Category Archives: Bird Feeding and Watching

How Avian Pox Helped Me Realize My Birding Addiction

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What if you were told you couldn’t feed or water the birds in your backyard for an entire month? No seeds.  No suet.  No thistle.  No water.

Yep, I cried.  Then I panicked!  And then I became aware of my birding addiction.

A bird expert with US Fish & Game recently confirmed that we are indeed having an outbreak of Avian Pox at our place.   Avian pox is a slowly developing disease of birds caused by several different strains of avipoxvirus.  A variety of birds worldwide, including upland gamebirds, songbirds, marine birds, and the parrot family can become infected. Transmission occurs via direct contact with infected birds, ingestion of food and water contaminated by sick birds or carcasses, or contact with contaminated surfaces such as bird feeders and perches. It’s a terrible virus and can be a significant mortality factor in some wild bird populations.

I took these pictures of an infected Pygmy Nuthatch. You can see the lesions at the base of its beak. And it’s the Nuthatches that are severely infected in my area.

Unfortunately, it’s been suggested that I take down all my feeders and baths, wash them thoroughly with a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water, and leave everything down for one month; that’s how long it can take for the virus to run its course through an entire flock.

The thought of taking down my feeders for an entire month caused me to gasp!  I suddenly couldn’t breathe and beads of sweat welled up on my forehead.  Holy cow!  What will I do if I can’t feed my birds???

I’m about two weeks into the process and not putting out bird seed and suet has been really tough.  I pass by my favorite bird-watching windows and… nothing!  The feeding frenzy and excitement, the glorious singing and frolicking, have all come to a complete stop!  I swear I got the shakes this past weekend from withdrawals.  And my mind keeps racing with ways to cheat!  What if I just sprinkle a little food on the ground for the juncos?  Or what if I hold in my outstretched hand a small bowl of black oil sunflower seed to attract a few chickadees?  Or what if I spread butter bark on the tree and only feed the woodpeckers?  That can’t hurt, can it?  Sigh.

I could feed and water the birds every day AS LONG AS I also decontaminate all the feeders and baths with the bleach solution mentioned above, but I don’t really have time to that every day.  And the real risk is in attracting all the sick birds back to my place so they can continue spreading the virus back and forth to each other.  NOT a good solution!

Yep, I have a birding addiction.  And, yes, I’ve cheated in all the ways mentioned above!  But I’m also learning how to spend my time participating in our wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary in different ways.  Here’s how I’ve been spending my time…

  1. I’m spending more time reading about birds in my bird magazines and books; and I’d forgotten just how many back issues I have!
  2. I’m focusing on other wildlife, including the deer, squirrels, and butterflies – it is spring after all!
  3. I am carefully cleaning all 17 bird feeders and 3 bird baths and sterilizing them with 1 part bleach and 9 parts water; they are setting aside until I can put them out again in May
  4. I am spending many mornings having coffee by myself, missing the birds that weren’t there to greet me, and reflecting on how their presence is a gift and good for my spirit; find us on Facebook and you can see the many videos posted of me having coffee with the various birds at our place
  5. I’m enjoying the arrival of the hummingbirds and learning as much as I can about them; since they drink nectar I decided that was a safe bet
  6. I look father than my front and back porches for birds by walking the property and seeing what’s going on at the neighbor’s house
  7. I check our wildlife trail cam more frequently and move it about the property to see what other animals might be passing through our wildlife habitat

Avian Pox is a terrible thing, but my birding addiction might be worse and I’m wondering if there are 12 step meetings for this particular vice!  Hmmm.  However, if I look on the bright side (I think folks in recovery call this having an attitude of gratitude), I’m getting a chance to participate in our wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary in different ways, and I’m discovering how that in and of itself is also an incredible blessing! Just take a look at the deer video below and you’ll see what I mean.


Birding New Year’s Resolution #2 – Visit a New Retail Store

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One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to visit a new birding retail store to see what’s new on the market.  Sounds simple enough, but from where I stand that meant a planned trip down the mountain, in between snow showers and in conjunction with other errands.  Ordering supplies from Amazon had been an easy crutch, but I made that trip this past weekend and I was delighted with my experience.

I visited Wild Birds Unlimited for the first time!  (I know, right?  Many of you are thinking, “Wow, it’s about time!”  Lol.)  And I immediately loved the ambiance in the store.  It was pretty, with beautiful stained glass window decorations in between the myriad of feeders, stands, baths, and food!  And I quickly noticed the sounds of mockingbirds mimicking other bird sounds playing over the speakers.  Nice!

The woman who greeted me spent time showing me around the store, and she was friendly and helpful; I was surprised by the attention I received.  More so, I was surprised to see the new birding trends that I hadn’t been exposed to yet, including the company’s very own bark butter!

Bark butter is a spreadable suet that can be easily smeared on tree bark or on a bark butter feeder to attract birds such as chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, mockingbirds, wrens, woodpecker, towhees, etc.

How could I resist!  I bought some bark butter AND a bark butter feeder!  And then I spotted some much needed peanuts, so I added that to my cart, in addition to the newest issue of Bird Watcher’s Digest.  The magazine really caught my attention because I didn’t even know it existed, and I had considered myself pretty well up to speed on all the birding magazines.  Oops.  Missed that one completely.

And then I spied from across the store an oriole feeder to hold grape jelly and orange slices.  I don’t know that I’ll get any orioles up where I am, but it’s possible and so I’m game!  I added that to the cart, too.

All in all, it was a terrific adventure and I can’t wait to visit another birding store again in the near future.  As for my purchases, the next morning I put out the bark butter and feeder, and within 15 minutes the chickadees and nuthatches were sold on the new dining station!  Sweet!

My big revelation?  I’m not exposed to all the cool new birding trends from the internet and Amazon alone.  There are some things I need to learn by getting out of the house and into a store!  Thank you, Wild Birds Unlimited, for a terrific experience.


My Backyard Birding New Year’s Resolutions

I’m not usually one for New Year’s Resolutions but as I reflect on my birding adventures over the last year I realize there were several things I wanted to do but never got around to.  Attending the Festival of Cranes and celebrating the return of Sandhill cranes to Bosque del Apache is one terrific example. And I can’t for the life of me remember why I didn’t make that event.  So this year I’ve decided to be more intentional in my birding pursuits by proactively planning activities I know will enhance my birding adventure!  And I’ve decided to make sure I do one new thing each month.  So, with the New Year upon us, here is my list of self-promises for the year:

  1. Maintain and update regularly our range map of the birds in our backyard, tracking the bird species that visit each month and then comparing those visitors to last year’s visitors in the same month.
  2. Keep an eagle eye out for new bird species visiting our backyard and learning as much about them as possible.
  3. Visit a local birding hot-spot over a weekend or day trip and identify birds we don’t usually get in our own backyard.
  4. Attend a birding festival I haven’t been to yet, and more specifically attend the Festival of Cranes!
  5. Encourage new species to visit our feeders by placing out a feeder designed just for them.
  6. Attract new bird species to our backyard by adding a new and different food source; this year I’ll try fresh fruit.
  7. Determine to see a bird I’ve been wanting to see and make the necessary arrangements to do so; the Barn owl is coming to mind at the moment.
  8. Join a local Audubon chapter and get involved in their events and activities.
  9. Plant a bird-friendly hedge, tree, or climbing plant that is native to our region.
  10. Learn to make a DIY food source like home-made suet.
  11. Freshen up our backyard by adding a new garden accessory, like a new bird house, feeder, or bath.
  12. Visit a birding retail store and see what’s new on the market.

What do you think?  Any of these resonate with you?  If so, feel free to borrow any of my resolutions for yourself.  I don’t mind.

And from my backyard to yours… Happy Birding!

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Ravens and Owls and Bear, Oh My!

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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.

We believe wildlife matters! Don’t you?

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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…

Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico is 100% supported by volunteers and donations and they care for over 2,000 mammals and birds each year.  I recently had the pleasure of using company paid time off to volunteer with this organization and I have since become a huge advocate of the great work they are doing for our local wildlife and birds. In fact, watch this short video of my volunteer opportunity at their clinic and tell me you’re not inspired to support their efforts!

Why are we promoting wildlife rescue? Because we’re sensitive to the balance of nature.  Show you are too by supporting our cause!

Take advantage of this LIMITED TIME OFFER! For every Ladies Tee purchased this month, 10% will be donated to Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico!

Visit our store and show your passion for birds and wildlife.  Our ladies tees are:

  • Printed in the USA
  • 100% Cotton
  • High quality design
  • Satisfaction-Guaranteed
  • Designed by Backyard Birding Paradise (yep, that’s me!)

Every time you purchase from us this month, you give something back.

We thank you for your contribution! And the wildlife does too!



Listen to the Birds and Make Your Own Backyard Birding Range Map

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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!


Order one of these comfy women’s tees today!

15 Things I Learned Volunteering at the Wildlife Rescue Clinic

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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?

  1. Of the yearly 2000 intakes, most are injured, sick, or orphaned birds (as opposed to mammals).
  2. 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.
  3. Baby birds don’t do well when fed applesauce or oatmeal; they can’t process the food.
  4. Most birds don’t do well when fed dog food or cheerios; they can’t process the food.
  5. Females rule the raptor world, whereas males are larger than females in other bird species.
  6. 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.
  7. Domesticated birds, including white homing pigeons, cannot fend for themselves in the wild.
  8. Birds need a dark quiet place to rest and relax for several hours before being looked at for treatment; this reduces their anxiety.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 33% of injured birds are cat-caught, meaning they are injured because they were caught by a house cat in the area.
  14. 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).
  15. 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!


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My Wildlife Rescue Volunteer Experience

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Following up to my earlier post, Why I Decided to Volunteer at a Wildlife Rescue Clinic, I wanted to share my adventure and I’m sure there will be a number of follow up posts on this topic, but only because I LEARNED SO VERY MUCH!  Wow!  Take a look at the video below and if this doesn’t convince you to seek out a similar opportunity for yourself… I don’t know what will.  I simply can’t find the words to express just how grand the experience has been.

P.S. Don’t forget to turn up the volume on your computer.


For more information about Wildlife Rescue of New Mexico, or to make a donation to support this ALL VOLUNTEER organization, visit them at:


Essays and Poetry


Meet Bird Whisperer and Communications Expert, Kristen Clark

Do you bring your whole self to work? What passion and personal experience do you bring to work and how does that fuel your ability to create and innovate on the job? If you were asked to write an essay in response to these questions and reflect deeply about who you are and how that contributes to what you do at work, what would you write?

I took the opportunity to write and submit the essay below for my company. This is my response to the questions above.   My essay reads:

“My adventure as a backyard birder stems from taking my first photography class as a little girl in summer school. It was then I learned how to develop my own black and white pictures and I took to the craft like a duck takes to water, shooting family and sporting events at every opportunity. Many birthdays later, I received my first “real” camera from my father, and that’s when my passion for photographing nature really took flight.

Over the last several years I’ve enjoyed using a Nikon D3000 Digital SLR and 300mm zoom lens to photograph and study my backyard birds. In fact, last year my husband and I certified our property as a wildlife habitat and bird sanctuary so I could do more of that. I maintain over 20 different bird feeders and we purchase more than 80lbs of bird seed each month. I take hundreds of bird pictures each week and adding a new species to my life list gives me goose bumps. Yes, I talk to the birds.

One thing I love about watching birds is watching bird communication. Birds communicate using a variety of sounds, including singing, calls, squawks, gurgles, trills, rattles, clicks, whistles, and other combinations of vibration. Some make non-vocal sounds by beating the air with their wings and producing a loud drumming noise. Others communicate with visual displays, combining dramatic behaviors with the ruffling of feathers. And, whether scaring off predators, warning about danger, defending one’s territory, or attracting a mate, nothing birds communicate is without purpose.

People also communicate using a variety of sounds and visual displays or behaviors, and one thing I’ve learned from my backyard birds is the need to communicate with purpose. Context, accurate information, choice points, and feedback needn’t be as scarce as hen’s teeth and I can avoid ruffling feathers by choosing my words and tone carefully. This rings especially true in my role as an executive communication lead, where messaging, intention, and design can have either a positive or negative impact on my colleagues and the business.

I’m grateful to have served my company over the last 20 years in various roles, and I enjoy most my role today as a communication expert for my organization. I’m also grateful for my backyard birds and how they’ve inspired me toward new levels of excellence in how I communicate, either face-to-face, in writing, in presentations, or in meetings. Today I strive to communicate in a way that enables my flock toward greater success because when the flock wins, I win. And winning makes me, well, happy as a lark.”

How would your essay read?


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Avian Safety with Electrical Transformers

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The knock on the door caught me off guard, but I was delighted by the unexpected visit. Our electrical company (PNM) had sent pole climbers out to replace our transformer with a newer and avian-safe model.


The team lead explained that utility poles are a place birds naturally find to roost, nest, or seek protection from tumultuous weather.  While birds can sit on power lines and be safe, if they touch energized conductors and/or grounded equipment (like a transformer bank) they can be electrocuted. This seems to happen frequently when large birds stretch out their wings.

I shuddered at the thought and was grateful that the crew showed up to replace our transformer (unsafe version on the left, safe version on the right below).  We have large birds!  Large crows, ravens, and flickers. The team lead went on to explain that PNM was considered one of the leading utilities in the country for its efforts in avian protection. That caught my attention, so I went online to learn more.








I found the information I was looking for and was thrilled to learn that PNM’s Avian Protection Program includes:

  1. Identifying high risk electric structures for bird deaths and proactively bird guarding these facilities through best practices ranging from covering exposed wires and equipment bushings to covering conductors where spacing is inadequate;
  2. Making bird guarding a part of routine electric facility maintenance;
  3. Designing and constructing all new lines and other facilities with avian protection in mind;
  4. Using a Geographical Information System reporting system to track bird mortalities on the PNM electric system and automatically generating bird guarding work orders;
  5. Implementing “Hot Wings” that focuses on the use of avian safe structures in the most sensitive avian areas such as along the Rio Grande and all rural areas;
  6. Implementing mandatory avian protection training every two years for PNM transmission and distribution employees.

I had not thought before about how electrical poles and transformers impact our backyard birds, but I was thrilled to learn that our electrical company is avian conscious. Is yours? One way to find out is to make a simple call to the customer service number for your utility company. Or check their website. You may find yourself as equally pleased as I am!


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