Mid-Winter Spring Cleaning For the Birds
Winter can be a good time to inspect and clean out bird houses, to check on last year’s activity, and to ready them for next year’s occupancy. Wood duck nest boxes are frequently mounted on poles in the middle of ponds to protect them from predators. The frozen ice of mid-winter allows you to walk out and inspect them. This year each of our three nest boxes produced broods. The wood duck is one of the most beautiful ducks found in Iowa. The female will lay from 9 to 14 eggs and a day or two after they hatch the mother will call to them from the water surface and they will each dive out to join her. It is a common Spring time sight to see the hen gliding across the pond surface with a long string of chicks behind her. We also mounted about a dozen blue bird houses around the monastery grounds last year to attract this beautiful songbird. About half of them attracted bluebird nests and one popular house located in our orchard was the home of three separate broods over the course of the summer. An equal number of wren houses were placed around the monastery to attract this enjoyable songbird.
One of Iowa’s rarest bird residents is the once common Barn Owl. This past year, a Barn Owl was seen flying above one of New Melleray’s orchards, a very rare sight. We put up two barn owl nest boxes in the farm yard area in the hope of attracting a family of owls to take up residence this year. A pair of adults raising a brood can consume 1,000 rodents. We hope to control these rodents by means of these natural raptor predators rather than resorting to poisons. The monks consider such ministrations to our brother birds and owls, as expressive of our aspiration to live at peace with nature and nature’s God.