Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Category: Birds and Wildlife (page 1 of 5)

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

Bird houses - green wall

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

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!

Meet my squirrel! Mangey, but adorable.

This little guy or girl comes by my backyard every day and raids my two bird feeders, sometimes with the help of another squirrel. Because it has sarcoptic mange, I’ve been concerned about its winter survival.

You can treat mange with ivermectin, selamectin, or any of the avermectins. These are insecticides that kill mites and other parasites (even some internal worms, too) in pets and livestock. Left without treatment, this squirrel will suffer fur loss and diminished immunity, not to mention being driven mad with the itching. It will also lose out on some time better spent food gathering and stashing. Finally, there’s an increased risk of transmitting it to other animals and species. I certainly don’t want this, but I’m not sure if the mites that affect squirrels also affect birds.

It’s possibly illegal for me to have done this, but as my dog, Daisy, died and couldn’t take her HartGard pills with her on her journey, Continue reading

You’ll never guess what has been using my green driveway…

Last night I saw something charming enough that I posted it to the Facebook page, and I’m just going to copy it here. Without a direct video or photo (sorry!) I just have to tell it to you straight.

Tonight I had great satisfaction – and also proof-of-concept– when I came home from a run. As I passed my green driveway on the way in, I startled a small flock of chipping sparrows who were foraging on my green driveway, near the garage door. Success! They are getting more populous in my well-treed neighbourhood.

See more here at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chipping_Sparrow

I’m often confused about whether the birds I see are American Tree Sparrows or Chipping Sparrows. I haven’t heard the distinct call of the Tree Sparrow, but I often hear the distinct call of the Chipping Sparrow in spring. This persuades me which one it is. (You can easily see the American Tree Sparrow and listen to the calls the birds make at the All About Birds link, above).

Since 2012, when I really started paying attention to the birds here in  Little Burgundy, the Chipping Sparrow is increasing in numbers. It will fluctuate, but increases are good. All cities need native habitat and the birds and animals that use it, and the birds will then benefit from cities. There’s already ecological census data indicating that cities are beginning to be beneficial environments for many species, and not just skunks and raccoons!

Spring migration is underway – and it’s dangerous

The other day, I watched a documentary by New Hampshire Public Television on bird migration. I learned a few startling facts about habitat loss and other pressures that decimate bird populations. Most alarming of all was that their mortality while migrating is as high as 85%. I doubt that is due to hurricanes and low seasonal food, though these are real risks that birds have always faced. I’m sure that most are due to human activity:

  • Building and tower lights on at night throwing birds off course, exhausting and killing them. Birds migrate at night, and the light of the moon used to guide them. Now, our overlit cities and buildings misguide them.
  • Critical habitat loss on migration routes. Birds need to land and feed and stay according to the season and weather, before proceeding north (or south) again.
  • Bird strikes on power and cellular telephone infrastructure – wires and towers, and not just those of wind turbines.
  • Bird strikes on buildings, now more than ever – read Glass architecture is killing millions of migratory birds.
  • And the grand winner: Our pet and feral cats are the biggest killers by far. Do not underestimate the carnage that any sweet kitty causes. It’s not good fun. If you absolutely insist – you’re wrong, but still – on putting your cat outdoors, do it only at night, when birds are in flight. During the day they need to come down and search for food, water, and rest. They need it. The cat’s just playing. (So put a BirdBeSafe clown collar on kitty!)

In every city, Continue reading

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