Of Birds and the Wild Bird Care Centre

More and more migrants are back.

Doug Brandy started writing to me on April 2 about what turned out to be a series of four starlings that found their way into his cabin.

“We are only able to visit our cottage on Elsie Lake in Cawood on weekends at this time of year. We arrived yesterday after being away since last Sunday. As soon as we got in the door we could see bird feathers then ashes from the stove on the floor. After that it was kitchen objects strewn about and a dead starling in a corner. We seldom see starlings in our area and this one should have stayed in familiar territory.

“It looks as though Bird must have come down the chimney and into the stove. As we were absent and there was no fire, there would be no heat nor smoke to warn a curious bird away. On one other occasion a bird got into the stove this way but we found it dead in the firebox. The recent one seems to have escaped from the Findlay Oval by pushing open the check draft at the top of the firebox. Sooty bird then moved freely about both floors of our cottage.”

Finally the bird expired... but it was only the first. In three visits to the cottage, he found a total of four starlings. How were they getting in? Via the chimney of the wood stove.

He asked the local hardware store in Otter Lake whether it is a good idea to put a screen over the top of the chimney. They advised against it, saying the screen becomes a fire hazard because it becomes clogged with creosote.

That is our solution... but the hardware store is accurate. Eric climbs the extension ladder up to the roof and cleans the screen at least once a winter. Before he inserted the screen, we had several starlings a year descend the stovepipe and several made a real mess of our east room, depositing droppings everywhere. For us, it’s a solution that works... with careful monitoring of the screen.

If any of you have a better, safer idea, Doug Brandy and I would like to know. Write to me via e-mail else call me at 458-2090.

On a happier note, the hummingbirds are back. Our first siting was at a neighbour’s home on Farrell Road, but now reports are coming in from all over the Pontiac including Ile du Grand Calumet, where the wood ducks have also returned.

So it is more than time to clean and fill the hummingbird feeders. Remember: there’s no need to use the food that is dyed red. Why bother adding colouring chemicals to their food? Instead, if you want to “see red” simply purchase a red feeder. My old feeders are clear, but have no difficulty attracting the hummers.

Other welcome migrants include the brown thrasher, seen near Thorne, and the happy-sounding tree swallows at Moffatt Lake, and the cormorants that nest on the Ottawa River.

And, while returning from the annual perennial exchange near the Greermont Church, we spotted a wild turkey. Indeed, these birds are making quite a comeback, with 4-6 being regularly spotted by several people near Quyon.

Sightings are usually welcome, though when our cat Tigger killed the female bluebird that was protecting her nest against attack, we were very upset. Yes, it’s the cat’s nature, but still, the death is so senseless when the predator is a pet cat. I don’t know if any of you heard the CBC radio interview with the naturalist on Friday May 5, but the fellow said that Australia is considering the eventual banning of cats, due to the number of birds they kill.

But on to the Wild Bird Care Centre (WBCC) in Nepean. Many of you already know about Kathy Nihei, founder of the WBCC and in fact do call the Centre if you find birds in distress. Helping 4,000 injured birds annually costs a lot of money and during spring the Centre’s dollars are stretched. Why do they need money? Because the injured birds we take them (like our Quyon loon, remember?) need to be fed, they need to be housed in cages that won’t injure them... etc.

So at this time of the year, Kathy and her volunteers host an auction. Not your everyday auction of goods, but instead an auction of services. Here’s how it works (it’s a wonderful idea). Kathy writes, “By pledging a few special hours of your good health, strengths, talents or skills to the Bird Centre’s Feather in Your Cap” Auction, you can help raise funds that allow us to carry on our work with our feathered friends and your kindness can touch the lives of other people who may remember the deed forever.”

Several well-known people have donated: The Ottawa Citizen offers a lunch for two with their popular bird columnist Elizabeth Le Geyt; private birdwatching expedition is offered by Bruce Dilabio... and there are many more donations. Can’t think of what to offer? Kathy suggests helping someone maintain their garden, donating some hours to a senior’s home, and so on.

Contact the WBCC with a pledge else a donation... or ask them about birds. Tel: 613-828-2849; Fax 613-828-2194; E-mail: mojo@wildbirdcarecentre.org Website: www.wildbirdcarecentre.org

Katharine Fletcher is enjoying the migrants’ return to her Steele Line farm. Contact her with your bird sightings at fletcher.katharine@gmail.com