Posts Tagged ‘wild birds’

World Wildlife Day 2017

World Wildlife Day 2017

Great movements in human history often start because of the need to stand up to cruelty, unfairness, and governmental overreach. Have you noticed that good usually wins?

In the realm of nature, we have our movements, as well, that start for similar reasons: People with good hearts see others with not-so-good hearts mistreating birds, mammals, sea life, and habitats, and often using these creatures and exploited areas for their own selfish gain.

They didn’t stay silent, but got busy and started fights. Not violent fights, but good fights that have built momentum and are still going.

In 1896, for example, Harriet Hemenway and Mina Hall started the first Audubon Society chapter in Massachusetts because they were upset by the killing of birds for the millinery (hat making) industry. They held a series of teas in an effort to convince other women to stop buying hats decorated with the feathers of these birds. This movement gained momentum, and within two years, other Audubon chapters had sprung up. Harriet and Mina were good people who started a movement and spread the word that wildlife is not a commodity and should be protected. To this day, the Audubon Society still speaks on behalf of birds. (A recent example of Audubon’s activism is their recent fight against the cormorant slaughter on Oregon’s Sand Island.)

In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was signed into law to prevent the willy-nilly, free-for-all use of wild birds, their feathers, their nests, and their eggs. (Click on the link to see what this law covers in its entirety.) Good people did that, setting into motion legislation that has protected birds for almost 100 years.

On December 20, 2013, the United Nations proclaimed March 3 to be World Wildlife Day as a way to draw attention, raise awareness, and hopefully encourage people to take action against habitat change and destruction, and the over-exploitation or illicit trafficking of fauna (wildlife) and flora (plants and trees), which is threatening, and even causing, the extinction of many species.

World Wildlife Day’s theme for 2017 is “Listen to the Young Voices,” and there are plenty of these voices to listen to: Did you know that over ¼ of the current world population is between the ages of 10-24? Many of these young people are very environmentally-focused and can teach us a thing or two. Likewise, we also have the opportunity — right now — to encourage the young people we know personally to respect wildlife and become its voices and protectors, not just on World Wildlife Day, but all through their growing-up years.

Sounds like a great movement to me. Click here to learn more about this year’s World Wildlife Day. http://www.wildlifeday.org/


Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

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American Goldfinches. Photo: Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds

American Goldfinches have been hogging the feeders lately, perhaps to fuel up for their journey to...elsewhere (certainly not here). 9-1-2014. Photo: Sally Dinius/Pacific Northwest Birds

When I stepped outside to fill the feeders the other morning (the first of September, to be exact), I was pleasantly surprised to feel a slight chill in the air. I love summer, but all the heat and humidity was making me cranky.

Besides the lower temps, there are other things I look forward to with the arrival of fall: the changing of the leaves, drinking hot coffee at Starbucks just to warm myself up, and the visits of migrating birds passing through on the way to their winter homes.

It’s that very idea of birds heading south that causes some people to believe that feeding the birds is just a seasonal thing. The truth is that while many birds do fly off to spend the winter in warmer climates, quite a few remain. Here are some of the birds you’ll see year-round in the Pacific Northwest (though not everyone here in the PNW will see the same birds):

Spotted Towhee
Steller’s Jay
Dark-eyed Junco
Pine Siskin
Black-capped Chickadee
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Red-breasted Nuthatch
American Robin
House Finch
Purple Finch

American Goldfinches also hang out year round, according to every range map I’ve seen. That may be true, but where I live (just south of Seattle), I only see them from spring through early fall. What about you? Do you see them during the winter months? Since they’re more drab in the winter, they may in large part just go unnoticed, but I have a feeling that many of them also vacation in the southern U.S. before returning in the spring. I know for a fact that they are nowhere near my feeders in the winter months…and you can bet I notice and identify every bird I see in my backyard.

Considering that so many of our feathered friends do stick around, what should we be doing this fall to help care for them? I’ve come up with a few ideas.

1. For starters, now is a great time to clean your feeders. Let the birds empty them, then bring them in to give them a good scrub in your sink. (Be sure to dry them completely before refilling with seed.) I prefer feeders that come apart easily. I also have a long tube seed feeder, but since it’s hard to clean, it gets replaced about once a year. Choose hummingbird feeders that are easy to clean, too, since these can grow mildew and bacteria quickly.

2. Continue to feed the hummingbirds. Rufous Hummingbirds and Black-chinned Hummingbirds arrive in spring and leave in late summer, but our Anna’s hummers are year-round residents who depend on nectar for sustenance, especially when the bug population drops.

Read it: Backyard Birding: Using Natural Gardening to Attract Birds by Julie Zickefoose

3. Depending on where you hang your feeders, this is also a good time to rake or sweep away any old seed and seed husks. Not only is it unsightly, but old seed left on the ground can harbor bacteria and also attract slugs and rodents.

4. Hang up bird houses and/or roosting boxes to provide shelter for birds during cold and harsh weather. Also, hold off on any drastic pruning of shrubbery and trees, for the same reason. This also gives birds a place to hide from predators.

5. Most importantly, keep feeding the birds! Once you’ve begun to feed your backyard birds, it really is a commitment. They quickly learn to depend on you for sustenance. Look for sales and stock up on seed if you live in an area where you’re likely to get snowed in.

What do you do to care for backyard birds during the fall and winter months? Leave a comment below or chime in on our Facebook page or on Twitter!

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Learn more about your backyard birds in the newly revised and updated Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

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Roger Tory Peterson, ornithologist, naturalist, and illustrator, 1908-1996

Roger Tory Peterson, ornithologist, naturalist and illustrator, 1908-1996

Roger Tory Peterson, born on August 28, 1908, in Jamestown, New York, and would have been 105 years old today. He died on July 28, 1996, one month shy of his 88th birthday. Born to immigrant parents — his father was Swedish and his mother was German, he grew up in New York, where he developed a love for birds and nature at a young age.

He was first published in 1925 at the tender age of 17. The publication was a magazine called Bird-lore, in which he wrote about his sightings of a Carolina Wren and a titmouse.

Thankfully for the birding world, not only did Peterson keep writing, but he also drew and painted the birds he saw. In 1934, his book, Guide to the Birds, was published and — as the first modern field guide of its kind — was instrumental in starting many nature lovers on the path to being true birders. Today, the Peterson Field Guide series consists of 53 volumes, and over 7 million have been sold.

This American Robin is just one of many beautiful illustrations painted by Peterson in his lifetime.

This American Robin is just one of many beautiful illustrations painted by Peterson in his lifetime.

To read more about Roger Tory Peterson, I highly recommend you click on this link, which will take you to a very interesting bio about him on the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History website.

Happy Birthday, Roger! Thank you for sharing your love of all things birds, your passion for nature and the environment, and your incredible talent with us. Your contributions will never be forgotten.

See everything by and about Roger Tory Peterson on Amazon.


Learn more about your backyard birds in Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds. Get it for your Kindle (which you can also read on your PC, Mac, smartphone, or tablet with this free reading app), Nook, on Smashwords, or in the iTunes bookstore.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram!

The usual crew of Steller’s Jays showed up today – as they do every morning — to get their daily allotment of peanuts. Minus one…usually there are eight, while today there were only seven. It usually goes like this: One or two will fly into the Japanese maple in the morning and squawk to get my attention. I dutifully obey by stepping out onto my patio with a bag of peanuts to toss to them. They are getting more tame around me and will allow me to stand within 10 feet of where the peanuts land (sometimes closer) and film them while they eat and squabble. Watch for the sneaky spotted towhee toward the end of the video in the bottom half of the frame.

I apologize for how small and skinny the video is. I took it with my phone, so it isn’t the best quality. If you choose “full screen,” you’ll be able to see it much better. One of the best parts of this video is just listening to their chattering and calls.

It’s funny how this worked out today: I was standing outside, having just thrown some peanuts, and no Steller’s Jays were coming. However, there was such a cacophony of sound from all the other birds in the area…dark-eyed juncos, chickadees (black-capped and chestnut-backed), spotted towhees, and more…that I decided to at least take a video just to capture the sound. I’m so glad I chose video and not just the voice recording mode, because as soon as I turned it on, the jays started flying in. It was very cool.

Note: The peanuts I toss to the birds are unsalted peanuts in the shell from the grocery store. If you want to feed peanuts to your Steller’s Jays, too, do make sure they are unsalted, as researchers still aren’t sure what kind of negative effects too much salt may have on birds. Also, peanuts purchased at a feed store may be contaminated with fungus that could make the birds sick.

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Learn all about the birds in your own backyard! Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds is now available for you to read (and take with you!) on your Kindle, Kindle app, or on your PC or Mac.

A happy customer!

Over the years, I’ve purchased various types of suet for my backyard birds. While they would eventually eat whatever I put out for them, there was one flavor they just couldn’t seem to resist: peanut butter.

I used to buy little cakes of suet at the store. There’s nothing wrong with that, as they’re very inexpensive and you can just open the package, pop the suet cake in the feeder, and be done with it. But I’ve discovered that I really like making the suet myself. It’s just a few steps to throw the ingredients together, it’s fun, and I feel like I’m doing something good for a handful of beautiful creatures who depend on me for their winter food.

Also, even though store-bought suet is fairly cheap to buy, you will still be saving money if you make it yourself.

The recipe I use calls for shortening, but you can also use real suet (beef fat) that you can obtain from your local butcher or grocery store meat counter.

Peanut Butter Suet

Ingredients:
1 cup shortening
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups cornmeal (not cornbread mix)
1 cup oats (not instant)
1-2 handfuls of birdseed (this is a great way to use up seed the birds aren’t too crazy about)
1 handful of raisins, chopped (optional)

1. Ready your containers. You can pour your suet into any container that you choose. A 9×13″ pan will work, but keep in mind you’ll have to cut the suet into blocks. Small disposable containers that are the same size as your suet feeder are the most convenient (and even though they’re disposable, can be washed and reused). You’ll need between four and six shallow disposable containers. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of your containers and set aside. Tupperware containers work great, too.

*Alternatively, the suet can also be shaped into balls or patties and placed on a platform feeder.

2. Heat shortening and peanut butter in a saucepan over medium heat. When melted, remove your pan from the heat and gradually add in both flours, whisking as you go to keep lumps from forming. Add in cornmeal, oats, birdseed, and raisins (if using). I like to give the raisins a quick chop before adding, but you can just toss them in as they are if you want to skip that step. I use a heavy-duty wooden spoon for stirring.

3. Pour into your containers, making sure the suet is no more than 1″ to 1-1/2″ inches deep so it will fit easily into your suet feeder. After pouring it into the containers, I like to put the suet into the freezer for a quick set. (This is usually because I wait until the previous batch of suet is gone and I need to get some put outside very quickly!) Otherwise, just put in the refrigerator for the day, or even on your countertop, until set.

The finished product:

There’s nothing really set in stone about this recipe except that you don’t want it to be so dry that it crumbles or so moist that it doesn’t set. Don’t try to judge how well it’s going to set by how it looks just after you’ve mixed it. (I made that mistake. Once.) This recipe sets perfectly for me, and I’m sure it will for you, too (let me know if you have a problem with it or have any questions).

You’ll find the birds aren’t picky about the ingredients: If you don’t have all-purpose flour, you can use all whole wheat, and vice versa. If you don’t have oats, add a little more cornmeal. If you don’t have crunchy peanut butter, use creamy, but be sure not to skip the birdseed if you do. Have some cracked corn on hand? Toss it in, too — they’ll love it all the more.

Note: If you do make the mistake of using too much flour and the suet crumbles after setting, don’t throw it out. Instead, place the crumbles on a platform feeder and let the birds eat it that way. They’ll still love it! If you don’t have a platform feeder, place it in a pie tin or other flat container and set it on the ground near a feeder. Or just toss the crumbles on the ground — they’ll still find it. I do this, anyway, even with suet that did turn out right. Birds love to gobble up the pieces. Steller’s Jays, for example, will grab a piece and take off like they’ve secretly captured pirate’s booty.

Have fun and let me know how it turns out!

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Learn all about the birds in your own backyard! Birds of the Pacific Northwest: How to Identify 25 of the Most Popular Backyard Birds is now available for you to read (and take with you!) on your Kindle, Kindle app, or on your PC or Mac.

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