Autumn, fall colours, migration of birds, with geese in their thousands honking and hooting overhead. Most of them are snow geese and in the early morning they seem to pour over in an almost continuous stream.
At a more home-based level I have been cleaning out the nest boxes from around our little plot. Most are for mountain bluebirds and tree swallows, and are very easy to make. One sees them all across the prairies. Often made of plywood nailed together they are usually fixed to fence posts, two boxes about 30 metres apart, and then another two a couple of hundred metres down the road. They have to cleaned out afresh before every nesting season. Ours are a bit different and have the potential to be much longer lasting than plywood.
I take length of 4-inch (10 cm) sewer pipe, black by preference, and cut it into 15-inch (37 cm) lengths. Near one end I drill a 1.5-inch (3.75 cm) hole with a spade bit. The size is critical. Starlings cannot enter and the “boxes” are used only by those bluebirds and tree swallows. Then I put a cap on the thing, drill one small hole near the base and I’m ready to roll.
I walk round the garden and among the poplar tree searching for old stumps that are about 3 or 4 feet tall. I have even cut off dead trees at about this height and trimmed them so that the top is the right diameter. Here is one that has been in use for three years. The fact that it is not upright doesn’t seem to bother the tenants. Sometimes I use fence posts. I slip the pipe on to the stump and run in a single screw in the small hole near its base to secure it to the post or stump.
For my first efforts I made a mistake. I used white pipe and realized at once that this would not do, as the plastic glared in the sun. The solution? I roughed up the outside with a coarse file and then slapped on a couple of coats of grey exterior plaint. Before the second coat was dry I rolled the tubes in wood shavings gleaned from the sawdust collector in my woodwork shop.
When I do the rounds, either in the fall or spring, I can quickly see if the birds have found the nesting sites to their liking. It is simple. The used tubes are filled with little twigs – juts like the one in this picture. To clean them, it is simply a matter of undoing the one screw, lifting off the “box” and giving it a good shake. Now it’s ready for the new season. I’ll be making some more this winter as they have been a great success.