Friday, 22 April 2016

The McNutty House

Many years ago, I constructed two nest boxes suitable for Screech-owls. Except for this past winter, the owls have been using the boxes but only for winter daytime roosting and for storing food items, never for brooding.

Instead, starlings and squirrels have used these oversized bird houses for nesting. Lately, a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches have decided that one of the boxes suits them well enough to move in. From the window over my kitchen sink, I watch them bringing bark shreds and other nesting material into the box. The male, especially in the early morning, declares his home ownership by an upside-down, wind-up toy sort of territorial dance, all the while sweeping his bill in wide arcs. They are a very cute couple. I call them the McNuttys.

For staying home and keeping me company throughout the winter, I reward them with suet cakes. Handouts of black oil seeds and peanuts are regular menu items. They are loyal customers.

White-breasted nuthatches have moved into this box, intended for screech owls.

The female will lay from three to ten eggs. One brood per year.

The bird on the roof is delivering a beakful of bark shreds.

It seems like a rather large house for such a small bird.

He is about to take off for the lunch counter.

The lunch counter. He uses take-out and will likely bring some home to Mrs. McNutty.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

A Bitter Lesson

We all make mistakes, that's just part of life. However, the error I made last summer was huge.

I had four colonies of honey bees and they seemed to be healthy. They had large populations and very little sign of varroa mites. The bottom boards had very few mites and I saw none at all on the bees. So I thought my bees were okay. I was very wrong!!!!

In November, my three biggest hives quit buzzing. In December the smaller one fell silent as well. The winter had barely begun when my honey bee colonies collapsed and died. This is typically what happens with a mite infestation. I should never have trusted my eyes alone. I should have done a sugar roll sampling which would have given me an accurate account of the mite situation. I even had a bottle of oxalic acid on hand to give them a miticide treatment but thought it wasn't needed

The lesson was bitter, but I vow never to repeat it. For as long as I keep honey bees, I will now test them by sugar roll sampling at least twice a year and apply treatment if needed.

Jorik, from Hudson Valley Bee Supply, demonstrates how to use the sugar roll sampling method in the following video:

Anyway, better days ahead! I've ordered two new colonies from local honey bee breeder and provincial apiary inspector, Brent Halsall. My new packages of bees will be ready to pick up in May or June. Honey bees will once again buzz among the flowers and keep me company as I work my garden.

Dead varroa mites on dead bees. My poor bees met a gruesome end.

And on a much happier note --

On Friday I had the pleasure of my brother and sister's company. We sat around the same table, in the same kitchen of the home we were all raised in and reminisced about the good old days. My sister, a gifted pianist, played some lovely tunes on our old family upright. Under her expert hands, the piano sang worthy of Carnegie Hall.

My brother made and installed a new antenna for receiving over-the-air television signals. It is much smaller than the commercial one I bought about seventeen years ago. And though smaller, it works much, much better! I now receive 22 stations clear and steady. I'll be spoiled for choice!

The nifty D.I.Y. antenna my brother made for me works beautifully.

My cumbersome and tattered old antenna is now retired.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Janitorial Duties

This morning's weather was perfect for a walkabout. And my new rubber boots were begging for a ramble. In addition to the much needed exercise, I had another mission. 

Over the years I've installed dozens of bird nesting boxes here. Already the first returning tree swallows are inspecting them as potential brood sites and it's my duty as landlady/janitor to make sure these dwellings are clean enough to pass muster.

Some boxes contained remnants of last year's nests and some contained field mice nests. A box in my backyard even had a red squirrel setting up house.

Not exactly beautiful, but this box seems pleasing to a tree swallow couple.

Some of the boxes have waterfront views.

A red squirrel's nest. She made the woodchips by chewing into the box's walls.

A pair of mallards paddle downstream as I intrude upon their nesting site.

This song sparrow was one of many declaring territorial ownership this morning.

A male goldfinch is slowly changing into his summer wardrobe.

One of several dozen pine siskins that frequent my feeders these days.

A cottontail rabbit inspecting a hollow under a brush pile.