Tag Archives: chickadees

Ceramic birdhouse based on unique design

Model for mine

What a thrill it was to see and hear baby chickadees for the first time last spring! I became hooked, but this year I want a birdhouse for larger birds, too. After seeing a sweet abode in my Birds and Blooms magazine, I decided to make a similar one. It’s cone-shaped. Paul Anthony’s birdhouse was originally featured in this blog post. The birdhouse is made of two separate parts and there is a nesting platform in the bottom of the lower half. I had found a styrofoam cone in a hobby store, but it cost $25, so I decided to make my own ceramic mold. Previously, I’d made a paper pattern for the lower cone and had cut clay slabs that are 1/6 inch thick. They’d firmed up over a week and were ready to go. Last Tuesday, I took materials for making a mold to the studio and fashioned a cone of stiff paper, having used the same pattern. Filled it with crumpled newspapers, reinforced the inside with skewers, then covered the paper cone with plastic film. I really needed a coffee break after that! My brain had also been complaining because I felt like I had measured something wrong. There are so many lovely mugs people have thrown, it was a joy to take a break and sip from one. My next task would be to fit two clay cone halves together to make the lower cone. Judging from the photo, it looks like Anthony used one slab for the bottom cone. My brilliant plan was to piece two halves together because I couldn’t roll out a large enough slab on the slab roller. After we returned from our Open Studio lunch, I was dog tired. Still, I had to stay to finish my ceramic mold, or the clay slabs would’ve become too dry. With a burst of energy, I lifted one slab into place. I’d already scratched and applied clay slip to the surfaces that would overlap. In the end, both Otto and Gary helped hold things in place and I worked fast, sealing seams. Done for the day, I covered it with plastic. The whole thing was large and heavy, so Gary helped me move it to the damp room and there it sits. Now, I’ve achieved a bit of distance and realize the clay cone is too darned big. Bird house for rent: only ravens need apply! I overcompensated for shrinkage…. So, come Tuesday, I will remove a slice from each side and seal it, making it narrower. Also next week, I will begin making the roof and will post pics. My plan is to start with the slab roller and finish on the table, making one big, thinnish piece. Hmm. What shall I use for a mold?

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Ceramic Bird Houses? Why not!

When I first saw a photo of a ceramic bird house, I thought, hmm, I don’t know…. Wouldn’t it become awfully hot inside? Bird houses must stay below a certain temperature, otherwise it’s harmful for nesting. Naturally, since it’s made of clay, it appeals to me and, I guess, if they’re removed from direct sunlight, it would be okay. The photo below right shows a replica of a bird house first created by New England colonists. A bird bottle, it encourages nesting for insect control. According to a Knox News article by Marcia Davis, “in 1752, a published advertisement listed ‘Martin pots’ for sale” and “an inventory in 1716 of the possessions of one Williamsburg property listed 16 bird bottles.” Davis explains that, “bird bottles provide nest sites for several cavity-nesting birds that eat large quantities of insects.” She continues, saying, “Carolina wrens are notorious for their daily patrols around the eaves and walls of houses. They’re looking for insects.” The Williamsburg Bird Bottle, at the right, is a bird bottle made by Paul Anthony Stoneware. While such birdhouses  would not be feasible where I live, because of predation by squirrels, it’s an innovative use of a vessel. Next, we have a cone-shaped bird house, hand-built by the same potter (who hails from North Carolina). I very much like this bird house and I think my Mom would like one, too, as she pointed it out to me last week in her new issue of Birds and Blooms, an old-fashioned magazine with a Canadian-American emphasis. Anthony’s site lists it as a two-piece bird house that is slab-built. It has a “nesting platform in the lower cone,” he explains, adding that “the cap lid raises for easy cleaning.” It’s 14″ high. While I was considering these houses, I thought, well, what about wattle and daub? Some birds use this technique, swallows, for instance. I remember once seeing cliff swallow nests while floating down the Bitterroot River, south of Missoula, Montana. They lined the light-colored sandstone cliffs and created a lovely sight as we lazily floated down the slow-moving channel in the summer sunshine. Barn Swallows make nests out of mud and sticks, too, so it made me wonder if anyone was making birdhouses with this method. Sure enough, I came across a group in New York that is making wattle and daub birdhouses. I rather like the idea and think it makes a lot of sense to mimic nature this way. If it’s good enough for Gaia, it’s good enough for us! I’m sure this version would be cooler than a glazed bird house, too. But, I don’t know how well it’d do over time in our rainy climate! Again, if it was in a sheltered area, it would last longer. I am so enamored of our Chestnut-backed Chickadees feeding during the winter, I think I might try to build a clay bird house for spring. Last spring, Black-capped Chickadees nested in a wooden bird house on the side of our Shore Pine. It would be nice to have several birdhouses in use. I’ll have to do a little more research before I begin, though. Would it be best to glaze the inside? It would certainly make it easier to clean it out after nesting season and it wouldn’t absorb moisture. I notice the venting on the cone-shaped house above and have that in mind, too. Maybe some holes along the upper portion would suffice. Last year, I had the darndest time keeping squirrels from our baby chickadees. I kept dashing out with a squirt bottle, spraying the squirrels with water every time I saw them harassing the nesting birds. I know it’s nature at work, but grr. One thing I found while I was trying to figure out a way to prevent predation was what looked like a good deterrent. It was a metal tube that you screwed to the outside of the bird house. Squirrels can reach their paws inside the nest and drag the nestlings outside and this tube prevents that. I could make a bird house with a built-in tube about the width of a paper towel tube and long enough to deter our little black squirrel or, at least, prevent them from nabbing nesting birds. Anyway, it’s worth thinking about. In the meantime, here is a photo of barn swallows in their wattle and daub home. (Stay tuned: one of these days, I’ll figure out how to be consistent with fonts on my posts but, until then…)

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