Birchview apartments a nursery for young birds

The Feather Factor, by Sherry Lidstone

Male evening grosbeak feeding his offspring.

Male evening grosbeak feeding his offspring.

By Sherry Lidstone

By now baby birds are showing up everywhere, squawking up a storm while begging food from their parents. Very cute but very noisy, especially the young crows! Lately I have seen young Dark-eyed Juncos, Mountain Chickadees, Spotted Towhees, Pine Siskins, crows and Cassin’s Finches. Hopefully more will also make an appearance.

My new yard is a dry, rock pit on the side of the mountain with next to nothing for flowers except weeds, Fir trees and dead Pines. It pales in comparison to where we were in lower McLure with fish ponds, flowers galore and lush surroundings. There, I had over 76 species that visited my feeders and most brought their youngins’ along with them. Now though, I’m lucky if I’ve seen 35 species in my yard and only a few of those show up with juveniles in tow. I miss my old yard and all those wonderful birds!

The 30 foot birch in our old backyard may have been long dead but it was always full of life.

Twenty years ago, during our first summer in the North Thompson, five trees, including that old birch, had a date with the power saw.

When I pointed out the woodpecker holes up and down the trunk, my husband reluctantly agreed to leave it standing until Fall.

By late July, the fate of the tree was decided; it would remain until it fell on its own. I am so glad we left it up as the following summer it was a continuous source of entertainment.

There were thirteen cavities in the birch and almost all were used at some point for nests or shelter. That summer it was used as nesting sites for six species of birds, a family of squirrels and believe it or not….a family of bats too!

The “Birchview Apartments” were on a first come basis with mother squirrel and her babies claiming the penthouse suite and the seventh floor was occupied by starlings.

We were a little concerned when they moved in as we’d seen them the summer before robbing the flicker’s fourth floor home not only of eggs but hatchlings as well.

We need not have worried though. Once the starlings laid their eggs they seemed to leave everyone else’s nests alone. In fact, because of harassment from the flickers, the starlings seldom had the chance to even enter their own nest hole.

The clever, little Red-breasted Nuthatches in apartment six had a particularly ingenious method for keeping predators out, they smeared pitch all around their nest opening.

When I first spotted the pitch oozing out of the long dead tree I quickly scanned its limbs for signs of new growth. While pondering the unlikely, a nuthatch zipped straight into the hole with out even stopping to perch at the entrance.

Further reading revealed that other birds attempting to enlarge the hole would get their feathers covered with messy pitch and give up.

Rarely have there been reports of the nuthatches themselves becoming entrapped in their own device and perishing.

I wonder if this is where the idea for sticky fly strips came from?

A little lower on the tree, Mountain Chickadees, Downy Woodpeckers and Red-naped Sapsuckers also maintained nest holes.

The bats moved into the tree in mid July after the birds and squirrels left.

Not once did the bats cooperate in proving to my husband that they really were there! I was the only witness. Believe me, baby bats are not very cute.

Our gnarled birch wasn’t the only nursery in our yard that year. There were swallows in the barn, robins in the lilac, blackbirds in a pine, Chipping Sparrows in the gooseberry bush (she raised two of her own and one cowbird), more starlings in the side of our shop and Hairy Woodpeckers in another poplar.

Several other species nested near by and while we never actually saw their nests, dozens of fledglings showed up at our feeders.

A very prolific yard indeed … I miss all that activity! We did learn a lot from that dead birch experience though and now consider very carefully what trees must come down and which ones we allow to remain for the cavity nesters.

A final note, please use care when trimming trees and hedges as there could be active nests in them.

Until next time, Happy Birding!