I was looking forward to seeing the bluebird chicks fledge this year. Last year, we left for the summer just as they were ready to fly. This year I’ll see them, I thought. I was wrong. Although a pair of bluebirds checked out the nesting boxes in our meadow, in the end it was a pair of tree swallows who moved into the middle box, chasing all other comers away.
It was fun watching them build their nest in the box I had carefully cleared out for the bluebirds, one beakful of grass, one twig at a time. Then eggs were laid, apparently, and the long, patient incubation period began. The parents would take turns sitting on the nest and soaring around over the meadow snatching bugs out of the air. Swallows are such accomplished fliers. The little ones did fledge, finally, and suddenly the tree swallows were gone. House wrens moved into the boxes, and we got to watch them fledge one or two broods before they too flew off.
But there was another treat in store for us. In early May I heard sandhill cranes flying overhead.
“Just passing through,” I told Chris.
And I thought they had, until one morning in June I heard them in the meadow next to us. I raced out of Meadowlark in my pyjamas (not a sight you ever want to see) with my binoculars slung around my neck, climbed a big rock in the fenceline between our field and the neighbours, and there were two long, skinny necks rising above the grass, calling wildly to the parents, who were circling overhead, calling back to them, trying to coax them into flight, perhaps? It didn’t work. The young birds slunk over the crest of the hill and out of sight as soon as they spotted me.
“They do nest here!” I told Chris. Turns out they are no longer in decline—in fact their population is stable and increasing. I hope this pair comes back next spring. Sandhill cranes like to nest in marshy wetlands, and goodness knows we have lots of that.
We have spent the summer working on our own nest box, Meadowlark, the boat we’re building in the meadow on our farm south of Owen Sound. You would hardly recognize it now. Remember the picture from last winter?? Plywood floors, plastic vapour barrier on the walls? Here’s what it looks like now.
Sure, the bedroom, which is behind the wall you see, isn’t finished yet. Maybe next year. Chris has moved on to another project.
He’s building a woodshed/garden shed down at Brenda’s cabin, and if you think this means whapping up some two-by-four studding and slapping on a roof, you don’t know Chris. He started by cutting down trees.
Then he milled them into 6 x 6-inch timbers using a chain saw.
After that, he put up posts and beams then recruited some help building the walls.
He’s made great progress, but the project is on hold for now because we leave for England in a couple of days to hike across the country. The narrow part of the country—we’re walking the path along Hadrian’s Wall, ran from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea, a distance of 120kms. Which is a bit of a stretch for me—there will be a couple 30km days—but it’s just a stroll between pubs for Chris. With his new drone hovering along behind him. He’s out in the meadow training it right now.
Keeping a sharp eye out for awkward young Sandhill cranes flying overhead.