Migrants Return Part 2: Can we assist them?

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Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

As promised last week, there are some things we can do to assist returning migrant birds. Here are some tips.
NESTBOXES
Some migrants use nestboxes. Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, House Wrens are among the species using our home-made variety. Here are some tips about such boxes.

Our Environment by Katharine Fletcher

As promised last week, there are some things we can do to assist returning migrant birds. Here are some tips.
NESTBOXES
Some migrants use nestboxes. Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, House Wrens are among the species using our home-made variety. Here are some tips about such boxes.
Tip#1: Nestboxes are design-built for specific species. Research the size of hole required for the birds you hope to attract, so you pur- chase or build the right size. Eastern Bluebirds are smaller than Starlings; therefore, check the hole’s diameter so predatory Starlings cannot enter to eat both eggs and babies. (Bluebird Society plans for nestboxes: bit.ly/2qGhN2t)
Tip #2: Placement is key. Avoid roads: the hole shouldn’t point towards traffic. The Macnamara Field Naturalist Club recommends shady locations facing east or north to avoid the heat of south- or west- facing    openings (bit.ly/2Js2C5G).
Tip #3: Ensure one nestbox panel can be fully opened to permit spring cleaning – and remember to clean all boxes (wear gloves to remove    old    nests) before a bird takes res- idence.
HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS
If you feed Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds, buy a red glass feeder. Avoid red dyes because they are toxic. Don’t use plastic contain- ers because plastic deteriorates over time and bleeds micro-particles into liquids.
PLANT NATIVE SPECIES OUR BIRDS EAT
Instead of purchasing hybrid annuals or perennials, start investing in native plants which attract our native birds. It’s interesting to pur- chase these over time (many can be more expensive than hybrids), and here in Bristol, in the Pontiac, you can purchase plants and get advice from Beaux Arbres (beauxarbres.ca).
Botanist and proprietor Trish Murphy advises, “Two essential natives for hummingbirds are the adaptable native wild columbine and the stunning red cardinal flower, which thrives in damp places. Cardinal flowers bloom in August,
which is just when young hummers have left the nest and need to fuel up for their first journey south.”
She adds, “Songbirds raise their nestlings on a diet of insects and spiders, especially caterpillars and fly larvae. Even the famously nec- tar-drinking hummingbirds raise their babies on insect protein. All native plants are eaten by some insect (often by many types of insects) which are subsequently eaten by birds. In contrast, horti- cultural imports are advertised, correctly, as being ‘not bothered by insects’. To help migrant birds, plant diverse native plants.”
POSTPONE TREE REMOVAL
If possible, postpone clearing shrubbery or felling trees until autumn. Returning migrants are exhausted and immediately com- mence declaring territories, mating, and raising at least one brood before heading south. Leave vegetation alone if possible during this impor- tant time of the year for birds, which require shelter for nests and safety from predators. Shrubs and trees provide required habitat for food birds eat, too: from woodpeckers which drill for grubs to warblers which dart about, feeding on insects.
AVOID USING CHEMICALS
Many of us would like nothing better than to kill insects such as blackflies, mosquitoes, midges and many other pests. However, insects are in serious decline – while repre- senting essential food for many birds. Chemicals are indiscriminate poisoners: toxins enter insects and when eaten by birds, they accumu- late in the animal’s body, either weakening or killing it. Avoid using pesticides and herbicides.
LEARN ABOUT OUR REGION’S TRUE NATURE
Regional birding clubs offer edu- cational learning opportunities through guided walks and illustrat- ed lectures. Consider joining Le Club des ornithologues de l’Outaouais    (coo.qc.ca); Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club (mfnc.ca); Ottawa Field Naturalists’ Club (ofnc.ca) – and check the MFNC and OFNC Facebook groups, too.