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.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Carolina wren sleeping on porch

I noticed a Carolina Wren sleeping under my porch. I want to keep it around this winter. I looked it up and it said it eats bugs. Do you know anything about feeding them?

In the summer Carolina Wrens eat a ton of bugs and in the winter they frequent feeders more often as they switch their diet over to more suet, nuts, seed cylinders and mealworms. They can be attracted to your feeders by providing a brush pile close to your feeding area. I have a pine tree and a bushy viburnum to give the birds cover. They feel more secure with a place to seek refuge nearby.

Mid-Michigan Carolina Wrens' do not migrate but are very sensitive to cold weather. Severe winters result in a marked decline in their numbers. Having a known source of food (a birdfeeder) is essential for providing wrens with the energy, stamina, and nutrition they need to survive.

They also need a protected place to sleep. I have a wren house that provides shelter from bad weather and a place to sleep. Roosting pockets near the house have also been successful in providing little shelters, much like birdhouses, where the birds can roost and hide from the wind chill. The combination of houses, roosting pockets and bird feeders during the fall and winter is one sure way to keep Carolina wrens in your area.

Related articles:
- What’s the best suet for Michigan wild birds? http://bit.ly/z7Eurx
- Filling Up on Fatty Foods http://bit.ly/xbZ9lR
- Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
- Why Don't Birds Freeze After They Take a Bath in the Winter? http://goo.gl/5ydpvy
- Choosing the best bird seed http://goo.gl/jrpDX

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Cute cat-faced owl

The Northern Saw-whet Owl makes a repeated tooting whistle sound. Some say they sound like a saw being sharpened on a whetstone. They usually make these sounds to find a mate from February until May, but they do vocalize year round.

This tiny cat-faced owl can fit in the palm of your hand. They are only about 8 inches from top to tail. They can be found in woodlots year-round in mid-Michigan but are less common than Eastern Screech owls.

Saw-whets are predators to mice and voles but can be preyed upon by larger raptors, including other owls and hawks. They roost during the day under the cover of thick conifers. Occasionally songbirds can discover a resting spot and mob the owl in an effort to drive it away. Tuning in to a chickadee or jay calling a warning is one of the best ways for bird watchers to find these well-hidden owls.  
Watch more on the video: https://youtu.be/pSmVGTzawnQ
Related Articles:
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
- Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
- Do Bluebirds Cough Up Pellets Similar to Owls? http://bit.ly/t3Gu0D
- Screech owl in the neighborhood http://bit.ly/tlzaoN 

- How to spot owls more easily http://goo.gl/oq8iCA

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Bird feeding with a little Character

One of the fun things about using the seed cylinder feeder is the availability of the Seed Cylinder Characters that come out in the fall. This year we have a limited quantity of Jumpy the Fox. And coming in mid-November Dash the Gingerbread Man and a Solid seed Gingerbread House decorated with sweet fruits and pecans.

The Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan has a lot of food and feeders to attract birds up close. One of our most popular feeders is the seed cylinder feeder.

The Seed Cylinder feeders are popular with people who have been bird feeding a long time and for beginners. It is one of the easiest feeders to maintain and attracts a wide variety of birds and makes a great gift.

For people that aren't able to get out to fill feeders often during our harsh Michigan winters this feeder is ideal. Simply slide the Seed Cylinder Character or a regular Seed Cylinder onto our WBU Seed Cylinder Feeders and enjoy the feathered holiday visitors.

Related Articles:

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:

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ravens in Michigan

Common Ravens are considerably larger than American Crows, although this difference can be hard to judge on its own if you don't look at size and shape. Look for the Common Raven's heftier bill, shaggy throat feathers, more slender, pointed wings, and longer, wedge-shaped tail.

They nest in the UP and upper part of Michigan but can come down to mid-Michigan from October to May. Ravens prefer wild areas with open landscapes, such as  riverbanks and scrubby woodlands whereas their crow cousins tend to be found more in cities and suburbs.

Related Articles:
Crow vs Raven's in Michigan? http://ravens-in-michigan.html
Crows: Are they Feathered Apes? http://bit.ly/LvWgge
Raven is the largest songbird in North America http://goo.gl/7W6uF
How Do I Deter Crows at the Feeder? http://bit.ly/LWbhMB
Crow sliding down snow covered roof http://goo.gl/qMsD4
Why are “black” birds considered bad by most people? http://bit.ly/LWbxe

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Juvenile delinquent hawk

Photo via Wikimedia Commons
I don't know if we have a juvenile delinquent hawk, just young and inexperienced hawk or a hawk with ADHD. When I come home from work he breezes through, making all the birds panic. He doesn't do the usual patient perch and pounce tactic of older hawks. He flies in perches for two seconds and then is off again, only to return a couple minutes later to repeat the mad flight pattern.

We had a really good year for cardinals. I have at least 50 feeding in the morning and evening. They chip, chip, chip excitedly after I fill the feeders. Then this hoodlum hawk makes his appearance and whack. It is inevitable that one hits a window as it tries to make a quick get away. One cardinal took a knock on the head, but he recovered quickly. Fortunately there have been no fatalities. Although I don't mind if the hawk feeds, I just wish he would figure out how without causing all the havoc.
He hasn't been around for a couple days, so I hope he's moved on to a new territory.

Related Articles:
Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk comes for a visit http://bit.ly/w1fDRM
Can You Scare a Hawk Away? http://bit.ly/w3vz5B
Small birds attack hawk http://bit.ly/sH68yB
Frozen Woodpecker http://bit.ly/ubSCTR
Is it safe to feed the birds out in the open? http://bit.ly/rBErxI

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Learn what bird is singing with the bird songs audio book

I’m so excited one of the most innovative bird books is back in print! The Backyard Birdsong Guide by Donald Kroodsma is the book for any nature lover, both new and experienced. This book is also great in forming a love of birds and bird songs with young people.

So what is so great about this guide? It not only gives you vivid descriptions of birds, their behaviors, and exquisite illustrations and range maps, it also has digital audio of the birds’ calls and songs! It is an audio field guide. Listen to the songs of the most common birds in your area while learning about their habits and hang outs.

Find out what Black-capped Chickadees are thinking as they give their unmistakable namesake call, or why many songbirds have dialects that vary from region to region. Or what about the common House Sparrow? Most human listeners might call their cheep monotonous and tiresome. Yet listen closely and you’ll hear a subtle but treasured variety of cheeps there.

The author Donald Kroodsma discovered birds in a local Michigan marsh during his last semester at Hope College. That summer he attended University of Michigan “Bug Camp” at Pellston, taking both “baby birds” and “big birds” courses simultaneously. He was asked to record a few birds for Cornell’s Library of Natural sounds which started him on a life-long journey to understanding birdsongs.

And as with all Cornell Lab Publishing Group books, 35% of the net proceeds from the sale of Backyard Birdsongs supports projects at the Cornell Lab, such as children’s educational and community programs.

Related Articles:
- Attracting Michigan Songbirds http://goo.gl/Cfgc6b
- How do you become a birdwatcher? http://bit.ly/rquunU
- Best field guide for Michigan birds http://bit.ly/vPOMx1
- What are the Best Binoculars: How to Choose Optics http://bit.ly/vZW26j
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/vUZynL

Friday, October 14, 2016

Photo Share: Fall Colors

Many factors that play a role in the magnificent color of fall tree leaves are cooler temperatures, changes in rainfall, and most of all, the shortening of daylight hours. Arborist, Rex Bastian of The Davey Tree Expert Company explains, “As chlorophyll production wanes and leaves begin to shut down, turn color, and drop from the tree in the fall, other pigments become visible. The yellows, oranges, and browns were always there, only hidden. The red, pink and purple pigments, however, must be manufactured in leaves during the fall. These colors are the most variable from year to year, because their formation is the most dependent on favorable environmental conditions.”

Related Articles:
Mother Nature Puts on Her Fall Wardrobe http://bit.ly/vSLJcA
It's time to Prepare Your Yard for Fall Bird Feeding http://bit.ly/twtTbC
Do birds know winter is coming? http://bit.ly/uVAtWL
Why are the birds eating so much in the fall? http://bit.ly/v0OC23
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/vSdpFt
 

If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Canada Geese migrate at night

Twice yesterday I heard the familiar honking of Canada Geese flying over the house. This wouldn’t register as unusual except it was at night. When it gets dark we think of most birds tucking in a bushy spot or tree hollow to sleep. But during the spring and fall migration many birds take flight at night including geese.

Geese fly at both night and day but most usually begin at dusk. They move in a V formation, with experienced individuals taking turns leading the flock. Migrating flocks include loose groups of families generally.

Geese have excellent memories and vision especially with the full moon, allowing them to spot and remember landmarks on the ground and in the sky. Their ability to see in the dark is 12 times greater than ours.

Their autumn migration can be seen from September to the beginning of November. We usually see some Canada Geese year-round in mid-Michigan as long as there is unfrozen water. However some geese that breed in the High Arctic fly through Michigan to the southern United States for winter.

Related Articles:
- Have you ever heard of a wedge of geese? http://goo.gl/2oDPB
- Goose Gaffe? http://goo.gl/sDx9H
- Strange deer and goose pairing http://goo.gl/im8Pj
- Why geese sleep in the water http://goo.gl/X9gV9
- Why do geese fly in a V formation? http://goo.gl/h1icv