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

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Window strikes increase during fall migration

American Bird Conservancy recommends spacing window tape four inches apart vertically or two inches apart horizontally to deter birds from flying into windows.  Photo courtesy of the American Bird Conservancy

Here's a link to my column, which is scheduled to run in Saturday's:  Orange County Register.

     Walls of glass that blur the boundaries between indoors and out may be an appealing design feature for homeowners, but for birds, it’s deadly.
      That telltale thud against a window is a horrible sound to bird lovers. Millions of birds die each year from flying into windows. And these incidents happen more frequently during spring and fall migration.
      “It’s a conservation issue that everyone can immediately act upon to make a difference,” said Christine Sheppard, Bird Collisions Campaign manager for American Bird Conservancy and one of the nation’s leading experts on window strikes. “Everyone can make their house friendly to birds.”
      The problem is that birds can’t see glass. They see a reflection of their habitat and strike the glass as they attempt to fly through.
      The most vulnerable are songbirds, which already face threats from climate change and habitat loss. “Unfortunately, hummingbirds are killed in large numbers from window strikes,” Sheppard said.
      To help prevent window collisions, the experts at American Bird Conservancy have designed translucent ABC BirdTape. Most birds will avoid windows with vertical stripes spaced four inches apart or horizontal stripes spaced two inches apart. When the tape is applied according to these guidelines, birds will see a barrier to avoid, not space to fly through.
      “The good news is that after you put tape up, you’ll forget it’s there,” she said.
      There are also a variety of prefabricated decals that can be used as an alternative to tape as long as they are placed according to the above guidelines, she said. Tempera paint, which is available at most craft stores, is an inexpensive solution. It can also be used to create window designs that have the same effect as tape. The paint stays on even in the rain, but will easily come off with a damp sponge.
     “Birds are accurate judges of their body size,” she said. They fly through tight spaces in their habitat, so the tape or decals have to be placed according to the guidelines to be effective.
      “Window screens are the simplest solution,” Sheppard said. “Even if there’s a bit of a reflection, it’s less dangerous because they tend to bounce off.” Bird netting when stretched a few inches in front of a window can have a similar effect.
      For more information on window strikes, go to abcbirds.org or abcbirdtape.org.

Happy Birding!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Mobbing behavior of crows

Crows mob a hawk seen left in top third of the tree.  Photo by J.J. Meyer
I woke this morning to the caws of a flock of crows in distress. No songbirds in sight. I stepped outside to find a hawk sitting in a tree.

Many birds such as Northern Mockingbirds are known to behave aggressively toward predators, often chasing and diving at a threatening raptor while giving characteristically harsh “mobbing calls.” The sound of mobbing crows can draw quite a crowd, often attracting many different species to join the cause. Often the birds harass the predator enough to drive it away.

Crows have at least 250 different calls. Their distress call can bring unrelated crows to their aid. Crows will band together to mob hawks, owls, cats, raccoons and coyotes.

Happy Birding!

Monday, September 21, 2015

White-crowned sparrows are baaack!

First sighting in Mission Viejo on Sept. 20.  Photo by J.J. Meyer

     The white-crowned sparrows have returned to spend the winter with us.  I look forward to their arrival every year.  My sighting is two days later than last year. But still earlier than their arrival in 2013, which was on Sept. 28.

     White-crowned sparrows migrate to Southern California in the fall. Some travel from as far as Alaska to spend winter with us.  Scientists say migratory birds often return to the same location every year.
     Like most sparrows, these birds are ground feeders and prefer to stay close to the safety of trees and shrubs. Though they may sometimes visit platform feeders for sunflower and other kinds of seeds, they're more likely to stay on the ground eating seeds dropped by other birds.

      Welcome our winter visitors by tossing black oil sunflower seeds, millet and cracked corn on the ground for them.

      Happy Birding!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A rare painted bunting spotted in Irvine

A male painted bunting at San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine, CA on September 18, 2015 Photo credit: Anthony Gliozzo
More than 100 birders flocked to the marsh at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine yesterday to get a glimpse of this rare and colorful bird.  Photographer Anthony Gliozzo captured this beautiful image.

According to National Geographic's "Field Guide Birds of North America," the painted bunting is vary rare to California, mainly in fall.  The adult male's unusual colors are retained year-round.

Get more information and view images at OC Birds.

Happy Birding!

Friday, September 18, 2015

O.C. Bird of Prey Center visits Wild Birds Unlimited in Yorba Linda Saturday

A burrowing owl may be among the birds represented. Photo by Susan Brown Matsumoto
Wild Birds Unlimited in Yorba Linda will host the Orange County Bird of Prey Center on Saturday, Sept. 19, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Volunteers from this non-profit center bring non-releasable raptors that have become education ambassadors.  Birds often include a burrowing owl, a great-horned owl, Harris hawk and American kestrel.

Wild Birds Unlimited
17611 Yorba Linda Blvd
Yorba Linda CA 92886

Call (714)985-4928 for more information.

Happy Birding!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Socal Bluebird Club needs volunteers to build and monitor boxes

A Western bluebird guards its box in Mission Viejo.  Photo by J.J. Meyer
This wonderful story by Scott Bosco ran Sept. 4 in the The Orange County Register.

LAGUNA WOODS – Earl Garrison is in the real estate game.
     Except the houses he has on the market aren’t luxury single-family homes in the suburbs.
     The 87-year-old Laguna Woods resident repairs and flips nest boxes for bluebirds.
    “I call it building and flipping ‘cheep’ houses,” Garrison said.
    Garrison is continuing the work started by his friend and fellow Audubon Society member Manny Ackerman, who died in 2013.
    Ackerman had built and hung boxes for Laguna Woods residents for a small donation to the Audubon Society since 1984.
    “I was working with Manny Ackerman, and he was building boxes for our club,” Garrison said.   “Manny died in August of 2013, so I wanted to carry on his work.”
    It was a successful program. There are more than 1,100 boxes in Laguna Woods Village; most of the boxes were made by Ackerman.
    Garrison said he has overhauled more than 200 boxes.
    Garrison and Ackerman were a part of the Laguna Woods Audubon Society, a club focused on environmental conservation, specifically reintroducing bluebirds into Southern California.
   “It started with a guy named Dick Purvis hanging nest boxes up in north Orange County and it kind of grew,” Garrison said.
     Ackerman was inspired by a presentation by Purvis and hit the ground running building nest boxes.
   “I built boxes, but not like Manny did,” Purvis said. “Manny loved the wood shop, and he really wanted to do something meaningful.”
      Purvis has hung nest boxes since he was 7 years old. He is a board member on the California Bluebird Recovery Program and the Southern California Bluebird Club. Since 1984, the 87-year-old has built and hung more nest boxes than he can count.
     “I have no idea how many boxes there are,” Purvis said. “I do know that the last three or four years our club has reported producing a growth in bluebirds.”
     There were fewer than 100 bluebird nests in Orange County when Purvis started, as recorded by the Sea and Sage Audubon Society in Irvine. There are now more than 8,000 bluebird nests in Orange County.
     The nest boxes have been essential in reintroducing bluebirds into the area, Purvis said.
     Bluebirds are cavity nesters and need a dead tree – known as a “hollow snag” – to nest, Purvis said.   “When we (Southern California) became civilized and built up, we eliminated the snags when it was developed.”
     Purvis said the nest boxes provide a similar habitat for birds as a snag.
     Not only has Purvis’ effort impacted bluebird populations, he set a precedent for monitoring the bird species in Southern California and the California Bluebird Recovery Program has recently become the largest contributor of nesting data to Cornell University’s lab of ornithology.
     “This is the largest source of acquisition of breeding data that anyone has ever accumulated,” said Robyn Bailey, project leader of NestWatch at Cornell.
     NestWatch is a nonprofit organization devoted to understanding and conserving birds.
“It enlists the public or any interested people to report what they see in the nest for science,” Bailey said. “What we’ve been doing for the last 50 years is tracking trends in the status of different birds and their reproductive success across the United States.”
     Bailey said Nestwatch looks at things like changes in the timing of nesting, locations of nests and the success of reproduction.
     “Typically what we are looking at are changes across the country on a large scale,” Bailey said. “That is why we need members of the public to report their nest in their back yard; because they can collect far more data then any one scientist ever could.”
     Bailey said more than 1,000 researchers, teachers and government agencies use the data collected by monitor groups such as Laguna Woods Audubon Society.
     “A ton of observations have been made,” Bailey said. “The biggest contribution has been to the scientific knowledge of the species. The more we know about a species the better able we are to conserve them.”
     Bailey said the data shows the efforts of Purvis, Ackerman and Garrison have had an impact on the bluebird population.
    “In California, the trend is definitely positive,” Bailey said. “An addition of 18,000 nests for all of California, that is huge.
    Orange County in particular reported 8,177 nests, she said.
    Garrison is retiring from monitoring the nest boxes, and is asking for volunteers to take on his responsibilities. Volunteers are needed to support the following activities:
     • Someone to work with Garrison and eventually lead activities
     • Someone to build and repair nest boxes in the Laguna Woods Village wood shop
     • Residents to monitor nesting during nest season
     Interested residents can contact Garrison at 949-466-1238 or email, earlfg@hotmail.com

Happy Birding!

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!!