Posts Tagged ‘birds’

It’s migration season and millions of birds are, right now, flooding the skies. I grew up noticing flocks of geese arrowing their way south but migration is much more than that.

According to BirdCast’s tool, 347 million birds are predicted to be on the move across the US tonight.

For those of us in other Western hemisphere locales, this site beautifully illustrates the interconnected flow of birds by type and pathway. 

Bird Migration Explorer

A quick search of my area shows the paths of eagles, thrushes, gulls, woodcocks, owls, scoters (had to look that one up), whip-poor-wills, hawks, sandpipers, warblers and more.

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I’ve written about bird migration before but this post has a more specific call to action. Nothing too hard, just a polite request: for the few weeks when migration is at its peak, dim your lights if you can.

Opinion | Lights Out, America! (Songbirds Are Counting on Us.) – The New York Times

Migrating birds are vulnerable to many hazards: predators, extreme weather, insufficient food and insufficient water. Glass is particularly treacherous. Expanses of glass — windows without mullions, storm doors, skyscrapers — are the worst.

Good news? When it comes to lighting and windows, there’s usually an easy fix.*

I’ve tried the UV stickers designed to show birds where not to fly but they were just so-so.

Remember those little gold stars teachers sometimes give out? I picked up a batch and have used them to give the patio doors “Bird-friendliest glass in the neighborhood” awards. The upside is that these stars are cheap and easy to replace. The downside is that they are made of paper and, while they last a surprisingly long time considering, they are still just paper. I’ve had to replace them at least once a season.

This year I upgraded to purpose-built stickers designed both for birds and the great outdoors. This is the company I used but I’m sure there are others (no affiliation, just a satisfied customer): Feather Friendly.

Easy, satisfying, and one step toward being a better neighbor to nature.

At our best as a species, this is what we do: We change our ways to protect others, and then we adjust to the new ways. Soon, we can’t remember doing things differently.

Margaret Renkl

* For more about this problem and potential fixes, including Lights Out programs and building guidelines, check out What You Should Know About Bird Migration and Light Pollution and Bird-Safe Design Guidelines.

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Photo by Michael Krahn on Unsplash

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While I engage in the joy that is Tuesday and also wait for a bit of family news, here’s a window into the happy, hyperactive world of the West Texas hummingbird.

For more live bird cams (including some involving things you shouldn’t do with a squirrel!), visit Cornell Lab Bird Cams.

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I woke to a robin. 

First thing this morning, I glanced out the window and frowned. An odd little lump sat by the back tire of Mr Man’s car. My eyes aren’t great on the best of days and less so at 6:30 in the a.m., so I had to squint a little before I understood what I was seeing.

Juvenile robin. Not moving. Or… scratch that. Moving oddly.

Hop, shuffle, hop. Shuffle, hop, shuffle. Not going anywhere fast.

It looked like a wing problem, then I realized that it could be a leg problem and the wing was extended for balance.

I conducted a bit of research via the Ottawa Valley Wild Bird Care Centre, a great place that has been helping birds in the area for decades. They took in a mourning dove that hit our back window about a week after we moved in. (Turns out that spring sun renders the living room windows effectively transparent unless you add little stickers to the panes. The Center even gave us a number so we could track the bird’s progress. You’ll be happy to know that while it had a broken wing and pelvis, after months of treatment it recovered and was released with a flock of other doves. So it wouldn’t be lonely.)

Since we’re on the topic, here’s my related story about birds and window strikes: Things I Learned Today, or, Sometimes They Fly Away

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Fledgling birds, including robins, often find themselves out of the nest and still learning to fly. That is to be expected. 

If you are unsure if a fledgling is being cared for by its parents, watch from a distance for at least two hours…

The Center was closed anyway so we waited. The bird moved a little, then a little more. The leg still looked odd, though, so we decided it might be time to try to coax it into a comfortable and well-ventilated box and go visit the doctor.

Um, no.

The bird’s wings were working just fine. It wasn’t flying very far but it was flying, and not at all interested in taking a ride to our friendly neighborhood wildlife rehabbers.

The activity was encouraging, actually. The robin flitted. It hopped. It hid under a giant bush. What to do?

Not much. Short a Wile E. Coyote-style net and lots of dramatic, stress-inducing flailing around, there weren’t a lot of alternatives. I edged a little dish of water under the bush and backed away. 

We’ll keep an eye out for the bird and try again if it appears to be in distress, but for now, nothing more.

Sometimes there aren’t many options, and while I lean toward action, sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all.

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Photo by Landon Martin on Unsplash

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Imagination Itself

In memory of the pretty tree in full bloom around the corner, which our neighbor just cut down.

Also, it’s Tuesday.

(This is the part where I like to bring it back to a cheerful ending. Right. Hmm.)

Ah yes! I’m making excellent progress on the bird front, lots of goldfinches, robins, cardinals, chickadees, juncos and sparrows. Nature finds a way, even if it sometimes needs a little help:)

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“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”

― William Blake
Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

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I may have mentioned my unspoken, one-sided, possibly small-minded battle with the neighbors for “Favorite Neighborhood Bird Oasis.” For years, our backyard was the place to be, featuring sustainably under-managed undergrowth, a giant tube feeder full of black oil sunflower seeds, a bird bath with water three times a day in summer, and a heated bath in winter. What more could a bird want?

What the neighbors now have, apparently. Feeders that are easier for squirrels and larger birds to break into, a bird bath with a powered fountain, and oh yes, even more feeders (I think they have about a dozen).

So I’m out numbered and outgunned, but not giving up. I’m plotting next steps, including a new feeder with nyjer seed for the finches and more bird-friendly spring plantings.

The bad news is that I’ll probably still lose because I also don’t want to be out there twice a day refilling feeders decimated by all of squirreldom.

The good news? This all spells a net gain for the local wildlife, no matter what.

So, win win. That’s the kind of fight I like. 

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Photo by Miikka Luotio on Unsplash

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This is a lovely piece about a ship, a bird, and making the most of even trying circumstances. It’s a message I think we could all use right about now:)

What a Songbird Lost at Sea Taught Me About Survival | Audubon

She has reminded me that all of us can find ourselves lost. Winds don’t only carry songbirds to sea.

And here, floating atop this undulating unknown, Homeslice reminds me I am still on Earth. There is air and water, light and dark, and there is life in all forms, including restless humans, migrating birds, and the symbiotic methane-fueled fan worms discovered on our trip. Including even the sort-of-living viruses that plague us. We travel the wind, walk on land, float in currents, or remain anchored in sediment. We’re all surviving on this spinning island in the cosmos. And there’s more than one way to survive, even at the bottom of a sea of Mondays.

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Female Scarlet Tanager, Ottawa, ON
Matt Osborne, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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(Being me, I couldn’t resist a Hobbit reference, but this post is about migratory birds in general. No Goblins allowed!)

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We’ve still got two feet of snow on the lawn but the signs of Spring are everywhere. Melting ice, the smell of skunk in the night, and Canadian teenagers in shorts and T-shirts (it is above freezing, after all). And soon, the birds will be back. Last evening I heard a flock of Canada geese heading for the river, and they aren’t the only avian adventurers heading our way.

If you are interested in the when and where of bird migrations, you’re in luck. From now through the end of May you can track migration forecasts, get location-based alerts, and learn more about what’s happening in Birdlandia. 

BirdCast – Bird migration forecasts in real-time

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And as for those eagles, and other birds of prey? Check out this story about a suffragist and bird lover who established Pennsylvania’s Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in 1934. It’s an incredible place, and is why I am lucky enough to know what it’s like to watch from the edge of a stone outcropping while hawks ride the thermals mere feet away.


How Mrs. Edge Saved the Birds | Smithsonian Magazine

The abundance of raptors at North Lookout owes a great deal to topography and wind currents, both of which funnel birds toward the ridgeline. But it owes even more to an extraordinary activist named Rosalie Edge, a wealthy Manhattan suffragist who founded Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in 1934. Hawk Mountain, believed to be the world’s first refuge for birds of prey, is a testament to Edge’s passion for birds—and to her enthusiasm for challenging the conservation establishment. Bold and impossible to ignore, she was described by a close colleague as “the only honest, unselfish, indomitable hellcat in the history of conservation.”

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A story from that trip, with recipe:

Mrs. Shaw’s Chakchouka

(adapted from The New York Times Large Type Cookbook)

Notes from my father: Here’s the best story I have about this recipe; this happened at Hawk Mountain. We were there to see the raptor migrations in October. We were camping at a nearby state park and it was freezing, in fact it snowed. We were cooking chakchouka for 4 in a big pan over a Coleman stove. Right near the end of the cooking we picked up the pan to serve everyone and it tipped and spilled a large part of dinner into the dirt. You two were off running around in the woods somewhere, so we both looked at each other and then at dinner in the dirt, looked back at each other, then brushed the dirt off and put it all back in the pan. It was actually still pretty good. You know in statistics “robustness” means that you can violate the rules a lot and the results still hold, so you could say that this is a very robust recipe.

  • 3 links Italian sweet sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Sauté sausage pieces in a large skillet until browned.
  2. Add olive oil, onions and garlic and cook 3 minutes.
  3. Add green pepper, tomato and potatoes and cook 2 minutes longer.
  4. Add water and allow mixture to simmer, uncovered until potato is tender. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Stir in eggs and continue to cook, stirring, until eggs are done, about 2 minutes. Garnish as desired.

Serves 4.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

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Yesterday’s post was a long one and right now, the federal tax institutions of two countries are calling my name. Also my wallet.

So today we have a technique using Affinity Photo to make a picture look more like a painting. Compare the original vs. modified versions below and you’ll see that the method isn’t exact, but it’s a quick and easy way to take the edges off reality.

(And the way taxes usually go, that will probably come in handy;)

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Original Photo by David Clode on Unsplash
Original Photo by zhengtao tang on Unsplash

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Also, I like birds and fish. Enjoy your weekend!

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I’ve got a bit of a magpie mind. This is a magpie:

Magpies are known for collecting things.* Little things, shiny things, things that don’t belong to them, things that don’t always seem terribly useful (although it turns out they are only birds that recognize themselves in a mirror). But maybe they’re just curious and like the way these items stimulate their brains?

That’s how it works for me. I collect the things that I like, and my shelves are full of maps, pressed pennies, metal animal figurines, little mechanical toys, outdated cameras, paper, stamps, books of course, secret decoder rings, Star Wars stuff, wood stuff, stuff to make other stuff. Lots of things in that last category, actually. Here’s a sample.

I subscribe to the McGyver school of creation, so pretty much anything has the potential to be, well, anything.** 

And from it all I get… ideas! That’s the kind of approach that works for me, but there are a lot of ways to be creative. No matter how you do it, the best advice is to do it. 

A lot of it. That’s the lesson I need.

“quality is a probabilistic function of quantity… the prolific strategy is the most consistent method to cultivate your imagination and creativity. Try it out, keep the portions that work for you, and throw out what doesn’t. After all, there’s no right way to approach creativity —there is simply your way…. Discipline will get your routine started, but happiness and excitement keep it going.”

— Herbert Lui, Creativity strategies for more breakthrough ideas

Do that. Make that. Be that. And go magpies!

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* It turns out this reputation is undeserved, but I’m going with it because the idea is widely-held and because it fits today’s theme, dang it! Magpies are also a controversial species. They are loud, territorial, predatory and not above a bit of casual thievery (I claim none of these traits for myself), but while some people hate them, they can also be both useful and delightful

** Except duct tape. That stuff’s irreplaceable.

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In general, I like being home but these days I’ll admit, at times my thoughts stray to travel. As in, “Oh yes, once upon a time we used to go places and see things” and “There was a whole world out there, remember?”

And then I ran across scans of an old travel journal and had the fun of paging through the journey. Visiting the Swedish royal palace, discovering my brother’s previously hidden talent as a navigator, outrunning a swarm of mosquitoes, champagne in Stockholm, eating fish cheeks, taking tea in a converted windmill.

It was all lovely, even the insecty bits. And I’m pretty sure I’m not just saying that because travel has become one of those mythical ideas, like unicorns and shaking hands with strangers.

At the very back of the journal I rediscovered my father’s bird list. I think it was made after the trip, and there’s something precious about our layered handwriting, anchoring our shared memories to the page.

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Female European Marsh Harrier
Female European Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus), Paco Gómez, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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