Monday, July 25, 2011

Feathered Friends Need Water

One of the best ways to attract birds to a backyard feeding program is to offer a ready source of cool water.  This is especially important during our months of warmest weather.  This need becomes critical in certain parts of the country such as those that are currently experiencing extreme hot weather.  If you do not already offer a fresh source of cool water for your backyard visitors I encourage you to add one.  Not only will fresh water attract birds under normal circumstances ... it is the highly recommended way to attract birds to your yard ... your feathered visitors need your help during  the currently extreme hot weather conditions.

It is interesting to understand why a source of cool water is so important to birds.  David Allen Sibley, author of The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior provides an excellent explanation: "Although birds lack sweat glands, they can perspire through their skin and thus reduce body heat.  Birds can also get rid of excess body heat by panting, which allows water to evaporate from the surface of the air sacs." Continuing, Sibley explains:  "The challenge is both of the above cooling methods are dependent upon a ready source of cool water".

While having a fancy birdbath may be appealing to us, it is not necessary for the birds.  Something as simple as a clay saucer or upturned garbage can lid kept refreshed often with clean, cool water will provide an extra water source during extreme heat as many areas are experiencing now.  However, one thing we know is that moving water attracts 10 times more birds.  There are products that can address this need.  A simple way I've used is to hang a plastic pot for plants above my bird bath.  Before filling with water make a very tiny hole in the bottom so the water can slowly drip into the bath.  Good advice is to start with a really tiny hole as you can always enlarge it if you need more water to drip.  Using this type of container (milk jug or bucket) is a quick way to provide moving water, but you do need to refill the container, as necessary.

If refilling the container might prove inconvenient, products like the Water Wiggler can be put in your bird bath.  The Water Wiggler runs on batteries that make its legs jiggle keeping the bird bath water constantly moving.  The Water Wiggler I use runs on 2 D-cell batteries which keep the Wiggler moving 24-hours a day for 3 months.  Actually, I went a step farther and purchased the Water Wiggler Aurora which provides a gradually changing rainbow of colors casting a soft glow on my deck at night.  The colored light turns on automatically at dusk and glows for 3 hours and then shuts off automatically.  However, only the light shuts off as the Water Wiggler provides continuous water movement as mentioned.

Another appealing way to help songbirds stay cool is a device called the Easy Mister.  It simply screws onto the end of garden hose.  Just hang the hose over a tree limb or garden hook.  The product puts out a fine mist that birds love to fly through and is especially helpful for Hummingbirds. When it is placed where leaves get wet songbirds birds love to take a "leaf bath" by rubbing up against the wet leaves.  It doesn't cost a lot to operate as it only uses one gallon of water per hour.

Please don't forget to provide water for all our feather friends as they truly need and appreciate it.  They'll fill your backyard with brilliant color, intriguing behavior and beautiful song as a thank you.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Feeders of the Future

As a huge fan of backyard bird feeding I found a recent article provided by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Living Bird very interesting.  The article focuses on the use of RFID (radio frequency identification) to monitor individual birds feeding habits by placing the RFID tag readers on various feeders in the woods near the Lab.  Tiny 0.1 gram tags were placed on the legs of 129 bird species that frequent backyard bird feeders ... that is, specifically Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice and House Finches.  According to the article only 6 hours of feeder upkeep per week provided 8,000 hours of continuous observations with some surprising results.  Read this fascinating article.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper

Thanks to the following Cornell Lab eNews article received yesterday on the endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper, a rare shorebird that breeds in the Russian Arctic, I discovered this unusual species.  What a beautiful bird with such an unusual shaped beak.  Very cool!  Best wishes to the scientists on their mission to save this species from extinction.  While it is sad to think that wild birds will be put in a captive breeding program and thus be removed from their natural habitat and life ... the greater tragedy would be the loss of this species forever.  Here is the article and beatiful photo of this cool bird ...

Cornell Lab eNews

June 22, 2011

A Rare Chance for the Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper

An unusual shorebird with a one-of-a-kind bill is facing extinction--and a team of scientists from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Birds Russia are doing all they can to save it. They've mounted an expedition to this species' breeding grounds in arctic Russia, hoping to establish a critically needed captive breeding population. Fewer than 200 breeding pairs remain on earth. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Gerrit Vyn has joined the team to capture rare images and sounds of Spoon-billed Sandpipers on their breeding grounds, including the photo above.
Read more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My New Fancy HummZinger Feeders

While it took longer to find the time than I mentioned in my post last Monday, I was able to hang my new Fancy HummZinger Hummingbird Feeders this afternoon. I’m as happy with them as I thought I would be. They are going to be just wonderful to take care of … that is, they are so easy to work with that it will be a snap to clean and refill them every 2-3 days in my pusuit to offer fresh nectar to my visiting Hummers. Honestly, I think I’ll even look forward to it rather than moaning and groaning about yet another “chore” as I was somewhat in the habit of doing with my old small-neck bottle-style feeders that I truly disliked having to clean.

The photo in this blog post shows the new feeder, but it really doesn’t do justice to the overall beauty of it. I’ve always been willing to acknowledge the “satellite” style feeder had merit but I never found it aesthetically pleasing … until finding this feeder. Of course, I must admit that my bottle-style feeders weren’t the least bit attractive, but I opted to buy them because they held a lot of nectar. Well, as it turned out that wasn’t the advantage I thought it would be. The main reason is the nectar wasn’t all consumed before it needed to be replaced to keep it fresh for the birds. So along with frequent cleaning of a hard to manage feeder, I was wasting nectar, too. Well, that wasn’t really the critical point as I make my own nectar which keeps the cost down, but waste is still waste and it bothered me. Yes, I know I could have put less nectar in the feeder but that still wouldn’t have made the cleaning chore any easier. But I digress.

More than a pretty feeder, I discovered some cool things about the Fancy HummZinger:

  • It is made of unbreakable polycarbonate with a cover than removes easily for cleaning and filling. And I do mean … easily! What’s more … the feeder is leak and drip proof!
  • 12 oz. capacity that is the right size for keeping the nectar fresh.  Unless you have a ba-zillion Hummers visiting your yard and you only have one feeder, this size feeder should certainly be fine.
  • It has a built-in ant moat in the center that you fill with water to block crawling insects from reaching the nectar. So no more extra ant moat accessories need to be purchased to deal with that potential nuisance.
  • But what about flying insects? Okay, that is also addressed with feeding ports that support Nectar Guard technology. What this means is there are Nectar Guard tips available, if needed … but they are sold separately.
  • Another aspect of the feeder I really like is the brass hanging rod. Rather than just a plain old rod that most "satellite" feeders feature, this one has an ornamental look with its curlicue design at the top. The hanger portion of rod itself has an opening to accommodate any pole system. However, I hang my feeders under the house roof eaves suspended by chain to a length that allows a good view of the birds. To match the brass rod I purchased some brass chain, eye hooks, and “s” hooks from my local hardware store ... the addition of which made it easy to hang the feeders.
  • Now the rest of the design is purely for the aesthetic appeal I mentioned. There is a pretty brass finial at the bottom of the feeder to give it that “finishing touch”. Now you might think “oh, oh” how can you set the feeder down on a flat surface and keep it level for filling. The designers of this feeder have thought of everything. It is simple to fill the feeder with the finial attached. You just easily remove and place the red cover on a flat surface and then rest the tray atop the cover. Doing that keeps the portion of the feeder you fill with nectar level. Then you just need to hold the feeder and replace the cover and hang. So simple!
  • Lastly, the red cover is so, so pretty with is bright color (actually it is offered in rose red, which I purchased or a gorgeous fuschia).  The feeder also has 4 embossed flower designed feeding ports which can't be seen very well in the photo. What Hummer could resist? Certainly not mine, lol.
  • There is two more things about the feeder that is important to me, especially in today’s world ... The HummZinger is made in the USA … yea! … and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
For anyone reading this post who would like to begin feeding Hummingbirds, here are a few fast facts:
  • Hummingbirds feed 5 to 8 times each hour and consume half their weight in sugar daily. So you’ll have lots of opportunity to view these little avian jewels by offering them a feeder.
  • There are 16 species of Hummingbirds found in the U.S. and southern Canada  at various times of the year.
  • Hummingbirds locate their food visually, and will investigate colorful blooms for nectar. So it is great fun to beautify your yard with flowering plants that attract Hummingbirds, including begonias, fuschias, bleeding hearts, honeysuckle, hibiscus, geranium and yucca. Check with your local nursery for the appropriate types for your area. You might also want to check out Birdscape Your Backyard for general info and flowers for Hummingbirds.
  • My new HummZinger Hummingbird Feeder offers a great design that certainly attracts Hummingbirds quickly and easily.

Monday, June 20, 2011

New Hummingbird Feeders

As with most folks that enjoy feeding wild birds I love attracting Hummingbirds to my yard.  When my hummingbird feeders were originally offered I found that placing them near each other ... that is, where the birds could see each other visiting a feeder caused more than usual aggressiveness between the birds.  Successful feeding meant placing the feeders where the birds didn't feel competition from each other.  In order to do this so I could easily view the birds meant I could only hang two feeders.  While I intend to experiment by adding another in the near future, right now I still only have two.

The problem with my current feeders is the difficulty cleaning them.  Frankly, with my busy schedule the cleaning difficulty discourages me from changing the nectar often as recommended ... although I manage to do it, it isn't fun.   I've thought about replacing the feeders for quite awhile, but until recently hadn't come across a feeder style I liked that was also easy to clean.  That is, until now.

One of the bonuses of having a wild bird business such as BirdWatchin'.com, is the continual discovery of the thousands of products offered to wild bird feeding enthusiasts.  Because I'm currently growning the site with the addition of bird watching supplies it has provided the opportunity to find the new hummingbird feeders I'm planning to hang in my yard today.  Not only does this new feeder ... most importantly ... provide the ability to be quickly, easily cleaned with a design safe for the birds, but is also in my opinion quite beautiful!

My old feeders were the bottle-style with a very small opening to fill the feeder which also caused the difficulty in cleaning the feeder easily.  Because of it's vertical style it also blocked the view when Hummers fed on the opposite side from where I was trying to view them.  The new feeders have a horizontal satellite style which affords a full view of the birds no matter what port they feed from.

Unless my schedule goes awry today, I intend to put the new feeders up and see what the birds think of their beautiful new banquet tables :).  I have a feeling they'll be pleased!

Next on  my agenda to accommodate these backyard visitors is yet another feeder.  I'm gong to install the third one just outside my office window so I won't miss the Hummers while I'm working.  This feeder will be a different style and is touted to be the "best hummingbird feeder" ... hmmm ... we'll see.  At least I'm assured it will be easy to clean with its wide-mouth opening.  It sure won't beat the beauty of the ones I intend to hang today.  But if it provides a way to attract more Hummingbirds then I'll be a fan.  More on this new feeder in an upcoming post.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking Forward ... and the New Chickens

Christmas 2010 has come and gone and January 1, 2011 is 2 days away.  Oh my gosh 2010 is almost history ... time sure has a way of flying by doesn't it?  With thoughts directed toward the New Year I'm filled with anticipation about the expansion of BirdWatchin'.com to provide full-service to those of us that love backyard bird feeding and bird watching in general.  While it will take a lot of time and commitment to bring a full complement of supplies and other goodies to the website, work will begin shortly and will continue to grow until the literally hundreds of exciting products fill the cyber-aisles of BirdWatchin'.com.

To be honest, the long delay accomplishing the full-service aspect for BirdWatchin'.com has been frustrating, but is entirely due to the time commitment it has taken to bring to the point of full service for those of us that are devoted to our pet birds.  But with the new year approaching and Spring just beyond, I can't  help but want to show all  my backyard bird feeding friends how easy it is to invite and provide for wild birds with the great selection of feeders, houses, food, baths and so much more we will be offering!  I'm beginning to acquire some great new stuff for my own backyard to add to old favorites ... what fun it will be to watch our bird visitors discover all that is new.

As anyone who has visited my blog in the past knows I'm a devoted Mom to a fairly large family of pet birds including Macaws, Cockatoos, an African Grey, Golden Conures and Lesser Jardine Parrots.  They are my life ... along with also being Mom to a Mini Aussie, Mini Dachshund and four "inside" cats.  Yes, it's a large family of critters, but we actually did some recent increasing with the addition of 8 hens.  The new chickens were brought home at 2 weeks of age (more about them to come).  I'm mention the new hens because they are birds ... and also pets.  Although it will be unique to have them provide for us (i.e. eggs) rather than us just providing for them :).  However, with only 2 humans in our household I fully expect to be supplying my neighbors with eggs, too!  That will be fun.  Until we became involved with these hens I had no idea about the growing interest that city people have in keeping chickens in their backyard.  Many city ordinances have been changing to accommodate the growing interest.  But just so you know, we don't reside the "city" ... it is nearby, but we are able to live in a more semi-rural area.  But I think it is fascinating that city-folks are getting into the hobby of keeping chickens for the eggs they provide.

It will take time to grow BirdWatchin'.com according to plan ... but I hope you'll return to watch the change.  And you might even find an item or two to help attract feathered visitors to your backyard and increase your enjoyment of them.

Monday, September 17, 2007

New Blog ... Pet Bird Buzz!

I've decided I really need to clone myself, lol. That doesn't mean that I'm in great need or anything so dramatic ... it just would help to have more than one of me to do everything I either want or need to do. I suppose that is a common feeling among most people in today's world.

One of the reasons I feel need for a clone is to do a better job making posts to my blogs. After starting my first blog ... which admittedly was a little scarey in the beginning ... I've found it to be fun and kind of relaxing and stress-relieving. Blogging provides an avenue to "talk" about things wandering around in my mind and I feel better after chatting about the bird related things in my life. But because I have a lot on my agenda at the present time I'm not finding the time to post as often as I'd like to. Thus the need for a clone.

Since I've been pressed for time it was strange to find myself sitting down at the computer a few days ago and creating a second blog. However, I'd been thinking about creating it ... with a focus on pet birds ... for sometime and I suppose I found myself working on it because it was a pleasant diversion and the comfortable thing to do at the moment. The new blog is called Pet Bird Buzz! The word "buzz" means news to me as it relates to creating posts, so that is why I've used it in the title of both my blogs. If your love of birds extends to those we keep as pets come and visit the new blog. If you have comments or interesting pet bird experiences to share I hope you'll leave comments. One of the enjoyable things about having a passion that others enjoy is connecting and sharing information and experiences.

As far as my summer backyard bird visitors go ... the Orioles raised their family and have definitely departed ... perhaps it was time to start heading south. The Blue Jay now has the grape jelly feeder all to himself and is definitely taking full advantage. I'm beginning to wonder if grape jelly is all that good for him when he eats it throughout the day. I'm trying to keep the peanut feeder full to give him some food to cache away and to create a diversion from the jelly. But he takes ALL the peanuts to hide them away and does so until the peanut feeder is empty ... then its back to the grape jelly. I think this bird is becoming a bit spoiled, lol.

After going missing for most of the summer, with only an occasional visit, the male peacocks are back almost on a daily basis. Other than hanging around the front door (to look at their reflection in the glass panes) I'm glad to have them back. Having them at the front door just means cleaning up a little more bird poop ... which I have enough of with my pet birds, lol. Oh well, I suppose its okay since long along I had to admit that I'm a bird slave. But, I'm not complaining ... even the best life has to offer isn't always perfect.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

So What's My Excuse This Time?

The answer to that question boils down to just an extension of my last excuse. It's pretty embarrassing to make another entry that doesn't start off talking about birds ... but rather just to explain the absence of posts. It has everything to do with the continued work on the new BirdCagePortal website, which is now fully functional ... if not complete. It probably never will be truly "finished" because new products and content will be continually added. However, the pet bird supply shoppers have found it and seem to like what it offers. It is still sadly lacking in the kind of basic bird care information that I hope to include. So much to do ... so little time, lol. Anyway, it is progressing, however slowly. That is just the nature of website development.

Anyway, it has been a delightful summer of backyard bird observation. Once again our feeders were graced with the presence of Hooded Orioles ... with the added pleasure of having a pair raise a new family, once again. These birds love grape jelly and that seems to keep them coming back. I put up jelly feeders prior to their arrival in the spring and keep them up past the time they leave just to make sure they know they can depend on me, lol! Anway, I think I should buy stock in Welch's or Smuckers for the amount of grape jelly we purchased this year. It was much more than last year ... so perhaps we had more than one pair staking out the feeder. I've wondered whether last year's offspring might have wandered back in addition to the parents. It really was fun watching the parents bring their babies to the feeder. The little guys would hang on to the feeder and beg their parent to feed them. Finally, they caught on and began diving into the jelly themselves.

The jelly feeder holds a small plastic cup within a wooden platform and has a pitched roof over the top. The platform isn't very large so it was entertaining to watch one parent and two chicks trying to balance themselves on the feeder at the same time on a couple of occasions.

The only competition for the jelly continues to be our resident blue jay. I believe he watched the orioles and decided what was good enough for them was perfect for him, too. Just a couple of days ago we had some unwelcome competition from an ant colony who I believe were on the march to find water during a horrendous heat spell we are still experiencing. Believe it or not, the temperature has been in the low 100's eventhough we aren't more than 15 miles to the ocean ... as the crow flies. We haven't had ant problems until this very hot weather arrived. The ants were crawling over the jelly feeder on one day ... which perhaps discouraged the orioles from feeding ... but they were gone the next. Perhaps they were being urged on in their search for some water. I haven't seen the orioles since and I'm not sure if the ants discouraged them or it was time to begin heading south. I can't remember when they left last year, perhaps it was about this time.

The photo above is of my jelly feeder sans orioles. Actually, it is very difficult to get any photo (good or bad) of the birds at the feeder because they are very nervous by nature and fly off at the slightest movement or site of a human. Although I must admit they were a little more tolerant this year than last. But still impossible to photograph. Perhaps next year I'll be lucky enough to have them trust a little more. We'll see.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A New Website!

It's been another long vacation from blogging. My last post was months ago ... I can't believe how weeks fly by. In a way, it seems like yesterday when I wrote that I was back to my a regular schedule of sharing my backyard birding life. Then poof! ... all of sudden so much time has flown by I have to admit my intention failed. I have an excuse ... it seems legitimate to me ... but doesn't go very far to reduce the guilt I feel in failing in my commitment to blog about wild birds. I suppose I'm the only one that really cares, but I really do feel bad mostly because I really enjoy sharing my thoughts and experiences about birds.

So what is my excuse this time? Well, rather than coping with sick relatives this time it has everything to do with birds. As some who have read my previous posts may have discovered, my bird passion includes pet birds. I have a family of them ... and it has been an amazing experience for the past 22 years. So what has been taking all my time to the point of failing to keep up my blog? I got an idea some months ago to create another website ... one focused on pet birds.

As you may know my first website Birdwatchin'.com is about bird watching and backyard birds.
I loved putting that website together ... there's something about spending long hours that involve your passion that makes it not seem like work. But creating only fulfilled a part of my focus on birds. Yes, I did share some stuff about my own birds the the website, but just a little. So I've decided to create this other pet bird website and that is what has been taking all my time. For anyone who has created a website you know how all encompassing such a project is ... sometimes to the detriment of other important interests. And so it was with me.

Anyway, I'm finally nearing the point of submitting the new website to search engines which means I'm close to finalizing the basic part of the site. So what is this new site about. Well, my intention is to have it become a place to get good pet bird care information, resources and great products at big savings. If you're a pet bird owner you should check it out.

Currently the website's product line consists of a large selection of quality bird cages, including stainless steel. But I'll soon be adding play stands, cage covers, a good selection of various pet bird accessories, bird toys, etc. You know, all the stuff pet bird parents must have to create that special environment their pet needs.

To keep the website current with pet bird news and fun stuff bird people enjoy there will be a free newsletter. Again, it will be edited
by none other than one of my favorite bird pals, David Jeffrey.

If you are a pet bird owner you can visit this budding website at You might want to bookmark the site so you can re-visit and watch it develop. I'll make another announcement when it is fully functional and not only ready for visitors, but shoppers, too! Hope you like it ... and if you're inclined give me your input or suggestions I'd love to hear from you. There's a contact form on the website ....and there will be Live Support when the site is fully functional. I really want to makeBirdCagePortal a website you'll enjoy visiting on a regular basis.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Back To Bird Feeding!

I just noticed the date on my last blog ... yikes, it was almost 6 months ago. I can't believe I've haven't posted in 6 months! But I suppose it is an example of how obligations and commitments to important projects can get completely out-of-hand and impact the bird watching lifestyle I prefer. Lately I've been paying attention to that "empty" feeling I've noticed lately. It finally dawned on me as I trudged along taking care of pressing projects that I was feeling out-of-sorts because I haven't been spending any time enjoying what I love most in life ... birds and the natural world. So, even though my projects are still needing my attention I'm going to find the time to enjoy my passion and post to my blog, too.

To be truthful, I've haven't even been a devoted backyard bird feeder lately ... and it really hurts to admit that. There has just been too much to do and so I couldn't keep the bird feeders cleaned and filled. I guess the only feathered friends that could really count on me this past summer were the hummingbirds that are here year-round. I did manage to keep them happy. I know that the birds don't rely on getting all they need from bird feeders and that helps me feel slightly better. But honestly, my guilt level is pretty high at the moment. So I hauled all the feeders out of storage and they are being rehung. Unfortunately, I'm not getting them up fast enough to participate in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Project Feeder Watch ... their annual wintertime wild bird feeding project. So I'll just have to be content with my intention to register for it next winter.

Even without the bird feeders we had feathered visitors all year. That is typical here in the San Diego area. BTW, I encourage you to visit San Diego if you like to bird watch beyond your own locality. You won't be disappointed.
One special experience this past spring was during an extremely hot period. We had a broken sprinkler and after it was fixed the system was turned on to make sure everything was working okay. Shortly after the sprinklers came on an adult male Cooper's Hawk swooped down into the spray and had himself a good soak ... flapping wings as he jumped and danced in the spray. I ran for my camera and warily made my way back as close as I could to the hawk. Surprisingly when I got back with the camera another hawk (that I assume was his mate since a pair of Cooper's had been nesting nearby) had joined him and they were both having a great time in the cool water. I was transfixed watching the amazing display and by the time I got ready to take a picture I discovered the camera batteries were dead. So I quietly retreated to the house for another camera and loaded new batteries to be safe. By the time I returned to my hiding place the active bathing was over and the female had flown to a nearby palm tree. I tried to get a good shot of the male who, by now, was just standing in the spray. I snapped a couple of shots and then he flew away to join his mate. Before I turned around to leave another hawk flew down to get his share of the cool water. Again I took pictures, but they were disappointing, too (as you can see by the photo above). However, it does show an immature Cooper's Hawk. My guess is that this youngster was this year's offspring of the pair bathing earlier.

Shortly after the hawk experience a close relative (and bird watching buddy) had emergency health problems which led to very serious surgery. Helping him recover ... and those projects I mentioned meant no more bird watching for me ... until now. I'm thrilled to be back!

Look for links to some wildlife cams in my next post.

Learn more about
bird watching and backyard bird feeding.