This is a big shout-out to Sherrie Pelsma, the face behind Portland's Pollinator Parkways (also seen on my Biodiversity page). Sherrie has created a Do-it-Yourself Manual for home-owners who would like to "Flip their Strip", i.e. convert their turf-grass parking strip into a pollinator habitat. This is an excellent resource that will guide you through all the steps of transforming your "hell-strip". The manual is packed with clear instructions, shady/sunny plant lists and planting guides, and photos. You can also follow Pollinator Parkways on Facebook for updates and to share your photos. I have included Sherrie's manual as a pdf download. Have fun with your strip!
Pollinator Parkways has created over 6000 square feet of pollinator habitat. Thank you Sherrie, for your community spirit and inspiration!
Pollinator Parkway's Do-it-Yourself Manual:
This year we expanded our GBBC (from only our backyard) to include a walk around the frog ponds at Magnusen Park. We have recently picked up Siblings Guide to Ducks and "Duck-like" birds; this enabled us to ID some cool-looking duck dudes: Hooded Mergansers, American Wigeons, and Ring-necked ducks. Our total species count over the four days was 33 species.
I have to admit, my favorite bird of the 4-day count was the tiny male Downy Woodpecker, who we first heard, then spotted, in the woods near the frog ponds. I do not have a photo of this little red-capped beauty, but instead have posted two action shots of the Northern Flicker, who came to dine with three of his buddies on the last day of the count. I love those elegant dappled feathers.
Wondering what to feed the birds in your neighborhood? We provide black sunflower seeds and two suet holders, which attracts 25 different species of urban dinosaur!
Project FeederWatch has a plethora of resources to peruse, with common feeder birds and their preferences, Tricky Bird IDs, and FeederWatch cams. Some of our regulars below: Stellar Jay, Northern Flicker, Black-capped Chickadee, and Spotted Towhee.
Want to know more? Check out these fantastic fact-filled sites:
Audubon Guide to North American Birds
Cornell Lab All About Birds
Yardmap's Habitat Network
100 common birds food & feeder reference=Project Feederwatch
It is autumn and time to fill your bird feeders and bird baths; get your camera, binoculars, and field guides ready and then tune into the "Bird Chanel":
This morning we were treated to quite a show, as for over an hour as we watched a small flock of immature robins forage and bath, had a family of five flickers poking about (you can barely see the red eyebrow and mustache on this juvenile male), and enjoyed half a dozen chick-a-dees swooping in for sunflower seeds. We also had a handful of song sparrows, a lone spotted towhee, an Anna's hummingbird, one Bewick's wren, two purple finches, a couple starlings, and a bossy Stellar's Jay to top off the list!
My citizen science Project FeederWatch backyard bird counts do not start until Nov. 12 (and run through April 7), but we usually begin supplemental feeding in the fall when the temperatures dip into the low 50s and 40s. It takes about two weeks to get on the birds' regular stop-over route.
This is certainly one of my favorite ways to start the day.
Wall of Birds :: check it out at the Bird Academy
What does a Project FeederWatch citizen scientist do during off-season?
Why, head to bird Mecca, of course: Sapsucker Woods and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca NY, for the BirdSleuth Educator Retreat. I flew in and flocked with educators, guides, and naturalists from around the US, Canada, Peru, and Belize. I especially enjoyed the early morning birding with experts, practicing to bird by ear, and basically being inspired by people who love birds, nature, and kids, and who are working hard to share their wonder of it all.
BirdSleuth offers kits that teach inquiry and are geared to enhance your science curriculum or after-school program and build science skills while inspiring young people to connect to local habitats, explore biodiversity, and engage in citizen-science projects. We also became familiar with the powerful citizen science birding tool eBird. eBird is a free app, which one can use to submit bird checklists, and connects you to a network that links birders together and keeps track of your sightings and lists. You can also use eBird to print a checklist for your next bird walk. For example: click on "Explore Data" and then "Explore a Region", then enter your county (or state) to view an overview of bird sightings, or even better, Hotspots. If you choose King County, and then Discovery Park, you'll see that 233 species have been sighted there. Click printable checklist, and you are good to go.
Besides looking for, watching, listening to, and identifying birds, we also had the chance to go behind the scenes and see the famous Macaulay Library (of bird sounds), meet with researchers banding birds, studying crows, researching biacoustics, and who were crazy about moths. We built nests, faced migration obstacles, learned a bit of bird anatomy, and took a drawing lesson from an artist-in-residence. I loved all the bird art (including this Yellow-bellied sapsucker carving) and enjoyed viewing-in person-the Cornell Lab's Feeder cam.
Wonderful resources, lovely people, and an exhilarating sojourn in Sapsucker Woods.
We had Bewick's Wrens nest in the same birdhouse for three years in a row, then- in 2011- the eggs were laid and then the parents disappeared. (Free-roaming cats & Fukushima fallout?)
When cleaning out the birdhouse, I discovered these six tiny eggs nestled in a bed of grass, fluff, and plastic. A bit of research showed that Bewick's Wrens nests are lined built with a combination of feathers, wool, hair, or plant down, with a final inner liner of snakeskin; looks like our urban birds used a bit of innovation :^)
NestWatch is one of Cornell Lab of Ornithology's citizen science sites. Check it out for tips on attracting birds to your backyard, birdhouse plans for different species, and for ideal birdhouse placement. Spring is in the air...
From NestWatch on Bewick's Wrens:
Sketching inspiration by Neornithes 2011
I am an avid backyard birder*. My birding adventures generally look like this: wake up, make coffee, have camera set up on tripod on the kitchen table, and binocs and ID guides handy. Then, out in the yard we have suet, sunflowers, a birdbath, leaf litter to scratch in, and often a bit of fruit or nuts.
I have found that what happens when a person birds regularly, in the exact same place, is that it truly allows one to get to know their avian neighbors. I can easily recognize the 25 or so regular visitors to my backyard by their personalities and habits. After ten years of (semi-serious) backyard birding I can distinguish between many LBBs (little brown birds). For example, the differences between a song sparrow and a female finch, or a pine siskin and an American Goldfinch. This week we identified two new visitors to our hotspot: a Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Chestnut-backed Chick-a-dee. We also noted male and female Northern Flickers and had a visit from a pair of Spotted Towhees.
All in all, we saw and photographed 20 species (in two days/3 hours) for our annual backyard x-mas birdcount. I am including the best shots for you here :^) By the way, this two-day count is just one of our regular data collections for Citizen Science Project FeederWatch; we count our backyard birds from November through April.
*This is in great contrast to a "serious" birder; one with a passion to get up early and drive somewhere, usually in miserable weather, to find new birds to add to their life list.
Enjoy these downloads from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Project FeederWatch:
Today I spotted a Bombus melanopygus queen, out fueling up on nectar and pollen for her winter sojourn underground. After mating in late summer, bumblebee queens hibernate and emerge in the spring to found a new colony. (This is the bee featured in my header and the Xerces poster bee-child)
You can create overwintering sites for bumblebees by leaving leaf litter and uncut bunched grasses in your yard, as well as large sections of untilled soil in your garden. They also seem to favor birdhouses that have not been cleaned out, rock walls, and woodpiles. If you do find an inhabited BB nest, please do not touch it or move it! It will be abandoned at the end of the summer. Xerces would love to hear about the bumblebee nests in your backyard.
Infographic for you, on how to create bumblebee habitat.
Let's bring 'em back!
Are you familiar with Prezi? It is a presentation software and storytelling tool for presenting ideas on a virtual canvas. I find it a very satisfying (and a bit addictive) way to organize information. My latest is Celebrate Urban Birds, which I put together for a 2-day birding course for High School students.
"If the whole US was one big yard, it might look like this." yardmap
Geume's Island of Skagit, Washington was recently one of yardmap's featured sites. A beautiful yard! Congratulations to you Salal Sal~