DIY Bat Boxes
How to build
When building your bat house you will need the following materials and tools:
- One 4’ x 4’ sheet of ½” thick, untreated, outdoor grade plywood (could also be ⅝” or ¾” thick)
- One piece of ¾” x 1 ½” board, 8’ long
- 30-40 exterior grade screws, 1¾” long
- Roughly one litre of dark (black or dark brown) exterior grade, water-based stain
- One tube of paintable latex caulk, either for a caulking gun or squeezable tube
- One piece of black asphalt shingle or metal for roofing (optional)
- Roofing nails (if using shingles)
- Two hooks or brackets to install the bat house
- Power drill or screwdriver
- Drill bits (if using power drill – screw head drill bit; ½” diameter drilling bit (optional); ¾” drilling bit)
- Hand saw or miter saw
- Paint brush or paint roller
- Tape measure
- Table saw (unless wood is cut at the hardware store)
- Hammer (optional)
- Caulking gun (optional)
The steps to follow when building a bat house are:
- Cut the plywood in half, down the middle
- With one half, cut the back panel and roof:
- Back panel: 24” x 30”
- Roof: 24” x 5”
- With the other half, cut the front (consisting of two panels) and middle panel (chamber partition)
- Front panels: 24” x 18” and 24” x 6”
- Middle panel: 24” x 24”
*Steps 1-3 can be done by the hardware store
- Cut the 1½” board into four 24” pieces
- Roughen one side of the back panel and both sides of the middle panel by using a sharp tool (such as a paint scraper, chisel or shop knife) to create grooves. Or, using a circular saw, cut grooves at a depth 1/32” to 1/16” , each spaced ½” apart. This will provide texture that the bats will use to hang on
- Drill two ¾” wide holes towards the top of the middle panel (optional but ideal). This will provide passage holes for the bats to move between chambers
- Apply a bead of caulking to both sides of the wide edge of two of the pieces from step 2 and place them on the left and right margins of the back panel (grooved side facing up)
- Lay the middle panel on top of the two 1½” pieces from the previous step and attach with screws. Be sure to pre-drill the screw holes to avoid splitting the wood
- Apply a bead of caulking to both sides of the wide edge of the two remaining pieces from step 6 and place along the left and right margins of the middle panel
- Lay the upper front panel on top of the 1½”pieces from the previous step and attach with screws. Be sure to pre-drill the screw holes to avoid splitting the wood
- Leaving a ½” gap from the upper panel from the previous step, place the lower front panel on the 1½” pieces and attach with screws. Be sure to pre-drill the screw holes to avoid splitting the wood
- Stand the bat house upright and apply caulking to the top, and then attach the roof with screws
- Apply two to three coats of water-based stain to all exterior surfaces. Allow stain to dry between coats
- Cover roof with shingles using roofing nails (optional)
- Drill four holes in the sides of the back chamber to allow for extra air flow (optional)
- You’ll need to put two hooks or brackets on the bat house to install it. To ensure it is solid, attach the hooks or brackets on the back near each edge, screwing through the plywood into the 1½”
To install your bat box you need to first decide where the best place to place the bat box would be for the bats. Here are a few tips!
- Where to install!- Bat boxes can be placed on either the side of a building, mounted to a pole, or wooden posts! It’s important to avoid mounting your bat box to a tree as it makes it more difficult for a bat to find the box, puts them at a higher risk of being harmed by predators, and branches reduce the sunlight available to the box!
- Required height- It is best to mount your bat box between 10-20 feet off the ground from the highest vegetation below! The higher you place it the better!
- Open space!- Try to find a space that is a little bit open to place your bat box! Preferably locate your house 20-30 feet away from surrounding obstacles such as tree branches or wires!
- Provide warmth!- bats like to be warm so it is important that you place your bat box in a place that will receive at least 6-8 hours of sunlight. It is best if you face it towards the east or south! If you are worried it won’t be warm enough you can paint the outside of your bat box black to try to absorb more heat!
- Near water!- Bat boxes tend to be more successful when they are located close to a water source preferably a stream, river or lake. By locating near these areas it makes it easier for the bats to locate the box!
Fun facts about the Red Fox a native mammal in Prince Edward Island!
- The red foxes scientific name is Vulpes vulpes!
- In PEI there are a variety of colours of foxes such as red, black or silver! These are all the species of Red foxes!
- Although they appear to look like large animals due to their long-haired coats they are actually quite small. Adult foxes weigh on average 12 lbs but range from 9-14 lbs!
- Red foxes prefer semi-open country for example agricultural areas, and they have benefited from changes that humans have made to the land!
- Baby foxes are typically called pups or kits! Often foxes will have 4-6 kits at a time but can have a more as well! The babies typically stick around with there mom for between 9-12 weeks then after that branch out on their own!
- Red foxes are a wild animal and it is important to avoid feeding them as habits will form easily and cause nuisance begging! Some of the things foxes eat are worms, seeds, twigs, mice and birds etc.
- The red fox is a member of the dog family and it shows in how playful they can be! They sometimes like to steal shoes, toys and other things to play with and chew on!
Sarcoptic mange in foxes
Mange definition – “a skin disease of mammals caused by parasitic mites and occasionally communicable to humans. It typically causes severe itching, hair loss, and the formation of scabs and lesions.”
Sarcoptic mange definition – “a form of mange caused by the itch mite and tending to affect the abdomen and hindquarters.”
Signs of mange : Bald irritated patches of skin and loss of fur. Will cause things like scaling, yellowish crust, and hair/fur matting or loss. Host will become extremely itchy as a result. Skin where affected will be irritated. This mite is very small and not visible to the naked eye. It will burrow beneath the skin and make itself at home.
So it’s not a nice thing to have, over time this mite will take over its host. The animal will start to lose its vision, and its coat, meaning it won’t be able to hunt or stay warm in the colder months. This eventually wipes out the animal, and when they live with their families, they can easily transfer the mite to the others. One might call this nature’s population control.
Mange can also affect humans, although it’s not as bad for us. You’ll notice an itchy rash or bumps and this will last anywhere from 10 to 14 days. This mite can affect dogs too, so if you suspect mange on your pet you should get to a vet as the disease can be treated.
Fun facts about the Eastern Coyote a native mammal in Prince Edward Island!
- The scientific name for the Eastern Coyote is Canis latrans!
- Eastern coyotes are believed to be a mixture of a coyote and a wolf! They are smaller than the eastern wolf but bigger than the western coyote! Eastern coyotes weigh typically between 50-60 pounds.
- They mate for life and stay together all year long not just in the mating season!
- Eastern coyotes breed in February or March and have a gestation period of about 60 days! Their litter is as big as 13 or as small as 1!
- They are very territorial! They like to maintain a territory of approximately 50 square kilometres where they won’t let any other coyotes set up! They mark their territory with urine!
- Coyotes are biologically classified as carnivores but they will eat whatever is available and easiest! A few things they have been found eating are rabbits, skunks, beavers, livestock, apples, seeds, berries etc.
- They have a very good sense of smell plus great eyesight and super hearing!
American Mink (Neovison vison)
This mustelid is a popular animal to trap here for its fur. There are a few mink farms on pei, these mink are bred to get rid of the white patch on their chin. The wild minks though will have the white patch. You can usually find their tracks in snow or mud near and around water, ponds, streams etc. You can tell these tracks were made by a mink by their 2 by 2 bounding pattern. Example- ( : : : :). Be careful around these animals as they are known to have an aggressive temperament.
Beaver (Castor canadensis)
An average beaver is 11- 32kg and is considered to be the biggest rodent in the world. Beavers have a tendency to build dams to stop running water because they do not like the sound of running water. Beavers do not live in dams they live in lodges and will often build on the side of ponds with underwater entrances and sometimes muskrats will live inside a beaver lodge with the beavers. There are two parts of a beaver lodge the first part is for them to dry off after coming in from the pond and the second part is the dry section so when they dry off they can go to the dry section where the babies are.
Pollinator Friendly Gardening!
What are pollinators?
Bees, wasps, butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds are some examples of pollinators that you can find here in PEI.
What do pollinators do?
Pollinators move the pollen grain from the male part of a plant (anther) to the female part (stigma) of the same type of plant. This results in the production of seeds, fruits and also the next generation of plants. In return, pollinators receive nectar and pollen from the plants which provide them with carbohydrates, vitamins and nutrients that they need to survive.
Why pollinators are important?
Pollinators are very important in many aspects of life but one, in particular, is they are essential in the food production of many fruits, vegetables and nuts. Without pollinators, we would miss out on all of these tasty foods along with many of the nutrients they provide for us.
How we can help?
It is essential that we work towards supporting/protecting pollinators and help to make their very important job easier. One way you can do this is by practicing pollinator-friendly gardening. Here are a few tips!
- Avoid pesticides: Pesticides and neonicotinoids are extremely harmful to pollinators. To protect them you can purchase pesticide-free plants and try to avoid using any pesticides on your garden or yard.
- Plant native: prioritize planting native plants from your area, this will attract and support native pollinators. If you chose to use any non-native plants be sure that they are non-invasive! Some examples of native plants for PEI would be
- Let it beeeeeee: let your yard grow free a little bit. By always having a completely manicured property you are taking away from a lot of good opportunities for pollinators and other insects. A few examples of this are to try cutting your grass less to keep some wildflowers around, keep bare ground for ground-nesting bees rather than just mulch, and leave dead wood around your yard.
- Be mindful of growing times: help create a continuous source of pollen by planting a variety of plants that will bloom from spring to fall ensuring there will always be a source of pollen.
- Hydrate: Keep a small birdbath or a container with some submerged rocks around your garden to help provide pollinators with some fresh clean water. Be sure to clean and change the water often!
PEI’S PROVINCIAL FLOWER, TREE AND BIRD~ FUN FACTS!
The Pink Lady’s Slipper ~The Provincial flower of Prince Edward Island
- The scientific name for The Lady’s Slipper (pink) is Cypripedium acaule!
- The Lady’s Slipper, unspecific of what species, was named the official provincial flower of PEI in April of 1947! A couple of decades later in 1965, it was narrowed down to consider The Pink Lady’s slipper in specific as the provincial flower!
- Lady’s slippers received their name due to the fact that their flower is shaped like a slipper! They have two leaves at the base of the stem and a single flower!
- Although they are named the pink lady’s slipper they are not always pink! In rare cases the flower is white!
- They are most commonly found growing in bogs, forests or sand dunes.
- They can take up to 10 to 15 years to flower after their seeds germinate.
- It is important not to pick or transplant lady’s slipper as they don’t last when they are cut and it ruins that year’s seed crop. Also, their transplanting success is low.
The Red Oak~ The Provincial tree of Prince Edward Island
- The scientific name for the red oak is Quercus rubra!
- The red oak was officially named PEI’s provincial tree in 1905!
- It is the only native oak that we have in PEI.
- In the past, there were red oak trees in many places but after land use changed from forest to more agricultural they are now less common!
- The red oak tree is a pretty easy tree to grow as it can grow well in almost all well-drained soils, and can either thrive in both full sun or partial shade!
- Its wood is very valuable on PEI as it can be used for a variety of purposes such as furniture, flooring, fuel, etc.
- It can grow to be up to 60 feet tall!
The Blue Jay~ The Provincial tree of Prince Edward Island
- The scientific name for the blue jay is Cyanocitta cristata!
- It was officially named the provincial bird in 1977. This was decided by a province-wide vote!
- Blue jays are very pretty birds and have a nice mixture of black, white and different shades of blue feathers!
- They can be mean! They often will force other smaller birds away from feeders and take all the food for themselves. In a lot of cases, they don’t eat all this food at once but hide it somewhere and hoard it for later on.
- Blue jays have a talent of being able to mock other bird calls very well! An example of a bird they like to mimic is the osprey!
- They find a mate and stay with them for a long period of time! And they lay three to five eggs once a year!
- Most blue jays stick around PEI year round but some will take off in September to go south!
Native trees and shrubs of PEI
The American Beech is a native tree to North America, where in Canada it is primarily found in the East. It can grow from 50 to 80 feet (15 to 25 metres) but takes time to reach this height. American beeches are recognizable by their smooth and light bluish-grey bark that will darken with age and their oval leaves are a dark blue-grey/green colour at the top of the leaf that pales near the bottom. In the fall, the leaves turn golden bronze. They are common on PEI and can live to be 200 years old, but are quickly being killed or deformed by the beech bark disease. In the spring, they produce beech nuts that are eaten by many wildlife species, including chipmunks and squirrels.
The Sugar Maple is a species primarily found in southern Ontario, Quebec and parts of the Maritime provinces. Growing to be over 100 feet (35 metres), they can live on average for over 200 years, sometimes even 300 or 400. Sugar maples can easily be recognized by their five-lobed leaves with smooth edges and their yellow-green colour. During the fall, the leaves turn yellow, orange and red. The Sugar maple’s leaf is what inspired our Canadian flag and the tree is also Canada’s national tree. Every spring, when the snow starts to melt, some people will tap their Sugar maples and collect their sap to make maple syrup. Sugar maples are used over other maples because they have twice the amount of sap, however, it still takes 40 litres of sap to make 1 litre of syrup.
The White Birch can be found in every province in Canada but is the official arboreal symbol of Saskatchewan. Its height can reach 80 feet (25 metres) while its leaves are oval-shaped with serrated edges. The leaves are dull green on the top and a lighter green and slightly hairy underneath. The White birch’s bark starts out as a dark reddish when young and is white when they’re mature. The bark can be peeled off in paper-like sheets that are pliable and strong and have been used to make canoes. However, peeling off too much of the White birch’s bark can kill the tree, so be careful. The buds, leaves and seeds produced by the White birch are a great source of food for different birds and animals, like the blue jay.
The Red Pine is a slow-growing softwood tree that is mainly present in Eastern Canada. It can grow over 100 feet (35 metres) and can live to be 350 years old. The Red pine tree’s needles come in bundles of two, on occasion three, and are a shiny dark green. The needles can easily be broken by bending them since they’re so brittle, a characteristic that is not very common in other pine trees. The bark is a light reddish colour. The roots of the red pine go fairly deep into the ground and are widespread. This means that the tree can withstand strong winds without blowing down, making them good snow breaks and windbreaks. Red pines are considered poor habitats for birds and animals, but can still provide cover nesting sites and some food for many species.
Northern Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)
This shrub is native to eastern parts of North America, its a handy little plant that we use here at SSWA to help slow down cliff and bank erosion here on the south shore. Its wind and salt tolerant so it can be placed in areas that may be prone to salt spray and high winds aka open areas on a cliff that is quickly eroding. Another good thing about this plant is that it can grow in areas with dry/poor soil, this is thanks to the nitrogen fixing microorganisms in the plants root nodules. If you own a waterfront property, this is a good option for you to plant along the cliff to slow down the loss of land.
Virginiana rose (Rosa virginiana) Shining rose (Rosa nitida)
The rose is another good plant to help slow down cliff erosion, this shrub can live in a variety of poor soil conditions, and is tolerant to wind and salt. The root system of this shrub is cool because without grafting, it will shoot up new plants from the roots it has already. Increasing the area of cliff that the roots are holding in place. One thing you have to look out for on this plant is all the prickles that grow out from the stem, they can stab and scratch so be careful when handling!
Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.)
There are four species of this plant found on pei, and there are many different names used, a more popular one being shadbush. This is another plant that is tolerant to salt spray and high winds. Which is beneficial to plant along a bank/cliff to slow the effects of erosion.
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
A popular plant you may find while exploring your local streams and ponds is a cute plant called spotted jewelweed. It grows to a height of 3 to 5 feet and has seed pods that when touched, can burst and shoot out its seeds, this is thanks to the coils that grow in the pod and spring out when disturbed. It flowers mid-summer and grows in very wet areas.
Invasive Species in PEI
Cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum)
Cow parsnip is a very dangerous plant for humans to touch because the outer layer of the plant will leave you with welts and bags of puss on the area of your body it touched and continue to swell up for 6 months after the contact. However this plant was found by the first nations long ago and they knew about the outer layer of the plant so they would peel the skin off and eat the inside of the plant giving it the nickname “Indian Celery”. This plant is also good for farm animals like cows and sheep and other wild animals because it helps their digestive system.
(the deadly) NightShade (Solanum dulcamara)
During Greek times this plant was believed to be able to fight witchcraft and would be placed around the necks of cattle to protect them. The plant produces red berries that are poison to humans and other animals but good for birds. Its a vine-like plant that can choke out streams if it grows large enough and isn’t cleared out. The root mass is what needs to be pulled out to get rid of it.
Japanese Knotweed (Reynoutria japonica)
This invasive species can be found in all provinces except for Manitoba and Saskatchewan. This plant is known for its ability to travel underground and spread to other parts. For example in Vancouver this plant traveled under a 4 lane highway and grew on the other side. It can reach a height of 10 to 13 feet tall and the stocks resemble bamboo. Some see the plant as ornamental if taken care of correctly but most see it as a nuisance plant.
Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
Poison Ivy is easy to spot if you know the ways to spot or detect it. Some rhymes that help Identify this plant are,
1)”Leaves of three, let it be”
2)”Hairy vine, no friend of mine”
This plant causes blisters and very itchy skin. This plant can grow in different forms like climbing vines, trailing vines and shrubs and all have the same effect.
Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
This plant is one of the oldest spices in Europe and was used in the 17th century for salt fish and in lamb sauces. It was introduced to Canada by European settlers to be used for medicinal purposes. In Canada, Garlic mustard has no wildlife benefits but is poisonous to a rare species of butterfly known as Pieris oleracea and Pieris virginiensis.
Amphibians on PEI
Wood frog egg masses are found in the spring of the year and are about the size of a soft ball with 500-2000 eggs per egg mass. These will often be found in ponds or marshy areas.
Northern Leopard Frog
The Leopard frog’s egg mass is similar to the wood frog but the leopard frog has 2000-4000 eggs but much smaller eggs and almost no spacing between eggs. These egg masses would be found in lake and river flood plains where there is a lot of sediment and silt.
Pickerel frogs egg masses are close to a leopard frog but are yellow on the bottom instead of white. These eggs are found in high spots like ponds and lakes unlike the leopard frog which are found in low areas like flood plains.
American toad is the only frog that lays its eggs out in a line with 2000-20000 eggs per line. These are often found around hardwood forests.
Salamander eggs are usually in locations with few to no fish nearby and have 50-250 eggs per egg mass and are often attached to a stick. You can find these in ponds, marshes, and vernal pools.
Blue spotted salamander
Found in clusters of 12 to 75 eggs, the blue-spotted salamander lays a smaller less firm mass than the spotted.
Garter Snake (Thamnophis)
A garter snake is a small to medium sized snake that is mostly harmless. The snake is 18-54 inches long and is only 5 oz. These snakes are never found far from water and eat mostly amphibians. Females release a scent that attracts males for mating and the can be up to 25 male snakes fight over the same female and when they do mate the female can keep the males sperm alive for years before fertilizing an egg.
Red bellied snake (Storeria occipitomaculata)
The red bellied snake has a maximum length of 40 cm and eats mostly slugs and worms. Due to its red belly it is nicknamed the fire snake.
Smooth Green snake (Opheodrys vernalis)
The green snake is about 36-51 cm long and has smooth green scales. It is found in a marsh and open woods
Birds in PEI
American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)
The American Kestrel is a small bird that only weighs around 120g and usually only eats insects but has been seen taking down squirrels. Kestrels often nest in tree cavities but they are unable to make their own so they often need to rely on old woodpecker nests and holes in cliffs. Since kestrels have limited oles they can use for nesting they are very protective and will attack animals that want their holes and in breeding season 4-5 kestrels will gang up on hawks and eagles to protect their nests. In a study done from 1966-2017 they found the population is dropping by 1.39% per year and an estimated 9.2 million birds in 2017.
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia)
Bank swallows are small birds that dig holes and nest along the beach cliffs. Bank swallows will often be seen flying in flocks after flying insects. These birds form colonies that range in size from couple pairs to thousands of pairs. Coastal erosion and climate leaving these birds highly at risk of extinction.
Red tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
The red tailed hawk is a large bird of prey and has a very distinct call. When the red tailed hawk calls it sounds like a really loud scream. Whenever a bird of prey of any spiece comes on in a movie they almost always use the red tailed hawk call. Yu will often see this animal soaring over fields looking for food.
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Eagles are large birds of prey and often hunt for mice in fields however they don’t like to fish for themselves. Eagles like to harass other fishing birds like osprey and when an osprey catches a fish eagles often grab the fish from the osprey and take off. They hunt sometimes with other eagles by gilding all the prey to the other eagle.
Fungus in PEI
Chaga (Inonotus obliquus) – Yellow birch (Betula alleghaniensis)
Chaga is considered a fungus and has a parasitic relationship with its tree host. Its got a charcoal black look on the outside but inside will be a yellowish orange color, almost golden. This fungus can be harvested to make a tea that tastes well, kind of like a tree, and it’s really beneficial for your immune system!