Tag Archives: bird-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.

 

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.

Memories of This Birder’s Life in Texas

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I haven’t been on Facebook much lately as I’ve been preoccupied with selling our house in Texas and moving permanently to what has been our second home in New Mexico. We made our final trip to Houston last week to pack up our belongings and I was surprised at how much I have missed the birds in our backyard there… birds we don’t have in our backyard in New Mexico, including the beauties shown here (blue jay, black-capped chickadee, cardinal).

As my husband gingerly pulled down the vacated bird houses and uprooted the shepherd’s hooks and cement birdbath to take to our little slice of heaven in New Mexico, I started to cry. A rush of memories swept over me as I recalled every tender moment I had spent feeding, photographing, and talking to the birds in our backyard there.  I remembered:

  • The red shouldered hawk who took down a white-winged dove just 10 feet away from me, and how conflicted I felt at the sight
  • Watching a male cardinal court his mate by feeding her as part of their mating ritual
  • The sweet little wren tugging at pieces of straw from the weathered wicker basket, only to fly away with her just reward as she prepared a nest in the neighbor’s yard
  • The activity and chatter of the many families of blue jays over the years, and how they would chastise me when the feeders were empty
  • The hum of the hummingbirds at the feeders I’d put out in September and October so they could fill their bellies before moving on to their next stop on their path of migration
  • The many early mornings of sitting out back with my camera and cup of fresh hot coffee, listening to the symphony of birds before the rest of the neighborhood had cranked up their powered lawn mowers

Even now, as I reminisce over the birds in our backyard in Texas I am so very grateful for the many pictures I had taken over the years. By taking all these photographs, I have created and salvaged my own sweet memories.

 

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12 Ways to Support National Bird Feeding Month

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Did you know? The average wild bird weighs less than two nickels, and winter can be a very punishing time for our backyard friends.  This explains why in 1994, John Porter, Illinois’ 10th District Congressman read a resolution that February would become National Bird Feeding Month. His proclamation was designed to encourage people to feed wild birds throughout the entire month when food sources are most scarce.

In fact, millions of wild bird enthusiasts now traditionally make special efforts in February to feed, watch and protect wild birds. Over 50 million people regularly feed wild birds in the USA, long recognized as one of the most popular outdoor activities for adults and children too.

Want to show your support? Here are some ways you can get involved:

  1. Help spread the word by sharing this post with everyone you know.
  2. Comment about National Bird Feeding Month on your Social Media Platforms.
  3. Take pictures of birds at your feeder and post them on your Social Media Platforms using #natlbirdfeedingmonth.
  4. Familiarize yourself with our unsung heroes and share your knowledge with others.
  5. Stock up on bird seed and suet to keep your existing feeders full throughout the month.
  6. Make this easy DIY bird feeder to pass out to friends and colleagues on Valentine’s Day.
  7. Give an inexpensive feeder and wild bird seed to someone you love.
  8. Add something new to your backyard station (i.e. birdhouse, feeder, birdbath).
  9. Symbolically adopt a bird through the National Wildlife Federation adoption program.
  10. Purchase your “I Love My Backyard Birds” women’s Tee to show your love of birds.
  11. Host a bird-watching party in your own backyard.
  12. Sign up for the Great Backyard Bird Count which will be held between Feb 17 and Feb 20.

February is one of my favorite months of the year, and even more so because it’s National Bird Feeding Month. In fact, just last weekend I purchased another 80 lbs. of wild bird seed to stock up. Yep, we’re going through that much in about a month’s time, so if the birds aren’t in your backyard they’re probably in mine. Lol.

Anyway, I’m hoping you’ll jump on my bandwagon and do your part to feed the birds this month and promote backyard birding as and educational and environmental adventure. Because, February really is for the Birds! Literally.

 

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