About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Photo Share: Tiny shrunken skull of a snapdragon

Snapdragons are familiar, old-fashioned flowers named for the blooms that resemble little dragon jaws that open and close when you gently squeeze the sides of the flowers. Although sold every spring at the garden centers, they are native to rocky areas of Europe, the United States, and North Africa.

But this happy flower turns macabre at the end of summer. Once the pollinated blooms die back, seed pods develop that look like tiny shrunken skulls.

Little wonder that ancient cultures thought the snapdragon possessed supernatural powers. They were thought to offer protection from deceit, curses and witchcraft if they were planted in your garden.

Snapdragons or Antirrhinum are considered annuals in our cold temperate zone 5. However you can collect the little skull pods before they explode and let them dry for a couple days. Then shake the seeds out and store them in a cool dark place in a paper envelope to reseed in the spring.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Easy guide to ID the nature all around from mushrooms to the moon

Ever wonder what that bug is that is creeping through the sunny window as cold weather approaches? Or what nut that squirrel is carrying across the parking lot? What about that persistent vine with purple berries that keeps climbing the fence? There is a new book that address all those questions and more.
Kaufman Field Guide to Nature of the Midwest by Kenn Kaufman, Jeff Sayre, & Kimberly Kaufman

The only field guide to identify the birds, mammals, trees, wildflowers, insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, spiders, mushrooms, ferns, grasses, rocks, and sky of the Midwest.

Even if you focus on wild birds, you are probably curious about other things in nature. This book is a quick reference to the world around you. Now you can look up that cool-looking mushroom, learn the name of that moth or butterfly or discover more about that wildflower with pretty bloom.

With authoritative yet broad coverage, nontechnical language, and more than two thousand color photographs, this book is an essential reference for nature lovers living in Michigan, or the area around.

And that bug I saw on the edge of the cat's water bowl was a Eastern Boxelder Bug (page 371). It invades homes in the fall looking for a place to overwinter. The nut all the squirrels seem to be going crazy for are ping pong sized Hickory nuts (page 127). And that creeping vine is Bittersweet Nightshade (page 165). Birds love the berries but they are toxic to humans. All the information about the nature around you contained in a single, easy to use field guide.

Related Articles: 
Backyard Birdsongs audio book https://Backyard Birdsongs.html 
Stokes Field Guide to Birds review https://stokes-field-guide-to-birds.html
Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1 
Illustrated Bird Identification Book https://illustrated-bird-identification.html
Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/vUZynL

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Another brown streaky bird to look for outside your window

In recent decades, mild winters and the availability of bird feeders have enticed an increasing number of Song Sparrows to overwinter in mid-Michigan. They look like fluttering leaves, but make up for their less than dazzling plumage with their beautiful song. The scientific name Melodia means "melody" in Greek. Click here to hear the song.

A medium-sized sparrow, their most distinctive features are the dark feathers under the bill that look like mutton chops and the dark brown spot of feathers over their heart. They also have heavily streaked gray-brown backs, a dull white belly and a chest that is streaked with brown feathers. Their head has a brown crown with paler median stripe, a pale gray eyebrow and a white chin.

Sunflower seeds, millet, safflower, peanuts and peanut butter suet are some of the most popular foods that attract Song Sparrows to tray or ground bird feeders. You’ll also see them along with juncos scratching for grass seeds or insects in leaf litter and pine needles.  

Related Articles:
Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
How do you become a birdwatcher? http://bit.ly/rquunU
Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/0qggF
How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Streaky brown finches

As winter approaches, keep your eyes open for Pine Siskins. Most years, siskins do not stray too far from their breeding territories in the northern tier of the United States and across Canada into Alaska unless there is a shortage of food. Pine Siskins eat conifer seeds (such as spruces and pines) and catkins (such as birch and alder) in the North. However this year’s reported shortage of cone crops will push the birds south in search of food.

Siskins are streaky brown finches with a small, sharply pointed bill and faint yellow splashes near the wing tips and tail. They mix in with flocks of goldfinches at Nyjer® (thistle), Seed Cylinder and sunflower feeders. Siskins brighten up a drab winter day with their loud and cheerful "zzziip" song. The word "Siskin" is of Scandinavian origin and means "chirper". You can expect their numbers to increase along their southern range into February and early March as they look for more sources of food.

Related Articles:
- Birdwatching: Look for the Out-of-Towners http://bit.ly/q6Pkco
- Where do you place finch feeders? http://bit.ly/p4XHU4
- How do Birds Migrate? http://bit.ly/nNCI6d
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ow20ZD
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/qa0CVU

Monday, October 24, 2016

Bird climbing down tree trunk

Look along trunks and branches of trees for a nuthatch with a bold black-and-white face pattern wandering up, down, and sideways over the bark. The Red-breasted Nuthatch is the only North American nuthatch with an eyestripe, and the only one with extensive rusty or cinnamon on the underparts. It is smaller and stubbier than the White-breasted Nuthatch.

The nuthatch's habit of wedging seeds into cracks and hammering them open has given rise to its common name.

Red-breasted Nuthatches join foraging flocks of chickadees and other small songbirds. If you put your suet up early enough you may be able to draw these beauties to your yard all winter. They usually spend the summers in the upper part of Michigan and Canada but are residents in mid-Michigan from September to May.

Related Articles:
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/d0VzDD
- Bird of the week: Red-breasted Nuthatch http://bit.ly/sXqKVH
- Fascinating Nuthatch Bill-Sweeping & Wing Fanning http://bit.ly/s4MWlV
- Facts every backyard birder wants know about Nuthatches http://bit.ly/tBbDbQ
- Black and white bird walking upside down on a tree trunk http://goo.gl/RUCT6O

Sunday, October 23, 2016

When to start feeding suet

I had a lot of people come in to the Wild Birds Unlimited store here in East Lansing this week and ask if it OK to put up suet now? Yes, Yes, Yes!!

Although it can be fed year-round, late summer and fall is a great time of the year to feed commercially prepared suet to wild birds. The high fat content helps birds grow new feathers and gives birds the boost in calories they need to survive the short daylight hours and long, cold nights. Birds are also out forming winter flocks and choosing which yard they want to spend the winter. Suet is wonderful for attracting tree-loving birds like woodpeckers, nuthatches, brown creepers, and chickadees.

The Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store’s best seller is the peanut butter suet cake, which has only three ingredients: rendered beef fat, chopped peanuts and peanut butter. There are no filler ingredients! This is my favorite suet cake too. It has the highest fat and the highest protein for the birds. To repel squirrels and other mammals you can also use the straight beef suet cake or the hot pepper cake. Most mammals will leave those two cakes alone.

Related Articles:
- What birds eat suet? http://bit.ly/q2Sfje
- Can I make my own suet? http://bit.ly/rsc1JT
- How do I Attract Woodpeckers? http://bit.ly/o4CLqI
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods: http://bit.ly/ob0NIq 
- Can I feed suet year-round? http://bit.ly/I4Ow8l

Saturday, October 22, 2016

White-tailed deer in Michigan

White-tailed deer are the smallest of the three members of the deer family found in Michigan, the others being elk and moose. They range throughout Michigan and are a game animal in this state. As a species, the extend from the southern edge of the arctic prairies in Canada, all the way to the northern bank of the Amazon River.

"White-tailed" refers to the distinctive white tail that when raised is a flag and provides a flash of white, signaling other deer when there is danger. Deer are graceful and swift runners (up to 35 miles per hour), but do not generally run long distances, preferring to seek the nearest shelter whenever possible. Male deer are called "bucks", females "does" and baby deer "fawns". These deer tend to live in female-led family groups of up to 25 deer and may live to ten years or more.

Related Articles: 
White-tailed Deer prepare for winter http://white-tailed-deer.html
Remember to leave wildlife in the wild http://goo.gl/s5S0l4
Deterring Deer at the Bird Feeders http://goo.gl/nUzM3e
When did Reindeer Learn to Fly? http://bit.ly/veTLpT
Mammals have amazing strategies to cope with winter's cold http://goo.gl/KlJY1V

Friday, October 21, 2016

Photo Share: Killdeer

Killdeer are a shorebird you can see without going to the beach. We had one nesting in the runoff ditch across the street from the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing. You usually hear their familiar Kill-deer call before you see them, especially if you aren't expecting to see them on the edge of a parking lot.

Killdeer are surprisingly unobtrusive even with their yellow legs, white belly, two black necklaces and a brown face marked with black and white patches. They spend their time walking along the ground or running ahead a few steps, stopping to look around, and running on again as they look for earthworms, snails, crayfish, grasshoppers, beetles, and aquatic insect larvae.

They are found all across the US but only nest in Michigan. By the end of October most have moved further south. Killdeer that breed in the southern half of the US and along the Pacific Coast are year-round residents. But those that breed in the northern US and Canada, where winter conditions are more severe, migrate south to Mexico and Central America. Because the northern Killdeer fly south, right over the region where other Killdeer reside year-round, they are known as leap-frog migrants.

Related Articles:
- Killdeer nest abandoned http://goo.gl/qNkf3w
- What bird makes a ground nest in Michigan? http://goo.gl/2yc02
- What Do I Feed Baby Killdeer? http://goo.gl/fXiYD
- Nesting Questions http://goo.gl/pNt7V

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Cute squirrel pictures

We have a new friend hanging around the store. Dolly thinks we should let her in with open arms. She's just a little thing, new to the neighborhood and learning the ropes. She's already got her cute face down pat.

Not Feeding Squirrels 
People either seem to love squirrels or hate them. Many people complain that the squirrels are eating their birds’ food. The number one selling feeder at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing is the squirrel proof feeders. We can also help you create a squirrel proof set up with baffles or choose a seed to deter squirrels.

Feeding Squirrels 
For some people, feeding squirrels is actually fun or provides a distraction to deter squirrels from bothering their bird feeders. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing has several feeders and food for squirrels. It is recommended that people who feed the squirrels place food away from window sills or door steps so as to discourage squirrels coming through screens.

Relocating Squirrels 
If you or anyone you know is trapping and moving squirrels, please let them know that it is illegal to move wildlife in Michigan without a permit. And you may be doing more harm than good. Squirrels live in territories and every time one is removed, another will take its place. Moving squirrels that are pregnant or that have babies waiting for their mother could result in death. And in the fall squirrels hide food for later. If they are relocated it may be too late for them to start over. However, if you leave the squirrels that you have, alone they will keep other squirrels away. Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing can show you how to squirrel proof your bird feeding station so that you and the squirrels, can live in harmony.
Related Articles: 
- Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o 
- How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML 
- Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr 
- How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb 
- How high can squirrels jump to bird feeders? http://goo.gl/XuvwNe
- Found! New squirrel species discovered. http://goo.gl/LUxzA0

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Downy woodpecker hides winter food

The crisp mornings, bright colored leaves, and excited bird activity all herald winter’s approach. While some bug, fruit, and nectar birds migrate south, other birds that over-winter in Michigan may switch their diet to berries, nuts, crab-apples, and seeds.

I have numerous nuthatches, jays, chickadees and woodpeckers at the window feeder. They are not only eating lunch they are taking doggie bags away from my window restaurant. Extra seeds and nuts will be secreted away for them to retrieve and eat at a later time. They hide hundreds of seeds all over their territory, in a behavior known as scatter-hoarding to help them survive if food sources become scarce.

Each seed is placed in a different location and to remember where each one is, neurobiologists have discovered that the part of the brain that processes spatial information increases in the birds’ that hoard food. They can find each hiding spot accurately even a month later.

Chickadees are the most frequent customers at my feeder but this Downy Woodpecker was a little easier to catch on camera. He would pick up a nut from my No-Mess Nutty Mix at the feeder and then I caught him hiding it in the crack of the trumpet vine.

Related articles:
- Birds Move Trees http://bit.ly/oPqFgG
- Screech Owls cache uneaten prey items in cavities http://bit.ly/pJ7jCP
- Red-Bellied Woodpecker stores its food in the barks of trees http://bit.ly/nqYS7j
- Mine! All Mine: Why Squirrels Hoard http://bit.ly/qFANnl
- Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/qq5xu1
- What birds migrate from Michigan? http://bit.ly/ngkPX3

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Help save the Monarchs in Michigan

Michigan DNR Press Release

Fall is here, and with the cooler temperatures and lessening daylight, many different species have begun to migrate. One remarkable insect that makes such a journey is the monarch butterfly. Monarchs from Michigan typically travel south to Mexico to overwinter. Unfortunately, this remarkable insect has had a 90-percent decrease in its eastern population over the last 20 years.

Pollinators, like butterflies and bees, are responsible for approximately one-third of the world’s food source. Imagine that one out of every three bites of food you eat is there because of pollinating insects’ services. 

There are many ways that you can help pollinators, even in your own backyard! Creating habitat for pollinators is a great place to start. Milkweed is important for monarchs, because this is where they lay their eggs and where their caterpillars get nutrition as they grow. Other flowering plants are important to have around too, as they provide nectar sources for adult monarchs and many other types of pollinators.

Other ways to help: