"I hope you love birds too. It is economical. It saves going to heaven."
Emily Dickinson

Friday, September 4, 2015

Birding/ Photography events this Saturday in the O.C.

Southern California Bluebird Club will host its monthly meeting
 Saturday, September 5 at 9:00 a.m.
 Irvine Ranch Water District
 15500 Sand Canyon Avenue
 Irvine, CA 

Robert will speak on native birds and their significance to the Hopi, the Bluebird being of special importance.
Wildlife Tree/Cavity Conservation update will also be presented

For more information, go to:  www.socalbluebirds.org

Also on Saturday ---
Professional photographer, Steve Kaye, will present a class on Nature Photography
from 1 to 4  p.m. at the Fullerton Arboretum, 1900 Associated Road, Fullerton, CA 
The class costs $30 for non-members, $25 for arboretum members

For more information, go to  Fullerton Arboretum
 Or call 657-278-3407

Happy Birding!!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Birds in molt can be secretive

A scruffy Northern Mockingbird in molt. Photo by J. J. Meyer
      The pair of Northern Mockingbirds that have taken up residence in our back yard have been quiet over the past few weeks.  The activities associated with breeding and raising their young are over.  And now they have begun to molt, the systematic process of losing and replacing feathers. 
      By the end of August, many songbirds have started to molt.  Every bird has a complete molt once a year.  Most birds molt in late summer and early fall, but the way birds molt differs among species. Some have a partial molt, then migrate. But they’re not normally in a full molt when flying long distances.  Molting generally occurs after breeding because it requires a lot of energy.
     Birds tend to become secretive while molting, vocalizing infrequently and hiding in the vegetation. That’s because they’re more vulnerable to predators during molt, especially when growing new flight feathers. It may take weeks or months for them to complete the molting cycle.
     With adult birds in molt and juveniles in the midst of developing adult plumage, bird identification can be a challenge this time of year. 

Happy Birding!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mourning doves often pick unusual nesting sites

Mourning doves were nest building recently in San Juan Capistrano. Photo by J.J. Meyer
Mourning doves are prolific nesters, having up to six broods a year. The female generally lays two eggs per clutch. The male assists with nest building, incubation and feeding the young.

The nest is a flimsy assembly of pine needles, twigs and grass stems. The nest is unlined with little insulation for the young. Over 2 to 4 days, the male carries twigs to the female, passing them to her while standing on her back.  The female weaves them into a nest about 8 inches across. These birds  sometimes reuse their own or other species’ nests.

Mourning doves are seemingly unbothered by people and often nest in gutters, eaves or hanging baskets on porches and patios.

Happy Birding!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dog days of summer are for the birds

It's not unusual to see baby birds through the end of summer. This juvenile house finch was photographed in Mission Viejo on August 24th last year.
Here's my column, which will appear in Saturday's Orange County Register's Home and Garden section:

     Birds are busy this time of year.
     “August is an exciting time,” said Trude Hurd, project director of education for Sea and Sage Audubon. “It’s a transitional period.”
     There’s still a lot going on in the avian world in August. The breeding season is not yet over for many species. “Many songbirds have two to three broods, or hatchings, so some are still raising their young,” Hurd said.
     Mourning doves have a particularly prolonged breeding season. These common Orange County birds can have up to six broods per year, so it’s not unusual to hear the mating coos of the male and see nesting doves this month.
     American and lesser goldfinches – common backyard birds and year-round residents of Southern California – are some of the last species to breed. They generally wait until late summer when many plants have gone to seed and food is plentiful. They usually nest in the outlaying canyon areas near water, then return to urban birdfeeders with their babies.
     By August other species have finished breeding and are getting ready to migrate.
     “Fall migration has already started with shorebirds,” Hurd said. “We’ve seen some early arrivals at the marsh.”
     And soon the tropical birds that spent spring and summer in Orange County such as swallows, terns and orioles, will start returning to their wintering grounds to the south, she said.
     By the end of August, many songbirds have started to molt, a systematic process of replacing feathers. “Molting usually kicks in after breeding because it’s very calorie-intensive activity,” Hurd said.
     Many species undergo a complete molt on or near their breeding grounds, which allows them to migrate south with a new set of feathers.
     Birds tend to become secretive while molting, vocalizing infrequently and hiding in the vegetation. That’s because they’re more vulnerable to predators during molt, especially when growing new flight feathers. It may take weeks or months for them to complete the molting cycle.
      “If you want to help the birds, provide clean water, especially in summer,” Hurd said. “Be sure to scrub out birdbaths and change the water daily.” Stagnant water can play host to bacteria, as well as mosquito larvae, which can carry the West Nile virus.

Happy Birding!

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Backyard Birder to speak at Coastkeeper Garden Aug. 1

Photo by J.J. Meyer

Come out to the Coastkeeper Garden this Saturday in Orange where I'll be giving a talk about backyard birds.  
The 2.5 acre Coastkeeper Garden is adjacent to the Santiago Canyon College campus in the City of Orange. This unique, sustainable garden hosts plants from six southern California native habitats as well as drought-tolerant plants. The Garden incorporates six California Friendly ® vignettes (garden rooms) into “backyard” landscapes that harmonize with the native plant habitat throughout the Garden.

Learn what's going on with our backyard birds in August. 
Here's a few of the topics I'll discuss:
  • How birds cope with the heat
  • Attracting birds with native plants and water features
  • Caring for a hummingbird feeder
  • The breeding season
  • Molting
  • Fall migration
August 01, 2015 at 10am - 12pm
Coastkeeper Garden
1560 E Santiago Canyon Rd
Orange, CA 92869

The Coastkeeper garden can not be accessed from the Santiago Canyon College campus. The Garden’s vehicle entrance is located on East Santiago Canyon Road between Newport Avenue and Jamboree.

For Detailed directions and parking info, go to : CoastKeeper Garden
(Do not use your phone's GPS, it will lead you the wrong way!)

Hope to see you there!
Happy Birding!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Tell bees to buzz off your feeder

Dish-style hummingbird feeders are less likely to drip.  Photo by J.J. Meyer

Here's my column from today's Orange County Register:

      As summer heats up, so do pest problems at nectar feeders. The sugary solution used to attract hummingbirds and orioles can also become a magnet for ants, bees and wasps.
      These stinging pests drive birds away from the feeders and create a potentially hazardous situation for bird lovers. And the problem seems to be increasing as the drought continues.
      “It was a concern last year, but not to the degree we’ve seen this year,” said Dave Brandt, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Mission Viejo.
      The increased number of customers with complaints of bee problems prompted the staff at the nature store to print out information sheets on how to deter bees from feeders.
      Tips include keeping the nectar fresh and feeders squeaky clean. Since fermented sugar water is more likely to attract more insects than hummingbirds, the staff recommends changing nectar every two to three days in warm weather. After hanging the fresh nectar, they also advise cleaning off sugary drips on the outside of the feeder so bees won’t be attracted to the sweet scent.
      Sometimes moving the feeder to a new location is enough to foil the bees, Brandt said. A shady location is best, but keep feeders away from flowering plants and shrubs. If bees persist, take the feeder down for three days, then reintroduce it in a new location, he said.
      Bee guards can be fitted into the feeding ports of many types of feeders. Hummingbirds can still access the nectar, but these small plastic caps create a barrier for bees and wasps. Bird enthusiasts can also consider purchasing a basin, or dish-style feeder that inherently denies access to bees, he said.     These hummingbird feeders look like flying saucers or covered bowls with ports on top. The nectar level is generally too low to allow bees and wasps to reach. These feeders are also less likely to drip than gravity-fed nectar feeders.
      Brandt cautions against home remedies that tout cooking oil, Vaseline or Avon’s Skin So Soft around feeder ports to inhibit bees. These oily substances can be damaging to bird feathers, he said.
      “During these drought conditions, bees are also looking for water,” he said. So try offering a shallow dish of water to draw them away from the feeder.
       Keeping ants at bay is also important because they contaminate the nectar as their bodies decompose. Ant moats filled with water are a simple solution. Just hang above the feeder to create a chemical-free barrier. And avoid using pesticides, which can be harmful to the birds.

Happy Birding!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Baby bird season continues through the summer

House finch fledgling photo taken Aug. 24, 2014.  J.J. Meyer
Most people think that birds nest only in the spring, but baby bird season continues through the summer.

That's because many species have multiple nests each season. For example, house finches can nest two or three times each season. Mourning doves are particularly prolific; a pair can produce up to a dozen offspring with up to six broods or hatchings per year

It's best to hold off on tree trimming until fall. And even then, it's wise to examine trees and bushes carefully for nests before cutting. Hummingbirds start nesting in Southern California in November.  

And please keep cats indoors. Cats kill billions of birds each year. 

Happy Birding!