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.
A. Many hummingbird species defend feeding territories and assemblages at feeders usually develop hierarchies. The behavior exemplifies natural selection at work, and you should do nothing except enjoy it.
If you're worried about hungry hummingbirds, put up several more feeders near your original one. The bully will be overwhelmed by sheer numbers of other birds and will quit being so territorial.
Reprinted from the Summer 2006 edition of WBU BIRDTracks®. Hummingbird image by Nancy Castillo
If you've noticed the following button flashing on my blog recently, it's because I was honored by an invitation by Bill Thompson III to be a member of the team of bloggers for the upcoming Midwest Birding Symposium.
The Midwest Birding Symposium is coming the weekend of September 15 - 18, 2011 at Lakeside, Ohio. There is a fantastic line-up of speakers and plenty of free time to enjoy the great birds near this location on the south shore of Lake Erie. At the last symposium in 2009, many participants (including me!) got to see an endangered Kirtland's Warbler at a nearby park.
A common question about any birding event is whether it welcomes beginning birdwatchers, or is it only for advanced birders? Will a beginning birder feel stupid?
Absolutely not! I speak from my own personal experience. I consider myself an intermediate birdwatcher and birdfeeding enthusiast, and you regular Zen Birdfeeder readers know that I'm always trying to learn more about the birds.
I felt totally comfortable at the last Symposium. There were bird enthusiasts of all skills levels there, and we birded together, learned together, and laughed together.
I know there's NO WAY I would've been able to find and/or identify that Kirtland's Warbler myself, but being part of the Symposium group afforded me the (perhaps) once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see this special bird.
Over the weeks leading up to the Symposium, I'll be interviewing a few of the speakers that will talk at the event, so please stay tuned to The Zen Birdfeeder. (Click here to sign up to get emails whenever a new post goes up.) My first interview will be with Marie Read, whose Symposium topic will be "Photographing Birds' Secret Lives".
In the meantime, read more about the Midwest Birding Symposium and check out the schedule. Don't delay; if you register before July 15, you'll save $15 off the full symposium package.
I loved observing and trying to photograph the hummingbirds at the flowers, and discovered that the hummingbirds were doing more than just getting nectar from the flowers: they were also serving as pollinators.
Sometimes they would feed from the base of the flower.
But when they would feed from within the whorled flowers, their role as pollinator began.
The pollen-laden stamens (the male part of the flower) on the Turk's Cap extend high above the flower, and as the hummingbird feeds, it picks up pollen on its head. Then as they move from flower to flower, the pollen will be deposited to the stigma (the female part) and will fertilize the plant, resulting in production of fruits and seeds.
I just found this so fascinating and a great nature lesson, just from watching this little jewel feed!
Back in early May, the chickadees got me all excited by removing woodchips from the nest box and pulling wool from my nesting material ball. But after all this activity, they vacated the nest leaving a partially completed nest.
This is not uncommon with chickadees, and I knew that, but I still found it hard to not be disappointed. And I pretty much gave up on the possibility of chickadees nesting in one of my 3 nestboxes this summer.
Lo and behold, over the last few days, I've been seeing some evidence of chickadee nesting behavior. Just a few days ago, a chickadee was gathering wool from my now-ratty-looking nesting ball.
Then yesterday, I saw chickadee(s?) entering the nestbox in the backyard. Was it active? I'd need to keep an eye on it!
So today, I think I got some pretty good evidence that there are babies in that box! It's just hard telling what stage they're at.
I saw one chickadee bringing a big juicy bug into the box; that could be for the incubating mom or for both mom and babies.
Then I saw a chickadee carrying a fecal sac out of the box. The fecal sac is a mucous lined sac containing the excrement of nestlings.
Meanwhile, in our front yard, a chickadee was checking out a different nestbox and one was calling the soft fee-bee song, which Don & Lillian Stokes state is used "by the adults as they approach the nest" or during mate-feeding. So I checked out the nestbox that was within 10-feet of the chickadee and there was nothing going on.
Then later on in the afternoon, I approached the log-home style nestbox (unfortunately, the top does not hinge open for monitoring) and tapped on the side. Nothing flew out so mom was either unphased or out for the moment. There were also no cheeping coming from inside the box. As I backed off, a pair of chickadees approached and one entered and emerged a very short time later.
So here's what I'm thinking. The nestbox is most likely active and I'm going to surmise that at least one egg has hatched but that the nestling(s) is young enough that it is not verbalizing yet.
If (and I know there's a lot of assuming going on) this is the case, the young will emerge less than 16 days from now, around July 21-22.
Until then, I'll continue to watch and see how things progress. I'm disappointed that I won't be able to monitor the box for Cornell's NestWatch like I did last year, but I'm still happy to have an apparently active nestbox in the yard! I'll keep you posted.
I've had fun the last week or so watching and listening to juvenile Purple Finches in the yard and at the feeders. The young are not as easily identifiable as young male woodpeckers or young cardinals, but listen and watch closely, and the youngsters in the group may become obvious.
The first clue is their little 3-note call. While fledgling goldfinches have a 2-note call (feed me! feed me!), I'll liken the fledgling Purple Finch juvie call to a quick "hur-ry up", with the first and last note the same and the middle note two steps higher.
When you follow this incessant little call, you'll happen upon a young Purple Finch. By the time I first saw them in the yard on June 22, they were already able to feed on their own, but weren't above crying for a hand-out. But despite a desperate little call and a pathetic wing quiver, the adults around them would not let in, and the youngster returned to feeding themselves.
The juveniles are still a bit clumsy with their landings and look a bit off balance.
Their feathers may still have some developing to do as well. Check out the how short the tail feathers are on this guy, giving him a short, stubby look.
Both male and female juveniles will have plumage more similar to the adult female. Males don't take on the wonderful cranberry color of the adult male until after their first year. I think it looks like the juvenile beak is a bit darker than the adult bill.
Purple Finches nest in New York state at elevations above 1,000 ft. In Saratoga County, you can find them in the summer through most of the western half of the county.
I usually try to share positive zen with readers but every now and then I hear a story that just needs to be shared and our sensibilities questioned. Like this story that was recently shared on our Facebook page by a local volunteer wildlife rehabilitator. Read on...
"A sad story from the North Country Wild Care Hotline.....We received a call about some baby birds on the ground (we get alot of them this time of year) but what was different about this one was that when we got there, we found 3 dead babies and the parent were also dead, all within a few feet of each other, near their nest.
We questioned the finders, are there any cats? Did they see any other predators? And finally, had they put any chemicals on their lawn? The finders answered 'no' to all of the above - however, their neighbor had just done some extensive landscaping and had put alot of chemicals down (weed killer, grub killer, etc).
It is nice to have a green lawn but please think about what you are using and be sure it will not cause collateral damage. Apparently the parents had fed their young some of the poisoned insects and then ingested some themselves - a beautiful family of catbirds died as a result of this incident. Personally, I would rather deal with some weeds and grubs."
A zen principle I embrace and attempt to weave through the posts I present on The Zen Birdfeeder is "Zen RESPONSIBILITY". I espouse that "Birdfeeding comes with responsibilities to the birds and the environment we share with them."
We are content to live our lives in silos, but unfortunately the world doesn't exist in silos. The decisions we make about the chemicals we use, the trees we cut, the coffee we drink, the purchases we make, the companies we support...I could go on and on...can impact the environment we share with the birds and other wildlife.
We love "our" birds...but we want weed-free, green lawns. So we coat our yards with chemicals to kill the weeds, green the lawn, and eliminate the insects. But we never stop to think that when we put poisons on the yard and the bugs, we poison the animals that forage in the yard and eat the bugs. We're poisoning our birds.
We take the word of the lawn care "professional" that the poisons they apply will not affect wildlife or other animals that pass through the yard. But think about this: The Gray Catbird diet is primarily insects; how long can we expect birds that weigh only 2-ounces and their even smaller babies to live after eating meal after meal of poison-coated insects?
We make choices every day that impact the birds and our environment. And with information so readily available to us today, we cannot claim ignorance of the pros and cons of the alternatives before us.
I have chosen, and will continue to choose, to live with the birds in a chemical-free yard. I'll deal with the weeds; the birds will help us deal with the insects.