Our eyes and ears should be open and alert to the natural wonders that surround us every day. Take time to look out our windows to see the birds that visit us and open our windows to hear them. Walk around whatever space we have to enjoy the birds in nature. Every day, work on improving our powers of observation.
Nature happens. We cannot MAKE natural things happen (or NOT happen). We can create habitats to encourage natural things to happen around us, but there are no guarantees.
Birdfeeding comes with responsibilities to the birds and the environment we share with them. If you are unwilling to accept these responsibilities, you shouldn’t feed the birds. We also have a responsibility to share these natural wonders with the next generation.
Ever since I read Ron Pittaway's Winter Finch Forecast back in September, I've been looking forward to the arrival of Common Redpolls. In prior irruption years, they'd arrive in mid-December to early-January. But this year, only a single Pine Siskin was showing up, and somewhat irregularly at that.
But with the arrival of our last few snowfalls and single-digit temps, the redpolls have finally arrived!
Like in prior years, the size of the flocks have been increasing, from around 12-15 early on, to 30-ish a couple days ago, to a high count of 53 during today's daylong snowstorm. American Goldfinches are still abundant as well, flocking right in with their finch cousins.
I'm hoping they're around at least through March. I promise to keep the niger feeders filled for them!
It's been a good winter at my birdfeeders for American Goldfinches. I can glance out just about any time and I'll see at least a few of them feeding on the sunflower chips (no shells!) or the niger seed I offer in my feeders.
Pine Siskin (left) and American Goldfinch (right)
In the dim light of winter, It's easy to look at the feeders, see some small, finch-shaped birds picking out seeds, and just assume they are goldfinches. But this is the time of year when we need to stop and give those finches a second look. We just might be rewarded with another species of finch, like a Pine Siskin or a Common Redpoll.
So far this winter, it's been a single Pine Siskin showing up now and then. I look first for birds with a streaky back and wings instead of the solid dusky olive of the goldfinch. If the cap is red, it's a redpoll but lacking that, the pointier beak and yellow wing bar tells me I have a siskin.
There have been other years when the siskins are here in larger numbers, but this year, it has been only 1 at a time, hiding in plain sight amongst the goldfinches. Don't let that siskin go unseen - take a good second look at your goldfinch flocks this winter!
Q. Why does my heated birdbath trip my circuit? A. In our experience, this happens when water gets into the connection between the birdbath cord and the extension cord.
To help prevent this, after plugging the two dry cords together, wrap the conjoined plugs completely with electrical tape, overlapping the tape to provide a total seal.
Then take a sandwich-size baggie and wrap it around the taped-up connection. Then wrap it all again completely with electrical tape. These three steps should completely seal the connection and prevent water or condensation from getting between the plugs.
At our Wild Birds Unlimited shop, we have an extension cord that instantly seals the connection without the tape and baggie routine; you just plug it in and screw it tight, which completely locks and seals the connection. The birdbath must be compatible to the extension cord; all our current WBU heated birdbaths are compatible with this type extension cord (older models may not be compatible).
By taking a fairly easy step to seal the connections, you will be able to enjoy years of realiable service from your heated birdbath. Ours has been in service for many years with no issues!
Each fall, some of our favorite birdfeeder birds start hanging out together. Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, and Downy Woodpeckers find strength in numbers by forming "winter flocks", mixed-species groups of birds that forage together during the winter months.
There are advantages to this behavior. There are more eyes looking for food and there are more eyes and ears to notice potential predators. This year my winter flock also seems to include another regular, two Brown Creepers.
If the size and activity of this year's winter flock is any indicator, it looks like we may be in for a busy winter at the birdfeeders!
Are you a high-energy leader? Do you like to make people smile? Do you like challenges? If you answer, ‘yes!’ then we have a management opportunity for you at our Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop in Saratoga Springs NY, where we bring people and nature together with excellence!
Our shop is different from your typical retail experience. Our team members deliver personalized service and a high-energy shopping experience to help customers choose from the finest birdfeeding products on the market. This personalized service ensures our customers' birdfeeding success which in turn enhances their lives every single day.
Our Assistant Manager will be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the shop. You must be able to provide a high-energy customer experience and have strong interpersonal skills, self-motivation, initiative, and problem-solving skills. Experience in a customer-facing retail, restaurant and/or hospitality job is required, with recent management experience a plus. Computer and POS skills a must.
The Assistant Manager will be expected to work weekdays and weekends, with hours subject to change according to the needs of the business.
We expect a lot. But we give a lot, too. Our retail management career has an ever-changing day-to-day schedule, a dynamic workload, and an awesome store environment. Our staff and our customers are great people to work and interact with. This career will also give the right individual the opportunity to grow within our shop. You'll earn good pay and be eligible for bonuses, as well as employee benefits, free birdfood, and other perks.
The difference between Wild Birds Unlimited and other retailers goes far beyond what we sell. It's who we are. Enthusiasm, professionalism, informed advice, and superior customer service are hallmarks of our staff. Why not join our team and fill out an application today!
Do you know someone who would be a perfect fit for this opportunity?? Please email them a link to this page or use the social share buttons below to spread the word!
As backyard bird enthusiasts, we are not often faced with the idea that one of our favorite birds is in trouble from a conservation standpoint. Chickadees and jays, goldfinches and cardinals...they all seem to be so plentiful. Nothing could take them away from us, right?
Experts are constantly studying bird populations and each year, they publish The State of the Birds report. Here is a page from the 2014 report identifying some of the most common birds - birds that are not on any watch list (yet?) - but that have been experiencing rapid population declines.
"These birds have lost more than half their global population, and the 33 species combined have lost hundreds of millions of breeding individuals in just the past 40 years."
(click on image to enlarge for easier reading)
Take a moment to look through this list of birds. Take them in, one by one, asking yourself these 3 questions. I'd love it if you shared your answers in the comments:
Which birds have I personally seen? Long-tailed Duck Northern Bobwhite Purple Gallinule Herring Gull Black Tern Yellow-billed Cuckoo Snowy Owl Short-eared Owl Common Nighthawk Chimney Swift Loggerhead Shrike Horned Lark Bank Swallow Blackpoll Warbler Field Sparrow Eastern Meadowlark Common Grackle Pine Siskin
Have any of them visited my yard? Blackpoll Warbler Field Sparrow Common Grackle Pine Siskin
Are there any that really surprise me because it seems like they're so abundant or seemingly common that they just CAN'T be in trouble? Herring Gull Chimney Swift Blackpoll Warbler Common Grackle Pine Siskin
We just spent a couple months at our Wild Birds Unlimited shopcommemorating the loss of a massively abundant bird, the Passenger Pigeon. The loss of that bird, which used to number in the billions, is a lesson that no population of birdlife is too big to lose.
This report clearly shows that bird declines are not only occuring in rare birds or birds whose habitat or food needs are very specific. Declines are occuring in our own backyard.
All of us can play the role of bird conservationist, whether it is making decisions about our own habitats or contacting officials that manage lands and development, or keeping cats indoors and our windows bird-safe, or contributing financially to support the work of conservation and bird research organizations like the American Bird Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to name a few.
Let's all do our part to keep these birds, and all birds, from disappearing. Every bird we lose makes our world a sadder, duller, and quieter place to live.
I'm a Nikon camera girl and didn't necessarily want to get a non-Nikkor lens, but trying out this Sigma did open my mind to the idea. More importantly, it proved (I think) that I could successfully handhold a heavier telephoto lens (the Sigma weighed 62oz. versus the 28oz. telephoto I'm using now).
The Sigma was easy to use and easy to hold. Here are some of the images I took, mostly at East Harbor State Park.
Ring-billed Gulls 400mm 1/1000 f5.6 Some lighting correction and sharpening; cropped
Turkey Vulture 270mm 1/800 f6.3 -.33 step Some lighting correction and sharpening; cropped
Turkey Vulture 400mm 1/1000 f6.3 -.67 steps Cropped only
Herring Gull 270mm 1/1600 f6.3 -.67 steps Cropped only
While I enjoyed using the Sigma lens, I eventually decided to get a Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR lens. Besides the fact that it was a Nikon lens, one other big deciding factor was the weight: at 47oz., the Nikkor is 25% lighter than the Sigma. I know that 15oz. weight difference will really help out as I and my hands continue to age.
My old telephoto will still get much use as it's a great travel lens - not only smaller and lighter, but the 28-300mm gives me a much better range for a variety of photo situations.
I appreciated being able to try out that Sigma lens, and even though I didn't buy Sigma, I had a great time with the lens and loved the images I was able to capture. Thanks to Dave and Sigma for the opportunity.