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Birding Tips and Resources

Pollinator Gardens in More Schools... Please! Get a Free Bat House on Us October 13 2016

Monarch Butterfly Close-upBecause we saw our first and ONLY monarch of the season yesterday...

We're Donating a Bat House to the first school who replies (and follows through)!

Fall's an ideal time for planning a garden, planting trees, shrubs and perennials for spring. The kids are settled & back in school so, what better class project than to create a garden spot and beautiful habitat for pollinators?

Food, water and shelter are the simple components to entice winged ones... no birds feeders necessary!
Bumble Bee Macro ShotFrom kindergarten to grade 12, curriculum may easily be modified to stress the critical need for bees, butterflies, bats & birds in the ecosystem and their bearing on farming and food crops. Alarming numbers and a recent crash in the honey bee population are a wake-up call if ever there was one.

National Wildlife Federation's popular Certified Wildlife Habitat program will recognize your school's efforts. We're happy to share any tips and resources for attracting bats, butterflies, and birds to the garden as well.

Bee a part of this growing national effort and get outside to plant!
"NWF celebrates the efforts of Sasha Hansen and the students of Plank South to create a garden space that improves habitat for birds, butterflies, frogs and other wildlife by providing essential elements needed by all wildlife – natural food sources, clean water, cover and places to raise young. Certification also makes the Plank South Certified Wildlife Habitat part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to restore critical habitat for pollinators"
We are so excited to have another passionate wildlife gardener join us and create a certified wildlife habitat. Over the last 40 years, nearly 200,000 wildlife gardeners have joined NWF’s Garden for Wildlife movement and helped restore wildlife habitat right in their own neighborhoods,” said David Mizejewski, a naturalist with the NWF.
NWF’s Garden for Wildlife program encourages responsible gardening that helps pollinators and other wildlife thrive. It encourages planting with native species like milkweed and discourages chemical pesticide use. With nearly 200,000 locations and growing, NWF’s Certified Wildlife Habitats and Community Wildlife Habitats recognize individuals, schools, groups and whole communities committed to providing habitat for wildlife, including pollinators." For information:, 800-822-9919.

Bat Houses
Let us know your school and location
Send a photo of the area/garden to be
Keep us posted on your plan/progress with a few images
We'll send a Bat House for your new pollinator garden!
*Contiguous US Only, Grades K-12

Hummingbird Feeder Hack June 30 2016

Glass Hummingbird Feeder   Tube Style Hummingbird Feeder   Dr. JB's Hummingbird Feeder 
It's a brilliant idea... regardless of the hummingbird feeder style you may have. Tube styles, top-fill and traditional designs all have one thing in common: tiny feeder ports that are difficult to clean when changing nectar.

Save your mascara brush! Of course you'll want to give it a run through the dishwasher first to remove any residue and sanitize. It's the absolute perfect size and shape for cleaning deep down into feeding ports on any type of nectar feeder. Goes for oriole and butterfly feeders too.

Mascara Brush for cleaning hummingbird feeder portsWe send one with every hummingbird feeder purchase, been doing so for a long time, but it wasn't until recently we realized the "official feeder port cleaning brushes" were nothing more than a duplicated mascara brush... and for a lot less money! You can buy 10-packs at beauty supply stores, and you can easily find them online. Effective and simple to use, your hummingbirds will be grateful for sparkly clean ports.

And while on the subject of nectar, are you making your own yet? It's the easiest thing in the world that take just a few minutes, no red dye please. Home made is best for hummingbirds' health and costs pennies... so why wouldn't you? Because every time you see the recipe, the instructions are different! Boil the sugar & water or don't boil? Store 2 weeks, store 10 days in fridge? Let cool for 2 hours, cool for 5 hours. How could something so simple be so confusing?

Here's our take, and we've been doing it for ions!
Pure cane sugar, not beet sugar, not brown sugar, nothing but plain table sugar (pure cane is preferred). The ratio is 1:4, that's 1 cup of sugar to 4 cups of water. There's really no need to boil the water because hummingbirds will spread any bacteria through their beaks.

Do not boil the sugar as it weakens the mixture. The only good reason for boiling water is to dissolve sugar more effectively! With that said, you can avoid cooling time by using just one cup of boiling water to dissolve the sugar (takes 5 seconds). Add 3 cups of cold water and your nectar is now ready to fill feeders instantly!

Why would you want to wait for cooling time? Nobody has time for anything these days! Store remaining nectar in the fridge for up to 3 weeks... yes it will keep for 21 days in a properly sealed container.

Nectar Aid PitcherAnd if for some reason you're still hesitant to make your own? Measuring cups? Utensils? Mess? Nectar Aid is a groovy self-measuring pitcher thing that's fool-proof! Just fill each side with equal parts of sugar and water and you're done! Make and store nectar in the pitcher, it even has its own slide out mixer so you don't have to retrieve the spoon from the drawer! No excuses now... so show your hummingbirds some love :)

Birdie Turf Wars and Fosters... Don't Try This at Home! May 29 2016

Eastern Bluebird Male feeding FledgelingLots of birds are busy nesting and raising families this month, Tons of parents feeding babies right now- and if you close enough there's cardinals, thrashers, house finches, wrens, robins, nuthatches, chickadees, doves and of course, beloved bluebirds among others!

It's not easy being a bird because real estate is tough out there! Competition for nest boxes is real and happens before our eyes! The fact our area now has thriving starling residents does not help native songbirds in the least as they're busy enough guarding their own territories.

Earlier this month, we saw a strange occurrence when a bluebird removed the nesting material placed in Gilbertson Nest Box by a chickadee. That in itself isn't so strange, but the bluebird took the material to a nearby birdhouse and actually placed it inside the box. As if to say "here, you nest here, the other is my box!" Now the craziest part is that the chickadee went inside, grabbed his moss and proceeded back to his chosen birdhouse! This went on for some time and resulted in neither of the boxes being occupied.

For those who "don't feed birds in summer", yes- it's true, they don't need your charity. But we can promise... you're the one missing out! Colors and song of migratory birds alone is something every backyard birder anticipates. Orioles, buntings, grosbeaks, and for most... hummingbirds. It's simply the best time of year for backyard bird watching!

Colorful Migratory Birds, Grosbeak, Bunting and Oriole

Once you've been bitten by the "bird bug" you're hooked, it's addictive, it's magical, and can be awe-inspiring. Some folks even devote their time and resources to certain species, becoming hosts or landlords for bluebirds or purple martins. They manage these trails or colonies in the name of science, with passion and a simple love for the birds themselves.

So, back to the turf wars and this bluebird monitor's experience... which you shouldn't try at home:

"This spring, the bluebirds took a different box on the trail than usual.  There was a chickadee nesting there and they took over.  At some point they abandoned, and the black capped chickadees returned to lay five eggs.  I don't think the bluebird egg was ever incubated- but it hatched today ahead of the chickadee eggs, and looks like it is gaining in size already"

I don't imagine this poor bird will be able to survive in a chickadee's nest.  I am wondering what can be done.  Right now I have not come up with any solution to the problems.  I think it will be at least five days before the chickadee nestlings hatch."

Now one great thing about being a monitor or landlord is the support and resources available from other experienced folks within said group.

"Big issue with the chickadees raising and fledging the bluebird chick is that this bluebird may think it is a chickadee when it comes time next year to find a mate. After fledging, the chickadee’s will teach the bluebird to become a chickadee as they search for foods completely different from what bluebirds usually look for and the types of food they will eat. Chickadees will try to teach the baby bluebird to hammer out the seeds of sunflowers and other smaller nuts and hard shelled seeds.
The baby bluebird is not going to act like a chickadee baby once they all leave the nest. This may cause the chickadee adults to abandon the baby bluebird"

So, best advice was given to foster out the baby bluebird to another bluebird nest. But how? Because bluebird monitors share one common goal:

"I found no candidate nests on my trails in Southeastern Ma, but a monitor from Northeastern, MA had a nest that hatched on the 24th with only four hatchlings.  When I arrived this morning, I noticed the hatchlings in that nest had achieved a nearly identical size as my baby from Monday.  It was impossible to tell the difference between my foster child and the others!"

Bluebird Hatchling in Chickadee Nest

"Update on Foster Child in Massachusetts.

I think he/she is one of the smaller ones, even though it is a day older than the others.  The chickadees had four of five hatched the day I took her to her new home.  They are all doing well too."

Bluebird babies with new foster kid

So all's well that ends well and it looks like this little blue will do just fine thanks to the efforts of a caring bluebird monitor and combined knowledge within the group. Grow strong and thrive little guy!

And by the way, here's a pretty good reference should you find a baby bird on the ground, because it may not need your charity. Nature is resourceful... happy birding!

Last update on the foster:
Photo taken of the clan was at 10 days old. Email yesterday from monitor said all have fledged from box :)

Bluebird clutch with foster at 10 days old

Bluebird images and story courtesy of Bill Apgar - a dedicated bluebird monitor in MA.

Another Reason to Keep Water Moving in Your Bird Bath: Zika! April 19 2016

As if West Nile wasn't enough, you've likely heard about the newest virus transmitted by mosquitoes: Zika virus. 

As the news spread, many folks became more concerned/aware when venturing outdoors for sports, leisure, and general R&R activities.

Like West Nile, Zika is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes. "It's carried by two species of mosquitoes found in the USA, Zika has infected more than 1 million people in Central and South America. Travelers who have become infected with the Zika virus in other countries have already arrived in the U.S., which raises the possibility of homegrown Zika cases in the U.S. in the future."

 Promote the control of mosquito populations around the landscape without the use of harmful pesticides. A few easy steps to reduce mosquito breeding grounds include:
  • Use bird bath accessories like Water Wigglers, Bubblers or Drippers to keep water moving.
  • Install a Bat House (brown bats eat thousands of insects nightly).
  • Dispose of cans, plastic containers, old tires and other items that may collect water. 
  • Turn over wheelbarrows and empty children's wading pools. 
  • Clean clogged roof gutters, they become prime mosquito breeding pools. 
  • Periodically empty saucers under garden planters and pots to make sure they are not harboring mosquito larvae. 
  • Use non-toxic mosquito repellent products. Mosquito Dunks are the only product containing BTI, a bacteria toxic to mosquito larvae.  BTI is harmless to people, plants, pets, fish, wildlife and beneficial insects, but is deadly to mosquitoes.

    Zika Mosquito

Wicked April Fool's by Mother Nature- The Cowbird April 01 2016

Nope, it's not the weather this time... it's birds laying eggs that fool mom.

Cowbird in Carolina Wren's nestImagine trying to raise a baby who's grown twice the size of yourself! Other nestlings in the group haven't fared so well because the big one hogs most of the food. This actually happens often- no thanks to the brown headed cowbird.

Considered parasitic eggs, because they're literally dumped in the existing nests of unsuspecting birds. It's the natural instinct to thrive, though cowbirds won't be bothered raising their own. Considered nomadic, they tend to follow livestock herds for the abundant insects, their habitat being open grasslands and meadows (too far away from nests).

Cowbird egg in bluebird nestMost birds are unaware that an imposter is looming, and end up raising the ridiculously large intruder to the consequence of other nestlings.

A bit smaller than blackbirds, cowbirds have brown heads. They prefer to deposit in an active nest with at least two eggs smaller than their own. Bluebirds, Carolina wrens, and warblers are most susceptible. This is just one reason why it's so important to use correctly proportioned birdhouses. Those gaping entries on some inexpensive, decorative houses found in hobby shops tend to invite not only 4-legged and winged predators... but imposters to the detriment of songbirds.

And should you like to become a really, really good landlord- monitoring nests actually helps backyard birds thrive. This April Fool's is a sad one indeed :(

Cowbird baby in nest

Squirrel Baffles Really Do Work March 13 2016

But you have to put them in the right place! 

Not so much the baffle, that's the easy part, but the feeder placement itself will determine if your baffle's installed correctly. If you see squirrels in the feeder... then you've failed the test!

Squirrel Baffle for Bird Feeder Pole

Uber-squirrel can jump horizontally up to 10 ft. He does this by launching himself from any sturdy object-even those objects not so sturdy may serve his purpose! And that purpose is nothing more than to gain access to your bird feeder. He won't give up, it's just not in his nature.

So, if your feeder is on a stand-alone pole, or a feeding station with several feeders, or even a 4x4 wood post, it must be placed so there is no horizontal launching spot! The bottom of the baffle should also be at least 4 ft. above ground level. If you can't slide the baffle over said pole, the wrap-around baffle is ideal, it opens up and then self-locks in place with no need to remove feeders.

Large Hanging Squirrel BaffleNow say you'd like to hang a feeder from that sturdy branch, the view from the kitchen window is perfect, but the squirrels are impossible. Not necessarily so! Hanging baffles are very effective, but you must consider the horizontal launching point. If placed too close to the tree trunk itself, the baffle will serve no purpose. If not far enough from the ground, the result is the same... failure to win the war.

This war is all about tactics, and with a little thought and careful planning, squirrels will be a non-issue at bird feeders! Baffles save tons of seed, aggravation and even some wood or plastic feeders squirrels love to chew, usually destroying them in the process. And if you happen to like the furry critters, it's best to give them their own feeder or two away from birdseed :)

Dealing with Live Mealworms? February 24 2016

Bluebirds' favorite food of all... live mealworms! Sometimes it's the only way to actually attract blues to your place. The creepy crawly part isn't so bad, it's easy once you get the hang of feeding and handling!

The worms are fairly inexpensive when purchased in bulk... it's the overnight freight that hurts! So the more you can buy-the less expensive they are. Some folks even grow their own worms, but it's a very time consuming project requiring great patience. Wouldn't you rather spend that time bird watching?

Here's easy info with the 3 required items and best storage for your meal worms. And don't worry too much about the fridge... worms transition to a dormant state once chilled so they're no longer creepy crawly :)

Handling and Storing Live Mealworms for Bluebirds


Try a Window Bird Feeder... for Your Cat! February 21 2016

Cat enjoys his window bird feederThe titmouse chilling at this window bird feeder seems fairly content, but the cat seems far more intrigued! And it's all very good as the feline is rightly within his own confines, yet able to witness and experience the great outdoors and wildlife safely - without maiming or killing!

For as long as folks have been attracting and feeding wild birds, the argument over outdoor cats has raged. Both birding groups and cat fanciers have been at odds over the age-old argument, and you can bet it's a heated one for sure! Complete with name calling "cat crazies", statistics, and graphic images of dead wildlife and cats that tug at heart strings.

The biggest problem or complaint is that of feral cats, and through no fault of their own, humans are the ones to blame for the increasingly difficult situation. For as long as spay/neuter is not enforced, outdoor cats will procreate like bunnies (whether they're feral or owned).

To us, it's a very sad example of the sheer neglect and indifference toward our companion animals. We're not going to take sides on this one for fear of backlash, but can say that of our 4 cats, the screened porch is the extent of their outside time.

On the other hand, I could strangle the neighbor who rescues, only to let the cats roam... on our property. Well... guess that just might be taking sides? Getting back to window feeders, they not only entice feathered friends to the smallest yards- or even balcony, they'll keep Fluffy entertained with live action for hours as well. Go ahead and try one and see for yourself, and happy birding!

What's the Difference with 2016 Great Backyard Bird Count? February 12 2016



Feb 12-15, 2016 - It's for the birds!

It's not every day wild birds make the Care2Causes venue, they're even asking you to show some love for birds. And there's a good reason this popular humanitarian/petition site is gawking birds!

This weekend marks the 19th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count, but many are promising a big difference this year with bird sightings you may have never expected. In a nutshell: El Nino.

Not a believer in climate change? There's plenty of environmental, wildlife and scientific organizations who give hard proof it's a real factor in today's fast and furious changing environment. In fact, birds have already been telling us for years!

By submitting your results (called citizen science) the cumulative data is collated/extrapolated (whatever the term is?) to show scientists specifically how birds' populations and ranges are changing from year to year. It may not sound all that important, but birds really do give us a picture into our changing environment.

Take part in something big this weekend, it's citizen science that matters. And take your valentine along even if they're not into birds because it will be something different! No fancy stuff necessary, just a small block of time, a pair of binoculars if preferred and your GBBC checklist.

Your findings further help scientists understand bird's populations and shifting ranges as they relate to climate.

Feb 12-15
  1. Create a free account
  2. Download instructions
  3. Enter your observations (from the field or from home) free eBird Mobile for ios or Android
  4. Have Fun!

Help Birds Thrive- This Sale Bird Feeder Does More January 29 2016

Longer days means spring is closer-feed the birds!

Although days are getting longer, spring seems miles away in many locales. But once that first crocus blooms, you can bet birds will be scouting territories, the best housing and mates. It's nature at her finest... regardless of what the weather decides.

Martin scouts have already been spotted in Florida, and Eastern bluebird males in the southeast are doing their funky "wing tip" as if to say "hey baby- a lookee over here, I've found the perfect digs for us to set up shop!"

But early nestings don't always prove successful due to the absence of natural food sources, heavy spring rains, and/or cold weather. Here's where filling your bird feeders really helps local songbirds! Supplemental feeding can make or break a nesting pair of birds... especially those with babies.

Deluxe bird feeder wreath has usable packaging for your birds

This birdseed wreath uses top-notch ingredients which results in a no-waste treat, it packs a punch full of calories for feathered friends. And Calories=Energy=Warmth, the ability to sustain overnight.

So here's the good part: See that straw packaging and raffia bow? Birds love it for nest building! Behind that cute label is a black net for hanging the wreath (it lasts longer that way). The netting is ideal for offering up nesting materials, just fill, pull some through and hang from a quiet area in the yard where birds will see the goods.

Straw from wreath packing for DIY nest material

Be sure to remove the gold ribbon, and do cut the raffia into short strips. Little feet can easily get tangled up in it and pose a real danger. Fido or Fluffy live with you? Save their hair and add it to the nesting bag. Nuthatches, chickadees, and others will use it to build a soft nest for babies' arrival.

Steer clear of anything that's not natural to birds. Dryer lint's a no-no because it contains polyester and other synthetic materials. If your cat/dog uses flea meds, then avoid using their fur in the mix. Feathers and mosses are popular, decorative but natural; sheet moss, Spanish moss, and sphagnum are some faves. Ever seen that jay tear up the coco liners in your planters or hanging baskets? They're after good nest material! Even those who don't nest in birdhouses will use the materials.

Other stuff to help birds beat the winter blues? Housing and Wood Roof Roosting Pockets offer shelter from the elements, and a heated water source is tops! Suet, peanuts, sunflower, anything that's high in fat, protein and calories gives birds an edge in miserable weather. Lots of DIY easy suet recipes too!

And oh yeah... the DIY nesting material? Below is some of ours from past seasons. In fact, we're gearing up for our annual free nesting material promo. Beginning Feb.1, 2016, receive free nesting materials with all orders. Come on... show your birds some love this month!

Old bird feeder filled with DIY nest materialsHorse hair is a favorite for soft nests