Big City, Little Homestead

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

Category: Birds and Wildlife (page 3 of 6)

How to give wildlife fresh, unfrozen water in winter

With the onset of truly cold weather now, with snow on the ground that sticks around, water is pretty much everywhere – in solid or powdered form. That makes it hard for our furry and feathered friends to get enough to drink. In fact, in winter, birds can suffer even more from lack of water than from lack of food. Today I’m going to show you just how easy it is to help your backyard wildlife friends get the water they need,

Don’t feel guilty that this might not have occurred to you yet. I’ve provided my house sparrows and their wild friends a wonderful backyard habitat with a pond for water (the kind of space which Rewilding can help you provide and certify for wildlife), but after November, it’s frozen. It took me years to finally give them this basic need in winter.

Until one day, I had the brilliant idea of how to do so with things I had on hand, in under 5 minutes (once all objects were located). And when you read to the bottom of this post, you’ll know why this is very timely, indeed! 

DIY Heated Watering Bowl instructions

All it requires is what you see in the cover photo (as described below): Continue reading

This is a very short and sweet curated list about attracting wildlife: 10 Cool Ways To Attract Endless Wildlife To Your Backyard! 

Here’s a list of the ideas you can find in the article (I won’t replicate the article, but I will star ⭐️ the ones I’d like to do myself, and then I’ll link to them when I’m done):

  • Build a bug and bee hotel (two versions in this article, both bigger and better than my Mason bee house)
  • Make a worm hotel – a terrarium; this isn’t an “attraction” project, but a weekend activity so that children can witness what worms do in the soil
  • Make a butterfly feeder ⭐️ (I’ll do this whenever there are many butterflies around, like the painted lady eruption Montreal had in 2017)
  • Build a Colonial-style bird house ⭐️ (very ambitious!)
  • Tutorials on how to attract ladybugs (basically: do what I do, and don’t forget roses, too!), hummingbirds, or frogs to your garden (you will need proximity to wood and wetland for them to make their way to you)
  • Make a bat house ⭐️
  • Make a wine bottle bird feeder. I actually have using a cheese grater from IKEA as the dish; it drains rainwater to keep the seed dry, and the birds love it. So do the squirrels, so I rarely fill the bottle. They know how to empty it!
A little Chipping sparrow, using the feeder in June 2019

How to stop killing birds with your windows – bird crash prevention!

Window crashes, also known as bird strikes, kill millions of birds with *every* migration. You might not think it happens to you, but it does. And we can stop it.

When I was in Toronto this week, I saw a newly constructed glass building in the new West Don Lands area that used bird-friendly glass, with dots impregnated into the glass every 8-10 cm (ideally, though, it should be every 5 cm).  Birds need to see that the reflective glass is not “air to fly through,” so interruptions or obstructions in the reflected light are necessary.

The Corktown Common park was a joy to visit. It has a constructed wetland that they seeded well with native species. It has reeds, duckweed, and native water fleur-de-lys, making it a wonderful habitat for birds. I only wish it were larger, but that it is so accessible to wandering humans means they have a chance to see nature they won’t otherwise see. It whets the appetite for the real thing.

I saw a nesting red-wing blackbird that was feeding his young ones. Or, more like, I saw him arrive with food, heard the cacophony of chirps, and then saw him fly off to get more.

On the walk to the park, we also saw a lone swan nesting, or resting, by the viaduct. It was strange to see that in a “no-man’s-land” off the eastern part of downtown, but as always, it was welcome.

Though we need to carry out bird-friendly design (and leaving some places alone to be wild) everywhere, Toronto bylaws require bird crash prevention – new buildings need to have bird-friendly glass. Toronto is in the middle of a flyway. Vancouver, too, has a new standard, as reported in Canadian Wildlife Magazine:

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Why you should make your chimney available to Chimney Swifts

A chimney swift is a bird, an aerial insectivore that consumes more than 1000 insects per day. It roosts in brick-laid chimneys. It’s not a dusty child from a Charles Dickens novel!

When the winter hearth fires are put out until next autumn comes, this article, How to make your chimney a home for chimney swifts, is an inspiration to an urban wildlife lover (click the link for a 6-minute read).

The key point is if your chimney is not lined with a metal tube, you’re in luck! You could host some chimney swifts. Montreal’s population will be here in May.

Their numbers have dwindled and habitat has declined, but with an open-sided chimney cap, you could take part in boosting their numbers now! (If your chimney’s dirty, clean it — you need to do this for fire hazard and insurance purposes every few years, because creosote builds up.)

At Le Nichoir, where I’ve volunteered, they have a rehab aviary for the young and injured and a habitat for healthy chimney swifts. As I later found out, Hurricane Wilma in 2005 decimated Quebec’s population of chimney swifts. Their population still needs help.

“The chimney swift has declined in Canada by 90 percent since the 1970s. In Manitoba, we basically sit at the northwest periphery of its global range, and when a species declines it always declines from its edges… We’re probably at the frontline of trying to help this species here in Manitoba because we’re at that edge.”

Tim Poole, Manitoba Chimney Swift Initiative
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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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