Archive for the ‘Family Fun’ Category

How To ID Owls By Sound

Friday, November 17th, 2017
 
Colder weather means Owls!  But while they may be around, its more
barn_owl
Barn Owl
Photo credit:Stan Tekeila

likely you will hear rather than see them. So, get a jump on owling this year by learning the sounds of some of the more common species of owls which may be in your area.  The best part about owl sounds is that they are very distinctive. Your kids might love learning them as the sounds are also pretty easy to replicate. And who doesnt want to hoot “who cooks for you?” They will love learning that Screech Owls don’t really screech at all, which owl makes a blood-curdling scream and which one makes that classic deep owl hoot.  

 

Check out this Audubon Owl ID guide for sounds and be ready when you make that first owling trip this winter.

Join The Christmas Bird Count

Friday, November 17th, 2017
Join the Christmas Bird Count

 

 

Make your holiday season extra-special this year and do something important for bird conservation by participating in the birdwatching Christmas Bird Count. Every year from December 14 through January 5 people around the world get outside and count the birds in their area or even just their yard.  When you register and participate in the count, you are part of an organized counting of birds at a specific time each year and the information which you report is added to all the historical data from over 100 years of bird counts. The data supplies scientists with critical information on where birds are, the health of bird populations and helps direct conservation efforts. Plus, its lots of fun to do with friends and family!

 

The origins of the Christmas Bird Count are interesting. In the 19th Century, there was an organized hunt called the Christmas “Side Hunt” where hunters would shoot as many birds as they could — the winner was the one with the largest number of birds shot. As people were slowly becoming more aware of what wanton hunting for sport was doing to populations of birds and animals, on Christmas Day 1900, Frank Chapman, the head of the magazine Bird-Lore (which became Audubon Magazine), proposed an alternative to the Christmas hunt with a Christmas bird count. And that Christmas, 90 species were counted by 27 people. Now, there are nearly 70 million birds reported and 75,000 people worldwide who participate – you can be one of them!  It’s easy to do and a lot of fun! Won’t you join the longest-running bird citizen science project in the US this year?  Registration takes place in November – don’t miss out!

 

Keeping Hummingbirds Safe

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017
Keeping Hummingbirds Safe

 

 

hummingbird_feeder
Photo Credit: Deborah Rivel

Everyone loves feeding hummingbirds!  It’s easy to do and they return the favor by returning repeatedly to your backyard.  There are some specific safety issues you should keep in mind when feeding hummingbirds. Our readers have asked us about two specifically which are common potentially fatal mistakes many people make. And, if you aren’t already making your own hummingbird food, we make it really easy with a simple recipe.

 

1 – Keep the food solution clean to avoid bacteria which may sicken or kill the hummingbirds.  Bacteria spreads more quickly in hot weather so its important to keep all your feeders, but especially those for hummingbirds, really clean.  Here is an article from The Spruce with detailed info on how to clean a hummingbird feeder perfectly.

 

2 – Never buy hummingbird food which is dyed red as it may fatally harm your birds.  Most red-dyed pre-made hummingbird food is sugar water with red dye #40 which is made from coal and petro- chemicals.  It is a known carcinogen and causes a variety of other really horrible side effects.  If you want more information on these pre-made hummingbird foods, please read this article by Julie Zickefoose who is a well-known wildlife and bird rehabilitator, author and natural history artist. She has seen first hand in her patients the effects these products have on hummingbirds.

 

When feeding your family, pets and backyard birds you sure want to make sure you know what’s in the food!  Hummingbird solution is so simple to make and keep fresh that there is absolutely no reason to purchase pre-made food – and possibly endanger the birds you are feeding.

 

Try this really simple recipe for making hummingbird food, which your kids will love making – with your supervision, of course! It takes less than 10 minutes to make and is exactly what hummingbirds need.  Plus,

if you make it yourself, you know the exact ingredients.  And isn’t that the safest way to provide food for your backyard birds?

1 cup of sugar
4 cups of water
Bring to a boil so the sugar is completely dissolved
Let cool to room temperature
Pour into a clean hummingbird feeder
Any leftover should be stored in the refrigerator and make sure its room temperature again before feeding your hummingbirds!

 

Pesky Critters in Your Backyard?

Monday, July 17th, 2017
 

 

Squirrels got your goat?  Hawks or the neighbors cats using your feeder as a buffet table? Maybe that resident woodpecker is using your house for hammering practice? Whatever the issue is there are often simple and humane solutions! For example, getting the right feeder can help control unwanted birds, or eliminate bees and wasps. This thorough article from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology outlines the most common challenges to backyard birding and ideas to effectively deal with them. Here’s to a safe and cleverly designed backyard!  And one more thing …don’t forget to keep pesticides and other toxic substances out of your yard to keep you and your birds safe.

 

Nestcams!

Monday, July 3rd, 2017

 

 
osprey_chicks_nestcam_explore.org
Osprey and chicks, explore.org

 

It’s still nestcam season and chicks are growing. Some have already fledged and others are just hatching.  Keep up with the action right here!
 
 
 
 
 
NEW!! Ospreys, Maine – check in on a nest full of growing chicks!
NEW!! Black Guillemot, Maine

Atlantic Puffins, Maine – hatched!

Laysan AlbatrossHawaii –  Kalama has fledged!  But Pu-unui is still growing!
Empty nest updates:
 

 Bermuda Cahow Bermuda – fledged!

 
Bald EagleIowa – 3 chicks fledged!

Ospreys, Montana – There is very sad news to report.  At this nesting site, food supplies were limited and the 2 nestlings perished as the parents were unable to feed them.

 

 

Backyard Bird Reading

Monday, July 3rd, 2017
CSM_john_kehe

Nesting birds on the ground in your yard?  What kind of bird does that? We love this humorous essay many of us can relate to.  When it comes to finding out where the birds are nesting in your yard, sometimes info is gotten the hard way. Then It Struck Me and Not Very Gently,  by Murr Brewster for The Christian Science Monitor.

Picture Credit: John Kehe

Join Nestwatch and Help Nesting Birds

Wednesday, May 24th, 2017
Join Nestwatch and Help Nesting Birds

Nobody knows better than you what goes on in the nests in your backyard. If you are curious about the birds nesting in your yard and pay particular attention to

Kestrel_nestbox
Photo Credit: Stan Tekeila

them, Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great project called Nestwatch that can use your help. They have a list of birds which include Black-capped Chickadee, House Wren, House Finch, Carolina Chickadee, Mourning Dove and many others. Chances are at least one of these birds is nesting in your yard! If you are someone who regularly checks nestboxes, this might be the perfect project for you to take the info you discover about how many eggs, when they are laid, nest success, etc., and send it to Cornell. They use this information to get a better picture of the success and failure rates of nests and nesting habits of different species.

Information like this is particularly important as birds are a barometer for what’s going on in our environment. So, check it out and see if you might become someone who helps backyard birds even more than you do by just sending in the information you already have. It’s a great project to do with kids as well, as they will have the chance to watch and record nesting from start to fledging. And who wouldn’t want to do that?

Nestcams and a Manikam!

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

lance_tailed_makains_lekcam
Cornell Lab of Ornithology Manakam
This month we have nestcams and a cool manakin lek-cam!

If you have never seen manakins displaying, check out this amazing live cam that, if you are lucky, will have Lance-tailed Manakins displaying at their lek. Unlike a nestcam, the action will be sporadic, but don’t miss seeing these amazing little birds displaying for mates in Panama.

Barred Owl, Indiana  – there are eggs!
Bermuda Cahow Bermuda – and there is a super-fluffy chick!

Bald Eagle, Iowa – new chick!

Laysan Albatross, Hawaii – Kalama the fluffy chick is getting bigger!


Family Fun: 3 Easy DIY Bird Feeders

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017
Winter is a time when birds need a lot of help finding food – especially later in the season when the available
bird_cookies_birdsleuth_heather_katsoulis
Photo Credit: Heather Katsoulis

native berries and seeds are long gone.  Keep your feeders up, but why not try some seriously simple new ways to feed birds in your yard? Take a look at these ideas from making your own treats to making your own feeders out of recycled plastic.  They are fun to do, have a low environmental impact, and so simple anyone can do them. So get the kids involved, and do your own thing for birds!

PINE CONE FEEDERS – The absolute easiest DIY feeder project is also one of the most rewarding. All you need are:

  • Pinecones
  • String
  • Peanut butter
  • Bird seed
  • Tray

Look under pine trees in your yard for pine cones. If you don’t have them there, you can get them at a local garden center. Then do this:

  1. Dust the dirt off each pine cone
  2. Tie a string around each cone near the top, but held in place by some of the pinecone petals, and make a loop so you can hang them.
  3. Give them to the kids to decorate. They will love painting their pine cones with peanut butter (smooth is easiest to work with). Let them go for it and apply it thickly if they want.
  4. Provide a pan of mixed seeds and let them roll their pine cones in it so that the seeds are sticking to the peanut butter.

Now they are ready to hang up and you can wait for the birds to find these very appealing treats!

RECYCLED SODA BOTTLE BIRD FEEDER
– What better way to start off the year than by taking something you are about to throw out and make it useful again! Plastic soda bottles and food containers are perfect candidates for recycling into a bird feeder.

This one is also pretty simple. You will need:

  • 1 or 2 litre clean and dry plastic soda bottle
  • String
  • 2 wooden cooking spoons
  • Utility knife
  • Drill (optional)

Take a look at this video to see how easy this is to do!

BIRD SEED COOKIES – Really? Bake cookies for birds? It seems birds love a good cookie just as much as the rest of us, as long as seeds are the major ingredient. This project is going to require a little more supervision if you are working with kids, but you can make these cookies to be used as ornaments on your outside trees….taking the holidays even later into the season. What you wind up with is really just limited by the shapes of the molds you choose, so get creative!

To do this, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons corn syrup
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin, such as Knox
  • 4 cups birdseed

For the full recipe and step by step instructions with pictures, check out this link.

Your Fall Backyard Tuneup

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016
Your Fall Backyard Tuneup
In fall, birds’ needs start changing. The bird houses you setjuvenile_cardinal up in spring and which saw a lot of activity are now vacant. Pressure to secure food for hungry mouths in the nest has subsided, and now many birds are bulking up for migration. To create a friendly backyard for migrators and help your year-round residents, here are a few things you can do now.

  • Once all your nestboxes are vacant, clean them out. Remove the nests, and clean the houses with a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts of water — making sure you rinse them thoroughly afterwards, and let them dry completely open in the sun. For more info on cleaning out houses, click here.  You can store them once they are dry, but if you live in a place which gets cold in winter, unless you are putting up roost boxes later, some birds may find the nest boxes to be a needed refuge during the coldest times.
    • Clean your birdfeeders! These need to be cleaned often to keep bacteria from spreading to the birds. You can use the same 1:9 /bleach:water solution as for the houses, then rinse them thoroughly and leave to dry outside. Do not put seed in them until they are totally dry and have had time for the bleach to evaporate.
    • Now fill those feeders! Migrating birds need the energy from fresh seeds.  So, keep your feeders filled and leave them in the same spot for the winter for local residents to easily find food when they need it.
    • If you have native wildflowers, you can collect the seeds now and store them in a cool place in a paper bag over the winter to be planted in the spring. If you prefer, many of them can be scattered in your native plant meadow in late fall to take advantage of  freezing in winter and the opportunity for an early sprouting.
    • Now is a great time to get native trees and some shrubs in place so they can establish before winter. Native trees, plants and shrubs are essential to making your backyard a haven for birds and other wildlife as they attract the right insects and provide the right natural food for wild birds and butterflies in the area. Don’t miss the opportunity to add a few more fruiting shrubs the birds can enjoy all winter.
     

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