Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
First arrival Ruby-throated Hummingbird this morning at the Sanibel lighthouse, Sanibel, FL. So great to see that it made it across the Gulf of Mexico. It found some nice red flowers to feed on to refuel. It needs to stay in the South for a while, there is bad weather up north.
Rubythroats have been arriving in the South since Feb. but they do not reach northern areas until mid to end of April. Will you be ready? Here's how to attract them.
Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red. That's because the flowers they favor in nature are mainly red tubular flowers. These flowers have their own adaptations to be attractive to hummingbirds, such as they have just the right nectar concentrations and long tubes so bees cannot access the nectar. Thus they give the hummers nectar and in turn the hummingbirds carry pollen on their foreheads from one flower to another, thus pollinating the flowers.
We roll out the red welcome mat by,
- Putting up lots of hummingbird feeders with red
- Putting up hanging baskets of early red flowers such as hanging fuschia, etc. as most annuals and perennials are not blooming yet. Later we plant those flowers
- Tying red bows to the posts the hummingbird feeders hang from
- Keep feeders filled with fresh hummingbird nectar, change nectar every 2 days in hot weather.
- Keep feeders filled with fresh hummingbird nectar, change nectar every 2 days in hot weather.
Get the early hummingbirds and you may have some remain and breed. You will also attract lots of migrants that are passing through on their way to their previous breeding grounds. Even though these do not breed near you, they will remember you as a good stopping place on their next migrations.
If you live in the West, you may have had hummingbirds all year and/or lots of hummingbirds that have returned already, lucky you.
Monday, March 13, 2017
Winter is returning with a major nor'easter snow storm about to hit the mid-atlantic and northeast states. Keep your feeders full, shovel the snow off them and here's some advice on how to help birds with some winter bird feeding basics
Brrrrrrr! When winter temperatures plummet, furnaces are turned on, down parkas and mittens are taken out of storage, and hot cocoa is made on the stove. This how we humans cope with winter storms, but what do the birds do? Their feathers are their down parkas and their metabolism keeps them warm but they need increased fuel to stoke their furnaces and shelter from wind and cold. Understanding their needs is the first step in helping them through storms.
Where to place feeders
One of the best places to set up feeders in winter is on the south side of a thick stand of evergreens whose branches go from ground level to tree top. This green wall should have as much sunlight hitting it as possible. Not only is it a big solar collector that the birds will love for its warmth, but they can use the dense foliage as protection from predators, shelter from storms, a nightime roost and a place to await their turn at the feeder, or munch a seed recently taken.
If you do not have this ideal set-up, then be inventive and create some of its elements. Put your feeders in protected locations that get lots of sun, create a brush pile nearby for cover, plant evergreens, or stand up your discarded Christmas tree near the feeder.
Pine Siskins, Purple Finch,m.
Winter Chow; Supersize me
Because birds have higher metabolic needs in the winter, they consume more calories than in warmer weather; thus, they need foods that are calorie-rich. Interestingly, one gram of fat provides 11 calories, and one gram of protein or carbohydrate contains only 4 calories.
Here is an interesting list of bird seeds and their protein, fat and carbohydrate content by percentage of weight.
black oil sunflower 16/40/38
Cracked Corn 9/4/2
So for winter feeding in cold weather, the type of food you provide for is important.
Suet cakes contain a high amount of fat so they are a calorie-rich food; so are black oil sunflower, peanuts and thistle. These foods are a good choice for feeder birds such as chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, woodpeckers, finches and cardinals. Offer these seeds in tube and hopper feeders hung above the ground.
There are other feeder birds, such as Mourning Doves, White-throated Sparrows, White-Crowned Sparrows, and Juncos that normally feed on the ground and whose seed preferences can tend toward carbohydrates. These species will eat seeds such as millet or cracked corn, or mixes containing them. You can offer these birds winter food on platform feeders near the ground, or even sprinkled directly on the ground provided you keep the ground raked clean of any old seed that is not quickly eaten.
Evening Grosbeak, males
In addition to offering food variety to fit the palate of your winter customers, the basic tenet of winter bird feeding is the all-you-can-eat buffet. Basically, keep feeders full so the food is there when they need it. Even though many of your feeder birds will alternate feeding at and then away from your feeders, they especially need supplemental food in severe weather when the wild foods are covered with ice and snow. In these tough times, a good feeder set-up can help their survival. Pay particular attention to filling feeders in mid-afternoon and early morning. This is when birds need to stock up on food and calories to heat their bodies through the cold night and replenish their furnace fuel in the early AM.
Consistency is the key
Once you have the birds coming to you in winter, it is important to be consistent in your feeding program, for they tend to rely in severe weather on the additional supplementation of foods you are offering. So if you go on vacation, see if a friend or neighbor, or hired youngster, will fill your feeders; that is what we do. You may also want to put out larger capacity feeders in winter so they do not have to be filled so often and so there is less chance of them going empty.
Let it Snow
One of the challenges in keeping your winter restaurant open for the birds occurs when there are storms that pile up snow and cover feeders. It is important to keep your feeders free of snow, especially in the portals of tube feeders, ledges of hopper feeders and the tops of platform feeders. We always go out and knock or wipe the snow off feeders several times during a storm. Another good trick is to hang one of those squirrel baffles shaped like a clear plastic umbrella, above the feeder to shield it from the snow. One of the best snow protectors we have seen was done by someone who had made a giant plastic umbrella out of two big plastic window-well covers mounted back to back. This was held up well off the ground by wooden posts and multiple feeders were mounted under it.
Keeping the ground free of snow for ground feeders like White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, Juncos, Mourning Doves, and even Wild Turkeys, like we have coming to our feeders, takes dedicated shoveling or a snow blower. During one of last winter’s worst storms, we took turns shoveling out a space on the ground under our feeders just about every hour. On our deck we shoveled out spaces under our built in benches and sprinkled seed there for the Blue Jays and Juncos.
Northern Cardinal, f.
In Milder Climates
We are aware that not everyone shivers through winter with snow and cold but even in southern areas a snowstorm can hit. Mild climate areas, like California and the southern states, escape the worst weather. In addition to the resident birds, such as Cardinals there, many migrant birds from the North, like Goldfinches, Doves, Catbirds, even an occasional hummingbird, visit feeders there. We have fed birds in Florida in winter for a number of years and it is great fun. While there is not snow, some of the basic practices of bird feeding apply — a diverse menu for both tree-dwelling and ground-dwelling species, providing clean water and good cover, and keeping feeding areas clean. We have even put out oranges in Florida and had catbirds regularly come to them. Maybe they are the same catbirds that breed in our yard in New Hampshire in the summer. We like to think so.
One of the biggest rewards of winter feeding, in addition to knowing you are helping the birds survive, is being entertained by all those wonderful, active creatures while you are house-bound. Colorful Cardinals, perky Chickadees, big-eyed Titmice, maybe even a more rare visitor like a Pine Siskin, will line up for your restaurant where there will be standing room only.
During storms, meet your birds’ needs for the right food and shelter, they will thank you!
Monday, March 06, 2017
Ospreys, fish-eating raptors, are breeding now on Sanibel, FL. This female is delivering fish to her partially grown young. She ate some of the fish herself first, starting with the head, then she began to feed the babies, pulling off very small bits of fish.
The Osprey nestling period is 50-55 days. Ospreys can have from 1-4 young and eggs do not hatch at the same time. The first egg may hatch up to 5 days before the last one. The oldest hatchling dominates its siblings and may monopolize the food brought. If food is abundant food will be shared and all the chicks will survive. Ospreys breed in parts of the West and northern U.S and across Canada, and live all year in FL and parts of the Gulf Coast. You can see them migrating through much of the country.
Thursday, March 02, 2017
Reddish Egret, J.N. Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel, FL recently, doing it's typical "drunken sailor" hunting behavior to catch fish. This is the rarest wading bird in the country according to authorities, with populations dropping. Research (by the Avian Research and Conservation Institute) on these birds is going on at J. N. Ding Darling NWR, with some (not this one) being fitted with satellite transmitters so more can be learned about its movements, habitat and feeding needs. Reddish Egrets need a relatively rare foraging habitat: just the right depth of water, a clear, firm sea bottom, the right tidal movement, and the right kind of small fish. They also need undisturbed nesting areas. Of the ones studied at Ding Darling so far, they have learned that these birds are very local in their movements, not moving very far. We have seen 6 at a time foraging in Ding, so that is prime habitat for them, good thing it's protected!
Monday, February 27, 2017
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Saw the rare White-crowned Pigeon yesterday at J. N. Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel ,FL. This is a very unusual bird for here, although there have been a very few sightings previously on Sanibel. Their status is listed as Threatened in FL. They live in the very southern tip of FL. Research has indicated that the total distribution of this bird occurs in the Caribbean Basin, the Bahamas and extreme southern Florida, but they make long over-water flights between breeding and wintering areas within this region. They are threatened due to loss of habitat and hunting and poaching in their range. White-crowned Pigeons feed mainly on fruits of hardwood trees and they are an important dispersal agent for these trees. It was nice to see this bird on the Shell Mound trail, which had a lot of fruiting hardwood trees, thus providing the type of habitat crucial for this bird species. What a special bird for us to see!!