A PERFECT CHRISTMAS GIFT

If you are searching for a gift for someone on your Christmas list that shares your passion for the natural world, a good choice would be my latest book entitled,

A Journey of Discovery.  

 

This 267-page volume covers a wide range of plants and animals that are part of the fabric of Georgia’s natural heritage.

       Here is a brief list of a few of the more than 70 chapters contained in the book:

America’s Long Love Affair With The Hummingbird

Counting Hummingbirds Is No Easy Task

Black Bluebirds And Other Backyard Oddities

A Buffet For Wood Ducks

How Do I Deal With An Angry Bird?                                             

Water Moccasin or Watersnake—That Is the Question                

Luna Moths—Nighttime Beauties                                            

Fox Squirrels—The Forgotten Ones                                           

Our Fascination With Antlers                                              

Zinnias And I Go Back a Long Way                                    

Redbuds Are Stealing The Show                                           

Owls, Folklore And Halloween                                                 

The Origin Of Thanksgiving                                                     

The Basics Of Winter Bird Feeding                                       

Butter—Kids And Birds Love It                                 

Taking Time To Watch                                                          

How Wildlife Copes With The Heat                                          

Can Local Birds And Plants Predict The Weather?                        

The Backyard Olympics                                                           

Do Released Bass Live To Fight Another Day?

The book can be purchased at your local bookstore or at The Monroe County Reporter in Forsyth, The Bird Store in Macon or online at Amazon and other booksellers.

BACKYARD SECRET: WHAT ACCOUNTS FOR THE MOST DEATHS AROUND BACKYARD BIRD FEEDERS?

 According the  a study of bird feeding in the United States and Canada called ProjectFeederWatch, window strikes are  responsible for more deaths at feeders than cats, hawks or any other factor.

       This conclusion is based more than 2,000 deaths reported during the study.  According to the analysis of these data, nearly half of all deaths are caused by birds striking windows. If these data are correct, the study leaders estimate that one in ten birds might be killed by flying into buildings annually.

       While this is indeed a cause of concern to those of us that feed birds in our backyards, these deaths might represent only two or less percent of North America’s fall bird population.   

       This conclusion is based on volumes of data collected by literally thousands of citizen scientists that submitted detailed logs a wide range of subjects relating to their bird feeding programs.

       This monumental study was sponsored by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Bird Studies Canada, National Audubon Society, and the Canadian Nature Federation.

FEEDER TREATS FOR DOWNY WOODPECKERS

For most of us, the downy woodpecker is the most common woodpecker that visits our feeder.  This tiny woodpecker is only about the size of a house sparrow (6 1/2 – 6 3/4″ long).  Indeed, it is so small that it holds the title of being the smallest woodpecker in North America.  However, what it lacks in size, it makes up with being one of the most energetic birds to grace our backyards.  It seems to always foraging for food.

       If you would see downy woodpeckers more often at your feeders this winter, here is a list of some of their favorite feeder foods.

       While the downy woodpecker will eat plant material, it primarily feeds on animals such as both adult and immature insects.  As such, one of the first foods should offer at your feeder is suet.  As we all know this insect substitute is made from animal fat.

       Unfortunately, the very best suet is hard to come by.  This suet is suet rendered from the hard, opaque fat that surrounds beef kidneys.  The very best way to obtain this suet is to buy it directly from a butcher.  Sadly, most of us do not know a butcher.

       This means that we have to buy suet cakes.  These cakes are made from animal fats. These fats are soft and can come from anywhere on an animal carcass.  Whereas beef suet does not melt when the temperatures rises, suet cakes typically do.  Fortunately, for us, downy woodpeckers will eat suet cakes.

       The best way to feed suet cakes is to offer them in inexpensive mesh suet feeders. 

       Downy woodpeckers are also fond of sunflower seeds.  For reasons that I cannot explain, downy woodpeckers seem to eat sunflower seeds more often in some locales than others.  In my neck of the woods, they seem prefer suet and whole, peanuts to sunflower seeds.

       Hulled peanuts are a great downy woodpecker food, however, sometimes hard to come by.  However, if a store that specializes in birding-related items is located nearby, you are in luck.  The peanuts are best offered to the birds in special cylindrical whole peanut feeders.

       Downy woodpeckers are also known to eat cracked corn as well as a wide variety of dairy products and baked goods.  The list of these foods includes doughnuts, American cheese, coconut, and bread.

       If downy woodpeckers eat other food items at your feeders, please let me know.

GREAT LATE SEASON NECTAR PLANT

        If you are like me, in spite of the fact it is late November, butterflies are still flying about your backyard.  During the past few days I have seen or have had heard of zebra heliconians, cloudless sulphurs, sleepy oranges, fiery skippers, common buckeyes, common checkered skippers, pearly crescents and both American and painted ladies feeding in backyards in Middle Georgia.

       Remarkably, I still have a few plants that are still providing these butterflies and other wild pollinators with food.  However, one of the plants that has proven to be one of the best sources of late season nectar and pollen is a butterfly bush named sky blue (Buddlea davidii).

       This is a miniature butterfly bush that anywhere from three to four feet tall and three feet in diameter.  This makes it ideal for large and small gardens as well as large pots.

       In my area, the plant has extended blooming season from late spring well into late fall.  In fact, right now it has as many blooms on it as it has displayed all year.

       The purple flowers are both beautiful and fragrant.  In fact, the blossoms’ fragrant honey scent is especially pleasing.

       It grows in zones 5-9 and does well in a variety of soil types ranging from loam to the clay-type soils found in my yard.  It does best in soils with a pH ranging from 5.5-7.0.

       This small butterfly bush has been a pollinator magnet for weeks on end.  However, its nectar and pollen are perhaps more important to the wild pollinators right now than at any other time this year.

       Try sky blue and let me know how it does in your backyard.

 

A WEALTH OF INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS

When you visit the blog, are you experiencing difficulty finding information about a particular backyard animal or plant?  If so, whenever you log on and follow the simple procedure described below, you will be surprised how much information regarding a myriad of subjects is ferreted away in the blog’s rapidly expanding files.

       Instead of scrolling through the scores of blogs that have been posted on the blog so far, all you have to do to locate information about any subject covered by the blog is go to the search bubble on the right side of the current blog.  Once there, type a word the best describes your area of interest. 

       For example, if you want to know what has been written about bluebirds, type in the word bluebirds.  After a brief wait, all of the blogs that mention bluebirds will appear in the left column.

       I think you will agree it would be difficult to make a search any simpler.

      And if you ever have a question or interest that you would like for me to blog on, send your email request to backyardwildlife@yahoo.com

BACKYARD SECRET: EARTHWORMS

Would you believe that most of the earthworms found in the United States are not native to North America?  It is true.  Most of these invaders hail from Europe and began wiggling their way through our soils as early as 1620.  It is thought that they either inadvertently hitchhiked they way in the ballast of ships or in the soil the accompanied plants brought to the New World.

LOOK FOR CAROLINA CHICKADEES HIDING SEEDS

Now that temperatures are finally beginning to drop, activity around our bird feeders is on the rise.  When this happens, we have the opportunity to witness the fascinating feeding behaviors of our feathered guests.

       A behavior I particularly enjoy watching is caching.  One bird that routinely stores seeds in my backyard is the Carolina chickadee. 

       If you feed birds, you are undoubtedly familiar with this feathered sprite.  It is particularly fond of black oil sunflower seeds.  Typically, a Carolina chickadee will fly in, pluck a single sunflower seed from a feeder, and fly off to a nearby branch.  Once there it firmly holds the seed, between its feet and quickly chisels the seed’s hull open, and swallows the exposed fat-rich seed.  The bird then returns to a feeder and repeats the process.  This behavior is replayed countless times throughout the day.

       However, if you are patient, and watch Carolina chickadees feeding in your backyard, you just might be lucky enough to see a chickadee store a seed.