Tired of lamenting over the neighbor’s cat, I decided to ask an expert birder if he could identify the predator by the formation of feathers left below the feeder. It’s a groovy tube bird feeder in a mod design that accommodates thistle or sunflower seed, ours is filled with the latter. Varied species frequent it, and even though cat birds don’t go for sunflower seed… I believe that’s who the casualty was in this case.
To me, he’s a wealth of knowledge on all things birding and nature related. Not sure if he’s blogging himself, or has ever written professionally, but his stories fascinate me.
So I asked Mr. Keith Kridler of Mt. Pleasant, Tx, if he could tell by the formation of these feathers, who was the predator here? Did it look like the work of cat or hawk? Even though there’s a 50/50 shot at the correct answer… he couldn’t tell me with 100% accuracy. He did however mention certain clues to look for, and that a bit of further investigation might reveal my answer.
The next day there was a post in the forum, which he so kindly allowed me to share. It makes for most interesting reading if you’re into birds! Check his view in the last sentence too, so true, so true Keith!
“Jack Finch, Bailey North Carolina would get up every morning about 4:30 AM and sit outside and enjoy coffee while listening to his bluebirds wake up. Bluebirds during the heat of summer are more vocal in the pre-dawn hours and each male will belt out territorial calls from their roost tree. By listening every morning, Jack could tell if something or more likely some predator had forced one of his pairs of bluebirds to shift their roosting locations. You can tell the “morning after” a brood of bluebirds has fledged, because that pair will NOT be calling from the nestbox location. They will be frantically calling and singing to locate all of their young that survived their first night out of the nestbox! This new location maybe several hundred yards from their nest! For the next week or so their normal “sunrise” songs will be controlled panic calls!
You can hear in the pre-dawn hours if you have a pair of bluebirds that are about to begin another nesting attempt. They will be singing and calling near their chosen new nest site. This is to warn other pairs away and or it might just be a new/single male bluebird trying to attract a female, since he is bragging about a new nestbox/new habitat that he is now holding. By sunrise any other nearby male bluebirds will fly to the edges of their territory and they will also fire up in song and there may be four or five different males singing their versions of “Dueling Banjo’s”.
You can locate them with the first light, as they will be in the tip tops of trees, right at the edge of their territory. They will be singing and wing waving, then warning chatter if another male or pair of bluebirds is too close. They will be bouncing up in the air about 10 feet, then sailing back down flashing their wings to show off their blue feathers. Colors are more intense just as the sun is clearing the horizon or about to slip down out of sight at sunset. On occasion there will actually be fighting, between birds, by July this morning ritual will seldom go beyond a short dash from the dominant male bluebird, chasing a challenger back a few trees. Maintaining “Pecking Order” in different species is fairly complex! It sometimes is even harder to adapt and or re-arrange pecking order in a group!
Think about when a Beauty Queen or Sports Jock moved into your small town from another state when you were growing up! Same goes for a new lead singer into a small church choir, or new management personnel at work or heaven forbid a political change! This is all “Pecking Order” issues that have to be worked through, in the birding world, the individual birds will settle this mostly by singing and bluffing. At some point in every yard this pecking order will change off and on all summer long.
In groups of humans you seldom see a change near the top of the pecking order that does not result in someone getting their feathers all ruffled up and by the time the dust clears, then the new pecking order has been achieved, that one or more at the top of the pecking order will have moved to another group. Normally there is no change in the middle and or bottom of the pecking order in a group or flock.
Many of the bird/animal species have evolved to move and feed in “flocks”, by doing this they can simply crowd out the other non-flocking species while they dominate a food source. Big flocks and or groups have to constantly be on the move though, as they will deplete the food, water and habitat. Some people say that the “flock” of Passenger Pigeons was around 6 Billion strong and that there were more than 40 Million Bison still roaming freely across North America in 1814. These were replaced at the top of the Pecking Order with domestic chickens and cattle by 1890.
Currently there are about 210 distinct “Flocks” of Humans living behind temporary lines and fences. We live in interesting times as the Pecking Order of human flocks are changing at all levels it appears at the same time. Shame we don’t adjust this pecking order by singing and bluffing! At the worst we should send out our leaders to settle disputes one on one, more like two Bantam Roosters would.”
You hear it all the time… or maybe not? Adding a large rock or stones to your birdbath helps birds. It’s absolutely true, especially for juveniles venturing out into the world after springs’ nesting season.
Shallow, shallow, shallow is best, with a maximum depth of 2-3 inches. If your bowl is deeper – just don’t fill it all the way. While adult birds tend to maneuver with more agility, babies can easily drown in your birdbath if the water is too deep.
A recent post on this topic (on a social network) was shared far and wide because it was a good story. The person saw the bathing bird in distress, and slowly walked over with a stick, but the bird didn’t fly away – it remained in the bath struggling. When she gently extended the stick over the bath, the bird hopped right on it. After placing the stick to the ground, the bird hopped off… but could not fly. She immediately thought of a wildlife re-habber and called, but the bird eventually took flight.
Drowning indeed he was, the water being too deep, with the sides of the bath too tall and steep for escape. The little guy was lucky someone was watching! Wet feathers can’t fly, this is why he hopped under the brush instead of flying to a nearby branch. It illustrates exactly why folks are always saying to put rocks or stones in your birdbath.
Baths with a gentle slope or walk-in sides are easiest on birds because they imitate shallow pools or puddles found in nature. Texture is always helpful too, as it allows tiny feet the ability to grip.
The stones can be anything from colorful decorative ones, to a large natural rock, river rock, lava rock, or simply stones from the garden. Anything that allows birds to “hop up onto” will be used and appreciated by feathered friends. For better footing, landing and perching spots… and maybe even to save a life!
IFAW Statement on New York Ivory Ban: We Love New York
Washington, D.C. (June 23, 2014) – Jeffrey Flocken, North American Regional Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), issued the following statement regarding a bill passed last week by the New York state legislature which bans the sale and purchase of elephant and mammoth ivory and rhino horn:
“A big victory for endangered elephants and rhinos, as New York enacts a landmark law to ban the sale of ivory and rhino horn.
These bans are important tools for regulating, and, we hope, eventually ending the ivory and rhino horn trade. Every 15 minutes on average, an African elephant is slaughtered for its ivory tusks to support a mass consumer demand. Rhinos, which are also poached for their horns, are similarly threatened. The U.S. ranks as one of the largest ivory consumers in the world and New York serves as one its biggest entry points and markets.
Promising regulations are gathering momentum at the federal level. As one of the first states to pass such legislation, New York is carving a path for others to follow.
We love New York’s actions and congratulate and thank our coalition partners in encouraging the passage of these bills.”
To learn more about IFAW’s work to crush the ivory trade, please visit http://www.ifaw.org/united-states/our-work/elephants/ending-ivory-trade.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org.
My friend’s a pretty decent writer, some of the cat stories are quite touching… this is one of them. If you happen to be a cat person who’s crazy enough to have a few wood birdhouses that resemble your cats (us), or even one who’s remotely fond of your pets, then read on. And if you’ve ever wondered about an animals’ capacity for love or understanding – this will should also be of interest.
My animal rescue work has brought a number of new friends into my life. This story is about two of them: Sara and Michelle. Either of them will happily and readily tell you that each is the others very best friend. I don’t know much about their history — things like how they met and how long they’ve been friends. I do know they both have dedicated countless hours and immeasurable amounts of energy to making lives better for neglected and abused animals, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s one of their most important characteristics.
In the spring of 2012, Sara left Florida and moved out west. One of her last rescue efforts before leaving this part of the country (she continues her work on behalf of animals prior to moving was to place a leukemia positive cat with me. He’s a big, fluffy, all black guy that I named “Bartholomew,” (heavy on the “MEW,”) in hopes he’d be a mellow fellow. Turns out that I usually call him “Bart,” as in Black Bart. He’s not a bad cat, just an independent guy who never has had much use for sitting in laps or having his head rubbed or human interaction of any sort.
In July of last year, Michelle and her daughter rescued a poor little waif of a kitten from animal control. As the Fates would have it, he tested positive for leukemia. At Sara’s urging, Michelle contacted me, and tiny orange Samson (Sammy) came to live at my house. If ever there was an irresistibly cute kitten on the face of the earth, Sammy was that cat. Everyone who met him fell instantly in love with him. I did my very best not to tumble head over heels for him because I know the usual outcome for kittens born with the leukemia virus, but I was powerless to resist his charms. Within two days of his arrival here, I was hopelessly hooked.
Sammy was clearly a cat that veterinarians label “at risk.” He was anemic, underweight (at his prime, he was less than six pounds), prone to respiratory infections, and generally frail. But what he lacked in physical stamina, he more than made up for in sweetness and personality. Truly as endearing an animal as has ever crossed my path.
Three weeks ago, Sammy took ill. He’d been sick other times and always managed to pull past it, but this illness was more serious. I took him to the vet in late May and over the next 20 days, we threw most of the pharmacy at him, but with no immune system thanks to the wretched leukemia virus, he couldn’t fight this foe.
He and I were at the vet’s office when it opened this morning. In three weeks’ time, he’d lost nearly a quarter of his body weight. His chest cavity was filled with fluid leaving him on the verge of congestive heart failure, and the vet said his lungs sounded like crinkling cellophane, almost certainly pneumonia. The only compassionate choice was to kiss his head over and over and over for all the people who loved him and send him on his way.
I brought him home in his burial box and left his body on the deck with the group of cats he’d hung out with while he was my boy — including big black Bart. From the first picture, you can see that several of his pals spent a minute or two paying their respects. One by one, most of them went on their way, but Bart lingered. And lingered. Bart and Sammy hadn’t been particularly good buddies. They didn’t fight, but likewise, they didn’t snooze together or engage in a close friendship. It struck me as odd that Bart needed all this time to say goodbye to Sammy.
Look at this picture. Bart is hugging Sammy’s burial box — not unlike what I’ve seen humans do if they’ve lost a particularly beloved family member or friend. When I went to pick up Sammy’s box, Bart literally clung to the towel that was draped over it, begging me to let him have a little more time with Sammy. I remarked out loud to Bart that I didn’t understand why he was so upset by Sammy’s death since they hadn’t been that close in life.
As I put the box back down, Bart fixed a gaze on me that ate right to my soul. Anyone who’s spent much time around animals knows the look I’m referring to. It’s the one that roughly translated means, “I know you’re merely a human being and therefore have limited cranial capacity, but try really hard to think about this situation.” Pause, pause. “Think about how it is that Sammy and I came to be your fur kids.”
Picture the light bulb blinking on over my head…. Okay. Got it.
Bart wasn’t just saying goodbye to Sammy for himself. He was Sara’s emissary, bearing her spirit all the way from Colorado to be here to lend comfort and support to Michelle and her daughter’s spirits for the loss of precious Sammy. Bart knew the importance of drawing the circle of love very tightly around Sammy’s earthly remains so that all the people who had played a part in saving his life (albeit for much too short a time by our human measure) could take sustenance from each other and find the strength to move past this sorrow.
Oh, the lessons these dumb animals impart. Dumb animals, indeed. If anyone ever makes a comment about unthinking, unfeeling animals, maybe you’ll tell them about how Bart & Sara and Sammy & Michelle came together for one essential group hug at precisely the right, crucial moment.
One of those little things often taken for granted, pollinators play a huge role in the environment and our food sources. Albert Einstein said “if the bees go, we go four years later”. This is a scary thought, as bumble bees are now being considered one of the “at-risk” pollinators of today.
Hummingbirds are pollinators, and extremely beneficial in the garden. Sadly, more and more folks are saying they’re seeing less of the tiny sprites this year. The long harsh winter may have had an adverse affect on their migration, as there were no food sources upon arrival in the gulf states. Nothing was blooming yet from where they could draw nectar.
Some other surprising pollinators include: hover flies, bats, native bees, moths, and certain beetles and wasps. Laying off the pesticides helps these species thrive, as well as using native plants in the landscape. Butterflies are also major pollinators, but unfortunately are also on the “at-risk” list. Over-ripe fruit is attractive to them, and also draws fruit flies which they’ll consume. Place a chunk of melon, orange, apple or strawberry on a plate in the garden for the flying gems.
Entice beneficial pollinators to your garden by keeping hummingbird feeders fresh! Sugar ferments and spoils after just a few days in the heat. Hummingbirds won’t touch it and may not even bother to check the feeder again. And ants, just one ant in the nectar ruins the whole batch! Use an ant moat to protect nectar from these pesky critters. A dab of petroleum jelly around the top of the hanger will also thwart ants, but tends to melt after a few days of extreme heat.
The solution should be changed every 2-3 days in hot weather. Consider making your own nectar so feeding the sprites isn’t as costly. Simply plain table sugar and water… no red dye needed! Nothing else should ever be added to the solution. One cup of sugar to four cups of water, the ratio is 1:4 sugar to water. Quick, easy and economical, store unused nectar in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Plant annuals and perennials that bloom throughout the season. Tube-shaped flowers are nectar producers, as well as native vines and salvia. Using these and other native plants in the garden provides a natural and steady food source for pollinators.
Leave some bugs. A great source of protein, hummingbirds and butterflies go after tiny insects (gnats, fruit flies and others) as a large part of their diet. With the spring nesting season and lots of babies out there now, insects are an important food source. If you’re using pesticides in the yard, stop! They’re no good for anyone 🙁
Fresh water is integral to all friendly fliers. If you’re lucky enough to have a pond, creek, or stream on your property, chances are great pollinators will visit. If not, consider adding a a shallow bath. A birdbath needn’t be fancy… just shallow and fresh. The maximum depth is just 2-3 inches, even a plastic plant saucer works well. If stagnant water is of concern, consider one of many bird bath accessories to keep the water moving. Water wigglers, bath drippers, solar fountains or leaf misters are just a few options that keep water fresher for longer periods, and prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs. Hummingbirds, butterflies and songbirds are attracted to these fun additions, and will stick around to use them daily.
So there you have it… celebrate National Pollinator Week by enticing these friendly fliers to your place!