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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

February is National Bird Feeding Month as well as the #GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC)

February is National Bird Feeding Month because it is one of the most difficult months in much of the U.S. for birds to survive in the wild. And February 16-19, 2018 is the Great Backyard Birdcount (GBBC). That is a citizen science project where everyone can take 15 minutes to count what birds they see in their yard and submit their observations to gbbc.birdcount.org.

 To prepare your yard for the big count, I've made a little cheat sheet on bird seed to help you attract the most birds. When choosing a seed blend to feed wild birds I always make sure sunflower is the first ingredient. I also like seed blends with nuts. Sunflower seed is the favorite of most seed eating birds like cardinals, finches and titmice and the peanuts will attract bug eating birds like chickadees, wrens, jays and woodpeckers.

To make the most of your birdseed budget, choose seeds that attract the birds you want to watch. The following shows the results of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service studies on food preferences of birds:
a) Black oil – Fresh oil sunflower seed is attractive to most seed eating bird species.
b) Striped – The larger shell is harder for some birds to crack but Tufted Titmice and Blue Jays prefer.
2. Peanut pieces – Are attractive to numerous species. Lots of bug or suet eating birds choose peanuts for their high protein and fat levels.
3. White Proso Millet – Is the preferred food for ground feeding birds like juncos, doves and sparrows.
4. Safflower seed – This was not included in USFWS studies but is a favorite of red birds like Cardinals and House Finches and is considered acceptable to most other bird species except blackbirds and starlings. (Squirrels don't seem to care for it either.)
5. Nyjer (Thistle) - Is not related to weed thistles. The high fat content and small seed shape makes it attractive to finches.
6. Cracked Corn - Eaten about one-third as often as white proso millet and attracts blackbirds.
7. Red Proso Millet – It can be used as a substitute for white proso; however, not as preferred
8. Golden (German) Millet – Is the least preferred of the millets
9. Milo (sorghum) – Large red round seed found in a lot of cheap blends. It is unattractive generally to all species. Jays, cowbirds, and grouse may eat it in Michigan. More of the western ground feeding birds might eat milo.
10. Oats - Only starlings found hulled oats attractive.
11. Wheat – Unattractive to most species.
12. Canary seed - Unattractive to most species. House Sparrows and cowbirds will eat canary seed.
13. Flax seed - Almost completely ignored.
14. Rape seed (canola seed) - Least attractive feed in the study. Quail and doves may eat.

Where to Purchase Seed
We have tons of fresh seed delivered every week to our Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. Our seed is also sifted to take out all the sticks and field debris. Wild Birds Unlimited is dedicated to offering fresh, top-quality seed. Our no-waste bird seed blends are made from 100% edible seed and have been exclusively formulated for the feeding preferences of our local birds. No cereal fillers—just fresh, high-quality seed your birds will love. We also carry a wide variety of other bird foods—suet, seed cylinders, mealworms and more.

What is your best blend?
For the East Lansing  Wild Birds Unlimited store, customers’ preference by far is WBU No-Mess Blend. Our unique No-Mess Blend contains sunflower seeds, peanut pieces and white proso millet without the shells. No shells on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's nothing on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

Related Articles:
Common winter birds in Michigan and their food preference: http://bit.ly/yp9YQA
How to choose the best suet cake http://bit.ly/xATYPQ
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/qizlNh
How to winterize your bird feeding station http://bit.ly/xucuF8
Why do Birds Scatter Seeds from Feeders? http://bit.ly/vZ6gzM
Why pay more for seed at Wild Birds Unlimited? http://bit.ly/xJZMFe

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

#GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC): Frequently Asked Questions

* How is the information from the GBBC used?
Bird populations are constantly changing. No team of scientists could hope to keep track of the complicated patterns of movement of species around the world. The information ordinary volunteer citizen scientist share in the GBBC, help shape an overall picture of how birds are affected by environmental changes, land development, and human impact.

* Why is the count in February?
The GBBC is held in February to create a snapshot of the distribution of birds just before spring migrations in March.

* Where should I count birds?

You can count birds anywhere in the world from any location. Different locations can help pull together a whole picture of bird distributions.

* How long should I count birds?
Spend at least 15 minutes at a location. If you can spend more than 15 minutes, you’ll get a better sense of which birds are in your area. If you’d like to do more than one count at the same location, or counts at several locations, then you can submit separate checklists each time you do so. Each count contributes.

* What does the “Are you reporting all species” question mean?
This is one of the most important questions. If you are reporting a full list of the species that you were able to identify by sight or sound then please select “Yes.” However, if you are intentionally excluding certain species you could identify, such as House Sparrows or American Crows, please be sure to select “No.” The question is not an attempt to determine if you were able to identify every bird you saw but rather whether your list is just reporting one or a few highlights or a more complete accounting of the birds you found. Again, click “yes” to indicate you are including everything you could identify—click “yes” even if you saw some birds you could not identify.

* Do I have to create an account to participate?
If you’re new to the count, or have not participated since before the 2013 merger with eBird, you must create a free online account to enter your checklists. Click here for more info on how to get started. You can also download the free eBird Mobile app to enter data on a mobile device.

* What is eBird?
Inspired by the success of the four-day Great Backyard Bird Count, eBird was launched in 2002 to encourage people to record the birds they observe every day, year round. Even after the GBBC is over, you can continue to record birds you see. You can keep track of when you observe your first hummingbird of the year or mark the visit of an uncommon bird that is just passing through like a warbler or White-crowned Sparrow. eBird will also let you see if anyone else in you area is seeing the same thing.

If you are new to the Great Backyard Bird Count
you can learn more in the participant toolkit (http://gbbc.birdcount.org/get-started/), which includes simple participation instructions, an optional data form, U.S. and Canada bird lists, frequently asked questions, info on great birding apps, and other resources to help participants identify tricky bird species.

Monday, January 29, 2018

#MusicMonday: The perfect saxophone sound.

Monday Music – The first time, ever I heard that sound.

The first time I ever really heard a saxophone played as a solo instrument I was impressed and intrigued. It had a smooth lyrical sound, something I had never heard before. Something I wanted to imitate myself. I was probably about 13 years old in junior high school. When most people think of the saxophone they probably have ideas of it being used in jazz or in pop/rock music. Before I “heard” it for the first time, I too had probably heard it played in one of those venues. But this time I heard it playing something that had a classical flavor. Through the years I have tried to find more of that sound. I’ve tried to learn to play it on my own instrument. I have not yet been quite able to replicate the sound but I am getting closer. Now in the age of computers and YouTube, I have been able to find more example of the sound that I would like to achieve myself on the saxophone. It is usually produced by musicians that have been playing for quite some time, but not always. I have run across videos of young kids or even an occasional adult that have the hint of that sound I want. It gives me inspiration that it is possible but I just have to work for it. Playing in the MSU New Horizons band is helping me achieve that goal because it gives me a chance to play and encourages me to set aside time to make practicing a priority in my schedule. I also get to play with other musicians and listen and learn from their sound.

One of the fun things about playing saxophone is that it is a very versatile instrument. This week I have been listening to lots of different saxophone ensembles on YouTube. I am trying to find a piece of music that I may be able to play with my fellow musicians in the band. Most recently, I’ve discovered Marici Saxes. You can hear an excellent example of them playing here. Another piece they play, Libertango, I first heard on string instruments when my daughter played it with the East Lansing High School Orchestra last year. I’ve heard other sax ensembles that sound like a full orchestra. If you closed your eyes and listened you would believe there were string instruments playing. Other pieces have a distinctive sax sound. The style of music has ranged from classical to rock to jazz to folk. It seems to work well in any type and style of music. The unfortunate part of playing sax for me, because I love to play classical style music, is that it is a relatively young instrument so there isn’t really a place for a saxophone in most symphonic orchestras. But that is OK because I am also learning to play the violin and I am hoping that by next fall there will be a New Horizons Orchestra starting to play at the community music school. If you have interest in playing in the NH Band or Orchestra at MSU’s community music school, send me an email at zarkadan@gmail.com because I would like to hear from you.
 

Marici Saxes: The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba - Handel, saxophone quartet video from YouTube: https://youtu.be/ZzFvWb5gJuU

Related Articles:
Music Monday http:/music-monday.html
MSU Community Music School http:/msu-community-music-school.html
At one time, everyone was a beginner http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/01/music-monday-at-one-time-everyone-was.html
Am I too old to join a band? http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/01/am-i-too-old-to-join-band.html 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

#GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC): Learn about the House Sparrow

The Great Backyard Bird Count is a great way for people of all ages and backgrounds to connect with nature and make a difference for birds. It’s free and easy. To learn more about how to join the count visit www.birdcount.org.

Female and male House Sparrow

Get to know the House Sparrow before The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

House Sparrows can be found all across the world. They are so common in most cities that they are sometimes overlooked. Their name House comes from their success with the living near human habitations.

Male House Sparrows have a rusty-brown colored back and wings with black streaks, a gray head, buff cheeks and belly, and a black bib. Females are a plain buffy-brown overall with striped buff, black, and brown back.

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.

However in many other parts of the world the house sparrow has been in decline since the 1970’s. They are even considered an endangered species in the Netherlands. Similar drops in population have been recorded in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Italy and Finland.

At the feeders you will see the House Sparrow eating mainly sunflower seed, millet and cracked corn.
 
The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with Wild Birds Unlimited, as a sponsor! The information gathered by tens of thousands of volunteers like you helps track the health of bird populations at a scale that would not otherwise be possible.

Related Articles:
- Why should we care about birds? http://goo.gl/4iD8a
- How to get rid of sparrows http://goo.gl/9tAwkY
- How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://gbbc-is-coming
- Book Recommendations for Michigan Birdwatchers http://bit.ly/x5t2gv
- Most common winter birds in Michigan http://bit.ly/ywWdfL

Saturday, January 27, 2018

#GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC): Learn about the Northern Cardinal

Get to know the Northern Cardinal before The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

Except for a black mask and throat, the male Northern Cardinals are red all over including their bill. The females are less recognizable. They are shaped like the male but are a duller grey brown color and have only warm red accents on the tips of their crest, wings and bill.

Cardinals are a delightful year-round resident in mid-Michigan and prefer tangled shrubby bushes and evergreens in yards with feeders. They form faithful pair bonds, and will visit feeders together commonly in the early morning and evening. Both birds sing to one another throughout the seasons with soft, bubbly whistles and when females incubate eggs in the spring the she keeps in contact with the male by singing on the nest, to inform her partner whether or not she and the young need food. So if you see the bright red male cardinal, look and listen for the "chip, chip, chip" of the less conspicuous female cardinal.

Cardinals prefer to feed on the ground so if you can "raise the ground" by feeding cardinals on tray feeders, hopper feeders or any feeder that gives them a comfortable feeding position they'll be happy. Their favorite food is oil sunflower, nuts, safflower and fruit. Wild Birds Unlimited has a wide variety of cardinal friendly feeders.

Related Articles:
- Northern Cardinal Fun Facts http://bit.ly/twE6NV 
- How the Northern Cardinal bird was named http://bit.ly/tSKZYs 
- Cardinal Bird Feeders Made in the USA: http://bit.ly/qXJPFM 
- How to Attract Cardinals: http://bit.ly/pjh7mO 
- What can I feed the cardinals to make them redder? http://bit.ly/rAArXw 
- What are the different types of cardinal birds? http://goo.gl/CUI43

Friday, January 26, 2018

#GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC): Learn about the Snowy Owl

Large white (snowy?) owl on the roof of USDA downtown Washington, DC

Thank you Brad for sharing! 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.

Get to know more about the Snowy Owls before The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

Snowy owls are used to the barren tundra of their Arctic home in the far north. When they do make a move to forage for food in the winter they tend to hang out in wide open flat spaces, where they can quickly and easily see their next meal. Birders in Washington, D.C., were some of the first to spot the owls as well as the farthest south.

From https://birdsna.org/: "The Snowy Owl, also known as the Arctic Owl or White Owl, nests on Arctic tundra habitats throughout its northern circumpolar breeding range—often adjacent to coastal Arctic seas. This is one of the largest owls in the world, and has the most northerly breeding and wintering distribution of any owl species.

Plumage is unmistakable in this species. Adult males are almost pure white, and adult females are white with brown barring. Females are distinctly larger than males. Young males resemble adult females, but have more spotting on their flight feathers; it may take many years for males to acquire their nearly pure white adult plumage. Females are believed to become somewhat whiter with age but they maintain distinct brown bars throughout their lives. It remains unknown at what age adult definitive basic plumage is reached for either sex, or when Snowy Owls breed for the first time."

Related Articles:
Snowy Owls on the move http:/snowy-owls-on-move.html

Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/t6elFd
What is the largest owl in Michigan? http://bit.ly/tAewYm
How Can Owls Fly Silently? http://bit.ly/sAQxy8
Amazing Vocals of the Barred Owl http://bit.ly/sguMqL
Small Michigan Owl Visits Neighborhood http://bit.ly/tlzaoN
An owl can turn its head up to 270 degrees http://bit.ly/vTQWOg

Thursday, January 25, 2018

#GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC): Learn about the Black-capped Chickadees

Get to know the Black-capped Chickadee before The Great Backyard Birdcount (#GBBC)

All chickadees wear caps and Michigan's Black-capped Chickadee is no exception. Their cap and bib are black, which sets off their white cheeks and belly. Their soft gray back and wing feathers complete their dapper outfit.

Mid-Michigan's chickadees are non-migratory and will be around all winter. New fall and winter flocks have been forming for awhile. Normal suburban flocks range from 6 to 10 birds over a territory of 20 to 50 acres.

Young chickadees leave their parents about a month after they’ve hatched. They leave their natal territory and individually take up residence with other non-related chickadees several miles away. These first year chickadees have the lowest status in the group and try to pair up with a mate they can be with next breeding season and move up in rank as dominant birds die.

The average lifespan of a chickadee in the wild is 2.5 years. Keeping their little half ounce body working efficiently requires a lot of fuel. From sunrise to sunset, the chickadee spends most of its time feeding. The natural diet of the Black-capped Chickadee consists of 50% insects, insect eggs, larvae and pupae, as well as spiders, and 50% seeds and berries in the winter. During the summer it is 70% bugs and 30% plants.

An ample supply of foods, such as good seed blends, suet, seed cylinders, or nuts, provide a lot of calories to produce energy in cold weather.

Related Articles:
- Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://goo.gl/bEl3h 
- Quiz on Chickadees http://goo.gl/0cI03 
- Bird Guilds: How different birds band together to survive http://goo.gl/jAtN5 
- Fun Facts about the different Chickadees in North America http://bit.ly/zIDkCi 
- Not a Shy Bird: How the Black-capped Chickadee Communicates http://goo.gl/1rlnh

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

#GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC): Learn about the Dark-eyed Juncos

Get to know the Dark-eyed Juncos before The Great Backyard Birdcount (GBBC)

Dark-eyed Juncos have a slate colored head, back, tail and throat and a white belly. Right before they perch or when they face another bird, they raise and fan their tails, flashing white outer tail feathers.

It is common to see juncos hopping under Michigan feeders in the winter first thing in the morning and right before sunset. They are a very social birds after nesting is complete during the autumn and winter months. Winter flocks tend to be small, typically 15 to 25 individuals.

You’ll see Dark-eyed juncos wintering in the same area year after year. The flock stays in an area roughly 10 to 12 acres in size, but not all members of the flock are together all of the time.

There is a social hierarchy within the winter flocks. Males tend to be dominant over females and adults are dominant over the younger birds. Because males are dominant over females in winter flocks, females have less access to food. Therefore, they do not fair well in flocks composed of many males. Females tend to winter farther south away from the males.

Males need to risk harsh winters in Michigan in order to be closer to their breeding grounds. Females do not need to compete for territories in the spring and can take their time returning from southern states. The younger males winter the farthest north and must work hard to claim a breeding spot in early spring.

Juncos, like many other members of the sparrow family, eat a variety of insects and seeds mainly on the ground. What seeds they prefer can differ across the country.

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

Related Articles:
- How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count http://gbbc.birdcount.org/get-started/
- Fun Facts About Juncos http://bit.ly/pgewJn
- What birds like Safflower seed? http://bit.ly/puRjIr
- Sparrows Native to mid-Michigan http://bit.ly/nURO99
- Michigan’s Top 20 Winter Backyard Birds http://bit.ly/pwEqIz

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

#GreatBackyardBirdCount (#GBBC) Is Just Around the Corner

Join the 21st Great Backyard Bird Count

Bird watchers around the world take part, February 16-19
News Release: A lot has changed since the first Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). The 21st annual GBBC is taking place February 16-19 in backyards, parks, schools, offices and anywhere else you find birds.

Anyone can participate in this massive global citizen science project. All it takes is a 15 minute break. Count the birds you see and then enter that checklists at birdcount.org. All the data contributes to a snapshot of bird distribution and help scientists see changes over the years.

“The very first GBBC was an experiment,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Marshall Iliff, a leader of the eBird program. “We wanted to see if people would use the Internet to send us their bird sightings. Clearly the experiment was a success!”

One of the most obvious changes observed in bird populations is due to the varying weather conditions. eBird reports show many more birds are remaining further north than usual because of warmer winters. In mid-Michigan sightings of Carolina Wrens, Northern Flickers and Eastern Bluebirds are becoming commonplace when ten years ago it was very rare for them not to migrate further south. Participants also noted that they were seeing fewer birds at their feeders, compared to other years during the GBBC. That may also have something to do with milder weather. The birds may be finding more natural sources of food and visiting feeders less as a result.

Last year the warm weather in February also kicked off early migration that started around GBBC time. Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles are well-known to arrive in early March in mid-Michigan. In 2017 however blackbirds were even more widespread than normal and their returning numbers continued to build through February’s final week. Comparing the 2017 GBBC map to the January 2017 map from eBird shows how much migration was already underway by mid-February. 

If the warm weather continues, we could see the earliest spring ever for bird migration in the eastern United States: watch for waves of Tree Swallows, Eastern Phoebes, Pine Warblers, and Chipping Sparrows next!

Learn more about how to take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count at birdcount.org. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society with partner Bird Studies Canada and is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Am I too old to join a band?

Music Monday – A New Beginning!

A new semester of music is starting and I feel like I’m a kid back in school. It has been a few years since I had to think about the start of a new school year for myself. There were always mixed emotions. Excitement for seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a while, excitement about new classes. The mixed emotions part came as I stressed about grades and taking tests. I haven’t had to take a final exam in decades but I still get a knot in my stomach when I see the back to school sales every year. I have school aged kids so I’m not so removed yet from the annual cycle and I still get the same excitement and dread when their school year starts. And NOW I’m starting a new semester of school!?

Starting in the New Horizons Band is different though. It is like going to high school the first day and finding out your schedule includes just gym, art or other fun classes. There are no final exams and your grade is based on… well there is no grades. It is just an opportunity to learn a subject without any of the associated negative stress.

I can imagine that learning a new instrument could be a little stressful for some people, but for me it was always exciting to try to learn to make music. Several years ago when my kids were in elementary school they had to learn the recorder. I thought I could do that so I bought a book and learned with them. What fun! A band instrument may be a little more intimidating, it often has a few more parts to it and can cost more which makes me think it must be more difficult. But in some ways it can be easier to gain a basic level of competence because most band instruments have readily available teachers, books and schools that can help you get started. And in this computer age, you don’t even need that because there are hundreds of videos online that will teach you all the basics if you want. I think I am still a little “old school” though because I prefer to learn from real people that I can interact with. I play a saxophone that I bought back in 1984. I’ve taken a few lessons over the years but when I started playing it again in the NHB after almost 30 years away, it took a little while to relearn all the fingerings. I started last spring and I can remember trying to relearn just 2-3 notes a day for a couple weeks before class started. Even today, a year later, I am still adding some alternate fingerings to my playing skill set. I am mostly learning from the people around me. It is keeping me sharp. That is what is truly amazing and fun about NHB. I get to learn, have fun playing music with a really nice group of people and keep my mind active learning something that I enjoy. And there are no tests!

The new semester for the NHB at Michigan State University Community Music School starts January 22, 2018 and anyone is welcome. If you are not sure about an instrument or your playing skill, come visit during a class and talk with us. You can also contact me directly at zarkadan@gmail.com if you would like my opinions about the class or contact the Community Music School for info about classes. Bring your instrument if you want to try playing along with the NHB. The semester starts January 22, but you can visit any time during the semester. See the flyer for class times.

Related Articles:
Music Monday http:/music-monday.html
MSU Community Music School http:/msu-community-music-school.html
At one time, everyone was a beginner http://lansingwbu.blogspot.com/2018/01/music-monday-at-one-time-everyone-was.html

Sunday, January 21, 2018

#SquirrelAppreciationDay: Portrait of a Gray Squirrel

Credit: Don Freiday/USFWS Gray squirrel
Close-up of an Eastern Gray Squirrel's head; note the brownish fur on its face, the gray fur on its back and the white fur on its underside.

Like many members of the family Sciuridae, the eastern gray squirrel is a scatter-hoarder; it hoards food in numerous small caches for later recovery. Some caches are quite temporary, especially those made near the site of a sudden abundance of food which can be retrieved within hours or days for reburial in a more secure site. Others are more permanent and are not retrieved until months later. Each squirrel is estimated to make several thousand caches each season. The squirrels have very accurate spatial memory for the locations of these caches, and use distant and nearby landmarks to retrieve them. Smell is used partly to uncover food caches, and also to find food in other squirrels' caches. Scent can be unreliable when the ground is too dry or covered in snow.

Related Articles:
Special squirrel adaptation http://squirrel-adaptation.html
Where squirrels sleep at night in the winter http://squirrels-sleep-at-night.html
Squirrel Dancing http://squirrel-dancing.html
What squirrels eat in the winter http://squirrels-eat-in-winter.html
Red Squirrel facts & figures http://squirrel-funny.html
Where flying squirrels live http://flying-squirrels-live.html
Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food http://squirrels-like-to-work-for-their-food.html
How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr

Saturday, January 20, 2018

#SquirrelAppreciationDay: Fun Facts on #squirrels to share

There are 279 species of squirrel worldwide including tree squirrels, ground squirrels, and flying squirrels. 8 species are found in Michigan.

On average, our backyard squirrels eat about 1-2 pounds of food per week. They eat much more than nuts. Squirrels are omnivores and eat fungi, seeds, nuts and fruits, as well as eggs, small insects, caterpillars, and small animals.

Squirrels plan ahead and bury nuts and seeds at various locations and return to them throughout the year when food is scarce. They put on elaborate bogus food burying displays to deceive onlookers.

Tree-dwelling squirrels such as the grey squirrel live in tree hollows, bird houses or build dreys (similar to bird’s nests) made of twigs high in trees. They are lined with grass, bark, moss and feathers for added comfort and insulation.

Although a single male can fertilize an entire litter, usually there is varying paternity, so a single litter could have multiple fathers. A typical grey squirrel litter consists of four offspring born about an inch long, naked, with closed eyes and ears.

Related Articles:  
How many species of squirrels are in Michigan? http://bit.ly/yYt6Nb
Black Squirrel History & Facts http://bit.ly/AxiqPz
"Frisky" Fox Squirrels http://bit.ly/AndeTw
Why squirrels chew http://bit.ly/AjVzFW
Black squirrel with a blonde tail http:/black-squirrel-with-blonde-tail.html
Origin of National Squirrel Appreciation Day! http://bit.ly/AhqkBg
Fascinating Squirrels facts http://squirrels-in-mid-michigan.html
How squirrels were introduced into the neighborhood http://squirrels-were-introduced.html
How squirrels remember where they've buried nuts http://squirrels-remember.html
Invasion of American Killer Squirrels http://invasion-of-american-killer-squirrels.html
The World's Largest Squirrel http://largest-squirrel.html
What Happens after you Hang up the #1 Squirrel-Proof Bird Feeder? http://what-happens.html
People Interrupt Mr. Squirrel's Holiday Shot! http://people-interrupt-mr-squirrels-holiday.html

Friday, January 19, 2018

Backyard squirrels

They may have a reputation for making bird feeding less enjoyable, however, squirrels aren’t going away any time soon. Perhaps by looking at them from a different perspective, you can begin to appreciate, if not enjoy, squirrels and their behaviors.

Squirrels are one of the most curious and adaptable animals to be found anywhere and they are unmatched in their problem-solving ability to defeat many so-called "squirrel proof" feeders!

Squirrels can jump up to five feet vertically and ten feet between trees or structures. They have the ability to cling from objects with their back foot toes (with support from their tail) which allows them to hang upside-down and eat.

So, if you want to keep squirrels from bothering your bird feeding setup, Wild Birds Unlimited has tested and determined the best foods, feeders and accessories to confuse and confound even the most brilliant squirrel in your neighborhood.

And if you decide to raise the white flag and enjoy their amazing antics, we have lots of fun and functional squirrel feeders that will brighten up both their day and yours, too.

Visit us soon, and we’ll help you feed the squirrels if that’s your thing, or we’ll help you defeat ’em once and for all.

Related Articles:

Special squirrel adaptation http://squirrel-adaptation.html
Where squirrels sleep at night in the winter http://squirrels-sleep-at-night.html
Squirrel Dancing http://squirrel-dancing.html
What squirrels eat in the winter http://squirrels-eat-in-winter.html
Red Squirrel facts & figures http://squirrel-funny.html
Where flying squirrels live http://flying-squirrels-live.html
Squirrels Like to Work for Their Food http://squirrels-like-to-work-for-their-food.html
How do I keep squirrels off my bird feeders? http://bit.ly/yiZsML
Squirrel proof bird feeder reviews http://bit.ly/waJs9o
Why are Squirrels Called Squirrels? http://bit.ly/yhktkr

Thursday, January 18, 2018

#BirdYourWorld Photo Share

Sarah, these are mostly your feeders that I gave my son near Maple City, MI. He gets lots of birds up there.

It looks like he has a finch feeding frenzy and one lone chickadee making his way through the suet.

Thank you for sharing! 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.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Special squirrel adaptation

A lot of squirrel territory is the vertical, navigating up and down the trunks of a trees. They find a nut on the ground and run to a tree trunk to eat out of the view of predators. Because they have the treat in their hands, they only have their feet to secure them to a safe perching area. Fortunately they have well-developed claws in both the front and hind feet to latch on to rough surfaces.

They also can feed comfortable headfirst down trees by swiveling their back ankle joints. Squirrels can maneuver quickly and gracefully thanks to a special adaptation where their ankles, or wrists, articulate. The squirrel may be heading down the trunk but its feet and claws point upward, enabling a good grip on the bark and a speedy dexterous descent.

Related Articles:
What's the Difference Between a Groundhog & Woodchuck? http://bit.ly/z5FPoV
Singing Birds Herald The Arrival of Spring. http://bit.ly/uJbzCe
Love and the Birds: The Origin of St. Valentine's Day http://bit.ly/w5ra8B
Is hibernation more of a nightmare than a pleasant dream? http://bit.ly/y2OGr6
Origin of National Squirrel Appreciation Day! http://bit.ly/AhqkBg

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Robins stay here all year long

I have just seen a large group of Robins here in in Coastal South Carolina and I was somewhat surprised. Do they stay here all year long? - Cheryll
Yes, some America Robins migrate but if you look at the range map you’ll see that there are winter populations of robins in most states year round. Robins are surprisingly hardy birds, capable of surviving temperatures well below zero. But that doesn’t mean sightings are common. When I hear their chirp in the crab-apple tree in the dead of winter, it always takes me by surprise!

Robins head off to the woods in large flocks in the fall and winter to eat fruits, nuts, and berries. You'll see them occasionally foraging at certain trees that produce fruit, usually after a snow. They can fly miles to forage for food in the winter. You may see them in your yard for two or three days devouring a crab apple tree's fruit and then not see them again the rest of the winter.

At the end of winter when natural supplies run low, they start to show up at my feeders looking for mealworms, suets, seed cylinders, and picking out the nuts in my no-mess blend birdseed. And make sure you have water. Birds need to drink and bathe too, even in cold weather. Dirty feathers lose much of their insulating properties, so a clean bird is a warm bird. A heated birdbath on cold days or a fresh bowl of water on warmer days is a big help. Thank you for sharing your observation!

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Cavity nester birds http://cavity-nester-birds.html
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Build a nest box in winter, and watch baby birds in spring http://nest-box-in-winter.html 

Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Attracting Birds with Roost Houses http://roost-houses.html

Monday, January 15, 2018

Music Monday – At one time, everyone was a beginner

Like many people, I’ve always had a love of music. My interest in music though was not just listening, but wanting to play instruments. I can distinctly remember even as a very young kid wanting to play something. Part of that was just my natural interest in trying to understand how things worked. Probably a negative associated with my interest was that I didn’t have the attention to stick with one thing for very long so I understand the basics of a lot of instruments but I’ve never stuck with any long enough to become very competent on any. Even now as I have begun to play my saxophone again after many years of being away, I have to quash the urges to take up the tuba or trombone or bass clarinet. They are all so interesting and if I had all the time (and money) in the world, I would try my hand at them all. But for now, I am going to work on the saxophone. Fortunately, being able to play in the New Horizons Band at the MSU Community Music School has given me some direction and incentive to practice and become a better musician on the instrument I have. And yes, I do practice. Probably not as much as I should or would like to but I still have a full-time job. NHB does have many people still working as well as many that are retired. It is a mix of all ages and skill levels. That range of skill levels makes NHB unique in its ability to accept new members all the time. All you need to join, is a willingness to learn and a love of wanting to play music.

I feel that on the range of skill levels, I am still a beginner, maybe a seasoned beginner since I have been with the band for about a year now. And I have to continually remind myself that being a beginner is OK, that it takes time to learn anything new. That everyone starts out as a beginner. Before I started in the band I did what I think is very common. I started asking questions like “how hard is it to take up an instrument as an adult”. If you search on Google with that question, the results frequently landed on sites from music teachers or schools where they say that is the most frequently asked question from every adult that they work with. As an adult, we often feel very accomplished in our own field of endeavor but have forgotten how many times we had to overcome challenges before we became competent. To learn an instrument as an adult, you have to think like a child. Don’t be embarrassed by small failures, let them be learning experiences. I frequently miss notes and struggle with syncopated rhythms or cut time. I circle those sections on the music sheet as we play and when I go home, I work through those sections so that maybe I will be able to play through them in class next time. It is part of my personal journey to become better doing something that I have always loved. I remind myself that I am not trying to become a professional musician, I am doing this because I enjoy playing music. NHB has given me the opportunity to do something I have wanted to do since I was a kid and to have fun doing it with a group of other like-minded individuals.

New Horizons Band at the MSU Community Music School is now recruiting New Members. If you would like to talk to me in person or have questions about joining, I will be at the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store this Saturday (January 20, 2018) from 10am to about noon and would be happy to answer any questions. You can also write me with questions at zarkadan@gmail.com. The new semester starts the week of January 22 and you are welcome and encouraged to visit during any practice to see what we do. You can also visit the Community Music School Sunday January 21, 2018 between 3-5pm during their Open House to get more information.

Related Articles:
Music Monday http:/music-monday.html
MSU Community Music School http:/msu-community-music-school.html

Sunday, January 14, 2018

What birds will do in the cold

During these windy, cold nights you might wonder where the birds that don’t migrate south for the winter sleep. Birds that nest in cavities like chickadees, woodpeckers, wrens, and nuthatches tend to sleep in tree hollows, man-made nest boxes or roosting pockets far away from many predators. Other birds like cardinals, jays, doves, juncos and finches roost in dense brush or foliage. I have a lot of backyard birds that like to sleep in the pine trees near the feeding stations. If the wind is blowing, they go to the other side of the tree and avoid it.

Most birds will fluff up their feathers to cover their feet and create air pockets that will help them keep warm like a down jacket. Birds that perch also scrunch down to sleep because that automatically makes the toes grip their perch and stay locked. In the legs of most tree-dwelling birds, tendons extend down the leg behind the ankle to attach to the tips of the toes and when their knees bend, the tendons are pulled taut, making the toes on their feet clench. Even on windy nights, this grasp cannot be released until they wake up and their limbs are straightened again.
Another way birds combat the cold is by shivering. This converts muscular energy into heat for the short term, but the energy must be replenished shortly thereafter. By keeping your feeders filled with high energy, high fat foods you can provide your birds with the vital nutrition they need to survive. High on the list of best choices to meet this nutritional need is suet or seed blocks and certain seeds like peanuts, sunflower  and nyjer seed.

Related Articles:
What to feed birds in the winter http://bit.ly/tfT7Ca
Cavity nester birds http://cavity-nester-birds.html
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/uKZs6v
Build a nest box in winter, and watch baby birds in spring http://nest-box-in-winter.html 

Product Highlight: Solid Seed Cylinders http://goo.gl/HbISQR
Attracting Birds with Roost Houses http://roost-houses.html

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Photo Share: Bald Eagle in Lansing, Michigan

Can you spot the eagle?
During Michigan winters, bald eagles are seen throughout the state of Michigan, and while they nest mainly in the Upper Peninsula, we have begun to see some eagles nest in Lansing. The eagles in the photo hang out along the river in my sister backyard in Lansing.

If she's lucky, during the beginning of the breeding season, from mid-February to mid-March, she might be able to see some mating displays. The mating "cartwheel" display begins high in the air with the two birds darting and diving at each other, until they lock talons and drop in a spinning free fall, until the last possible moment when they separate.

Nests are usually located in the tallest tree in the area, often a white pine or dead snag. They are usually made of sticks with a lining of grass and moss. Nests may be refurbished each year until they reach enormous sizes, up to ten feet in depth and 20 feet across.

Last year a pair built a nest a little way from Potter Park Zoo and fledged two eaglets. They were one of  nearly 1,000 active nesting sites around the state.

Related Articles:
Why Bald Eagles nest in the winter http://why-eagles nest-in-winter.html
Nesting Eagles facts and figures http://t.co/vpj99ZV
A closer look at our National bird http://bald-eagle-facts.html
Amazing moment bald eagle chases down and catches a starling in mid-air http://t.co/U3CT5Sh
Michigan DNRE asking drivers to watch out for bald eagles http://t.co/A9R33zI

Friday, January 12, 2018

Anna's Hummingbird Nesting Season

It's funny to think about it when we are having snowy whiteout conditions in mid-Michigan, but way out west it is the beginning of nesting season for the Anna's Hummingbirds. The question I received yesterday via email was: I live in San Diego and just purchased a hanging nesting material hanger. Is there a certain time of year I should put this out? When do hummingbirds start to build their nests in San Diego?

According to San Diego State University:

"Few birds have taken to man-made surroundings more thoroughly than Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna. In its range, Anna’s is by far the most abundant hummingbird in gardens and at feeders while still remaining common in native sage scrub, chaparral, and riparian and oak woodland. Where feeders and ornamental plants fuel it year round, Anna’s Hummingbird is a permanent resident; in natural habitats, many birds depart for the fall. During winter they return, and some begin nesting as early as December. Anna’s Hummingbird nests earlier than any other San Diego County bird."

Related Articles:
5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses http://bit.ly/xETceZ
Common Bird House Problems http://bit.ly/wrWzyN
Which Way Do You Face a Birdhouse? http://bit.ly/AD43TW
Don’t use treated lumber to build a birdhouse http://bit.ly/x2pIG0
When do birds begin nesting? http://bit.ly/wbJ3kE
DO NOT Collect Dryer Lint for the birds to use as nesting material! http://bit.ly/wC5HcO

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Birds like hulled sunflower seeds

I feed your seedless bird food? Should I also have a feeder with the regular stuff too?

Sunflower seeds can come with or without the shell. Birds prefer the seeds without the shell (Sunflower chips) because every minute at the feeder is a minute a predator can attack. I prefer sunflower chips because they don't leave much debris on the ground to clean up and usually don't sprout.

Sunflower seeds in or out of the shell are considered the number one choice to feed and attract the greatest variety of birds. No-Mess Blend blend (or as many people call it "seedless") is unique because it features a perfect blend of attractive, high-energy seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left.

The first ingredient in the No-Mess blend is sunflower chips, then peanut pieces, and finally a little millet, also with the hulls removed. Peanuts are for your bug eating birds like chickadees, cardinals, nuthatches, wrens and more. Millet attracts the ground feeding birds like the juncos, sparrows, buntings, and doves. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything!

If you want to give your birds additional variety at your bird feeding station you could offer Seed Cylinders or Seed Bells. There are multiple kinds, some even have mealworms and fruit. Or Suet and Nyjer® (thistle) feeders to attract more woodpeckers and finches. And don't forget the Bird bath! All birds need water even those that aren't "feeder birds".  At Wild Birds Unlimited we will help you choose the right seed – and the right tools – for the birds you are trying to attract.

See the proof in this video:  https://youtu.be/fEb5VBzPTUA
The chickadee picks up and drops the sunflower in the shell first, the safflower in the shell second, but finally chooses to keep the sunflower chip.
Related Articles:
Sunflowers Up-close: The Strange Journey of an American Plant http://bit.ly/uFlz65
Which seeds are preferred by wild birds? http://bit.ly/zchLgB
How long does bird seed stay fresh? http://bit.ly/rTLSqJ
Seed Storage Cans and WBU Seed Scoops http://bit.ly/uBaSwO

What birds like peanuts? http://bit.ly/zispJK
What seeds do wild birds eat? http://bit.ly/wKyQNB
How can birds survive this cold weather? http://bit.ly/xbkaPP

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Safe solution to keep seed dry

Ugh!!! Why does wet-cold feel so much colder? And it can be a mess with the seed in the wild bird feeders too. These are Feeder Fresh days. The question I'm asked most about the product is "does it work?". Yes, Wild Birds Unlimited sells it but I use it in my feeders too. A little goes a long way.

I pour a cap-full in a four pound bag and stir it in, maybe 2 cap-fulls on rainy days like today. Any moisture that makes its way to the seed is immediately absorbed and leaves the seed free to flow for the birds to eat. Birds usually just leave the feeder fresh in the feeder to continue working until I fill the feeder again. One bottle can last for a month or more depending on the weather.

Watch the video: https://youtu.be/smZrpg_VM0A

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Why Great Horned Owls have tufts

Great Horned Owls are named for the tufts of feathers that sit on top of their heads, called plumicorns (Latin for “feather-horn”). There are currently about 225 living owl species, and of those about 50 have these feathers that look like horns or ears like the Long- and Short-eared Owls. However they have nothing to do with horns or ears. An owl’s large ear openings are at the sides of its head.

Scientists don’t know why some owls developed the tufts, but they do have a few theories. They  might help members of their own species to recognize each other among the forest around them, or assist in non-verbal communication. They may also use the tufts to blend into their surroundings, making them look more like broken tree branches. Or tufts along with their large eyes they may enhance an owl’s ability to mimic a mammal like a cat and appear more frightening to predators.

Related Articles:
- Owls in Michigan http://where-owls-live.html

- Snowy Owls http://bit.ly/ylJmQq
- Eastern Screech Owl http://bit.ly/wMQBZj
- Great Horned Owl http://bit.ly/zmlFqY
- Barred Owl http://bit.ly/yAoDx8
- Great Gray Owl http://bit.ly/tAewYm
- Fun Facts on Owls http://bit.ly/z9q3Dg

Monday, January 8, 2018

MSU Community Music School

Music Monday – The birds make music, so can you! Now Recruiting Members for the New Horizons Adult Community Band.

I had seen the flyers for years when my kids went to their music lessons at MSU Community Music School. I was interested in playing in a band but I hadn’t touched my instrument for decades. I wasn’t even sure I remembered how to play. Then last spring there was a signup sheet at the school to get more information. A few days after I signed the sheet, I heard back from Mary Ann, one of the members. It sounded like this band really could be something I could do, even though I hadn’t played in years. The New Horizons Band at Michigan State University really is a band for anyone with any level of experience that would like to play in a concert band. And the group is what makes this band different. Forget about Facebook and Twitter to get your “Social” fix. This is the old-fashioned way to meet and interact with people. While the opportunity to play music is the draw for me right now, NHB is designed for learning music and for social interaction and during a 2-hour practice, we take a 15 minute break half way through for snacks and conversation. I’ve met some wonderful people in the time I have been in the group and I may introduce some in future blogs.

Unlike some of the members of NHB, I did not play when I was in high school. I played in my school orchestra in junior high school but we didn’t have a high school orchestra. I decided not to try as a beginner to join the band in high school because most of those students had been playing for five years already, so I didn’t get my music fix and I have always regretted that I didn’t get to play in a concert or marching band. Never-the-less, I remembered hearing a saxophone in junior high and decided I would try it when I graduated from high school. I took private lessons for about a year, until my teacher moved away and then I played one semester in a college non-major concert band. I liked that but was too busy to keep up with it and my other courses. I put the sax away and only occasionally thought about it. In January 2017, I finally decided to sign up for the NHB. There are always excuses of being too busy to join and I did think about that but then decided I was just making excuses. I wanted to play and so I would make the time to play. I actually joined the group a week after the semester started because I did need to talk myself into it. There is definitely a fear factor of being new to playing in a group after being away for so long. But now I tell everyone that that should not be a reason. You are welcome here. If you are still unsure, send me an email and I can tell you more about the group. You can visit for a practice or two and see what we do. You don’t have to commit to anything. Bring your instrument and play along for a bit. You still do not need to commit but you will want to. If you have never played or want to try a different instrument you can sit with a section and see and talk to others before deciding. You will not be forced to do anything. There are no auditions, no first chair competitions, no forced solos. Just a chance to play music in a fun group. When I joined, I brought my instrument so I could try to play. I don’t think I did very well but I enjoyed the chance to play and now my only regret is that I waited so long to join.

If you would like to talk to me in person or have questions about joining, I will be at the Wild Birds Unlimited East Lansing store this Saturday (January 13, 2018) from 10am to about noon and would be happy to answer any questions.
The new semester starts the week of January 22 but you can visit any day before or after during a practice to see what we do. You can also visit the Community Music School Sunday January 21 between 3-5pm during their Open House to get more information.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Newton #cat is making new friends!

Newton is enjoying the new feeder. He did this repeatedly until the birds stopped coming for a while.
A customer came in to return a used feeder on Saturday. I couldn't resell it, so my brother thought a window feeder would entertain Newton and also help deter birds from trying to fly through this particular window. A very happy resolution!

Related Articles:
A window feeder is the best way to entertain indoor cats http://window-feeder-entertain cat.html

Tips and tricks to make your suction cups stick. http://bit.ly/uvCI3o
Which seeds are preferred by wild birds? http://bit.ly/tZKjjf 

Close-up of oriole at the window feeder: http://bit.ly/rIMsv2
Hummingbirds at the window: http://bit.ly/s5Y3WJ
What says eh-eh, yank-yank? http://bit.ly/vvh2lm

Where squirrels sleep at night in the winter

Why aren't the squirrels hibernating?
Not all squirrels hibernate. Ground squirrels, woodchucks and, to a lesser extent, chipmunks hibernate. Although chipmunks wake periodically and eat stored food, while the ground squirrel and woodchuck use stored fat for maintenance energy during hibernation.

Tree squirrels like the Flying Squirrels, Red squirrels, Fox Squirrels and Gray/Black Squirrels prepare for winter by bulking up and hiding food.

In really cold weather they may hole up with several other squirrels together in a den, drey, tree crevices, or man-made boxes to keep warm. A den is created in the side of a tree and is typically constructed using moss and leaves for bedding. Dens can be built into abandoned woodpecker holes or the natural cavities of a tree. A drey is that mass of leaves you see  in the forks of trees that squirrels build with dry leaves and twigs. I have an owl nestbox that is a very popular winter hangout as well as nesting area for squirrels.

Related Articles:
- When do bats hibernate? http://goo.gl/IES4Bt
- Do Voles Hibernate? http://bit.ly/rTcbQI
- When do Chipmunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/uGhBOB
- Do opossums hibernate during winter? http://bit.ly/u4ORP6
- Migration vs. Hibernation http://bit.ly/sixWTH
- Feb. 2nd groundhogs end their hibernation http://bit.ly/vPHVtx
- Do skunks hibernate? http://bit.ly/xVKDXP