Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city is hip and urban – and you can, too.

Category: Birds and Wildlife (page 2 of 7)

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 nest boxes and niches and see them raise their babies (mostly by web-cam — 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. People need to proactively protect nesting birds, and not assume anything.

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, don’t need to have a license from the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec. We can’t know whether having a license would necessarily help birds, but it’s at least one reliable avenue for educating contractors.

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

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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 (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 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, though I’m not sure if mites that affect squirrels also affect birds.

A long time ago, now, my dog Daisy died and couldn’t take her HartGard pills with her on her journey, I took one of the pills, shaved off a slice, and slathered it in peanut butter. I put one out on the patio about a month ago, hoping the right squirrel would take it. Then, I started occasionally feeding it a tidbit or two to get it used to me. Then I was able to treat it more directly.

The mange cleared up, but in the past week, it has come back. Probably the eggs in the nest have hatched and new juvenile and adult mites have latched on. So I followed up with a second treatment. Of course, the squirrel has stopped running away when I open the patio door, because it knows something edible is going to come flying out and land somewhere in the garden. Sure enough, it made a beeline for it today!

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You’ll never guess what’s 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 at https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Chipping_Sparrow
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spizella-passerina-015_edit.jpg

Chipping Sparrow – WikiMedia file by Mdf, Edited by Fir0002

I’ve been 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 persuaded me which one it was. (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!

Plants for Birds – a native garden planning resource

Are you getting ready to plan or plant your garden? If so, Plants for Birds is for you!

It’s a native-plant database (plants that evolved in local landscapes) cross-referenced with the birds that enjoy those plants. Knowing which birds pass through your location along with what kinds of food and shelter they’ll enjoy, it’s a great research tool for making decisions to help wild birds.

For Americans, it’s even better – it’s integrated with local nurseries where you can buy the plants! This aspect won’t apply to Canadian gardeners, as we wouldn’t be able to shop and bring plants back across the border. However, we share some of the same Zones as the northern states (for example, Montreal is in Zone 5). Only distance and our immediate habitat type (for instance, dry and open vs. wet and forested) might differ, so it’s relatively safe to assume we can benefit from this cross-referencing.

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Rewilding is about converting your lawn to groundcover (bit by bit!) to native species. This fosters biodiversity. It also creates habitat for urban wildlife. Finally, you'll only trim it 2-3 times per season rather than every 7-10 days!

The green driveway gallery shows you how you can DIY a driveway conversation using my first model as an example. There are other ways to do it, and things I learned in the process and afterward. Please call me at 514-815-5163 for my landscaping service, or to discuss upgrading your driveway.

The work season is April 1st through June 30th, but I install bird strike prevention (to stop birds from crashing into windows and glass balconies) whenever the temperature is above 5ºC. Call the number above or email. It's important to do this earlier rather than later,  in time for bird migrations in late April to end of May, and late August to mid-October.


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