The Unintentional Bird Bath


April 13, 2014
posted by birdhouse chick @ 10:58 pm

Sump pump outlets can become natural bird baths for all seasonsLast winter a water problem was discovered in the crawlspace. Ground water was coming up pretty high and slowly rotting out the support beams. First thought to be a lack of ventilation – but it turns out this had been a longstanding problem.

Over the summer a sump pit was dug, a pump and float switch added, and drain hose was run outside, across the side yard. A simple outlet was created with gravel. It pumped all winter long, even during snowy weather, and is pumping right now. The water pools around the gravel and ultimately sinks into the ground.

Flocks of resident birds gathered there all winter, particularly during really cold weather. While this is near the bird feeders, there were many birds (like robins) who don’t typically use them. Every time the pump ran, birds would swoop down and take a dip, or drink, and otherwise frolic in the temporary pond. Leaning towards burying a bird bath or some kind of large shallow form near there for summer so the water will be able to pool longer.

This is clean, filtered ground water, it flows so it doesn’t freeze, and will be cooler in summer months. The best thing… it’s going to good use for the birds!

Can You Spot the Thistle Feeders?


April 8, 2014
posted by birdhouse chick @ 3:18 am

Covered in snow, thistle feeders await thawing... in April!Me neither as they must be covered in snow and awaiting the big thaw. So this is April? Wisconsin, Minnesota, somewhere like that. Goldfinches are already shedding worn winter feathers and turning yellow, while other common resident birds are nesting in much of the country. Once again, will winter ever end?

Yesterday brought our first butterfly to the yard, but unfortunately the consecutive, way below normal night temperature this year zapped established lantana that was seven years old. You could always count on butterflies around those shrubs. Yes, that’s how big they were, mature shrubs.

Erratic weather is largely attributed to climate change, but many folks don’t see it that way. Mudslides, volcanoes, drought and rising sea levels to name a few effects are pretty apparent and scarily becoming the norm.

In the bluebird world, trail monitors found a record number of dead bluebirds in the KY area. A very late spring being the culprit after such a rough winter… there were simply no natural food sources available. Someone was inquiring about a feeder the other day and said “no rush, it’s for next year, we don’t really feed birds in summer”. We’ve come across many folks like that, but here’s the reality: weather directly affects food sources and bird’s survival rates.

Last summer through a wicked drought, we witnessed a male cardinal feeding a fledgeling from a platform feeder containing Large capacity, seed tray and weather guard make this Forever Thistle Feeder attractive to finches.sunflower hearts. From ground to platform and back he flew feeding his offspring. It was a strange sight, as others were reported this winter too.  Cardinals hanging on suet feeders, and ground-feeding juncos up at black oil feeders. Many of the migratory birds were in for a harsh surprise upon arrival into the gulf states. No flowers, no berries, no insects, simply an equation for starvation after a long journey like that.

Closer to home, resident birds braved a very tough season as well. Feeders were non-stop with activity for the most part. Although thistle feeders didn’t see too much traffic, other feeders containing finch mixes did… and a lot! Once the olive drab fliers began their molting process, straight nyjer became goldfinches’ food of choice and overnight, thistle was and is being devoured daily!

The good news is this seed has come down in price a little bit, and if you can manage the larger bags, like 20-to 40-pounders, you’ll save even more money this summer. Unlike other birds, goldfinches feed nestlings and fledgelings thistle-almost exclusively.

So if you’re not really a “summer feeder”, you may want to rethink maybe just one or two feeders this summer… the bird families sure will thank you!

Bird Brain Hummingbird Feeders for Citizen Science


April 2, 2014
posted by birdhouse chick @ 12:51 am

This one's by Parasol, but Audubon welcomes bird brain hummingbird feeders for citizen science too!Audubon Invites Volunteers to Help Track Hummingbirds This Spring

Take your hummingbird feeders a step further by helping Audubon track the tiny sprites this season. All habitats and feeders are welcome; from the old bird brain hummingbird feeders to honeysuckle and trumpet vine to colorful annuals providing food…. watch near fountains too, another favorite of this flying jewel!

NEW YORK, NY (April 1, 2014) – With spring officially upon us, the National Audubon Society invites birders and nature enthusiasts  across the country to help track the health of hummingbird populations with Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home app. This citizen science project utilizes the power of volunteers to compile data at a scale that scientists could never accomplish alone.

Every spring, numerous hummingbirds migrate long distances and must eat several times their weight in nectar daily to stay alive. Hummingbirds visit our yards every year, looking for nectar from our gardens and feeders. As flowers bloom earlier because of warming temperatures, the impact on hummingbirds which rely on nectar could be significant. The degree to which hummingbirds are able to adapt to accommodate these changes is not completely understood. Hummingbirds at Home was designed to bolster current research by collecting data from volunteers across the country that offers important insight on the effects of climate change and the birds’ well-being.

“Increasingly people are seeing the impact of climate change in their own backyards, from early blossoms to extreme weather,” said Dr. Gary Langham, Chief Scientist at Audubon. “This is a fun, family-friendly citizen science project that works in the classroom or in the kitchen.” Take your bird brain hummingbird feeders-or any others- a step futher with Audubon

Hummingbirds at Home differs from other bird monitoring programs in that the focus  is on recording the species, nectar sources, and feeding behavior observed. In the case of bloom timing mismatches, Audubon hopes to eventually learn if alternate nectar sources, like feeders, make a difference in hummingbird breeding success and survival.

Participants can get involved by spending a few minutes as frequently as they wish to collect invaluable data from feeding areas in their gardens and communities. Audubon’s Hummingbird at Home app makes it fun and easy. There is no cost to participate and using the free mobile app or website makes it simple to report sightings and learn more about these remarkable birds. For more information visit, www.hummingbirdsathome.org.

About Audubon

The National Audubon Society saves birds and their habitats throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education and on-the-ground conservation. Audubon’s state programs, nature centers, chapters and partners have an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire and unite diverse communities in conservation action. Since 1905, Audubon’s vision has been a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Audubon is a nonprofit conservation organization. Learn more at www.audubon.org and @audubonsociety.

Stalking the Dreaded Dirty Garden Glove


March 30, 2014
posted by birdhouse chick @ 11:16 pm

A pretty good read if you like cats and ever rescued one yourself.

Years ago, when I still lived in Atlanta, I was a regular at the Farmers’ Market where I bought most of my groceries and took advantage of the recycling center adjacent to the market.  One Saturday morning, as I was being a responsible citizen and recycling my cans, glass, cardboard, plastics, and printer paper, a scrawny black kitten wandered out of the underbrush on the far side of the parking lot and made her way to me.  Now mind you, there were easily two dozen other people she could have chosen, but it was my feet she flopped down on.

I picked her up to get a better look at her.  Her eyes were a gummy mess.  Her fur was muddy and matted.  Every bone poked out every which way.  Her abdomen was sunken in and she was too weak to even mew.

Some guy “helpfully” suggested I take her to the vet clinic over near Emory University where he said they’d <his words> “put her down for free.”  (Note to self:  not everyone who recycles holds the same views as I do on matters other than recycling, but I digress.)

I didn’t take her to the clinic near Emory.  I brought her home with me.  I confess, I tried for days to find someone —- anyone —- who would take her and make her their own, but no dice.  I already had two cats, and what sane person would ever have as many as THREE???  Surely I couldn’t keep this kitten.  But the Divine Universe had spoken.  This little ragamuffin had elected me to be her person.  Who was I to argue with destiny?

So Jackie Mew-vee-ay (I was a big fan of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis) joined Butch and Bruce, and mine became a three cat household.  Little by little, the waif put on some weight.  Her bones protruded less and her lackluster coat took on a healthy shine.  In a few months, she morphed from a scraggly, homeless urchin into a sleek, gorgeous goddess who ruled the house.

Butch and Bruce were still youngsters — wild guys who played with total abandon.  Jack, on the other hand, had no interest whatsoever in any cat toy of any sort.  It was as if all of her energy in her early months had gone to staying alive on the mean streets and the idea of exerting yourself just for fun was a completely alien notion.

One day after Jack had been with me a while, I’d been out working in the yard, and I forgot to take off my garden gloves before going into the house to get some lunch.  I dropped the dirty gloves near the back door where I could grab them on my way back out after I’d eaten.

A few minutes later, I heard the unmistakable sounds of a cat trumpeting —- the sound they make when they’ve made a kill.  And there came Jack, parading through the house carrying one of my gloves.  She was so proud.  She marched around as though she’d slain the biggest, baddest mouse in the history of the world.  Then like every cat who wants to prove to her person how very useful she is, she laid her trophy (the glove) at my feet and trumpeted once more just for good measure.
I praised that girl for all I was worth.  I told her she was my heroine and that I knew I’d be safe from evil garden gloves for all time and eternity.  In typical cat fashion, she ignored me, flicked her tail, and went on her way.

Thus began Jack’s love affair with garden gloves.  Since it was the only thing that came close to passing as a toy or recreation for her, I took to leaving gloves around the house.  She didn’t like clean ones, only those that had been used.  Maybe it was the smell of the earth on them.  Maybe she liked that they had the scent of my perspiration on them.  Who knows what goes on in a cat’s head?

Circumstances changed, and in August of 2001, I left Decatur to move to the mountains.  Butch, Bruce, and Jack came, too.  Cleo joined the family in early 2002, just a short time before Butch’s kidneys failed him at the tender age of five-and-a-half.  That loss cracked open the gate, and I found myself drawn to giving cats that were out of options a place to call home.  As the cat population grew (and grew), through it all, Bruce and Jack were my constants —- my “original” kids.

Bruce was granted 15 years.  He left me in late March of 2011.

Only Jack, my slayer of the deadly garden glove, remained from my original trio.

Night before last, around 10:00, Jack had a serious stroke that left her partially paralyzed.  I called the nearest emergency vet facility and described what was happening.  The vet assured me that if Jack wasn’t crying out in pain, laboring to breathe, or having repeated seizures/convulsions, if I wished to, I could keep her comfortable at home until my regular vet’s office opened in the morning.  My other choice was to bring her in and have her euthanized.

Jack and I talked it over and she made it clear she wanted to stay at home.

My first female feline, my first rescue from the streets and I spent one final night together side by side.  We remembered all the good times and tried very hard not to think about the fact that the time had come for goodbye.

The next morning, Dr. Worthy gave Jack a tiny assist and my darling Jack was gone.  As is my custom, I put Jack in a burial box with spices and flowers and wrote her name and the dates of her time with me on the box.  I picked a spot right next to Butch and Bruce’s graves for Jack’s resting place.

I dug the grave, laid her burial box in the hole, and tossed in the first shovelful of dirt. As I did so, I noticed the garden gloves I was wearing.

I laid the shovel aside, brushed the dirt off the box, and pulled it back out.  I opened the lid, stripped off my gloves, kissed Jack’s head one more time, and tucked my gloves in beside her.

I simply couldn’t run the risk that kitty heaven wouldn’t have the only thing that ever made my Jack Cat play.

When my time comes to join Jack (and all the other fur kids I’m counting on being there to greet me), I’ll be listening for the unmistakable sound of my Jack announcing she’s once again triumphed over the sinister garden glove.

Until then, my beloved Jack, happy hunting.  Happy hunting.

So What’s the Best Tube Bird Feeder for Spring?


March 28, 2014
posted by birdhouse chick @ 8:16 pm

Scratch the itch for a new tube bird feeder while spring's in bloom!With spring in bloom (in much of the country anyway) there’s an instinct among nature types to get outdoors and work in the garden! For many, wild birds go hand-in-hand with love of gardening. Like the “eyes bigger than stomach” syndrome at a restaurant, heading into nurseries can easily turn into more than one bargained for! We know this first hand, as flowers sit in the driveway waiting to be planted.

Luckily for perennials like these crocus, color emerges effortlessly year after year. It also signals the beginning of nesting season for resident birds, and the migratory start for our southern feathered friends.

On the birding side, it’s a perfect time to give feeders a good cleaning, check birdhouses for old nests and clean them out too. Avoid leaving old nests on the ground near birdhouses as this attracts predators. Lots of fancy cleaners on the market, but a solution of bleach and water (1:10 ratio) is ideal. Scrub, rinse well, air dry… pretty simple.

If you’re just getting into the birding thing (lots of folks are these days) – where to start? So many feeders and gadgets out there! Fresh water and a Groovy ceramic tube bird feeder is ideal for black oil sunflower seedtube bird feeder are a great place to start! All birds are attracted to fresh water, be it a traditional birdbath, or simple pan of shallow water. Shallow’s the optimal word, 2-3-inches maximum is recommended. Something with texture too, as bird’s feet can get a better grip. Small rocks or pebbles in the bowl help with landing and perching.

So, what’s the best tube feeder? Like the bath, or anything else for that matter… it’s the one you will maintain! Feeders need to be filled fairly consistently, as well as cleaned. Wet, moldy seed serves no purpose at all, and birds will quit visiting a feeder with nasty contents. Plus it can spread disease among the local avian buddies in your yard.

Consider who you’d like to attract too. Thistle or nyjer seed is made for tube feeders, they have tiny ports for this tiny seed. Goldfinches, house and purple finches, siskins, buntings and redpolls enjoy thistle. Say you want a more “all-around” type feeder for chickadees, titmice, cardinals, nuthatches and some of the other usual suspects? You can’t beat a tube feeder with sunflower seed! It’s popular among many species and a great choice for a first or only feeder. Some tube bird feeders feature generous hoppers and perching areasSome offer generous seed trays that make it easy for cardinals to feed. Although there are some general thoughts as to who will eat where, this winter proved all bets were off! Cardinals seen eating at suet feeders, juncos at sunflower feeders, and some other strange sightings due to the extreme weather.

The other really nice thing is that you can buy this seed sans the shell. Sunflower hearts (or meats) is a waste-free food that leaves hardly any ground mess. Whatever should fall to the ground is usually gobbled up by ground feeding birds like doves, juncos or chipping sparrows. It costs a few dollars more, but we think it’s well worth it! Cheaper seed leaves more waste because of the fillers most birds peck out and discard… so where’s the value?

In choosing a new tube bird feeder, pick one with sturdy construction that you know will last. Although inexpensive, plastic isn’t always the best choice as squirrels can and likely will chew it to bits. Ceramic is chew-proof, as is copper, stainless steel, and many of the newer materials used to hand craft or manufacture quality bird feeders.
Your birds will thank you!

 

 

 

Time to Dig Out that Window Hummingbird Feeder


March 25, 2014
posted by birdhouse chick @ 8:55 pm

Make it a window hummingbird feeder using the sturdy hang-up bracketIt was actually snowing today, after 3 days of spring-like 70 degree temperatures, on March 25 there were flurries in Atlanta! Will winter ever end? Migratory birds are already arriving, making their way northward from the gulf. It’s got to be a trying journey as the landscape lacks their usual finds. They’re already hungry, tired and now… there’s no food!

Feeders help them on their way; seed feeders, suet feeders, fruit feeders, even your window hummingbird feeder. The same tiny sprites are likely to return to your yard if it offered good digs last season. It’s called site fidelity and hummingbirds practice this ritual.

The map over at hummingbirds.net  shows daily sightings and locations for Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. They’re penetrating the southeast and moving into Kentucky now. Just because it’s still cold outside it doesn’t prevent Mother Nature’s instincts from kicking into full swing! Longer daylight hours are pushing birds north to spring breeding grounds.ruby-throat-migration map shows daily movement, time to put up your window hummingbird feeder!.. despite cold weather.

Although it may not seem like hummingbird season is here – it is! Definitely time to dig out those feeders for a good cleaning and get them filled.  Nectar can even be mixed a bit stronger than usual during migrations.

Your hummingbird feeder will prove to be a most welcome sight for the hungry and tired little birds. And hey, if you’re lucky enough they may even just stick around your place for the breeding season!

 

Add a Ginko or Fern Near Butterfly Feeders


March 19, 2014
posted by birdhouse chick @ 1:21 pm

While nature produces the best butterfly feeders, other accessories will further entice them!Nobody’s thinking butterflies just yet, but it won’t be too long! With several migrations underway, monarchs, swallowtails and others will be arriving soon. Their numbers are way down which is alarming to scientists, pesticides and climate change being key factors.

If you’d like to have these pollinators gracing your garden, here’s a few simple things to consider:

•Call it quits and abandon the use of any pesticides and herbicides.

•Plant native flowers and shrubs to benefit the flying jewels. Two-part, for food and hosting the chrysalis. A simple search on the web will reveal an abundant list of options for your locale.

•Leaf misters are mighty appealing to butterflies. They’re simple to install and even portable, your garden will grow lush too as a result of the gentle spray of water!

•Add butterfly feeders, in the form of nectar producing flowers, over ripe fruit, or an actual feeder that offers nectar via wicks. The wicks re-create the way butterflies use their long middle antennae to draw nectar from flowers.

•Butterfly Houses? Not so much, but they do look awesome in the landscape!

•Try a stoneware butterfly puddler for a cozy place to warm themselves in the sun.

Aside from an artsy garden accent, they can be used as feeders or easily transformed into a waterless pond by adding some sand and salts. The Ginko is a new puddler available for 2014 that features a rich texture and natural color. Both styles are complete with instructions for best use.

The original fern puddler is still a favorite when placed near butterfly feeders Try a puddler near butterfly feeders for a place to warm in the sunHelp these flying jewels by creating habitat to lure and keep them around. Your garden and the butterflies will thank you!

Now if it ever greens up, we’ll get a cool shot of the new one actually being used in the landscape!

Tree Swallows Like Blue Bird Houses too


March 12, 2014
posted by birdhouse chick @ 2:44 am
With tree swallow's migration in full swing, they'll be seeking out blue bird houses for nesting
Photo by Jen Goellnitz, courtesy of Audubon Society

Their migration is underway! Lucky little fliers spend their winters in the Caribbean, Central America, and the Southern-most parts of Texas and California. They’re heading as far north as Alaska and Canada, seeking mates and natural nest cavities or birdhouses to raise their young. Competition for nest sites is brutal… real estate’s tough out there!

Dwindling and disappearing habitat being a major cause, with fewer snags (dead trees) left intact. Non-native birds are also seeking the same nest spots and put up one fierce fight for the right to claim territory. European starlings and house sparrows wreak havoc on tree swallows, purple martins and bluebirds alike. Just ask any landlord, most will have sad tale or two to tell. Many people who offer martin houses or blue bird houses will discourage these aggressive species in order to protect native songbirds.

A favorite house among our “blues” here  in the southeast is the Gilbertson Nest Box, and tree swallows will commonly use them as well.These blue bird houses are approved by The North American Bluebird Society

A sturdy vinyl nest box with wood roof, it’s easy to monitor and reasonably priced. You can get one for the bluebirds and one for tree swallows! Just don’t place them too close together. For best results, one in the front and one in the back is a pretty good rule of thumb.

Because all blue bird houses are not created equal, we highly encourage anyone serious about helping bluebirds to use houses approved by The North American Bluebird Society. When you see the acronym NABS… you’ll know!

Vinyl blue bird houses are also NABS Approved and last a lifetime!Celebrate spring and help welcome all migratory friends from their long journeys North!

Nab 10% off site-wide on all bird houses, seed feeders, birdbaths and hummingbird feeders too. And don’t forget the nesting material… we’re giving that away free with all orders through May 15th!

Use promo code MC10
Now Come on spring :)

Squirrel Proof Bird Feeders for Rain, Sleet and Snow


March 7, 2014
posted by birdhouse chick @ 11:24 pm

This feeder is definitely not squirrel proof!When you’ve finally had enough of squirrel’s shenanigans, you know, chasing off songbirds, stealing all the food, and those constant acrobatics including hanging upside down from your bird feeder… it might be a good time for a one-time investment in squirrel proof bird feeders. Look at this guy acting as if he owns it!

Even if just one quality model that really works, absolutely lasts and has a lifetime warranty. For peace of mind and just to outwit the little critters once and for all, it’s so worth it.

Although this feeder has a dome or weather guard, it sure isn’t squirrel-proof. On the other hand, Squirrel Busters are, and they too now have an optional weather guard to keep seed dry and offer shelter while feeding.The ultimate in squirrel proof bird feeders, there's a new weather guard for the Squirrel Busters

Considering the amount of snow most of the country has seen this winter (and some still seeing it) the weatherguard could actually mean the difference between a meal and starvation for some feathered friends.

Dramatic? Consider that overnight lows with sub-zero temperatures take a wicked amount of energy for a bird’s survival mechanisms. Every calorie is accounted for, just to survive each night like that. Energy’s depleted by first daylight, so when the search for food begins, accessible feeders can be the difference between life or death. Not so dramatic in warmer weather :)

So how do these squirrel proof bird feeders work? First, there’s no batteries or power source to mess with, that’s convenient. An adjustable weight mechanism closes off seed access to squirrels, and bigger bully-birds too. Some other cage-type feeders may operate on this same principle, but they’re not as well made and don’t carry that lifetime warranty either. Like the Postal Service motto: Through rain, sleet and snow… your birds can eat!

Check out the video below, the squirrel action doesn’t start until about midway through, but there’s some cool close-up filming of cardinals, woodpeckers, goldfinches, titmice and other friendly fliers visiting for a bite to eat.

Why Place Finch Feeders Near a Bird Bath?


March 4, 2014
posted by birdhouse chick @ 9:51 pm
Placing finch feeders near a bird bath will entice even more visitors

Photo courtesy of Evolve Campaigns

Fresh water is known to entice more feathered friends than any single feeder or birdhouse. One of the critical elements for just about any life form, birds require fresh water, even in the harshest winter weather. Sure they can eat snow, but it takes work to convert the snow into water and uses precious calories needed to stay warm. That’s why heated baths and de-icers are so popular among dedicated backyard birders-especially this past winter, no… make that this persistent winter!

With the first bulbs forcing through, it White crocus forcing through near tfinch feeders means spring's around the corner!means spring’s around the corner… even if there’s still snow on the ground in your neck of the woods! The calendar and number of hours of daylight are signaling birds it’s time for nesting, to claim a spot, settle down and raise their broods. Although American goldfinches and house finches don’t use natural cavities (or birdhouses) for nesting, you can absolutely attract these cool little fliers to your place with finch feeders and a fresh water source.

Goldfinches can be seen chowing down on straight nyjer or thistle seed (their preferred meal), as well as finch mixes containing finely chopped sunflower hearts and thistle. The latter being more likely to attract a wider variety of species. House and purple finches, cardinals, pine siskins, towhees and several types of sparrows are commonly seen visiting finch feeders.

Thistle socks work best for straight nyjer as opposed to some finch feeders offering seed mixes.The timid demeanor of the vibrant yellow goldfinch keeps them from competing at feeders among crowds. They’d actually prefer to just give up and fly off than to fight for a chance to eat. This not very characteristic of too many birds!

A great way to offer extra feeding space during the busy finch season (without buying several full-blown feeders) is to offer thistle socks. Convenient and inexpensive, these smaller mesh feeders provide several birds a good meal instead of a missed opportunity!

One of very few birds who molts twice per year, their electric yellow breeding plumage has started developing. When all other birds are just about through with nesting for the season, goldfinches are just getting started! Their busy season? Late June through July.

Though they might not be sporting that amazing yellow color, goldfinches are still around. Keep thistle and finch feeders out year-round for best results, to see more of these delightful feathered friends at your place!