It is the Spring Equinox today.
I’ve been hanging at the farm for a spell. And reveling in the return of the migratory song birds, the spring peeper chorus and thoughts of gardening. When I take the dogs out at night there is the peenting of the woodcock as they perform their sky dance mating ritual in the night heavens.
Recently, Girlfriend and I spent a day performing a rite of spring - nest box cleaning and maintenance.
Now that I have my new Stryker high mobility hip I cannot tell you how glorious it is to ramble-about with my dog and be pain-free. I think everyone should sport an artificial hip. Just on principle. Trust me - this is good advice. Yeah, yeah. You're probably thinking - He's just a recent convert. He'll get over that rosy outlook as soon as he is notified of a recall of his device. I digress.
We made the rounds of a circuit of four-dozen boxes along roughly three miles of trails and cleaned them out and made minor repairs. Seriously damaged boxes were brought home for repair (or kindling) and boxes on their last year of life were marked for replacement in 2013.
Nest box cleaning also brings an element of excitement. Some of the boxes house white footed deer mice over the winter. And those boxes have lots of fluffy, stinky material (think unmaintained urinal) and sometimes a few dead mice in them. When I sweep the contents out Girlfriend loves to roll in the debris. While she revels in the experience I try to stay up-wind. Risk of hantavirus you know. Excitement for me was when a very alive mouse scampered-up my long sleeve t-shirt and made a right turn down my chest.
Here’s the bottom side of a roof on a box that was installed in 1997 and is still going strong.
It leads a sheltered existence as boxes slightly more than half that age that are in the open grassland are pounded by elements. The boxes along the road are doubly pounded. They have to contend with the winter blast from the county plow. They’re all up for replacement next year.
Nest box assembly has evolved over the years from very simple circular saw and nailed construction like this:
To snugger, precise, table sawn, interchangeable parts, held together with deck screws and finished with a weather-beating sealant. Here’s an example of the current variant:
While it’s not furniture-grade construction, it is a tight, element proof home for a future cavity-nesting songbird family. If a roof or wall fails all you have to do is back-out the screws and slap-in a replacement part. Maintenance is easier and life expectancy is longer.
One of my readers is going to take possession of this new home for her new home. And I’m hopeful she sends us some pictures when she becomes a grandma.
One more thing.
Spring turkey hunting is just around the corner.