It was still dark out when I heard the ruckus. The Steller’s jays were all in a frenzy, squawking violently at something. But I could hardly adjust my eyes to see what was causing all the commotion.
I got some coffee and continued readying for work, and that’s when I heard the ravens. I knew immediately that this was about something bigger than a mere plea for more food.
I went to the window again and could see the outline of two large ravens frantically trying to flush something out of the tree. They were NOT happy with whatever had arrived in their backyard!
I continued watching as the sun rose up over the mountain peak and revealed what was in the tree, and I gasped with delight. He was beautiful. Majestic. And a little intimidating.
I went outside with my camera and the ravens flew off, but our new visitor stood its ground. He didn’t budge.
I went back inside and woke up my husband. “If you want to come see it, get up now,” I whispered.
He didn’t even need to ask. He knew that if I woke him up in the middle of a sound sleep then it must be worth it.
We stood side by side and in awe of the beauty before us.
I drove to work giddy from the morning’s excitement and the opportunity to add a Great Horned Owl to my life list. And I was grateful to get the one picture I did get because the owl was gone by the time I got back home after work. And the thought occurred to me that I may now need to relocate my trail cam to somewhere up high. That is if I can successfully imitate a bear climbing up and down a tree. Hmmmm… I better rethink that.
This month marks the one year anniversary of our Wildlife Habitat and Bird Sanctuary, and as I reminisce over the last twelve months, I’m reminded of how blessed we have been. Common visitors to our bird sanctuary include chickadees, Steller’s jays, juncos, pine siskin, and house finches, while special appearances were made by a black-throated gray warbler and Williamson’s sapsucker. We have several birdbaths and over a dozen bird feeders, AND we go through about 80 pounds of bird seed a month.
Getting to experience the birds and wildlife every day is a special treat but the real gift lies in the wisdom I’ve acquired in such a short time. Nature has its music for those who will listen and I’ve done my share of listening. Here’s what I’ve learned in the process:
The date and time stamp on the trail cam matters in keeping good records.
Birds will not set a limit on how much food I should provide them, so I have to.
Indoor window clings are critical in avoiding aviary window strikes.
When time or resources are limited, water is more important than food.
Having a contact at the local US Fish and Wildlife Service is really helpful.
Photographs are required to support a claim of wildlife or bird species.
There will be injured, sick, or orphaned wildlife and knowing in advance what to do when I find them will reduce stress – for me and for the wildlife.
Volunteering at a local wildlife rescue organization is an ideal hands-on learning experience.
The traffic patterns in my habitat may not match the information in various field guides, and that’s okay.
I should probably write a book about everything I’ve learned this past year, but for now this is my short list. And if you’re interested in hearing the details around each of these ten learnings, check back here over the next several weeks. My goal is to elaborate on each and every one of these in greater detail. In the meantime… happy birding!
One year ago this month, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), America’s largest wildlife conservation and education organization, recognized me and my husband for having successfully certified our Wildlife Habitat through its Garden for Wildlife program. This month, we are celebrating the habitat’s one year anniversary! Woo hoo!
Truth is, we certified our mountainous habitat in response to the “Dog Head” fire that consumed nearly 18,000 acres in June of last year. We had experienced a sudden influx of both birds and wildlife immediately after the fire and we wanted to do our part to create a safe haven for them. In fact, in just this past year alone, we’ve had 32 different bird species come through our habitat, many of which have nested and are now raising young.
Common visitors to our bird sanctuary include chickadees, Steller’s jays, juncos, pine siskin, and house finches, while special appearances were made by a black-throated gray warbler and Williamson’s sapsucker. We provide for the wild birds with several birdbaths and over a dozen bird feeders. And we go through about 80 pounds of bird seed a month! But providing water is the most critical aspect of what we do (as you’ve heard me say before) because a bird will die from dehydration before it will die from starvation, especially during critical winter months or droughts when water is scarce.
Even wild mammals need water, as evidenced by several photographs I took this summer of a mule deer drinking water from our birdbath out back. (That was terribly exciting to watch!) Other mammals frequenting our wildlife habitat include Abert’s and rock squirrels, brush and cottontail bunnies, coyotes, and a pair of wolves.
In the midst of the worldly drama around us, we’re grateful to have nature as a form of distraction. The beauty and grace of our wildlife and birds delight us daily, reminding us of the splendor of God’s creation. Thank you for celebrating this milestone with us, for your encouragement along the way, and for your support of our efforts.
So, what is a manifesto and why do you want to create one of your own? A manifesto is a public declaration of policy and aims. It’s a mission statement, a proclamation, or an announcement of one’s values and commitments.
I decided to create a manifesto of my intentions with regard to our wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary. I want to keep myself accountable and reminded of my commitment – to our wildlife and birds. I want to be a good steward of our habitat and make sure our wild guests are comfortable, safe, and well fed. I figured a manifesto would be the perfect tool for that reminder, keeping me focused on what I value and serving as my north star when things get tough.
Creating my manifesto was an interesting exercise. I researched different approaches and finally I just started writing down those things that were important to me in terms of the commitment I was willing to make. I had to keep it simple, though, otherwise the task seemed daunting. But it wasn’t too terrible. In fact, it was an insightful exercise. So, here’s my backyard birding manifesto. How would yours read?
This month is my birthday month and I have been truly blessed. So when my husband asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday this year, I said, “I want to give back to my community.” So, that’s what we’re doing. We’re giving back to our community and in a number of ways. Here’s one…
I had a chance to coordinate a wildlife meet n’ greet and fundraising event for a local wildlife rescue organization and it was a great success! Take a look at that video collage of pictures from the event itself. And if you feel so inspired, I want to encourage you to coordinate a fundraising event to support a wildlife rescue organization where you live! Are you game?
I love DIY projects and I recently tried my hand at up-cycling some 2 liter plastic bottles. Turns out it’s easier than I thought and decided to make these cute bird feeders. Functional and pretty!
First, I ordered these plastic bottle bird feeder kits on Amazon, (see picture upper left), but you can probably get them at other online retailers, too.
Then, I collected empty 2 liter plastic bottles. (We go through lots of bottled sparkling water, so collecting several was easy-peasy.)
Once I had those items in hand, I dug into my crafting stash:
I used painter’s tape to outline my decorative space around each plastic bottle.
I painted each space with chalk paint using a roller brush; one coat did the trick and then I let the bottle dry overnight.
I covered the painted space with a napkin design and decoupage, separating the napkin to 1 ply and using saran wrap to remove any bubbles. Note: Remember to turn the bottle upside down before adhering the napkin design.
I let that dry, then covered the napkin design with a 2nd coat of decoupage, which I let dry again over night
I then coated the napkin design with varnish and let that dry overnight.
I inserted the plastic bottle hangers by punching small holes into the sides of the bottles. I used sharp craft scissors for this step.
Then I filled the bottle with a mixed blend of wild bird seed.
I screwed on the plastic feeding perch and Voila!
The birds love my new feeder, and I quickly discovered that our squirrels do, too. In fact, in our backyard, we’re inundated with a bunch of hungry baby squirrels. They were able to jump onto the bird feeder and the plastic hanger wasn’t strong enough to hold their weight; it snapped and down went my feeder. But the plastic bottle and feeding perch were durable enough for the fall. So, I replaced the plastic hanger with a wire pant hanger and that did the trick!
Anyway, I loved this idea so much that I went back online and ordered 2 more sets of the plastic bottle bird feeder kits from Amazon. Then I went crazy with my napkin collection, some of which I bought from the Dollar Store. Nice!
Super easy to make, low cost, and really pretty. Hmmm… these might just make the perfect Christmas presents for my birding friends and family-members and I have plenty of time to get started in collecting bottles and supplies. Off I go…
Educating myself about the birds in my backyard is a priority. I want to make sure I know who’s coming to dinner and when! As a result, I frequently consult numerous field guides and online sights. And I’ve found that range maps are a great tool for helping identify specific bird species. Some of the resources I consult are exceptional. However, I’ve found myself disappointed with some of the generalizations made for my area. For example, local resources indicate that the Cassin’s Kingbird will squawk loudly back and forth in my backyard in July, but I’ve yet to see a Cassin’s Kingbird. Likewise, the European Starling has been noted as a common bird in my area and so far they’ve been as scarce as a hen’s teeth. (That might actually be a good thing.)
Fact is, no one can tell me what bird species are expected to be in my backyard better than the birds in my backyard. So, I decided to listen to the birds. I created an Excel spreadsheet this year to notate which birds visit my backyard and during which months in the year. An Excel spreadsheet is practical for me because I’m on the computer almost every day, but I could easily do this in a lined journal or on graph paper. A few times every day, I take a few minutes to observe what bird species are in my backyard and I make an entry of those species in my spreadsheet.
I’m nearly half way through the year now and I’m finding that my spreadsheet (see below) is more accurate that many of the other well researched range maps available to me. It’s easy enough to update and its accuracy allows me to better anticipate the food sources I’ll need at different times of the year for the different bird species. That’s good news all around.
My advice: don’t believe everything you read. Listen to the birds instead, and they’ll think your backyard is paradise, too!
One of the many things I love about my various speaking engagements, book signings, and library events is the people I meet who share a similar passion for their backyard birds! Last week I had the pleasure of meeting DeAnn Zwight, who shared with me her DIY “Boid Goo” recipe. It sounds fantastic and here’s all that’s involved!
Bring 6 ½ cups water to a boil, while heating up ADD 1 cup vegetable shortening
Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mix together these dry ingredients: ½ cup flour, 2 cups cornmeal, and 1 cup sugar
After the water has come to a boil and the shortening has disintegrated, WHISK in the dry ingredients
If you like, add seeds, nuts, raisins, etc.
TURN OFF HEAT, cover and cool
When cool put into containers (use old commercial suet containers, but round cottage cheese containers partially filled will work too).
FREEZE overnight, then put out for the “boids”.
Wow! Doesn’t that sound yummy? And it’s simple enough for even someone like me to try. LOVE THAT! And the birds love it too; take a look at the pictures here (all taken by DeAnn) of her backyard birds eating up her “boid goo”.
And, if you need some ideas for household items that can be used to pour suet into, try some of these:
Baker’s Tin Foil Bake Cups
When you purchase a suet cake, reuse the container that it came in
Small bread loaf pans lined with plastic wrap or foil for easy removal
Any size baking/pie pans (when suet cools, cut into squares)
Easy peasy, as my husband likes to say! Lol. Thanks for sharing this DeAnn!
I volunteered more than 25 hours at Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico last month, including 10 hours of classroom training, 15 hours of on the job training in the clinic, and a few more hours studying their training manual and taking the open book exam. I can’t begin to tell you how much I learned in those several hours, things I wouldn’t have likely learned elsewhere. Here’s my list of top 15 things I DID NOT KNOW before my volunteer adventure, and not in any particular order. Did YOU know?
Of the yearly 2000 intakes, most are injured, sick, or orphaned birds (as opposed to mammals).
Baby ducklings get lonely easily and need a mirror in their tub so their reflection will keep them company; they also need a stuffed animal to snuggle up to for warmth.
Baby birds don’t do well when fed applesauce or oatmeal; they can’t process the food.
Most birds don’t do well when fed dog food or cheerios; they can’t process the food.
Females rule the raptor world, whereas males are larger than females in other bird species.
White doves used for release during ceremonies (i.e. weddings or funerals) are actually white homing pigeons, but they don’t all make it back home; some suffer from car and window strikes or hungry hawks.
Domesticated birds, including white homing pigeons, cannot fend for themselves in the wild.
Birds need a dark quiet place to rest and relax for several hours before being looked at for treatment; this reduces their anxiety.
Birds being cared for in the clinic need a towel placed in front of their cage so they don’t see what’s going on in the clinic; this also reduces their anxiety.
Baby ducklings need to be warm during the first few weeks after they hatch and can be kept in a box under a brooding lamp.
According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA), it is illegal to collect bird feathers or nests of protected species without a permit.
It’s easier to catch and weigh a bird (not including Raptors) by covering their head with a light weight towel or wash cloth; they are more calm when they can’t see what’s going on around them.
33% of injured birds are cat-caught, meaning they are injured because they were caught by a house cat in the area.
Birds abandoning their babies after being handled by humans is a myth; birds don’t abandon their babies if handled by humans (i.e. placed back up in the nest they fell out of).
Caretakers must go to great lengths to avoid imprinting young birds because birds that have imprinted on humans are unsuitable for release back into the wild.
Haven’t had the chance to volunteer for a wildlife rescue facility? Take a look at my personal experience and see if this doesn’t have you seeking out an opportunity for yourself!