Problem birds

Birds at lake a problem?

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Are perching birds sitting on your boat or dock at the lake? Causing an unsightly problem? Reader David Kleis wanted to keep birds off his dock and pontoon boat. So he simply trimmed a sapling tree, mounted it to the end of his dock, and gave the birds a better place to perch. It’s used by a variety of birds, he says, and has the bonus of convenient viewing.p5070003.jpg 

No, no, don’t shoot

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Al writes to tell me that Barn Swallows are bothering his bluebird nest boxes. They’re nesting in them, he says. How is he handling this? He’s shooting them. No, no, no, no. Can’t shoot songbirds. There’s a federal law against that. Plus, his ‘problem’ birds can’t be Barn Swallows. That species doesn’t nest in boxes. His birds have to be Tree Swallows, the bluebird’s friend. Tree Swallows use nest boxes. This is the theory: If you place two nest boxes close to each other, say 15 feet apart, swallows will occupy one and then defend that territory from use by another pair of Tree Swallows. This leaves the second box for bluebirds (or House Wrens or Black-capped Chickadees). The swallows don’t care if bluebirds are close neighbors. They don’t compete for food. Both eat insects, but swallows capture bugs on the wing while bluebirds pick them from the ground. Problem birds? How do you handle it?

Night-time serenades

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

A few days ago Sharon who lives beside a marsh wrote to ask me about a bird that sang not only all day but also most of the night. What could it be, she asked. She thought birds were daytime singers.

Yes, many birds gear up for music with dawn, sometimes the first vague hint of dawn. Robins, for instance, will be singing at unholy early hours on early summer mornings, 3 a.m. maybe.  

Sharon most likely was hearing a Sedge Wren, a tireless singer of a rather monotonous song. Its habitat is grassy marsh edges. It could cause you to crank the bedroom windows shut.

Sedge Wrens are operatic tenors, however, when compared to Whip-poor-wills. Whip-poor-wills are loud, persistent, and insistent. I remember them from the days when we lived in the woods in northwestern Wisconsin.

On warm spring and summer nights this romantic sound would come from some brushy pasture far across the lake. It was romantic because it was distant and faint.

The bird has been clocked at as many as 59 calls per minute for more than 15 minutes at a stretch. If you lived next door to that, murder could enter your mind.

Anybody know of Whip-poor-wills calling in or around the metro area?  The closest I’ve found is along the Minnesota River near Chaska.