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.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Create a Certified Wildlife Habitat

National Wildlife FederationImage via Wikipedia
Get Started Now: Certify Your Habitat!
Join the thousands of wildlife enthusiasts across the country who have been recognized for creating havens for neighborhood wildlife in their very own yards. These individuals have provided the essential elements for healthy and sustainable wildlife habitats and have earned the distinction of being part of National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program.

When you certify with your application fee of $20, you’ll receive all these great benefits.
  • A personalized certificate that recognizes your NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat™.
  • A free NWF membership which includes a full year’s subscription to the award-winning National Wildlife® magazine.
  • A free subscription to the quarterly e-newsletter, Habitats, full of insightful tips and information on gardening and attracting wildlife year after year.
  • Your name listed in NWF’s National registry of certified habitats…to recognize all you’ve done for wildlife.
  • And, once you complete your application, you’ll be eligible to purchase the “wildly” popular Certified Wildlife Habitat™ yard sign that shows your commitment to conserving wildlife.
All you need to do is provide elements from each of the following areas:
  • Food Sources: Native plants, seeds, fruits, nuts, berries, nectar
  • Water Sources: Birdbath, pond, water garden, stream
  • Places for Cover: Thicket, rockpile, birdhouse
  • Places to Raise Young: Dense shrubs, vegetation, nesting box, pond
  • Sustainable Gardening: Mulch, compost, rain garden, chemical-free fertilizer
Click HERE for more information. You can also get certification as a gift for someone else.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Umbrella Tree

'Yellow Since 1877', Wapping WallImage by Loz Flowers via Flickr
Fall storms are here.
Sunny to gray all in one day.
You got to love mid-Michigan weather!




Sam Spenser's 'Bloom' at the wapping project.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Did you notice a lot of birds at the feeder before the storm hit?

Before the storm rolled through mid-Michigan on Tuesday I noticed the birds' frenzied attack on the food in the feeders. Could they predict that tornado-like winds were about to hit?

Most birds have a special middle-ear receptor called the Vitali organ, which can sense incredibly small changes in barometric pressure. So if the activity at feeders suddenly becomes much more intense a storm may be approaching. Birds flying low or lining up on power lines also indicate swiftly falling air pressure.

The small birds like chickadees fly as little as possible and try to wait out storms in patches of dense vegetation or roosting boxes that give protection. And they appreciate feeders.

During storms birds may think of your feeder as a known source of food. While not dependent on feeders, birds don't feel like foraging for food in bad weather. Feeders make it easier for wild birds to brave a storm.

Today even though the storms are gone the high winds make flying difficult. I’m watching some birds that seem to be flying in place, while other birds like the Blue Jays seem to be able to navigate and take advantage of the wind. They zoom in at the feeder like a bullet.

I love when the wind blows but know it is hard on the birds, so I keep the feeders full. If they can navigate it to the feeder, they deserve a good meal.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

American Robin with White Feathers

If you look at the range map you’ll see that there are winter populations of America Robins  in most states year round. Yes, year round. Robins are surprisingly hardy birds, capable of surviving temperatures well below zero. But that doesn’t mean sightings are common year round.

After nesting season has ended, they usually form large nomadic groups that roost at night in the woods. Their diet changes from mostly worms and insects to fruit, nuts and berries. I’ve seen them devouring our crab apples, Mountain Ash tree berries, and sometimes under my feeders looking for nuts. They also appreciate open water in the fall and winter. If you have a pond or heated birdbath they may show up for afternoon drinks.

Sunday my cats and I were excited to watch a flock of 6 robins all bathing together in the pond. Spish, splash, they were taking a bath and causing a lot of excitement in our house. As pleased as I was watching the pond action, I was even more excited to see a couple robins out in the lawn. One was a beautiful, dark red-breasted robin, but the other was a little different. Is that white?

It was way in the back of the yard so I extended the zoom to take some candid shots of a leucistic American Robin. I talked about leucism in an earlier blog. Click HERE to read more. And below is a short video.
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Crows: Are they Feathered Apes?

An American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), take...Image via WikipediaAs Halloween approaches you may be seeing fake crows used as decorations in frightful displays. But even though cultures around the world may regard the crow as a bad omen or a nuisance, this bad reputation might overshadow what could be regarded as the crow’s most striking characteristic – its intelligence.

In recent studies researchers have found that the birds can recognize individual human faces that pose a threat out of thousands of people. Dr. John Marzluff a wildlife biologist at the University of Washington did the first formal study of human face recognition in wild birds by asking the people banding crows to wear rubber "bad men" masks.

American crow -- Corvus brachyrhynchos Martine...Image via WikipediaAfter the birds were banded and released back on campus, volunteers walked around with the masks on and recorded the crows’ reactions in the following months. The birds did not forget and were very vocal about the supposed “bad men”. In fact the effect not only persisted, but has multiplied over the past two years. Dr. Marzluff found the “bad men” were scolded by many more crows than had experienced the initial trapping. The researchers hypothesize that crows learned the face of the “bad men” and spread the word through the flock.

Dr. Marzluff believes that this ability gives crows and their brethren an evolutionary edge. “If you can learn who to avoid and who to seek out, that’s a lot easier than continually getting hurt,” Dr. Marzluff said. “I think it allows these animals to survive with us — and take advantage of us — in a much safer, more effective way.”

If you missed Nature last night, it was all about crows' intellegence and humans' increased interest in studing them. You can watch PBS's Nature: A Murder of Crows below.

Monday, October 25, 2010

What says eh-eh, yank-yank?

Trick question. It's a conversation between Dolly and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. Dolly is behind the window of course.

The first thing new customers say when they walk in the door of the Wild Birds Unlimited-East Lansing store is, "Isn't it ironic to have cats in a bird store?" I usually respond that we're all bird lovers here. And that's true.

Dolly alerted me that the first Red-breasted Nuthatch of the season had arrived! I joined Dolly at the window and we counted at least four nuthatches in the tree looking for pinecone seeds and yank-yanking it up. Most woodpeckers and nuthaches have a call that sort of sounds like they are laughing. Click HERE to play a recording of a nuthach.

Red Breasted Nuthatch/Sitta CanadensisImage via WikipediaAdult Red-breasted Nuthatches have gray backs with rust-colored breasts. But the first thing I notice are the black caps and white stripes above the eyes. Females are less colorful, with a more washed-out rust color on the belly.

As they move along the trunks and branches of trees, nuthatches glean bugs such as beetles, pine woodborers, and spiders. In the fall and winter, they like the seeds of fir, pine, and spruce trees, and are also common visitors at nut, sunflower, mealworm, and suet feeders.

In mid-Michigan we usually only see the red-breasted in the winter unlike the White-breasted Nuthatch which is common year-round.  

So keep your eyes and ears open for these darling little birds. They are built to walk any direction with greatly enlarged hind toes and a short tail.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010

What Bird is Showing that Flash of White on its Tail?

I'm watching the Rose of Sharon bush in the backyard. The blooms are gone and so are my hummingbirds that used to fight over that bush. But there are some new birds out there bouncing back and forth among the branches. They're flashing distinctive white outer tail feathers.

Wait a minute my brain is slowly making connections...Juncos! Hello juncos, it's been awhile since I last saw you in mid-Michigan. Oh my, it's a nice flock this year.

Did you know that up to 70% of Juncos wintering in the southern U.S. are females? The juncos we see all winter in the Lansing area are typically males. They risk wintering in the northern states in order to be the first ones back in the spring to their breeding territory in the upper Michigan and Canadian.
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) Great Backyar...Image by Stephen Little via Flickr
The Dark-eyed Junco Junco hyemalis is a medium-sized sparrow with dark gray plumage on its head, breast and upper parts which contrast with the white, outer tail and white belly. The female and immature juncos are less slate colored and tend to be browner than the adult male.


They are often called “Snowbirds,” possibly due to the fact that they are more likely to visit feeding stations during snowy periods. Many people also believe their return from their northern breeding grounds foretells the return of cold and snowy weather. Another possible source of the nickname may be the white belly plumage and slate-colored back of the Junco, which has been described as “leaden skies above, snow below.”

Whatever the name you are welcome to join the rest of my hardy crew of birds that decided mid-Michigan was the best place to stay all winter. My feeders are clean and I just filled them with WBU No-Mess. Bon App├ętit!
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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Do Birds Eat Only at Certain Levels?

I have a plant hanger I want to hang my new squirrel buster on. Does it need to be at a certain height to attract birds? ~Owosso, MI

Where to Place Feeders
Feeders can be placed throughout the yard at different levels to attract a variety of birds. Just remember the number one rule in feeder location is to place it where you can watch the birds easily.

Try to find a place that's sheltered from the wind and away from cats and other predators. And the closer your feeder is to the window, the less likely birds will be hurt if they mistake the clear glass as a fly through.

How Birds Find The Feeder
Birds are amazing creatures and can find new feeders several different ways just like humans find restaurants. Everyone has a friend that likes to tell you about the new "hot spot." Some birds fly in flocks and may send out a scout bird to forage for new feeding sites.

Or if you see a line around the block for a restaurant, you may get in line yourself to check out the food. Some solitary birds see a lot of birds at a feeder and go see what all the fuss is about.

What if you see the "Golden Arches" on the way home from work? You know what's inside. Most birds find their food by sight. Some birds already eat at the neighbor's house and may see your familiar feeders on the way home.

How Long Does It Take
It may be a matter of hours before birds discover new feeders or a matter of weeks. The variation depends on habitat, number of nearby feeders, and the kinds of birds in the area. Chickadees, and House Sparrows are especially quick to locate new feeders. Also if you switch feeders the birds may be cautious to try that feeder. To encourage the birds to use new feeders tempt them with scattered seeds on the ground.

Advanced Pole System
And if your plant hanger doesn't work, Wild Birds Unlimited patented Advanced Pole System (APS) is comprised of interchangeable hardware pieces, that lets you add or subtract bird feeders, birdhouses and other bird feeding accessories. It gives you the ability to create and customize your bird feeding station with over 3,000 combinations.

Good luck and enjoy the new feeder!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sometimes Pictures are Worth a Thousand Smiles!

My nephew loves going to kindergarten. Unfortunately he caught his first school cold and had to stay home. But that didn't stop his creativity.

Poor little guy. Get well soon.

The weather is turning brrrr, cold in mid-Michigan. Yesterday a big black cloud covered the sky and blustering winds pushed me around as I carried seed out to the customers' cars. I just might have to stop using the screen door.

My cat Dolly loved the leaves that kept blowing in under the door. She'd pounce and shred any that would dare to enter the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing.

But going by the picture my niece drew, I think the turn in the weather made her think about the possibility of snow.

No, it's too soon! Let's stay above freezing until November please.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

No Birds at Michigan Feeders is Unfathomable!

“There eating me out of house and home.” I hear that all the time at the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI store. But what I hear when people tell me that is, “I have lots of bird activity in my yard and I’m happy!”

We had Gordon Dunkley who works at the Wild Birds Unlimited – San Antonio, TX store visit us recently and he said they have no birds at their feeders at this time of year. NO BIRDS! As the seasons change, mid-Michigan switches between having a lot of birds to having a lot more birds. We never have NO BIRDS!

I asked “what do you mean NO BIRDS,” and he said sometimes where he lives there are no birds at the feeder. NO BIRDS! What would I do with no birds?

I’ve never gone a day without watching our birdfeeder hopping with birds. Not to rub it in, but NO BIRDS is just unfathomable.

Right now we are seeing an increase in activity at the feeders. Some birds from Canada and the U.P. are making mid-Michigan their winter resting place. Some Dark-eyed Juncos, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Pine Siskins, Redpolls, Crossbills, and Snow Buntings are just a few birds seen here only during the winter. The White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows are common migrants in mid-Michigan from mid-September to mid-November.

A few other feeder birds that you will see all year as well as during the winter are the Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, and of course the House Sparrow to name a few.

NO BIRDS! Unthinkable! As winter approaches Michigan, many birds change some of their eating habits and you will see an increase in traffic at your feeder. Birds that usually eat insects will visit more often to add rich, high energy foods such as fruit, nuts, seed or suet to supplement their diets.

NO BIRDS! That's impossible to understand! And don't forget just like in the summer, birds also need a source for water in the winter. When the weather turns freezing, a heater or heated birdbath can keep an open water source for birds to bathe and drink.

And thank you Gordon and Margaret for a lovely visit. Fall is a wonderful time to visit Michigan and I hope you had a nice trip.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Feeling Good About Fattening Up

As winter approaches, throw dietary caution to the wind.
We're not talking about some radical new nutritional plan. We're talking about feeding your wild birds high-calorie, high-fat foods to help them survive the winter.

Food is the most essential element to providing birds with the energy, stamina and nutrition they need during the winter months. To stay warm, birds will expend energy very quickly, some losing up to 10% of their body weight on a cold night.

An ample supply of a high-calorie food, such as suet, seed cylinders, or peanuts, is critical to a bird’s survival
Suet is a high-energy, pure-fat substance that is particularly helpful in winter when many birds have a difficult time finding the insects they would eat normally.

If you offer suet in addition to your seed, bird species, such as woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice are even more likely to stop by your yard and become frequent visitors.

And if you aren't offering your birds peanuts, you're truly missing out.

Peanuts are also a high-fat food that a variety of birds will eat for an energy-filled treat. In their shell or out, your birds will go crazy for peanuts.

Let Wild Birds Unlimited help you prepare your birds for the upcoming winter.

Source: WBU Nature News

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who Invented Wind Chimes?

I had a customer come in to the Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing store that was fascinated by the wind chimes we sell. She asked how they worked and I thought that she was kidding. I told her they are very “environmental” and “eco-friendly” because they work with wind power.

Turns out she wasn’t kidding and had never seen chimes before. I felt a little bad that I misunderstood, but she liked my explanation about wind power. She was fascinated and bought a few different chimes.

And really, what do I know about wind chimes. I sell a lot at the store but don’t know their history.

The dictionary explains that the term wind chime is applied to a set of tubes suspended in a row or in a circle so they can be blown in the wind in a way that allows them to strike each other and create a random set of sounds. The tubes may be made of metal, glass, bamboo, stone, porcelain or shell.

The history of wind chimes is unclear; however modern chimes are thought to have originated with the Buddhists suspending wind bells on the corners of large pagodas to attract benevolent spirits in Asia.

In the 19th and 20th centuries the beauty and pleasant melodies of chimes made them popular across Western countries as a decoration. Today, they are widely used around the world and many people consider wind chimes to be good luck.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Least Favorite Bird Feeding Question

Sparrows, ugh!

Hello, We have been ravaged by sparrows most of this summer. So much so we really don’t have other birds coming to our feeders. We also don’t like putting out seed in the morning, only to have it all consumed by the sparrows all day, without really seeing other species. I’m down to chickadees, goldfinches and sparrows. I am missing out on the migratory species this time of year plus all of my local favorites.

Is there anything to be done? I did a quick search on Google and saw some products that supposedly impede sparrows while letting in the other species. Do these work? Do you carry products that can assist me? Yours truly, Michael ~East Lansing

Nothing personal, but I really hate this question. Working at Wild Birds Unlimited in East Lansing, MI I hear dismissive complaints about House Sparrows every day.
I see House Sparrows as survivors trying to live the American Dream. They have learned to thrive in close association with mankind, unlike the many other species that have declined or disappeared as a result of our activities. In fact, people have done the most destruction to native bird species and helped increase the house sparrow population both intentionally and unintentionally.

Between 1874 and 1876 a few House Sparrows were brought over from England and were released in Jackson and Owosso, Michigan to control insect infestations on crops. They quickly multiplied into thousands as they raised three to five broods per year regularly, each brood averaging around five babies.

Then it was discovered that 60% of the House Sparrows' diet consisted of the farmers’ seed crop instead of the bugs. However the information came too late to stop the population growth. Today due to several releases of a few House Sparrows across the US they are the most abundant songbirds in North America and the most widely distributed birds on the planet. And the House Sparrows in your yard may be 100th generation Americans.

The closer you are to the city the more sparrows you are likely to have in your yard. The number one way to limit their numbers at the feeder is to not feed millet. Millet is their favorite food and common in most seed blends. If you switch over to straight safflower seed you will decrease their activity at the feeders.

Safflower is savored by Cardinals, House Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, and more. Blackbirds, starlings, squirrels, and sparrows avoid safflower. When you start feeding safflower there will be a dramatic drop in the number of birds at the feeder but then different birds will appear gradually.

Also suets attract a lot of bug eating birds like chickadees, woodpeckers, and nuthatches. It’s important to buy suet without seed in it that the sparrows like. Our Wild Birds Unlimited Peanut Butter Suet contains just suet and peanuts no seed or we have just the straight beef suet.

Sometimes sparrows avoid Nyjer thistle feeders too. Goldfinches can eat upside down comfortably and the upside down finch feeder we sell is popular for people that are overrun with sparrows or house finches. The feeding port is below the perch and the goldfinches have to hang by their toes to reach the seed.

Other deterrents are the sparrow spooker and the magic halo. I’ve recommended the Sparrow Spooker to keep birds away from birdhouses and the Magic Halo can be purchased online or via mail order. We don’t sell these items. But the sparrows are clever and this might not deter them for long.

Finally remember that even though they eat a lot and visit in huge flocks they also eat lots of bugs while raising their young. I bet you didn’t have any problems with mosquitoes this year. And they are fun to watch in the winter when there is a lot of snow on the ground and not much else to see.

So, love them...or hate them...they are here to stay. Your challenge is live with them and understand the niche they occupy in your avian landscape.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Kissing Cousins?: How do Birds Choose a Mate that isn't Related?

Hello Sarah, I always forget to ask you my questions when I’m picking up my seed and mealworms. I’m watching my family of bluebirds and wonder if they know who their brothers and sisters are and how they go about finding a mate that isn’t related? Linda ~DeWitt, MI

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds in Michigan, USA.Image via Wikipedia
Most Eastern Bluebirds look alike to the human eye. The males have bright blue heads, tails, backs, and wings. The chest is a reddish brown, and the belly is white. The females look similar but are less colorful than males generally.

By October most Eastern Bluebirds have completed a molt to replace old feathers with new. The tips of the new body feathers are brown and make all the bluebirds appear a bit duller in the winter.

However, young bluebirds can still recognize their family just like we recognize our family members. They tend to stay together and join other bird families to form winter flocks. These flocks can be as large as 100 birds but typically range from 5 to 20 birds.

A pair of Eastern Bluebirds in Michigan, USA.Image via WikipediaThen in the spring, the young will move from the parental territories eventually to another location before choosing a mate. This is called natal dispersal and reduces the chances of inbreeding.

The increase of hormones before breeding season stimulates the young birds to become more active, forage further away from home, and discover new territories. Records show that the females tend to disperse farther than the males. The average distance is about 0.7 miles for males and 0.9 miles for the females.

Unfortunately the mortality rate for the young Eastern Bluebirds is 50 percent. However, if the birds make it through their first year, their chances in survival increase. Then their average lifespan is 6 to 10 years. Humans can have a positive or negative impact on the bluebirds. From the late 1800s to the 1960s, Eastern Bluebirds’ population declined almost 90% because of loss of habitat. However, since 1966 the population has increased 2.4% each year due to nesting boxes, better landscaping, and bird feeding practices.

Providing food for bluebirds during the winter and early spring may increase their chances of survival in bad weather. Bluebirds love to eat mealworms, and they consume about four grams of food per day, about 12% of their body weight. They will also eat suet, nuts, fruit, and berries.

I hope you are able to continue to watch your bluebird family all winter and don’t forget your heated birdbath. Providing the bluebirds with needed resources not only gives you the chance to watch these beautiful birds up close, it also helps aid in bluebird conservation.

Source:
Wild Bird Guides: Eastern Bluebird by Gary Ritchison

Related articles

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mating habits of Eastern Bluebirds in the Fall

I live in the piedmont area of North Carolina. It is mid-October and we have cleaned the bluebird boxes so our featherd friends will have a place to spend the winter.

Yesterday afternoon (it was about 78 degrees here) I thought I saw a pair of bluebirds mating on top of the box. This can not be so….what was I really seeing…? ~ Susan

The motivations for a lot of animals’ behaviors have yet to be understood fully. But not every sexual act has a reproductive function. Some researchers believe this mating behavior to have its origin in male social organization and social dominance. Others suggest the social function of sex is not necessarily connected to dominance, but serves to strengthen alliances within a flock.
Observations of juvenile male bluebirds also reveal they occasionally engage in reproductive activities and “play house” with young female bluebirds to perhaps practice for the future. For now, until there is further evidence, your guess is as good as mine, but don’t hold your breath for babies anytime soon.

Thank you for asking a really good question,
Sarah

Friday, October 15, 2010

Apple Butter Festival is this weekend!

Walking at Fenner Nature CenterImage by hero.protagonist via Flickr
The 37th annual Apple Butter Festival at Fenner Nature Center is this weekend! 
2020 E Mount Hope Ave
Lansing, MI 48910-1905
(517) 483-4224
Saturday and Sunday, October 16 & 17,
from 11am-5pm.  Admission is free.

Highlights of the Festival

FUN: Children’s Activities, Old-Fashioned Games from the Turner-Dodge House, Hiking, and Exploring.

CULTURE AND EDUCATION: Native American Activities, Heirloom Apple Tasting, Log Sawing (Boy Scout Troop 180, Hiking, Guided Nature Walks.

FALL COLORS: Walk the Trails or Rest Outdoors to Savor the Autumn Hues and Aromas.maplepathImage by Aunt Owwee via Flickr

HERITAGE CRAFT DEMONSTRATIONS AND SALES: Mason Basket Weavers Guild (Sat only), Greater Lansing Pottery Guild, Capital City Quilt Guild, Rag Rugs, Capital Area Lace Makers, Hand-made brooms, Copper Pot Making, French Garden Creations, and more.

MUSIC: Folk Musicians (arranged by Art Cameron and Ben Hassenger) Will Be Performing throughout the Weekend on the Outdoor Stage. Please see the schedule below.

FOOD: Indian Tacos, Cider, Coffee, Doughnuts, Popcorn, Pumpkin Ice Cream, Bake Sale Items, Apples.

LIVE ANIMALS: Potter Park Zoo, Michigan Herpetological Society, Fenner’s Collection of Turtles, Frogs, Snakes, and Salamanders.

ITEMS TO PURCHASE: Apple Butter, Michigan Maple Syrup, Cider, Caramel Corn, Crafts, Refreshments, Home-Made Baked Goods, Birdhouses, Daffodil Bulbs, and the Educational and Creative Offerings Available in the Fenner Gift Shop!
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Music Schedule
Saturday, October 16
12:00 - Cindy McElroy
Fun, compassionate, and caring; Cindy has most recently focused much of her musical abilities towards social causes including the production of her original presentation "Alzheimer's - Feel the Love" to raise awareness and funds to help combat this devastating disease. http://www.cindymcelroy.com/

1:00 - The Lansing Area Ukulele Group (L.A.U.G.H.)
The joy of the ukulele has been sweeping the country and Lansing MI is no exception to this tuneful tsunami. L.A.U.G.H. meets once a month at Elderly Instruments and its members strum and sing songs together, having a good old time! http://tinyurl.com/lansingukesfacebook

2:00 - Dorothy Cooley
Dorothy hails from the Grand Rapids area and will entertain you with her soulful and jazzy acoustic original songs and covers. Listen to her at: http://www.dorothycooley.com/songs.html

3:00 - The Wednesday Night Kitchen Band
This ensemble specializes in acoustic traditional Irish instrumentals.

4:00 - Mighty Medicine
Mighty Medicine is a guitar and vocal duo who offer music that swings while it nourishes; rock and funk with splashes of jazz and blues. http://www.myspace.com/mightymedicine

Sunday, October 17
12:30 - Art Cameron
A professor of horticulture with a nurturing spirit; Art finds the joy and meaning in life, often from an unusual angle. A favorite of kids and adults in the Lansing Area.

1:30 - Hall & Morgan
The music of Hall & Morgan is Americana with contemporary touches, featuring strong vocal harmonies & a multitude of instruments. Their sound is intimate and down-home.

2:30 - Ben Hassenger
Ben is an songwriter, educator, and citizen of the world. His songs range from the silly to the sensitive and he entertains with an enthusiastic vigor on guitar and ukulele. His original songs about Ernie Harwell and Tiger Stadium have been accepted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. http://www.benhassenger.com/

3:30 - The Fabulous Heftones
Brian and Lynn play the tunes and ditties of the 1920's and beyond on ukulele and the bass-like Heftone. A wonderful and unique delight! http://heftone.com/fabulous
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Thursday, October 14, 2010

What Should Be My Next Feeder?

Dear Sarah, I don't know if you remember me. I brought my mom in to see you at the East Lansing store last May. I bought her a squirrel baffle, a bird feeding pole with two hooks and one of those forever square mesh finch feeders. And my aunt also bought a set of snapping poles to take back to Ireland. We are all very pleased with our purchases.

I want your recommendation for another feeder. My mom’s old feeder, not one of yours, is falling apart. I want to get her a good feeder.
Sue~ Haslett, MI

Wow, I work in a store full of the best bird feeders available. In an earlier blog I talked about my top picks.  Before you go shopping think about which birds you want to attract, where the feeder is going to be placed, and if squirrels will be a problem.
Thanks, Sarah

Dear Sarah, Thank you for responding so quickly! I know what I don’t want. My mom’s last feeder was a cheapy and was always clogging and a great big mess. I come over to fill the feeders once a week and read your wonderful blog to Mom. She just had foot surgery and we need something easy to fill and mess free. It’s going on the pole you sold us so there are no squirrel problems. Besides the goldfinches, the chickadees and titmice are two of my favorite birds. My mom likes the Cardinals.
Thank you, Sue

Those are some of my favorite birds too. And let me tell you our most popular no muss, no fuss feeder is the Wild Birds Unlimited Dinner Bell™ with a Seed Cylinder. This feeder also has a lifetime guarantee like your mesh finch feeder. Depending on bird activity in your yard, a 2lb cylinder can last up to a month and a 4.5lb cylinder can last up to 3 months.

I just started using this feeder a couple years ago and you wouldn’t believe the number and variety of birds I’ve attracted. I don’t even believe it! I’ve never said “oh, new bird” so many times since I hung the WBU Dinner Bell™ with a seed cylinder. Our popular Cranberry Fare Solid Seed Cylinders are packed pecans, sunflower chips, peanuts, safflower, black oil sunflower and cranberries - everything you need to get lots of birds to visit your backyard with very little mess.

Cardinals, chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers, jays, warblers, and more flock to the feeder. The WBU Dinner Bell™ feeder has a simple design that can provide a tidy dining experience. The feeder’s built-in dome provides protection from the weather, and the built-in tray prevents food from falling to the ground and it’s a snap to clean.

My recommendation is to hang a WBU Dinner Bell™ with a Cranberry or Supreme Fare Cylinder from your hook. I hope that helps, Sarah

Dear Sarah, That sounds wonderful. This was exactly what I was looking for & I didn't even know it. Thank you for your advice! I will come in to shop as soon as possible.
Sue



Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Attracting Bluebirds in the Winter

I live between Dayton and Cincinnati, OH and was blessed with attracting, for the first time, Eastern Bluebirds. They had 3 broods in 3 separate boxes in my yard this year. total of 12 babies. I didn't see them much the end of September, but now have had 8-10 of them show up in the mornings sitting on the fence next to my boxes. They go in and out and look at them, more of them appear to be male of the bunch. I went back and got dried mealworms for them to eat. I was hoping they would go ahead and migrate since the weather in my area can be harsh and I didn't really want to buy more mealworms.

Should I take the feeder down and stop giving them mealworms so they will move on? ~ Freda

Some Eastern Bluebirds migrate south in the winter and others can remain north. There is no fixed migration route for bluebirds. Like the American Robin they can overwinter anywhere as long as there is food, water, and shelter.

Photo by Freda
It’s natural for the bluebirds to disappear after they’ve fledged. Often parents take the young on what I call a family vacation to teach them about the world. It’s usually to a place that they feel is more secluded or safe and has an abundance of food.

The bluebirds then may return to their nest cavity briefly or remain throughout the winter. There is no way to force migration. Birds either migrate or don’t. If you don’t want to feed them, you don’t have to continue. However, if you can provide natural sources, you may enjoy a variety of exciting birds year round.

Bluebirds usually gather in the woods after their nesting season is done. There they forage for fruits, nuts, and berries from shrubs, trees, and vines. Some of those include dogwood, hawthorn, mountain ash, sumac, holly, bittersweet, pokeweed, grape, and honeysuckle fruits.

Once the bluebirds have joined their winter flocks they can forage for food together and wander about exploring possible roosting sites like your bluebird houses. Flocks can be as large as 100 but typically range from 5 to 20 birds.

Photo from Tom T. at WBU So. Yarmouth, Ma.
Bluebirds are also attracted to water. Because your area, like mid-Michigan, has freezing temperatures you can provide a heated birdbath for your birds. This isn’t like a hot tub. The bath just remains free of ice and open to the birds to get drinks or clean their feathers.

Feathers are critical for flight and insulation, birds must keep them well-maintained. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming its feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. The feathers covering the body give the bird a water resistant, aerodynamic shape for efficient flight. The feathers also provide insulation by trapping body heat close to the skin.

The only time it may be hard for birds to find food in the winter is during ice storms. Freezing rains or heavy snows can cover their food and make it almost impossible to feed. Survival then may depend on you feeding mealworms, suets, chopped fruit, nuts, or berries.

I hope that helps. I'm glad you want to learn more about your birds. There are also a lot of good books about bluebirds. The one we sell the most at our Wild Birds Unlimited stores is The Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds by Donald and Lillian Stokes.

Thank you for the information-- very helpful. I really enjoy them and have learned so much this summer just about the mating actions and teaching the young ones. I will get this book. I frequent the Wild Birds Unlimited store in my area a lot now. Freda