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Buglips the Birdman


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Well, I live right smack in the middle of Chimney Swift breeding territory, according to Wikipedia. And, it would make sense given that I know exactly how the bird got into my house. I have an old chimney that is no longer in use for a furnace, but is still used by my water heater's exhaust, and I've had birds come down through it before and get into my house through the not-quite-filled hole. That guy had to have done the same thing. I wouldn't be surprised to find that they had built a nest in it, which would be bad for them. I need to redo the mortar on my chimney bricks this year, and I really would prefer not to disturb their nest. But it's something that I have to do, otherwise I risk bricks falling off of my roof and onto my neighbor, his car, his dog, etc. Can't be having that.

 

If you can, wait until August to do the work. The chicks will have fledged and be gone by then.

 

 

Chimney Swifts are on the decline because we cut down the forests that had the hollow logs where they used to live, and now people are putting "animal" proofing on their chimneys where the birds had moved to and thrived. Furthermore, there are fewer and fewer clay chimneys being put up these days. They are simply running out of good nesting options. It is sad because they are amazing birds. They are one of the most prolific mosquito eaters out there. If you see them flying around they look like high speed cigars with wings. They have a syncopatic wing beat that flutters in such a way as to make it look like their wings are beating in opposite directions (they aren't really though). I'm thinking of erecting a Swift Tower next to my real chimney, which is basically a fake chimney. Chimneyswifts.org

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I was thinking that instead of putting the cage back up around my chimney if it has fallen off or something I was gonna try to figure out a way to put a screen partway down the chimney. Then they could still use the thing for nesting, but couldn't get into the house proper. Though maybe I could look into putting one or two of those swift towers on my shed roof, and I wouldn't need to screw with trying to fit a screen about 3-4 feet deep in the chimney.

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As long as it's not an actively used chimney for burning wood or coal. Any obstruction will collect creosote, and a screen placed in the chimney will quickly clog. At best you'll backdraft smoke into your house and asphyxiate, at worse you'll burn your house down.

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The only thing that my chimney is used for is an energy star certified natural gas water heater's exhaust vent. The thing practically never kicks on unless I'm actively using hot water, and its burn seems to be no worse than if I turned on all 4 burners on my gas range, at least to my untrained senses. I'd dare say that I could almost get away with it not having an exterior vent at all. I'm not willing to try it, just to be on the safe side, but I have a strong feeling that it could be done.

 

I'm well aware of soot and creosote buildup in chimneys though. My mom has a buck stove, my dad has two wood pellet stoves, my sister has a coal pellet stove, and my grandparents used to heat their house with lump coal. I'm also just about the only person in my immediate family who isn't afraid of heights, so I get to do tons of chimney sweeping each spring when everyone turns off their stuff, and again in the fall right before they start it back up.

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Okay, time to check in.

 

Jack and Judy did not like the apartments, I got no takers at either site. I got none in my backyard at all, actually. I think two factors influenced this. One, the starlings nesting in my neighbour's roof - who survived the hosening and may have fledged this morning. It's been quiet over there today. The starlings, being gangster murderbirds, would have alarmed the Juncos.

 

Second, I did find out where they built to - more or less. I didn't want to poke around for the specific nest, but I did stir up the parents in the vicinity. From the frequency of alarm chirps I knew I was near, but not extremely close to, their nest. They selected a nearby yard with no starlings or crows about, and this morning I saw the whole family out for munchies. Jack, Judy, and five little brown siblings. So they made it, and I'm happy.

 

Incidental to this I tracked several other mated pairs, who have now also produced fledged broods, and I count 27 new Juncos across six mated pairs within 100' radius of my house. That's a very good season.

 

As well, I've been tracking the mallards in two nearby ponds. The bigger pond close to my house produced two clutches - one large and one small - which is normal. The big clutch was 11 count the day they walked to the pond, the small clutch 4. Those are average numbers. Those ducklings have now grown a fair size and lost their yellow, so they're likely to be safe for the summer. Clutch 11 lost one, making 10 and Clutch 4 lost zero. In the other pond the clutches were 8 and 3 and both those lost none. That is an exceptional season for the mallards, and means the seagulls went hungry. The lone lost duckling came early, and may have been predation but just as easily disease or something. Most years a 10-11 clutch will reduce to 4-6 and a 3-6 clutch will reduce to 1-3 if not wiped out entirely.

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Nice. we never got around to hanging up our bluebird house. we had robins move into the yard, and they chase the bluebirds away. not sure where they are nesting. We've had visitors at our hummingbird feeder, or more accurately, a visitor. I've only seen the one, looks to be a female. Not sure if there is a male in the vicinity or not.

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Beware of starlings if you build a nest box, they're cavity nesters as well and they will totally murderlize the more desirable occupants. I've had plenty of time to get the full starling experience with them nesting not twenty feet away in the eaves. I've seen how filthy they are, heard how noisy they are, and watched them bully, attack, and skewer anything that looks at them funny.

 

It's legal to thin their numbers, and I think that's exactly what I'm going to do. Plenty of better birds to have around instead.

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Yay! Thanks for the update. I'm sorry to hear your efforts at peddling real estate didn't pan out, but it's good to know there were happy juncos anyway. Will you try to leave the houses up? Maybe the newness of the interiors was off-putting this season.

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As well, I've been tracking the mallards in two nearby ponds. The bigger pond close to my house produced two clutches - one large and one small - which is normal. The big clutch was 11 count the day they walked to the pond, the small clutch 4. Those are average numbers. Those ducklings have now grown a fair size and lost their yellow, so they're likely to be safe for the summer. Clutch 11 lost one, making 10 and Clutch 4 lost zero. In the other pond the clutches were 8 and 3 and both those lost none. That is an exceptional season for the mallards, and means the seagulls went hungry. The lone lost duckling came early, and may have been predation but just as easily disease or something. Most years a 10-11 clutch will reduce to 4-6 and a 3-6 clutch will reduce to 1-3 if not wiped out entirely.

We have a mallard female who nests in the inner courtyard at work (elementary school). This is at least her third year there. We (because the whole school is part of her family) started with a round dozen and are down to a healthy pack of eight. When it is time to move on, the janitor will lead a duck parade through the building to the playground where they depart from. I'm hoping that I can attend the parade this year, it might still happen in the next few days before we get out for the summer. (go until Weds) They were a great boost to the end of the year fatigue.

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Yay! Thanks for the update. I'm sorry to hear your efforts at peddling real estate didn't pan out, but it's good to know there were happy juncos anyway. Will you try to leave the houses up? Maybe the newness of the interiors was off-putting this season.

 

I'm going one better, actually. Now that I have no junco babies to worry about I'm going to work back there to clear out some brush and debris. At the same time, I'm going to lengthen and shore up the drainage canal to connect it to the ditch by the old road. That'll keep the swamp out of the place and make a nice stream.

 

When I do this, because this is precisely their preferred habitat, I'm going to dig out and build up little junco caves into the sides of the canal further downstream from the main path. Then all the brush is clear, I've had a good summer working outdoors and not my usual pale vampire hours, and the Juncos have a whole swatch of prime beachfront summer home to raise babies in undisturbed for years to come. Or at least until we sell the land as commercial and the whole works gets turned into a strip mall.

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We had Steller Jays nesting nearby (in a tall juniper that straddles the fence with our neighbour) and the kids were really excited when the fledglings left the nest and started hopping around and exploring our yard. I had hoped that the neighbourhood cats would remain oblivious long enough for them to learn better flying but at least one of them was caught and left as evidence.

 

It's nice to hear things worked out better over on the other coast. :)

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I was taking a walk last Monday and found a fledgling robin right along the side of the road. It was funny just watching it hop about in the lawn of the local Coke bottling plant and try to fly. It was almost like watching my mom's chickens try to fly, except the robin was doing worse than that. I had myself a hearty larf at his expense, but then I was envious because I knew that eventually he'd be able to fly and I still be stuck on the ground.

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