Because 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!
From 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: nwf.org/habitat, 800-822-9919.
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
and fattening up for their journey south. Although it's officially fall, activity around feeders is still fierce in many states! Help the tiny sprites along with a tad stronger nectar solution during migration. Typically 1:4 (pure can sugar to water) birds benefit from the extra calories at 1:3 ratio.
Leave one feeder up- even if you think they're gone! Hummingbird Society president, Ross Hawkins always advises leaving a feeder up for stragglers from further north. Your feeder will not make them stay... it's a total myth.
Orioles... you may catch them on the flip side! Peak migration is Aug. & Sept. for Baltimore Orioles, though a bit difficult to recognize as birds are molting their feathers. For Bullock's, Sept. is peak migration, with some birds still molting.
Grape jelly and orange halves are favorites, any type of dish feeder works well for jelly. Try an orange half pierced on a small protruding branch, or check out the Clementine feeder above.
Goldfinches... they stick around Considered resident birds in most of the US, watch as vibrant yellow plumage gives way to new olive-drab winter feathers, they're one of few birds who molt twice per year. Appetites are voracious at thistle feeders right now, and hanging a mesh thistle sock is an inexpensive & easy way to please the crowds. The Rainbow Finch Feeder is fantastic for big crowds, a sight to behold when all perches are occupied!
Bluebirds... they hang too! Close-knit and family oriented, bluebirds are also residents in most locales. With a decent breeding season, many folks reported 3 and some even a 4th brood! Watch for their molt now, making it more difficult to tell who's who among juveniles.
Meal worms are their absolute favorite, but creepy-crawlies need not apply! Dried worms provide just as much protein and if you steep them in boiling water for a few minutes, it softens the worms for greater appeal... to the blues anyway!
Not so much now, but prior to breeding season, consider using calcium carbonate powder to avoid egg bonding in females. Because too much of a good thing isn't always good, worms dusted in this calcium supplement help balance nutritional needs.
Visit the website sialis.org for comprehensive information on anything bluebird related, there's great info on all native cavity nesting birds too.
Talk About a Heat Wave It seems every August is the hottest yet on record... this one took the cake! Each morning birds sat eagerly on our leaf misters awaiting relief in the fine mist of fresh water. Aside from fliers, turtles, frogs, lizards and a few wild turkeys found relief in the puddler below one mister.
Whether they stay or go, all birds need fresh water. It's the easiest and most effective way to attract songbirds. Solar fountains, bath drippers and leaf misters are ideal for warm weather, but nothing beats a heated bird bath in frigid winter months! All are available as separate accessories, consider adding one to your existing bird bath to further entice feathered friends!
Swell ideas for birds in fall
Leave one up: hummingbird feeder
Leave the leaves: create a brush pile in one corner of the yard for cover
Clean out birdhouses: provides roosting spots through winter
Give feeders a thorough cleaning
Offer one new type of food: try your own suet or banquet mix
Offer fresh water: make it move or heat for winter
Slap peanut butter right on a tree trunk once weather turns cold
Prevent window crashes: unobtrusive decals really work
Plant with birds in mind: provide natural food sources and shelter
New Native Plant Data Base! From Audubon, simply enter your zip code for a neat list of native plants to enhance the landscape while helping wild birds thrive.
Providing natural food sources and shelter has never been easier, a fail-safe list of hearty flowers, shrubs and trees tailored for you & birds... for many seasons to come.Visit audubon.org to find your plants!
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.
We 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.
And 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 :)
Lots 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!
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!"
"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."
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 images and story courtesy of Bill Apgar - a dedicated bluebird monitor in MA.
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:
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.
Nope, it's not the weather this time... it's birds laying eggs that fool mom.
Imagine 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).
Most 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 :(
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!
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.
Now 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 :)
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 is cost. 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 :)
The 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!
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.