It's the Bird Lady reporting !!! Let's chat about the 2015 Great Backyard Bird count...
Do you like to watch birds? Do you like to see them fly around your home? Do you watch them interact with each other and the world around them? If you answered "yes!" to any of these questions, you are a BACKYARD BIRDER!! Welcome to the club!
We are going to have a great time!
The Cornell University and Audubon Society launched The Great Backyard Bird Count in 1998 creating the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time! Since then thousands of ordinary folk of all ages and walks of life have joined the four day count each February and this creates an annual snapshot of the distribution and abundance of birds. We are all invited to participate from anywhere in the world......it's fun and it's free. If you’re new to the count, first register online then enter your checklist ( www.birdcount.org). If you have already participated in another Cornell Lab citizen-science project, you can use your existing login. OR.....you can join in on our Bird Blog on the Friends of the Sanctuary Website and I will enter the information on your behalf. This year's count is to be held February 13-16 2015
To do BACKYARD BIRDING:
1. First of all, let's define what a backyard is:
It is any area you wish to define as your back yard ...a place in the forest or field, a meadow, a neighbor's yard, an area you often haunt or your actual back ya
If you own a home, rent a condo or apt, or live in your car......whatever real estate is surrounding you, whether you actually own it or not, it is your backyard.
Public lands can become your backyard.
(Your yard space includes the sky where any birds that are flying over it, count.... and any area nearby such as in a neighbors yard. As far as your eye can see is how big your yard can be)
2. When you decide where your backyard is, you watch this area to see which birds and how many, visit.
You can watch your "yard" on one or all four days of The Great Backyard Bird Count. Time needed to count? Start with 15 minutes.... expand it as long as you want
3. Make a note of the weather and yard conditions, location of your area (street address, GPS readings, co-ordinates), trees, shrubs, plants, whether it is a wet, dry or mixed area; as much information as you can comfortably give.
4. You LIST the birds in your yard and send that info to e-bird Canada, a birding program that tracks birds through the sightings of thousands of ordinary folk like you and I.
The Upper Canada Migratory BIrd Sanctuary, located off HWY 2 about two miles West of Ingleside, is waiting for you to come and enjoy the big backyard there. You can sit in your car and watch birds....you can hike the trails and watch birds...you can ski or snowshoe and watch birds. All year-round this forest/meadow and wetland is open to you, your family and friends.....and it's free! Maybe you have a few feeders in your yard (front or back) and are DYING to share your experiences with other folks involved in the same pastime....perhaps you feel shy about identifying your birds.....maybe you live in apartment and think "I don't have a backyard"
WELL.....this is the place where you can change all that!
You'll meet other birders in the park, share your experiences with friendly staff at the Sanctuary Center or you can Blog on my page with like-minded hobbyists. But remember.....
Please list your birds here so we can ALL enjoy them :
April 2014 Hello Birders....Welcome at last to spring! Oh, I know there is still some snow out there and it's not particularly warm, but have you seen and heard changes in the bird populations lately?? The Goldfinches are getting their brighter plumage, the House and Purple Finches are so deeply rosy and red now, and the Red - Winged Blackbirds are visiting our feeders as are Grackles, Starlings and a few Robins. We sttill have our Tree Sparrows but the numbers are dropping as they move north to the Tundra, (they start to go as the snow melts) and a few Juncos (another bird that moves northerly) but by and large, most of the birds we will see visiting feeders soon will be spring migrants, our permanent residents, or our breeding birds moving home!
The Ring-Necked Pheasant (female) pictured here caused quite a bit of excitement among local birders simply because it is a rare bird here and even rarer to be in a back yard. These birds live in the wild along the U.S. and Canadian border in our area in small flocks and there are also small flocks raised in captivity on farms and residences in our counties. Pheasants thrive on agricultural land; old fields with grassy ditches, hedges, marshes, woodlands, and brushy areas. They eat seeds as well as grasses, leaves, roots, wild fruits and nuts and insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, crickets and ants. They will also eat snails and earthworms. They forage in hayfields, ditches, grassy roadside ares, fence lines, grasslands, wetlands and pastures (where they look for seeds in the manure) and in hedgerows. Often spotted running between plowed rows or rows of plants, these birds rarely are seen flying. If you do see them fly it is often after they are flushed and then they fly for short distances. They have specialized breast muscles which give them a burst of power enabling them to take off almost vertically and to reach speeds of nearly 40 miles per hour!! They roost in trees or dense shrub in spring and summer and move to forested wetlands, farmfields and weedy areas in the fall. The birds, for all their size are hard to spot. The male's call is a loud two-note harsh crow when they are excited or flushed while the female has some harsh tones but mostly makes softer clucking noises often used to call her brood together. This is the time of year when birds start to call and the Pheasants are no exception.....so pause in their habitats to listen for them. The male pheasant picks out a territory in early spring, then struts, dances and calls to attract a partner and if he is successful a harem of females focus on him. The male then guards his females ferociously even to fighting with other males vigorously but rarely fatally. Nests are made by females most often within 1/2 mile from the wintering grounds. It is built on the ground in a natural depression or hollow that the female scoops out and they are anywhere from 1/3 of an inch to 3 inches deep and about 7 inches across. The nest is lined with grasses, weeds, fine twigs, leaves and a few feathers from their own breasts and 7-15 olive-brown to blue-grey eggs are laid. incubation is 23-28 days before the chicks push their way out of their shells fully covered in down, eyes open. The female leads them away from the nest immediately and they begin to feed themselves as they follow the female. There can be two clutches of eggs in one season. The Pheasant population has declined in recent times due to change in their habitat. New farming techniques of monoculture and use of large farm machinery has degraded the prime habitats. Hedgerows are taken out, ditches and wetlands are drained, chemical fertilizers and herbicides take a toll, burning and spraying for weeds along roadsides destroys nest and forage area....overgrazing pastures and moving up haying dates destroy late nesters. Being aware of the problems facing these beautiful birds' means we can help change things around for them. If you have a large yard, try to plant native fruit and nut trees for feeding...For cover perhaps border hedges out of cedar or fir trees or even some native tall grain and tall grasses incorporated with sand dust patches (for dust baths) and spots of fine stone (for the digestion). Native trees also attract them and other species for roosting....a pond with native plants (for moisture). If your yard is small, use the same plan but on a smaller scale...remember too that there are lots of beautiful native flowers that can be planted to feed, protect and hide birds including pheasants. Last but not least, have a good mix of bird seed including grains and have an area under the trees/hedges for ground feeding...then sit back and you too may have a visitor supreme like I did!!
Good Birding... Madeline, the Bird Lady
P.S. it is interesting to note that the Pheasant in our yard (pictured below) first scoped out our yard from a high vantage spot, found the terrain suitable and safe (food and cover) then foraged for seeds on the ground under and around our feeders and moved or hid byt the hedge. It was almost invisible by times due to its color blending so well with the background and also because it steps cauttiously if it sees movements out of the ordinary. For a fairly large bird it can be very still and practically unnoticeable. The males are flamboyantsly plumaged but the females are a dull striped brown which enable her and the wee chicks to hide as I say in plain sight...she is behind the brown flower stalks in front of my hedge....and then she is hiding (darker pics) against the hedge amongst the outer branches....
Hello Fellow Birders!! My name is Madeline Van der Zweep and I'm a long-time "Birder''.....50 + years actually...and I'm STILL learning something new about my passion almost every day.
What a joy it is to watch the marvelous creature that is a bird.....any bird, anywhere. This is really a hobby that can be picked up and put down easily, travels well, never ceases to amaze, brings color and song into your life and leaves you more aware of the beautiful natural world we live in. You can use a modicum of equipment (eyes, ears, binoculars), wear your favorite old clothes (other birders do too), and meet a LOT of interesting people doing the same things as you are ....trying to see or hear a bird.
But there is one cardinal rule (no pun intended) that you must learn immediately and repeat often.... make it a mantra:
Do not be intimidated by another's long experience in the field or their knowledge that comes from it.
After all, we started where you did/are....at the beginning.
We "pros" began our careers with a thirst for knowledge about what we could hear and see around us while we walked down a lane, sidewalk, in the back yard or garden. I've always found that "oldsters" are willing to share, to point out, and to help someone see something and that spirit keeps me going. Keep in mind too, that we never know everything and we do still learn from beginners!!
And that leads to my reason for writing this article....I'd like to share some of my experiences and bird sightings with you and hopefully you'll share your ideas, questions and experiences with me.
Now let's get started!
Of course, one of the best places to see birds in SDG is right here in the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary (UCMBS). There are many different species that live here year-round, come here to nest and raise young or just pass through during migrations.
Right now we have a "migration'' of Snowy Owls from the tundra areas in our north......this is not a formal migration but an irruption and it's a large one too. There have been upwards 40+ Snowy Owls seen in one day in SD&G and Prescott-Russell areas. These large owls or "Ookpicks”are most often found on fence posts, silos, hydro poles, large mounds of ground, on lumps in fields of snow or sometimes beside roads or water. The birds being seen here are nearly all juveniles come to feed on mice, voles and other rodents and grow fat before returning North to nest as spring comes on. Other names for the Snowy Owl are Great White Owl, Ghost Owl, Ermine Owl and Arctic Owl.
The male snowy is almost pure white; the females are darker with dusky spots and the juvenile’s looks similar to the females. These birds are diurnal—they hunt and are active both day and night. They stand about 2 feet tall with a wing span of 4 to 4 1/2 feet, and have yellow eyes. They have a thick layer of feathers on their bodies and feet which enable them to withstand very cold temperatures and survive in the tundra.
That's all for now folks but next time, I will give you a list of birds you are likely to see in your own back yards. Your job this week is go find a Snowy...your clue: check out the Dickenson Drive 401 overpass in Ingleside.
And speaking of backyards........ I'd like to extend an invitation to all interested parties to join us at the UCMBS for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) coming up February 14-17, 2014. We will be counting the birds seen at feeders or on trails, fields or roads in the Sanctuary....you can come to the Sanctuary Visitor Center and participate in citizen science with us. There will be people on hand, myself included, to help you find and identify the birds....these sightings are then recorded and sent toe-birda Cornell University and Bird Studies Canada program that takes our records and keeps track of birds all over North America. This is one of the best learning and fun activities in birding! Results will be posted in the UCMBS building for you to see during your visits to the Sanctuary and I believe there will be a system set up soon whereby you can write down or "log" any sightings you have while travelling around in the Park. I hope to meet you there!