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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

KNX News Radio examines California's drought July 31

A Western scrub jay takes advantage of a birdbath.  Photo by J.J. Meyer
 Passing along the information on this important program:    

            As California faces one of the most severe droughts on record, KNX 1070 NEWSRADIO will present a comprehensive examination of the region’s current water emergency in a day-long series titled, “Running on Empty: Our Epic Drought,airing Thursday, July 31 from 5 a.m. to 
7 p.m. on KNX 1070 and cbsLA.com.
KNX 1070’s award-winning news staff will look at the impact the worsening drought will have on our lives far beyond dry lawns and dirty cars.  A potential health emergency looms, firefighters are changing the way they battle fires and some areas are already on the verge of running out of water. 
KNX will detail what sets the current drought apart from those the state has experienced in the recent past. Among the questions to be answered are what food products might disappear from shelves and which ones will get costlier, who decides who’ll be able to tap into the eroding water supply and what will the long-term effects be on the local environment and wildlife?

 Seven KNX reporters have conducted more than 50 interviews with California Governor Jerry Brown, representatives from the Metropolitan and Orange County Water Districts, climatologists, environmentalists, farmers and others.

Podcasts and companion stories will be posted at www.cbsLA.com/drought and listeners can join the conversation on social media using #KNXdrought.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A little inspiration for today from the Birds on the Wires

It's amazing how many of us find inspiration from the birds.

One morning while reading a newspaper, Jarbas Agnelli saw a photograph of birds on an electric wire. He cut out the photo and was inspired to make a song using the exact location of the birds as musical notes. He was curious to hear what melody the birds created.

He sent the music to the photographer, Paulo Pinto, who told his editor, who told a reporter and the story ended up as an interview in the newspaper. It ended up as the winner of the YouTube Play Guggenheim Biennial Festival.

Have a listen at how incredible the sounds that came out of the birds' positioning on the wires.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Has one bird taken over your hummingbird feeder?

This male Allen's hummingbird has claimed the feeder.  Photo by J.J. Meyer
A common question: I have one hummingbird that runs all the others away. What can I do to get more hummingbirds at my feeder?

It's not uncommon for a male hummingbird to claim an area with a food source as "his" territory. Then he runs all the other birds off with his fierce chirps.

Solve this by placing several feeders around the yard, making it more difficult for him to protect them all.  Make sure the defender can't see them all from one lookout spot.  Or create some type of visual separation, such as a vine-covered trellis, between hanging feeders.

Do you have any other tricks? Please comment below.
Happy Birding!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pennies may prevent algae build-up in birdbaths

Photo from Dirt Du Jour

My good friend, garden writer Cindy McNatt, suggested this trick to prevent algae build-up in birdbaths: Place a few pennies in it. Apparently, you need pre-1982 pennies, because later years have very little copper. The pennies are supposed to prevent algae not get rid of it, so start with a sparkling clean birdbath first.

Try it and let me know if it works!

Happy Birding!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Use mealworms to draw black phoebes

Black phoebes are year-round residents in So. California.  Photo by J.J. Meyer
In case you missed my column today in the O.C. Register, here it is:

A friendly pair of black phoebes became year-round residents of our yard a few years ago.  Most mornings I can hear their shrill chirps before I’m even out of bed.
They often sit on the backs of our patio chairs that afford a direct view into our kitchen window. When really impatient they’ve been known to hover in front of it and even tap on the glass to get my attention. A string of sharp chirps generally continues until I come out with mealworms. Sometimes I think I’m being scolded for taking too long.
Lately, only one bird has been visiting. It repeatedly gathers a couple of mealworms in its bill then heads out of the yard in the same direction each time. It’s clear the pair is nesting, the second time this season.
Black phoebes are monomorphic, meaning that there are no differences in the physical characteristics between males and females.  These small songbirds are mostly black or dark sooty gray with a white belly. They have a large head and often show a slight crest. Juvenile plumage shows a hint of brown with cinnamon wing bars and rump.
Common throughout California, black phoebes are from the family of tyrant flycatchers and are often found near water, where they skim the surface for insects.  As the term flycatcher implies, they often sit on a fixed perch then dart out to catch insects on the fly.  They pump their tails up and down continuously when perched, seemingly in rhythm with their chirps. Because they can perform incredible aerial maneuvers, it makes them fun to watch.
They’re very territorial and often remain year-round in an area with an established food source. They build mud nests under the eaves of buildings, bridges and other protected shelters. The female lays three to five eggs then incubates them for 15-18 days. Both parents tend the nestlings. The male often continues to feed the young after fledging while the female re-nests.  Once the babies are deemed old enough to fend for themselves, the parents will aggressively run them out of their territory. 
 Because black phoebes are insect eaters, they do not visit seed feeders. But you can attract them to your yard by offering live mealworms. Start by placing a few in a dish out in an open area where they can be easily seen on a flyby. Live mealworms can be purchased at many nature and pet supply stores. And don't use pesticides, if you'd like to attract insect-eating birds to your yard.  

Happy Birding!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Ants on your hummingbird feeders?

Ant moats prevent ants from reaching your hummingbird feeder.  Just fill with water to create a pesticide-free barrier.  Refill it with water every time you clean your feeder and replace the nectar, which in 80-degree temperatures should be every 2-3 days!

Happy Birding!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Smaller goldfinch flocks reported

Nyjer is the seed of choice for goldfinches.  Photo by J.J. Meyer

Last year at this time, Debbie Sugg of Lake Forest had a large flock of goldfinches that covered her three large Nyjer feeders every day.  This summer it's been just a few birds.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Project FeederWatch 2012-2013 reported that American goldfinches were on the decline in the Southwest and California regions. Some are speculating that the drought may be impacting birds.  Birds will not reproduce when there is not enough food.

What are you seeing at your feeder?  Please leave your comments.

Happy Birding!