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

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!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Bird calls brought Jurassic World's dinosaurs to life

Nesting brown pelicans at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park, Florida. Photo by J.J. Meyer
The sounds of the charging Stegosaurus, the bloodthirsty Indominus rex, and the  screeching Pteranodon in Jurassic World were actually provided by their living descendants: birds.

A baby pelican, an angry osprey, a Harris hawk, a Gentoo penguin and an irate goose were among the birds that had voice-over parts in the film.

Listen to these sounds from the movie at Audubon: Birds in the News.

Happy Birding!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A tribute to hard-working daddy birds

A male house finch feeds a fledgling.
Not all dads will get a day off for Father's Day.  While the role of the daddy bird differs among species, many males including house finches, mourning doves, barn owls, eagles, Western bluebirds and countless others, share the responsibilities of nesting and feeding the young with their mates.

Happy Father's Day to all the hard-working dads out there.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Nuts about woodpeckers?

A male Nuttall's Woodpecker pecks at nuts and seeds.
Californians are lucky to have a unique species of woodpeckers as year-round residents.  Nuttall's Woodpeckers are only found west of the southern Cascade Mountains and in the Sierra Nevada from Northern California to Baja, Mexico.  According to the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, sixth ed., Nuttall's Woodpeckers may hybridize with Ladder-backed Woodpeckers where ranges overlap in the western Mojave Desert and Owen's Valley. They have also been known to hybridize with Downy Woodpeckers in Southern California.

Look for these birds as they creep along tree trucks and branches using their stiff tails as a prop.  They often hang upside down as they probe the bark for insects. Woodpeckers can be found in woodlands and in neighborhoods with mature trees. You can attract them to your yard with suet and stackable seed and nut cylinders as seen in the photo. They have also been known to visit hummingbird feeders--see my post from May 30.

Happy Birding!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Wildlife officials now involved in the rescue of the gull tied with ribbon

Photo by Anthony Gliozzo
Here's more on the story from Friday's post.

The Orange County Register ran the following story in today's paper.
Link to it online at: Young sea gull tied with ribbon

Story by Erika Ritchie

DANA POINT – State Fish and Wildlife officials are asking for the public’s help in sighting a young Western sea gull that may be the victim of animal cruelty, officials said Sunday.

The young bird was first spotted by Anthony Gliozzo, a wildlife researcher who observes and logs birds for Cornell University.

Gliozzo saw the bird Thursday at the mouth of San Juan Creek at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point. He was canvassing the area with binoculars when his gaze fell upon the gull tied with green ribbon.

“I noted an immature Western gull in complete misery,” he said. “This appeared to be an act of cruelty involving deliberate human intervention: a young Western Gull with a green ribbon wrapped around its bill multiple times which continued around its neck and bow-tied at its leg joint. This juvenile was unable to open its mouth while it limped along to keep up with its comrades.”

Gliozzo, of Mission Viejo, inched closer to help but the large pack of gulls slowly moved in the opposite direction. After several attempts to help, he retreated to avoid stressing the weakened gull any further.

“Although I was standing and unable to get in the proximity of this gull, it is entirely possible to entice these gulls with food and get them within reachable range,” he said. “Much like anyone feeding wild ducks – they will get within reach and in some cases eat out your hand. This would be one theory as to how this gull was lured and tortured.”

Janice Mackey, a spokesperson with California Fish and Wildlife, said field wardens have been made aware of the situation and will work with local animal agencies to locate the bird.

“If we caught the person doing it, they could be charged with animal cruelty amongst other things,” she said.

Anyone witnessing a similar act should immediately contact local authorities, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife or the CalTIP number, 888-334-CALTIP (888-334-2258) 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Contact the writer: 714-796-2254 or eritchie@ocregister.com or twitter: @lagunaini