Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Winter Bird Feeding

Birds sure have it tough in winter.  Think about it: bone-chilling temperatures, no insects, frozen water sources, snow-covered vegetation... not to mention stark white backgrounds against which predators easily spot their tweety meals.  Because of these hardships, many people choose to feed birds during the winter months.  Bird feeding stations provide energy and nourishment to many species of Adams County birds.  Our simple sunflower, suet and cracked corn feeding station drew fifteen species today.  They were:
Mourning Dove
Carolina Wren
Blue Jay
Tufted Titmouse
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
English Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Eastern Towhee

Setting up a feeding station is easy.  The trick is keeping the station stocked with appropriate foods throughout the cold months.  Birds require good-quality feeds, such as sunflower and thistle seeds and suet.  Feeding birds items like bread and popcorn fill their bellies while doing little to nourish their bodies.  The birds feel full, but they may actually become weakened due to the lack of sustenance contained in these foods.  

Cleanliness is the next most important consideration for a feeding station.  Any large group of animals - or people - that congregates in one area day after day are capable of passing viruses to each other.  It is important to clean feeders with a dilute bleach solution every few weeks (a quarter cup of bleach per 2 gallons water).   Also rake away hulls and other leftovers on the ground to avoid trapping diseases near the feeder.

Above all, enjoy your feathered visitors!

Adams County Amish Bird Symposium

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!  On Saturday, March 7th, 2009, bird lovers from all over southern Ohio will flock to Adams County for the Sixth Annual Amish Bird Symposium.  Join Cincinnati Museum Center, The Nature Conservancy, and the Adams County Amish Community for a day-long celebration of birds that features speakers, vendors, and activities.  This year, presentations will be given on everything from farming with grassland birds in Ohio to studying birds on the West Indies' island of Dominica.  Registration to this unique symposium has already begun, so call Cincinnati Museum Center today at 1-800-733-2077 (press zero for the operator) to sign up.  Cost is $20.00 per person.  Children 12 and under free.  Includes drinks, an Amish-made lunch, and Miller's Bakery doughnuts and coffee.  Hope to see you there.

Finally pine siskins!

Well from all the chatter about them on the bird listservs about all the pine siskins being see all over the state we finally got some. I had 15 at my feeder yesterday and maybe more today. Now we are just waiting for the redpolls and crossbills. Who knows? This may be the disadvantage of living soo far south. We have to wait for the northern guys. Beautiful snow today, hope we don't get the freezing rain they predicted.
Photo: Bill Hull

The Nesting Season Begins

Here we are in the middle of Winter with snow and ice all around. Most people would never think about hiking and exploring the woods to see what is new. That is more of a Spring, Summer, or Fall activity, yet now is the good time to observe the cycle of life that begins again.

Head out into your nearest woods and look into the fork of a tree for a big nest that you would think would be abandoned at this time of year. Or maybe try to find a big cavity or possibly a snag of a broken off tree. Take binoculars and look at it very closely. There just might be a Great Horned Owl or Barred Owl in it. Don't just assume that nothing is in the nest because it is covered with snow or ice. I have been staring at a nest covered in snow thinking that it is unoccupied when all of the sudden I realized that that are two dark eyes staring right back at me from the snow.

Late January is the beginning of nesting time for Great Horned Owls with Barred Owls following shortly after then. Now is one of the best times to observe both of these species. First while the owls are on the nest incubating the eggs and then during the fledging period that follows.

Great Horned Owls typically have a clutch size of 1-4 eggs with an incubation period of 26-35 days. Once hatched the owlets will be fully fledged about 5 -7 weeks later.

Barred Owls on the other hand typically have a clutch size of 2-3 eggs. Their incubation period is 28 -33 days with fledging coming about 6- 7 weeks later.

Great Horned Owls seem to prefer sites with a mix of mature deciduous and coniferous trees that are adjacent to waterways and open zones suitable for their hunting. The trees provide the owls with high, concealed day-time roosts and also potential nesting sites. The great horned owl does not, however, build its own nest. Instead, it typically appropriates a suitably sized nest from other owls, crows, hawks, herons, or eagles

Barred Owls prefer deep moist forests, wooded swamps, and woodlands near waterways. The habitat is sometimes characterized as heavy mature woods with nearby open country for foraging. These can vary from upland woods to lowland swamps usually near creeks, lakes or river valleys. The area should include densely foliated trees for daytime roosts, conifers or deciduous trees with year-round leaves for winter roosts, and the presence of large trees with suitable cavities for nesting. It prefers to use cavities for it's nest.

Always remember never get too close to the nest or the cavity or stay for a lengthy period of time. Like all nesting birds you do not want to make them too nervous and overstay your welcome. The best advice is to watch for a while, take note of the location and date, and return a few more times throughout the nesting and fledging period.
So if cabin fever is starting to affect you, don't fight it. Maybe that is just Mother Nature's way of telling you it is time to go out and explore!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cold Weather sightings

It is officially cold in Adams County on this fifteenth day of January. Most of us have made plans to work indoors as temperatures were in the single digits on our way to work this morning. Even as cold as it is, there are things outdoors that are worth stepping out to see. There were multiple rafts of ducks on Ohio Brush creek this morning. Species included American Black Ducks (29), Hooded Mergansers (16) and Mallards (+/-12). Pete reported a large flock of Purple Finches (150+) working the pavement on Brush Creek road. The birds stayed put for a couple of hours at that location. Unusual to see a flock of Purple Finches that large that staying together at a site for that long. Most surprising, a juvenile Golden Eagle was spotted above Ohio Brush Creek along Waggoner Riffle Road today. The bird was slowly soaring south and might hang out near the Killen station along the Ohio River.

Pay attention to your feeders as this cold weather may bring in some unusual birds. A Common Redpoll was seen at a feeder in Pike county this morning along with several Pine Siskins. Most unusual, a male Baltimore Oriole has been seen several times in the Columbus, Ohio area. Pay attention during this cold weather and share the cool or unusual stuff that you see out there.