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Tag Archive | "birds"

Is your lawn and garden bird-friendly?


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(StatePoint)

Birds are more than just beautiful visitors to your lawn and garden, they are an important component of a healthy local ecosystem.

Making your property a safe haven for birds will beautify your garden and is the right thing to do. Here are a few simple steps to take to keep birds safe.

Offer Food and Shelter

Many birds will simply be using your yard as a rest stop on a long migration. Keep this in mind and fill your yard with native species of trees, shrubs and flowers to provide shelter and food.

You can supplement this nourishment with strategically located bird feeders that will prevent birds from striking your home’s windows. Ideally, bird feeders should be located within three feet of a window or more than 30 feet from a window.

Prevent Bird Strikes

Ninety-eight million birds are killed annually in the U.S. when colliding with windows, according to Western EcoSystems Technology estimates. Stem the loss of life by exploiting the keen vision of birds.

“When windows are visible to birds, they will enjoy a safer migration,” says Spencer Schock, founder of WindowAlert, a company that offers decals and UV Liquid that is visible to birds but not people.

Products from WindowAlert are proven to effectively alter the flight path of birds and prevent window strikes. An easy weekend project to complete this season is applying decals to your home’s windows and using UV Liquid to fill the gaps in order to form a visual barrier for birds. The ultraviolet reflecting coating will look like etched glass to humans, but be quite visible to birds. The coating can fade over time, so remember to periodically replace decals. More best practices can be found at windowalert.com.

Limit Other Hazards

Pet cats can prove hazardous to birds. Keep cats inside or monitor their time outdoors in order to prevent attacks.

Promote a natural food source for birds by avoiding the use of pesticides and fertilizers that kill off the insects that birds need to thrive.

By taking a few important measures at home, you can create a haven for migratory birds right in your own backyard.

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NATIONAL BIRDFEEDING MONTH


 

Become a FeederWatcher to help the birds

This Red-breasted Nuthatch was a people’s choice winner in the birdspotter contest for Project Feederwatch. It was taken by Laurie Salzler, of Ann Arbor, Mich.

This Red-breasted Nuthatch was a people’s choice winner in the birdspotter contest for Project Feederwatch. It was taken by Laurie Salzler, of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Every bird observation reported makes a difference

Watching birds is a joy unto itself—but you can easily make it mean so much more just by reporting the birds you see to Project FeederWatch. This popular citizen-science project from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology launched its 29th season on November 14. Whether you’re already a dedicated bird watcher or would like to give it a try, sign up now at FeederWatch.org to support the scientific study and conservation of birds with your observations.
“Currently, we are tracking several range expansions in both the western and eastern part of the continent,” says project leader Emma Greig. “We are seeing that Lesser Goldfinches, Anna’s Hummingbirds, and Bushtits are on the rise in the West, and we are still investigating the causes. Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Carolina Wrens are expanding their ranges in the East, and scientists think it may be due to climate change. We need everyone’s observations to detect these kinds of large-scale trends in bird populations.”
More than 20,000 FeederWatchers contribute their data by reporting the highest number of each species they see at their feeders during periodic two-day counts through early April. It’s simple to do and is a great activity for families and school groups.
Explore the data submitted to FeederWatch using online tools that allow you to see trends in your own backyard, in a specific region, or across the continent.
“We like to mix in a little fun, too,” says Greig. “Our BirdSpotter Photo Contest will be back, sponsored by Droll Yankees. The contest is open to everyone, not  just FeederWatchers, and is free to enter. We’re going to pick two winners each week. Even if you don’t enter a photo, you can vote for your favorites, and who doesn’t like looking at pretty bird pictures?” Learn more about the contest at feederwatch.org/birdspotter.

To learn more about joining Project FeederWatch and to sign up online, visit www.FeederWatch.org. To register by phone in the U.S., call the Cornell Lab toll-free at (866) 989-2473. In Canada, contact Bird Studies Canada at (888) 448-2473, toll-free.
In return for the $18 fee ($15 for Cornell Lab members), U.S. participants receive the FeederWatch Handbook and Instructions with tips on how to successfully attract birds to feeders, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds, and a calendar. Participants also receive Winter Bird Highlights, an annual summary of FeederWatch findings, as well as the Cornell Lab’s printed newsletter, All About Birds News. The fee is $35 in Canada.
Project FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.

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Christmas Bird Count 2015


By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

OUT-Nature-niche-Christmas-bird-count-Sheet1-1Fifty-three species of birds were seen (Table 1) by 48 traveling observers and 16 bird feeder watchers on January 2, 2016.

Three Great Horned Owls and 3 Barred Owls were reported on count day with one Eastern Screech Owl added during count week. Total individuals sighted was 11,246 and was about 1,500 more than last year. Weather was great for field exploration. The species count of 53 was 6 fewer than last year but might be explained by more open water this year. Frozen water concentrates waterfowl and increases the likelihood for counting more species. We usually have approximately 60 species sighted annually so our species count was slightly down even though over all numbers were up.

Two Golden Eagles were sighted. This is the first time the species has been seen on our Christmas count. They are in surrounding areas and counties with more frequent sightings in recent years and especially during the winter months.

Regarding hawks, note the order of birds on checklists has been rearranged in recent years. The falcons now follow the woodpeckers instead of being grouped with other hawks. DNA sequencing is one reason for the revised placement as scientists work to understand evolutionary phylogenetic order of species. Phylogenetic trees have several developmental aspects that are cross referenced to understand bird origins, relationships and development.

The Carolina Wren continues to be present with four seen this year. It is becoming a regular but in the past it was primarily a southern bird.

The Christmas bird counts across the continent document geographic population changes with shifts resulting in decreases or increases. Data helps scientists with environmental quality, habitat and climate change evidence to understand impacts for our growing population, land use changes and resource consumption. When I was in high school there were 3 billion people on Earth. Now there are over 7 billion.

Weather conditions were 100 percent cloudy in the morning but mostly clear during the afternoon. Temperatures were between 24 and 36F. Winds grew to 19 mph from the southwest. Snow cover was 1-3 inches. Moving water was open with still water partly frozen.

We totaled 107 hours in vehicles traveling 884 miles. We had more hours on the road than last year but drove about half the distance. I am thinking we might have spent more time out of the vehicles at stops because it was such a fine weather day. About 18 hours was spent on foot covering 23 miles. A combined total of 907.5 miles were on foot and driving. Groups totaled 125.5 hours of daytime birding. Night owling was 7.5 hours covering 13.5 miles of effort in four count sections. There were 16 birding parties in the morning and 15 in the afternoon.

Consider joining us next year. We were pleased to have new participants this year. Check out the Grand Rapids Audubon Club at www.graud.org.

Wittenbach/Wege Agri-science and Environmental Education Center (WWC) in Lowell co-hosted and we appreciate use of the facility. We encourage everyone to visit and enjoy the WWC grounds and to support their community programs.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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How to attract the most colorful birds to your backyard


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(BPT) – Sparrows to doves, mockingbirds to magpies, every bird that visits your backyard this season will bring its unique brand of delight. Yet when a particularly colorful species shows up, you can’t help but feel a special thrill at the beauty of their plumage and song. You can take steps to draw the most colorful species to your feeder and fill your backyard with their vibrant, bright displays throughout the season.

First, research what types of birds live in your region. Some species may summer in your area and then winter elsewhere. Some may arrive in spring to breed and raise young, only to move on as fall approaches. Online resources such as the Audubon Society’s bird guide can help you identify the colorful species that may be found in your area this summer. Next, take action to make your backyard attractive to the birds you want to attract. Provide their preferred nesting habitat, plenty of fresh, clean water and a reliable supply of their favorite foods in a style feeder they favor.

The bird-feeding experts at Cole’s Wild Bird Products offer some expert tips on common colorful birds found throughout North America and the types of bird feed they prefer:

*Cardinals: Among the best-known and most-loved backyard beauties, cardinals vary in hue from the brilliant red plumage of the males to the more subdued brownish red feathers of females. Both genders have black markings around the beak and darker feathers on the wings and back. Cardinals are seed eaters and are particularly fond of Safflower and Cole’s patented blend, “Hot Meats,” seed. They are attracted to the bitter taste of Safflower and go nuts for the spicy flavor of Hot Meats. Hot Meats are nutritious sunflower meats infused with fiery hot habanero chilies. A great no-waste, no-mess feed, it delivers more feed per pound, and no need for under-the-feeder cleanup. The chili peppers taste hot to mammals like squirrels, but birds do not feel the heat at all. Cardinals also appreciate suet, so be sure to serve this high-energy food in different varieties throughout your back yard.

*Bluebirds: Don’t mistake the sassy blue jay for a bluebird. These brightly colored birds sport brilliant blue feathers on their heads, backs and the tops of their wings, and warm russet fading to white on their bellies. Bluebirds stand out not only for their beauty, but also for their taste in feed. Bluebirds love spice and suet, so try a feed with some kick, like Blazing Hot Blend. All natural and chemical free, this blend combines a patented habanero chili oil formula (which appeals to birds but keeps squirrels at bay) with the most-preferred types of seeds. Bluebirds love every form of suet, so serve up Hot Meats Suet cakes, or a specialty suet like Suet Kibbles. They also favor mealworms, so to avoid the “ick factor” of serving live mealworms, try Cole’s dried mealworm version.

BLOOM-Attract-birds2*Goldfinches: When one of these bright yellow and black birds visits your yard, it’s like a slice of sunshine has settled at your feeder. With vivid yellow bodies, black masks above their beaks and black and white striping on their wings, goldfinches are among the flashiest, most vivid visitors to backyards. Lure them with sunflower, and niger seeds, or try Finch Friends, which combines their two favorite seeds in one mix.

*Indigo bunting: Another beautiful blue bird, the indigo bunting is also known for its boisterous and lovely song. Indigo buntings favor seeds and berries, but will also eat insects. To beckon this bunting to your backyard, try serving White Millet, a favorite seed choice.

*Baltimore orioles: That blaze of brilliant orange, capped by black may herald the arrival of a Baltimore oriole in your backyard. Woo these flashy fellows by serving cut fruit and berries, as well as peanut butter and suet. Cole’s Natural Peanut Suet Cake delivers the peanut butter base that orioles and other songbirds prefer, paired with the energy benefits of nutrient-dense suet. An interesting fact is orioles will try and feed off of hummingbird feeders; they like the nectar!

To attract the maximum number and variety of colorful birds, be sure to provide a range of feed types served in a variety of feeder styles, including tubular feeders for seeds, bowl feeders for fruits, berries and nuts, and hummingbird feeders for nectar drinkers.

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BEE One in a Million


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BLOOM-Bee-one-in-a-million-logoResidents have a chance to become part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge (MPGC), a nationwide call to action to create gardens and landscapes that help revive the health of bees, butterflies, birds, bats and other pollinators across America.

The challenge was launched by The National Pollinator Garden Network, which collectively represents nearly one million active gardeners and 15,000 schoolyard gardens. The Network is challenging the nation to reach the goal of one million additional pollinator gardens by the end of 2016. The Network will work to provide resources for individuals, community groups, government agencies and the garden industry to create more pollinator habitat through sustainable gardening practices and conservation efforts.

They hope to move millions of individuals, kids and families outdoors and make a connection between pollinators and the healthy food people eat.

Any individual can contribute by planting for pollinators and joining this effort to provide a million pollinator gardens across the United States. Every habitat of every size counts, from window boxes and garden plots to farm borders, golf courses, school gardens, corporate and university campuses. Everywhere we live, work, play and worship can, with small improvements, offer essential food and shelter for pollinators.

“If we all work together—individuals, communities, farmers, land managers, and local, state, and federal agencies—we can ensure that every American child has a chance to enjoy the beauty of creatures like bees, monarch butterflies, and hummingbirds,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife

Federation. “By joining forces with the National Pollinator Garden Network on the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, the National Wildlife Federation and our affiliates are amplifying these collective efforts to address the growing threats affecting so much of America’s treasured wildlife.”

Pollinators Gardens should do the following:

• use plants that provide nectar and pollen sources

• provide a water source

• be situated in sunny areas with wind breaks

• create large “pollinator targets” of native or non-invasive plants

• establish continuous bloom throughout the growing season

• eliminate or minimize the impact of pesticides.

Learn more at www.millionpollinatorgardens.org and join the discussion on Twitter through the hashtag #PolliNation.

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Birds and Wind Turbines


By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Recently wind turbines were briefly discussed in my nature niche column. Since then an environment report on Michigan Radio regarding wind turbine placement addressed important migration paths for birds along Lake Huron. I had mentioned how birds have their own superhighway routes in the sky.

Monica Essenmacher started an online discussion regarding inappropriate turbine placement. She stated, “Geronimo wind bullies its way out of bird-safe industrial wind-turbine placement. Plans are to go ahead with 50 turbines in an important bird area, where 168 already stand in the path of hundreds of thousands of bird and bat migrants.”

Kimberly Kaufmann, Director Black Swamp Bird Observatory, replied, “Another blatant example of the complete and utter failure of voluntary guidelines. It absolutely sickens me to watch these things penetrate the most sensitive bird areas while the industry thumbs its nose and is then allowed to hide evidence of the real impact to birds.

“Another reminder that this isn’t merely a battle; it’s a war on habitat.”

Kimberly Kaufmann further commented, “Activism requires absolute dogged diligence. We have to tell the story over and over and over and over and over in every possible way. People generally get burned out and give up just when their message is starting to reach the right people.

“Effective activism demands a tremendous amount of time, hard work, experience, and very thick skin! Getting people to take action on anything is a challenge, but this issue is exceptionally hard for people.

1) Most people understand that climate change is real and that we desperately need a cure for our addiction to fossil fuels

2) No one ever wants to discuss the real problem: the fact that the world is overpopulated and unsustainable

3) With no regulations, the industry controls the mortality data, so we never get an accurate assessment of the real environmental impact.

4) The industry is supported by so much $$ and embroiled in so much politics that they control almost everything.

5) Organizations don’t want to be considered “anti-green” by speaking out against any alternative to fossil fuels.

Kim said, “Don’t give up, Monica. There’s still a lot of important work needed. Fighting for transparency of the post-construction monitoring data should be high on your list. We’re currently fighting that battle in Ohio with the state’s largest wind factory.”

Remember, there are many that support you, and as we continue to fight for transparency, people who care about birds and wildlife will be more inclined to join the battle if we can show them just how many of their favorite birds are being impacted.

In my nature niche articles, I strive to suggest how we can behave responsibly toward other species sharing Earth’s Ecosphere. Like Kim mentioned, it is necessary that human numbers do not exceed the Earth’s sustainable carrying capacity. Previously I mentioned we could reduce the number of people on Earth by 40 percent if we simply wait until we are in our 30s to bear children. This would result in three generations living at once instead of five generations. It is an individual choice to select the age we bear children.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433 or call 616-696-1753.

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Is your yard wildlife-friendly?


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(StatePoint) Being a good neighbor means more than being friendly to the humans across the street, it also means being friendly to the animals in your yard. Making your yard a safe place for local wildlife should be a top lawn care priority.

With that in mind, here are some tips for creating a healthy habitat for local critters.

Be a Valuable Rest Stop

Stock your garden with small native species of trees, shrubs and flowers to give wildlife needed nourishment, as well as cover from predators.

A source of water can also be a great resource for visiting fauna. Whether it’s a pond or a bird bath, be sure this zone is well-maintained so you don’t inadvertently create a haven for unwanted species. In the warmer months when mosquitoes are most active, you should change the bird bath water even more often.

Promote Safety

A bird feeder in your backyard, full of water and seeds, will be the perfect invitation for beautiful migrating and local birds to stop by.

Just be sure your property is safe for birds. Unfortunately, birds don’t see clear glass. As a result, millions of birds die every year by striking glass. Don’t let your sliding glass doors or other windows become a death trap for birds.

To protect birds, apply special decals that reflect ultraviolet sunlight. For example, those from WindowAlert have the appearance of frosted glass, but glow like a stoplight for birds, so you don’t have to compromise your own view out your window. The brand also makes a high-tech liquid called WindowAlert UV Liquid, which should be applied between decals.

“Wildlife can beautify your garden and be a sign that your yard is healthy” says Spencer Schock, founder of WindowAlert. “But birds and other wildlife need food, shelter, and safety.”

Get out the binoculars! With a few small actions, you can make your yard or garden a wildlife refuge.

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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche


Waves of Birds

On March 11 a south wind brought the first big wave of birds on their northerly migration. A flock of twenty Red-winged Blackbirds clustered in a tree near my home. Two individual Common Grackles were flying about the area. One American Robin was singing in a neighbor’s front yard. Over 100 American Crows flocked northward. This occurred during a short walk between 8:30 and 9 a.m.

We were still experiencing NE winds for a couple days prior to the south wind but some birds anxiously pushed their way against the wind to get to a desired destination. I saw the first redwings on 7 March. A friend and I have a contest to see if we can best predict the date of first arrival for redwings. This year he predicted the 6th and I chose the 7th. It happened that I hit the date right on. I am not usually that accurate.

Scientists gather evidence and make a hypothesis based on available data. It appeared snow would linger in depth into March and the National Weather Service was predicting that March would be cold. Based on that limited information I thought the redwings would arrive later than usual this year and was lucky that I selected the exact date. I have seen them as early as 28 February here in Cedar Springs but usually expect them the first week of March.

When I saw that Indiana was getting hit with 8 inches of snow just prior to my selected date and saw that northeast winds were expected to continue for days, I thought my prediction was probably too early. Instead three redwings forged their way here anyway. Thank you redwings!

Other first sightings providing evidence of spring were exposed skunk cabbage flower spathes along the creek edge where snow melted by 3 March. I was sure many were up already up in February but I could not see them beneath the 15 inches of snow. I need my hand lens to see if the small flowers on the spadix enclosed by the hood-like spathe are already mature and receptive for pollen.

Snowfleas were active on the snow but that may occur in January on a sunny day. Their abundance increases as spring nears and are usually most abundant near the base of the tree trunks where snow has melted. Snowfleas are not fleas and only resemble them in size. They are important and desirable soil insects that are present in the billions and trillions.

The first pussy willow shrub exposed its fuzzy gray buds 7 March along my hiking trail on the south side of a shrub clump where the sun could warm plant tissues. There were three beetle larvae crawling on top of the deep snow. I could not identify the half-inch long larvae beyond that of being a beetle. In the higher late winter sun, red-osier dogwood shrubs have already brightened their red bark with anthocyanin.

My first robin sighting was here in Courtland Township on 9 March. Two were together at road’s edge. I heard the first one singing on 11 March. Get out to see, hear, feel, smell, and touch spring nature niches. They will touch and energize your body in return.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net or Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433, 616-696-1753.

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Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche


Photo courtesy of Judy Porter.

How Do Birds Know?

 

Q: How do birds (or animals in general) know what is good for them to eat, and conversely? – Ed Bolt

 

A: I watched newly fledged American Dippers observe an adult that was feeding on the bottom of a rushing stream. The young observed and contemplated from rocks whether to submerge to look for prey. It appeared that they thought the adult was nuts. They did not want to enter the rushing water even near the stream edge where the current was not as swift. They made hesitant motion to enter the water but paused. They had previously received food the parent retrieved and had been fed. Now the parent was not satisfying their hunger. It was necessary to make the reluctant dive or go hungry. They had the physical body parts and basic instinct but it also required will and learned practice to survive.

There are two major aspects regarding food selection for birds. One is instinct and the other learned behavior. It is my opinion that we have often minimized their learning capacity. There was a time when people thought that most animals operated on instinct only like a programmed machine. That idea has been disproved with scientific inquiry repeatedly. With insects and invertebrates an instinct programmed behavior is more dominate but even with those animals, I think they have greater capacity for deliberate choice than is thought. That is another story.

Birds spend time following parents and mimicking feeding behavior. Not only do they observe what the parent is eating but they also observe how to acquire the selected item. They have instinctual behaviors that are modified and honed by learned practice. They have structural adaptations that work best for specific uses. One would not see a Great Blue Heron clinging to the side of a tree like a Red-breasted Nuthatch looking for prey in bark crevices from a half inch away. Conversely the Nuthatch’s sharp pointed beak and short legs would not be effective for wading and spearing prey in water.

Bad experiences like eating a Monarch butterfly is remembered and avoided. The aposematic coloration of prey aids birds in recognizing things that are distasteful and should be avoided.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.

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Birds enjoy a bite after the storm


These birds didn’t let a little wind and snow come between them and their afternoon meal Monday.

Mary Lou Fuller, of Solon Township, sent us this photo of two robins—yes, you read it right—eating berries from her mock cranberry tree Monday afternoon. “Maybe spring is just around the corner!” she said.

Diane Noorthoek Butler sent us this photo of a beautiful cardinal at her feeder in Sand Lake.

Remember that now is the time to help feed the birds, during these cold winter months.

Check out what types of birds were seen in the area on January 1, during our annual Christmas Bird Count.

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