Linear Trails Nestbox Clean-Out Report
by Claudia Lipski
October 17th, 2022 turned out to be an ideal day for the annual fall nestbox check/clean-out along the Rowley, Rumsey and Big Valley Linear Parks. There was a very light breeze and the temperature reached 23*C! Terry Brauner and I started the route from south of Rowley, at Twp. Rd. 32-0 and approximately one mile west of RR 20-2. The Rowley Linear Park has 58 nest boxes, with the first few suffering from gunshot wounds.
We were off to a fine start with four gray partridges flying to the berm, and a sighting of a cow moose and her calf, which loped away to the east. Also on the east side, on a relatively small pond, were 260 tundra swans, 300 Canada geese, and about 20 ducks. Two bald eagles and two ravens flew by.
Tree swallows occupied almost all the boxes, and it appeared that the majority had successful fledges. However, we discovered five boxes with dead nestlings. Deer mice had taken up residence in a few other boxes as well. The Rowley nestbox cleanouts were completed in 1.25 hours.
From Rowley, we continued north on RR 20-4 to Twp. Rd. 33-0, to the entrance of the Rumsey Linear Park, about one mile to the west. This route, with 34 boxes, was completed in less than an hour.
Again, tree swallows were the dominant occupants. However, several nest boxes had been used by house sparrows, so these boxes should be removed if the house sparrows continue to nest in these locations.
The very large water body to the west was completely dry this year. In the distance, we saw a coyote crossing the dry lake! In the past, it has been a highlight of this route to see a large gathering of snow geese on this lake. They regularly use it as a staging area for their fall migration. The lack of water was quite disheartening. Fortunately, there were some small ponds further north that still held some water, but no waterfowl were observed.
There was evidence of beaver activity near boxes numbered 3 and 4. In that area, beavers had felled several trees and have a cache and lodge at the north end of the west pond. On the east side, it was interesting to see the channels the beavers had carved. Sadly, the pond’s very shallow water level and the many islands present do not leave much hope for the beavers' survival over the winter.
At the end of the Rumsey route, we had a visit from a local couple who were interested in our purpose on the trail.
We took the pavement (Hwy 839) to the east and north of Rumsey, crossing Hwy 585 and continued north on gravel on Scollard Road (RR 21-0) to get to the Big Valley Linear Park entrance. This entrance does not have a sign but is located at Twp. Rd. 35-1 and RR 20-3. This route, which lies next to Scollard Road, has fewer trees than the other two linear parks. A pond to the east had 39 tundra swans, 56 Canada geese and about 20 ducks.
We were definitely on the countdown to being finished. Again, tree swallows, house sparrows and mice used these boxes. Box 5 had a possible mountain bluebird nest start, evidenced by the shape and neatness of the grasses. We finished this third linear park nestbox cleanout at 5 PM.
We completed the route by taking Hwy 835 to Alix. This road directly leads to the Ewing and Erskine Lakes Important Bird Area (IBA). Ewing Lake had only a very small bit of water in one portion, leaving the surrounding flats covered in alkali. We were amazed at the thousands of snow geese at Erskine Lake and took the time to video their activity. Large numbers of greater white-fronted geese, tundra swans and various species of ducks dotted the lake on the west side of the highway.
Thanks to Terry for being the driver and the recorder (double duty), while I managed the cleanouts.