Friday, 07 February 2020

Build Better Birdhouses

I don’t know about you, but I get restless during the cold and lazy days of winter. I felled and hauled firewood for next year  much of it is even split. Woody brush got its basal bark treatment before hunting season. I ordered seeds garden for next season. Snow is deep and the land is resting up for spring.

Now is the time I get busy in the workshop. Nobody will ever confuse me with a competent woodworker, but when faced with the alternative of preparing my taxes, just about anything will due as a distraction. This is just the right time to build some birdhouses. I like to rely on the native plants on my land to serve as the bird feeders. However, our feathered neighbors will need shelter  for their young just as much as food if they are to successfully raise a brood this year.

Birdhouse Design Tips

Over the years, I have made my share of birdhouses. Often no birds used them at all. Invasive birds, such as starlings or house sparrows may raid or take over your birdhouses. I learned a few lessons on my own, but found this list of tips from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that pulls together best practices for birdhouses, regardless of the species. A good box should have:

  • Ventilation – small holes, usually placed under the roof overhang, are important for airflow.
  • Drainage holes – you don’t want the box to fill with rainwater.
  • Roof – the roof should be sloped to help keep out rain and should extend over the walls of the box for extra protection.
  • No perch – predators can potentially use a perch for support. Birds do not require a perch to get in and out of the box.
  • Predator guard – adding a baffle to the pole supporting your nest box will help deter predators like snakes and raccoons.
  • Hinged door – you will need to clean out your nest box at the end of the nesting season, and a hinged door makes this much simpler. It will also enable you to easily monitor nests!

Better Birdhouses Start With A Plan

Here is a site that provides free birdhouse plans that are proven to work. You enter your region (here in Wisconsin, that is the Great Lakes-Big Rivers) and your habitat type. The good folks at Cornell Lab of Ornithology will show you a list of bird house plans for species that will nest there. The plans include drawings, tips and tricks to make sure your nest box to ensure you build, site and properly install them. That way you get the best chance of attracting the birds you want.

color drawing of two people building a nest cam equipped birdhouse

Yes, you can build your very own nest cam.

Ever thought of building your very own nest cam? Now it is easier than you think to create your own nest cam and engage in real citizen science. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology NestWatch project contains a series of slides that show you how to install and operate a successful and ethical nest cam.

Rent Your Woodworking Shop

Lots of folks who live in town have limited access to woodworking tools. A well equipped woodworking shop can easily run more than ten thousand dollars. Fortunately, my rudimentary workshop is sufficient for a building birdhouse or two.

But if your complete shop fits in a small toolbox, you may still be in luck. Maker spaces, like The Bodgery in Madison are makers cooperatives that give you access to a fully equipped woodworking shop for a modest monthly membership fee. For $50.00 a month ($25.00 for senior citizens) you get to use all the tools in their incredible woodworking shop, but also get access to their welding, laser cutting, electronics, and fiber arts shops as well.

The Bodgery also conducts classes to teach you how to use their tools. This is an awesome place to learn and grow. I signed up for a couple months just to get access to their large drill press that I used to drill the three inch long holes needed to make pollinator house. Members range in age, background and ability levels. Most are incredibly generous with their knowledge and can help when you get stuck.

2018

August 2018

Monday, 13 August 2018

Oak Landowners’ Workshop

Large open growth form oak tree

Oak trees are the iconic tree of the driftless region of Wisconsin.

Save the date Saturday, September 29, 2018 for the Oak in the Driftless Landowner workshop in Baraboo, Wisconsin. The session runs from 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM CDT. While targeted to landowners in the driftless area, landowners across southern Wisconsin will benefit. If you own land with oak trees or live south of the tension zone and want to re-introduce oaks to your property, this session will help get you on your way.

Conservation Digest is proud to support organizations like the Aldo Leopold Foundation and My Wisconsin Woods.

Location

University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County
1006 Connie Rd
Umfoefer Building
Baraboo, WI 53913

Schedule

Morning sessions include:

* Oak ecology
* Improving wildlife habitat
* Properly harvesting trees
* Tree planting
* Identifying and controlling invasive species
* Using prescribed fire
* Managing for deer and turkey
* Understanding what your trees are worth
* Programs and resources available to woodland owners
* Developing a plan for your woods

Lunch

Afternoon field trip options include visiting woodlands that focus on:

* Invasive species control
* Tree planting
* Shelterwood harvest – a two-step method of tree harvesting that encourages oak to grow.
* Patch-cutting – a method where landowners can create small openings in their woodlands to encourage oaks to grow.

Other topics covered during the field trips include wildlife habitat improvements, using financial programs, prescribed fire, and how to implement a management plan.

Registration

Early Bird Registration Fee: $25 (Individual) or $40 (Couple) ends August 26th.

Registration Fee after August 26th: $35 (Individual) or $50 (Couple) ends September 17th.

Click here if you plan to attend.

Door prizes are being donated by McFarlanes’ Retail and Service Center in Sauk City.

Sponsors

Workshop sponsors include: The Aldo Leopold Foundation, McFarlanes’ Retail and Service Center, My Wisconsin Woods, National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service and UW-Extension.

2017

May 2017

Monday, 15 May 2017

Emerald Ash Borer: Landowner Workshop

Want to know how to tell whether your ash trees are being attacked by the Emerald Ash Borer? What do you do to protect your ash trees? What can be done with wood from ash trees that cannot be saved? All these questions and more will be answered at a special workshop, “Save your ash trees!” hosted by the Golden Sands Resource Conservation and Development Council.

The workshop will happen on Saturday June 3, 2017 from 9:30am to 3:30pm at the Mosquito Hill Nature Center, N3880 Rogers Rd, New London, WI. Registration is $15 and includes lunch. Seating is limited and the event will run rain or shine so dress for the weather!

Contact Amy Thorstenson (715) 343-6215 for more information or download and return their registration form.