Jump to content

Buglips the Birdman


Recommended Posts

I hear some familiar chirps, twitters, and trilling this morning. It's springtime, and the dark-eyed slate Juncos (Junco hyemalis hyemalis) are on their perches shouting obscene invitations to one another. There are also some starlings nesting nearby, quite noisy, but I'm not so worried about them. Though I will make a check to make sure they're not building an apartment in a vent or something.

 

Since the Juncos like nesting in my backyard, and since I have to go back there and do stuff, this has sometimes had unfortunate consequences. I'll surprise and disturb them, and this reveals their nest location to predators.

 

So this year I'm planning to try and make some attractive next site alternatives to hopefully convince them to roost in safer, low-traffic zones. In about an hour or so, I'm going to start in on that. I'll come back and post some pictures of my efforts.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark-eyed_Junco

 

 

After this I won't be able to provide any pictures of nests or baby birds (as getting close enough to will defeat the purpose of the plan), but after the nesting cycle is over in July then I'll examine my planted nest areas to see if anybody took advantage of the real estate and rent control.

 

 

  • Like 9
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 129
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

They're noisy, very noisy. They're messy. They're everywhere. They hog feeders. They gather in huge flocks. They're a pest bird, really. They do provide some benefit, but there's a reason they're the only bird excluded from the protections of the migratory bird act. Any other wildlife and you need permission, a permit, and possibly a professional to remove nests and stuff. Starlings, nope. All's fair with starlings. They even sell special poisoned seed for them.

 

Anyway, Juncos are different. Once you know to look for them you'll see them everywhere. In the southern US they'll be common visitors at feeders during the winter. You'll see them hopping on the ground and chipping merrily to each other.

 

So next post, some pictures of my work.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Starlings are also terrors on fruit trees, especially plum and cherry. I can't wait to see what you come up with Buglips. I have a mockingbird that frequents my chimney most mornings, and I can hear him singing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Starlings are also terrors on fruit trees, especially plum and cherry. I can't wait to see what you come up with Buglips. I have a mockingbird that frequents my chimney most mornings, and I can hear him singing.

My neighbor had plum trees... that would explain the angst I guess.

 

I had a mockingbird try to nest in the tree in front of my house the first spring we lived there. Little bastard would chirp and sing until all hours outside our bedroom window (which is open in the spring when weather permits). My wife still makes fun of me because one night at 3am I went out front in my underwear and shook the crap out of the tree and told the bird, in no uncertain terms, to shut up. We've not had a mockingbird in that tree for the four years since. I may have a slight anger problem when something messes with my sleep.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice to hear the juncos arrived safely to their spring/summer quarters. They left here (Virginia) about two weeks ago. One week they are all over the place, the next, completely gone. They are definitely one of my favorite winter birds. As for starlings...too many early morning wakeups to really like them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of pictures, might take a minute to load.

 

My fascination with Juncos goes back exactly ten years. Like most people, I never paid much attention to all the birds around. I'd hear them, see them every now and then, and figured they lived in trees. Well, ten years ago around this time I was laid up with a really bad flu. Being well stocked with supplies, I just holed myself away for a couple of weeks. When I finally emerged from seclusion, a visitor had taken advantage of the quiet to build a home here:

 

.nonesthere_zps9ec4e89b.jpg

 

 

That was a problem, because that's my porch. More specifically, that's my only way in or out. The bird had already laid eggs, but they hadn't hatched. I tried to coexist with the bird, and be careful in my comings and goings, but in the end it abandoned the next and kicked all the eggs over the side.

 

They haven't nested there again since, but they check it out every year. I just make it a point to show myself early so they say "Oh, right! That's where the big scary giant lives! We can't live there!" And then Jack and Judy Junco go off to make babies someplace else.

 

Now last year, they built a nest here:

 

 

.lastyear_zps32d0b6e6.jpg

 

 

Which might seem an odd spot for a nest, but the trench was covered by walkboards. When the spring runoff subsided, that left the Juncos with a real cozy little hidden hill resort and they moved in. Built a nest. Laid eggs. The eggs hatched. And right around when the young were about 6 or 7 days old, I tromped overhead and Judy Junco came flying out in a panic. Shortly followed by Jack, who being a good dad heroically played "broken wing come get me" to lure my bad self away from the kids. I took the hint and left, but something was watching it all go down. Might have been a crow. A cat. Possibly a squirrel (in my experience, those things are vicious. They won't eat nestlings, they just mangle them because they can). In any case, the young were doomed and something raided their nest. 5 days more and they'd have fledged. I felt so bad.

 

The lesson was that so long as they weren't disturbed, they probably had a good chance. So this year, they'll get one!

 

Here are the pre-fab homes I'm going to use:

 

.prefabhouses_zpsa20f025c.jpg

 

 

The red Folgers can seems the sturdier of the two, so I'm putting that at Site #1 which should be the choicest. The Maxwell House can I'll put at an alternate site that might also be attractive, far enough away that if two families set up nests they shouldn't bother each other. It's likely the same family will investigate both sites (and my porch) because Juncos tend to work on several sites before fixing on one.

 

Juncos are ground nesters, looking for places with hollows and a nice overhand in a hidden spot. That's why they like my porch so much. So first I have to find a good spot.

 

.goodspot_zps539d7f03.jpg

 

That looks good. Winter weather blew down some trees, and this spot is fairly close to the trench they liked so much last year - but far enough away that it's hard to disturb. There's a hollow inside, it's close to water, it's close to where they'll gather nest material from dead grass. It's primo Junco real estate. Beverly Hills for small birds.

 

 

.homesweetcan_zpsd89adafc.jpg

 

 

So I tucked the pre-fab house inside and covered it with some dirt. I also put some on the inside. I laid nesting material in first, and then dirt on top so that there's already rooted material for Judy Junco to intertwine her nest with. I threw some material around the entrance to attract their attention. Hopefully when I scare them away from my porch they'll find this place and think it's a nice neighbourhood to raise a family. Good schools, I hear. And it's not in the same yard as that surly chipmunk who lives in the big old stump.

 

 

.neverknowitwasthere_zpsd849d453.jpg

 

Then I camouflaged the entrance, which will also provide additional shelter. I left an easy quick-escape/entrance opening. So hopefully this real estate listing will attract some Juncos. I offer low rates and easy financing.

 

On to site two!

 

 

.sitetwo_zps657eaa41.jpg

 

Not as optimal here, so I made do with what I could. I found a nice cluster of small shrubs and trees tucked out of the way but still close to water, nest material, and in the range they like to frequent.

 

.inviting_zpse78dd086.jpg

 

 

Filled it partway with dirt, same as last time, and threw some on top to camouflage it a bit.

 

 

.hiddenhome_zps06caa2d2.jpg

 

 

And then I hid that as best I could, too. So we'll see. It's kinda nice, if a little less posh.

  • Like 11
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nice to hear the juncos arrived safely to their spring/summer quarters. They left here (Virginia) about two weeks ago. One week they are all over the place, the next, completely gone. They are definitely one of my favorite winter birds. As for starlings...too many early morning wakeups to really like them.

 

 

The ones here don't migrate, it's mild enough they stay all year and don't have to fly out over the water. If I do get nesters, it's likely the male will be the same from last year. Possibly even the same pair.

Edited by buglips*the*goblin
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not normally a xenophobe, but Starlings are my least favorite immigrants. An introduced species in this continent, and a blight on our many native songbirds.

 

I miss mockingbirds...don't see many here in Pittsburgh.

 

Nice work on the junco nests. Those photos went up during me typing my last post, now I'm glad to see them. I'd live there!

 

...you know, if I were smaller.

 

...and a bird.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The winged pest of choice around us (Waterloo, NY), aside from the Starlings, are Crows. Every winter crows invade the region. Crows roost in winter and we would always get many but over the last decade or so the population has increased significantly. The biggest concentration is in Auburn, 30 minutes east of us, but since the initial increase they have expanded to include many regions around us.

 

Recently I was driving to Auburn and I noticed a large black moving cloud was hovering over the fields north of the road. I thought it was a swarm of insects but it was really a LOT of crows just a bit farther away than it seemed.

 

01-10-05.jpg Roosting for the night in Downtown Auburn.

 

The city has attempted several plans to control the Crow population but none have been overly successful.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Moderator

Both Starlings and Hose Sparrows (actually a type of weaver and not a true sparrow at all) are invasive species that come from Eurasia and do enormous damage to our native wildlife, especially other birds. Neither are protected (at least in the US). The House sparrows likely came over roosting in the masts of ships. Starlings were intentionally released here by someone who thought they were pretty. :grr:

 

Kudos to you Buglips on your quest to help the Juncos. I love Juncos, though they only spend the winter here and don't nest in central MN. I provide homes for wrens, who sing in my garden all summer long.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The winged pest of choice around us (Waterloo, NY), aside from the Starlings, are Crows. Every winter crows invade the region. Crows roost in winter and we would always get many but over the last decade or so the population has increased significantly. The biggest concentration is in Auburn, 30 minutes east of us, but since the initial increase they have expanded to include many regions around us.

 

Recently I was driving to Auburn and I noticed a large black moving cloud was hovering over the fields north of the road. I thought it was a swarm of insects but it was really a LOT of crows just a bit farther away than it seemed.

 

01-10-05.jpg Roosting for the night in Downtown Auburn.

 

The city has attempted several plans to control the Crow population but none have been overly successful.

You know I was working on a joke about moving in a bunch of politicians (they are always "eating crow") but inflicting politicians on anyone is cruel and unusal punishment so I stopped.

 

OT: Buglips I'llbe showing this to my wife as she is bonzo for the birds. We have the local all-hours all season diner in our back yard (multiple seed feeders, suet feeders and ground feeders) and she spends her mornings sitting out on the deck with her coffee and binoculars seeing who has returned this year. Cats are summarily run out of town. Now the hawks that have moved in and are nesting in the tress out back? They are allowed to stay for the buffet.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe Singapore has had a crow-hunting brigade for some time, now...almost three decades, I think. It's one of the few ways you can own a gun privately, there. Their crows are so bad they even bring in urban hunts.

 

North America also has a tradition of hunting crow, though it's far less organized...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...