the permits to the work.

Lastly, perhaps it’s time to address this at the municipal level, and change a few things regarding bird safety in Montreal.

Safe Wings Ottawa (like FLAP in Toronto) held a petition to change building guidelines (Petition · City of Ottawa: Prevent Thousands of Bird Fatalities: Join the Call for Bird Friendly Guidelines in Ottawa · Change.org) and it worked: Ottawa’s bird friendly guidelines take flight (March 9, 2018)

While the article doesn’t mention felling of trees, the fact is, if changes are made to by-laws, one might as well cover all bases while it’s being talked about.

Nonetheless, new regulations apply first and foremost to new development. From the article on bird-friendly guidelines: “An individual home may only be killing a handful of birds a year, but there are so many homes out there that those numbers really add up quickly.” If you’ve noticed any window-crashes, please call me to come fix it as soon as possible (delay = procrastination,  meaning another bird crash), or come and get the things to do it yourself at the…

Bird Fest next weekend!

Nature Expert is Montreal’s main birding store, selling everything a birder could possibly be interested in. Alain, the store owner, sponsors many door prizes for birding group events. They’ve organized BirdFest every year for the past 5 that I’m aware of (note: I’m not aware of everything!) and because it’s been awhile, I’m looking forward to going.

I’ll be there more in a citizen capacity (likely between 1 and 3 pm), but I hope to ask questions of the general public about what they do for birds and biodiversity, and also ask specific questions of expert birders. One question is what should average people look out for, and what they should avoid doing, if they want to see (or happen to see) birds nesting in public parks? 

If you have a perspective on this question, please tell us (other readers as well as me) in the comments below!

One tip I can offer right now is that birds will, at some cost, try to defend their nests:

Birdist Rule #28: Know When Birds Think You’re Too Close to Their Nests | Audubon

I’ve posed this question to Le Nichoir, however, it’s probably the heaviest two weeks right now of Bird Crash, Bird Nap, and Cat Orphaning season (three big reasons for rehabilation of wild birds). They will be at BirdFest next weekend, so I will talk to the volunteers on hand then.

Joanna from Le Nichoir got back to me to say “if you see a bird nesting, simply leave it alone. If something really seems amiss, please call us at (450) 458-2809 before you do anything. Sometimes birds will nest in really odd places and we don’t know exactly why they chose that spot. Perhaps a high-traffic area is a good place to stay away from predators, for example. So if you’re uncertain, call, but otherwise, just let them do their parenting.”

If you want to read good advice about preventing bird crashes, and other articles about birds that have been found and rehabilitated, read Le Nichoir’s  newsletter. It’s a high-quality PDF with a lot of research – figurative and literal – that went into it.

Now back to the event. The link is to the Facebook event so you can RSVP if you’re going:

Nature Expert’s Bird Fest
Saturday June 16th 2018
9:30 am to 5:00 PM
Location: Nature Expert, 5120 rue de Bellechasse, Montreal
Information: 514-351-5496 or 1-855-647-3289
Google Map to Location:
https://goo.gl/maps/wNMP1zpdBN22

If you enjoyed this post, well, occasionally my newsletter might talk about birds, it will talk about events, and finally, making bird houses is a pretty good DIY project. Sign up!

Bird houses - green wall

Bird houses on a green wall in an east end parking lot

May 26th: Plant giveaway in the Sud-Ouest borough

This is just a quick note to announce that it’s tomorrow when the Sud-Ouest, and many other boroughs in Montreal, give away flowers and herbs in their annual Bellissement campaign. 

It begins at 9 and lineups are long, but sometimes, depending on where you go, coffee and snacks are graciously provided by a sponsor.

Bring a bin or box to carry home your plants, and a bucket for compost.

Check the above link for location details and search out whether your own borough (if not Sud-Ouest) is offering the same this weekend.

If you found this post useful and would like to see a mailing list that announces things like it, get your email on the list:

Once I have enough subscribers, I’ll start a newsletter for weeks between blog posts, with DIYs, Q&As, and event announcements.

How cracks in my asphalt driveway revolutionized my life

If you’ve been to this blog or my Facebook page at least once before, you’ve probably seen photos of my green driveway. They’re all over the place, like in the video here. And yet every year, just like several years before I put it in, some contractor dude who’s thinking “that ain’t right!” drops by with a card to “fix” it. (I can’t blame him for pounding the pavement looking for clients, but still…).

Sometimes he even jots a quote on the back as to how much it would cost me to rip out my green driveway and put down some blacktop asphalt driveway. You know, my green driveway cost a little more than what he’s quoting, because it was kinda fancy underneath, but I won’t have to “repair” the crack every five years like he wants me to. No, thank you.

I used to have an asphalt driveway. About the only thing you can do on an asphalt or concrete driveway that you can’t do on mine is play basketball. And maybe make chalk drawings, but you know, the city sidewalk’s right there, so that’s no biggie.

See, for a long time I had cracks in the driveway where plants would grow. That’s why they’d wanna “repair” it. But why would I let that bother me? Water percolating into the soil and being taken up by plants actually cools the air through transpiration.

“But frost heaves!” – it’s a driveway, not a highway; a little bump from a crack is not a problem.

“But bigger cracks!” More plants!

Why would I want black top + hot sun make my driveway and home hotter, rather than something cooling it down? Besides, when the plants were growing in the cracks in my driveway, guess what the bunnies’ favourite outdoor snacks were?

That’s right – Continue reading

Visiting one of the last remaining urban wetlands – the Technoparc

Two weekends ago, I participated in the Good Friday Migration to save the Technoparc Wetlands. Read more about it – and see the French-language Pimento Report on YouTube (embedded) here.

With this post, I wanted to mention to readers that I’ve got a new pop-up to subscribe to my email list. See a similar box at the bottom of this post for more details.

I’ve been draggin’ my heels on writing this post ever since, for a false reason. I’ve been making it a bigger deal of writing a blog post than in than the writing actually is, because the issue is a bigger deal than most people realize. So I might say something controversial, but seems clear enough for someone to say.

Part of the game of development is “build it and they’ll come.” There’s no big influx (except if it’s downtown – proper brownfield building development!) but in the meantime, the first occupants will pay for servicing the building and the taxes. Though this is just kicking the can down the road, cities sees that new development, that new tax base as proof of … something usually vanity-related, and a revenue base for existing services. In time, because there’s no incentive for municipalities to forego development without a large NIMBY crowd, their services:tax base ratio will get skewed again. Development sure looks like a Ponzi scheme.

This is the view of the park from overhead, from the south.

Situated in this tension, with no voice but for those who speak up in time, is nature, where the birds carry on with their nestlings like they always have, only the conditions are less and less optimal while development games are played to make them unwelcome. Continue reading

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