Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for Feathers on Friday, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I will add a link in this my post.

A male American Goldfinch eating from my  sunflower feeder (which I won by guessing the mystery bird on Ray Brown’s Talkin’ Birds show!),

How To: Decorative Bird House

I made this bird house for the annual country fair last year, for the kids’ recycled projects category (I was just under 13 when I made this). I was surprised and happy when it won first place.

It looks hard but is very easy to do. My mother found the project in an old Country Gardens magazine and thought I could make something similar. Here are a variety of pictures so you can see the bird house from different angles,

Items necessary:

Bird house made from scrap lumber

Mortar (not a lot)

Old china plates, broken/cracked or orphaned

Piece of scrap metal, for the roof


1) Make the bottom part of a bird house (everything but the roof) out of scrap lumber.  It can be any color or with different kinds of lumber because the whole bird house will be covered up with mortar and homemade “tiles”.

2) Gather a collection of broken, cracked, or orphan dishes. My mother found some for me at our Goodwill shop for $1 each.  If they aren’t already in the sizes you need, break them up with a hammer.  I did it outside on our driveway, but you could even do it inside with the plate well wrapped in a plastic bag. 

3) Starting with one side of the birdhouse, apply mortar to the side, and stick on the pieces of china in a design you like.  You don’t need a lot of mortar to cover the bird house, so if you have some leftover from another project that would be fine.  Cover each side of the bird house the same way.

4) The cup and saucer I found weren’t broken but they weren’t being used any more, so I decided to make a decorative perch at the entrance by cutting them with a tile saw. If you are younger like me, you can have an adult help with this if necessary. Attach with more mortar.

5) Find a piece of scrap metal in the garage or shop, and again, if necessary, have an adult help you cut it to size.  This piece was dark brown on one side, which I thought would be too hot for the birds, so I just bent it so that the outside would be the lighter colored side. 

6) Attach the roof with screws so that you can remove it to clean out the old nests, and also to check on the baby birds in the summer every once in a while.

7) Find a place to put your new bird house! My mother likes this one as a garden decoration so unlike all of the other bird houses in our garden, this one doesn’t have any residents, at least not yet.

Feathers on Friday

If you would like to join me for Feathers on Friday, please put the link to your blog post in the comments and I will add a link to my post.

A tree swallow, rather agitated after I looked into its nest box,

I put out this cute bird feeder from Veseys, a present from my mother. I filled it with grass and dryer lint, the birds seem to find it handy for nest building,

”The Bird”

One of my many favorite radio shows is The Vinyl Cafe, hosted by Stuart McLean every Sunday at 12 noon on CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Yesterday’s story was a favorite and very funny, called ”The Bird”, about a surprise bird that ends up overwintering in the backyard of one of the regular characters, Dave, who becomes a birdwatcher despite himself. The story is very appropriate because that show was taped in Point Pelee. If you would like to listen to the show and hear the story, you can get the podcast at the CBC website or on iTunes.

New peregrine falcon cam in Alberta

Next week there will be a new peregrine falcon camera ready to go in Edmonton, Alberta. You can read about it here at the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) website. The nest and the camera are on the top of the city’s Bell (Telephone) Tower building, and the camera is sponsored by  Bell Mobility and Snap Security.

The bird is a female known only as E4.  She was born and raised on a natural sandstone cliff on the Red Deer River in the Summer of 2002. She has been nesting at the Bell Tower in downtown Edmonton since 2004.

You can read more about saving the peregrines in Alberta in this wonderful article, “The Last Peregrine” by Gordon Court, from Conservation Magazine.

Some other bird/nest cams I like:

Decorah Eagles: the pair of eagles have three chicks, who are getting ready for their first flight

Ellie and Albert, the pair of great-horned owls who made a nest at the Ellis Bird Farm (near Red Deer, Alberta, Canada)

Bobby and Violet, a pair of nesting red-tailed hawks in New York City. I have been watching this cam very diligently when I have the time.

Phoebe, an Allen hummingbird, with one chick who seems much to big for its nest!

Keeping Birds Away

Birders usually concentrate on bringing birds closer so we can get a look, for example, with pishing, which I wrote about the other day.

But sometimes it’s important to keep birds away for their safety and protection.  I was listening to CBC radio about the big crude oil spill from the Rainbow pipeline in the northern part of Alberta, near Peace River, on April 29 — the worst oil spill in the province since 1975.  So far the leak has spilled spilled about 28,000 barrels, or 4.5 million liters, of crude oil. The oil ran down the pipeline right-of-way into a beaver pond and in to the Peace River watershed and wetlands. A beaver dam at the pond helped to contain the oil. One of the news reports I read said that seven beavers, 19 ducks, six migratory birds and two frogs have died so far as a result of the spill.  It took provincial regulators five days to announce  news about the spill to the public, and it was the second pipeline spill in Alberta that week. Some people (including my mother!) think it is suspicious that the news didn’t come out until after the election, since the Conservatives were hoping for a majority government, and Alberta always votes Conservative.

So the company, Plains Midstream Canada, is trying to keep ducks, geese, and other waterfowl away by using scarecrows and also recorded cries birds of prey. They have fenced off the site, and have 24-hour foot patrols to try to make sure animals stay away from the area until it is cleaned up.

According to this article, Plains Midstream Canada says it has spent $11 million so far in the clean up. Approximately 300 workers are cleaning the spill, and one-third of the oil has been removed. PMC is using 14 skimmers on small ponds around the muskeg surrounding the spill. The pipeline has been repaired but it is not back in use yet.  PMC says it will “clean up the area and return it to the condition it was in before the spill, but some in the area question whether it can ever be totally repaired.”

Elizabeth May, who is Canada’s first elected Green Member of Parliament since our elections on May 2nd, is calling for an investigation of the oil spill:  “There has been a violation of the federal fisheries act, not to mention the negligence of failing to notify the public for five days,” Ms. May said.  She also said, “We have 45-year-old pipelines lines like this one running through some of the most ecologically sensitive parts of our country, and the industry wants to build even more. It’s time to take a step back and reassess. Accidents are too damaging to be acceptable in this industry.”

There is a very good blog post on oil spills in Alberta at Emma Pullman’s De Smog Blog, here.

The Vancouver Sun newspaper has a very good article, “A Year of Canadian oil pipeline ruptures”

To finish, I will just mention a great website, the Save Bio Gems project, from the Natural Resources Defense Council.  The project has a wonderful page where you can read more about the Peace River area of Alberta,

All four major flyways in North America — the aerial migration routes traveled by billions of birds each year — converge in one spot in Canada’s boreal forest, the Peace-Athabasca Delta in northeastern Alberta. More than 1 million birds, including tundra swans, snow geese and countless ducks, stop to rest and gather strength in these undisturbed wetlands each autumn. For many waterfowl, this area is their only nesting ground.

U.S. demand for tar sands oil is causing Canada to ramp up tar sands oil extraction in the boreal forest just south of the Peace-Athabasca Delta, including sites upstream on the Athabasca River. Water extracted for tar sands mining could reduce flow into the delta, killing fish — a food source for birds — and disturbing habitat. Wastewater discharge could also contaminate the river, creating a toxic food web and leading to reproductive problems in wildlife. In 2008, 1,600 ducks died after landing in a tar sands waste pond.

Tar sands oil development also contributes to global warming, which is reducing ecologically important flooding in the delta. A number of developments are threatening the Peace-Athabasca Delta, including the Bennett Dam on the Peace River. Tar sands oil extraction exemplifies how our addiction to oil is causing loss of critical bird habitat in the delta and throughout Alberta’s boreal forests and wetlands.

The U.S. State Department has just issued a supplemental draft environmental impact assessment for a new trans-boundary pipeline that would bring tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, leading to additional mining and drilling for tar sands oil in the boreal forest. NRDC and our BioGems Defenders are fighting to stop the expansion of tar sands oil extraction and to protect bird habitat in the boreal forest.