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Bird School
August 17, 2020

Again, I am so honored by the continued comments and kind words you share with me.

(Old Mission General Store), the oldest, continuous running General Store and one room Post office in Michigan.

This store becomes a point of destination for locals and tourists alike.

Next week will be my last letter, however I am keeping up and running.

(Who knows, I may feel like a letter every now and then.)

For now, I am looking forward to some me time.

Thank You again.

Last week, Karen, Yolanda,and I took our oldest daughter, some grand kids, and even a great granddaughter on a little trip.

Lord willing, we try to do this once a year hoping to make memories, and to have a good time (that doesn't always happen).

This year, a great time was had by all.

Hind sight wishes we had planned an extra day.

Even the weather was near perfect.

(Looking down Pyramid Point to Lake Michigan Shore.)

The younger ones ran the dune climb, a nice sand hill at about a 45 degree angel that runs from 100 to 200+ feet high (depending on your energy and how far you go).

I chose to stay grounded with Karen and Yolanda.

With Pierce Stocking Scenic Route closed, I wanted to find and trek to Pyramid Point, another scenic view, yet somewhat strenuous walk to get there.

The walk up is a good .5 miles and at an incline through rough terrain.

Huffing and puffing, a bit of sweat, and we made it.

Even the little kids.

The views from 450 feet above the water was breathtaking and we wish we could've stayed longer.

With Karen and Yolanda back in the van, we had to leave way too soon.

(More views from The Point.)

There were tourist towns to be had as well.

While in Elk Rapids (Michigan readers will know, you may have to Google), the ladies went shopping, and The Grand kids and I went swimming in the East arm of Grand Traverse Bay (Lake Michigan).

We had so much fun in the crystal clear waters, so much so the kids even told mom and grandma they had fun (me too).

School Is In:

(Don't Climb Down Warning Sign at Pyramid Point.)

Fledgling and Juvenile birds have to be educated and trained if they are to survive.

Though not exactly in the way we are trained, they still must learn survival skills.

We must learn to crawl before we can walk, and walk before we can run.

Birds must strengthen their legs too, but learning to fly is paramount for most bird species.

Baby birds tend to first fly away from the nest, when the parents are away after food.

Sometimes, a parent will try to coax a nestling who is afraid to try his wings.

I have watched young birds leave a nest or nest box several times.

Yet, one bird seems to remain, too timid to try.

Baby will stand on the edge of the nest, or peak its head from the box and cry.

But it did not want to use its wings.

A parent may come along to see him now and then, but the big world was to scary.

Finally it may be coaxed out by mom or dad holding a juicy worm or insect just out of reach from baby.

Now the parent moves a bit further away until baby forgets its fears and pursues the food.

After the baby has left the nest, we know them as fledglings.

Most fledglings still need to master the art of flying and this takes place over the next few weeks.

I'm sure you have seen a fledgling clumsily do a nose dive into a shrub or make a crash landing.

The grace and beauty of flight will come as the young birds learn how to use and maneuver each feather individually for specific needs and duties.

A miraculous feat in itself.

The youngsters attempt to stay out of harms way and manage to call for food.

As flying skills improve, the baby/fledgling must learn several other life supporting skills.

Find their own food.
Where to sleep.
What to be afraid of.
How to protect himself from their enemies.
Different calls and cries of their family, and what each call means.
Learn to fly in a flock with other birds.
And learn to sing.

Feeding Lessons:

If you watch baby birds just out of the nest, you can see them being taught the most useful and important lesson, how to find their food.

The robin parents take their babies to the ground, and shows him where the worms live and how to get them.

Cardinals bring their offspring to find berries, seeds and insects.

Often backyard feeders are one of the first lessons for some species of birds.

Though I must say, Black-capped chickadees have a long learning period before they return to my yard.

Chickadee youngsters are gone for as long as two months from fledgling my nest box to returning to the scene.

When they return, they have developed many new skills from the smaller version of their parents when they first hopped out of the nest box.

From crash landings to skilled fliers and feeders.

Let's continue.

The owl parent finds a mouse creeping about in the grass, and teaches the owlets how to pounce upon it, by doing it herself before them.

The swallow, takes her youngsters into the air, and shows them how to catch insects and drink on the wing.

I've witnessed Red-tail hawks drop dead rats and other animal parts in an attempt to get their fledglings to fly down from a snag or utility pole and make a mock kill before they can feed.

It is almost a pitiful sight to watch a young, fledged hawk (as big as its parents), scream and cry helplessly.

Yet, knowing if it survives it will one day be an apex predator with its own territory.

If you watch long enough, you may see the parent bird who is training a young one fly away.

She may leave the young one alone on a tree or the ground, and be gone a long time.

Before many minutes the little one will get hungry, and begin to call for food.

But, if nobody comes to feed him, he will think to look around for something to eat.

Now the fledgling will get his lesson in helping himself.

Many times I can watch parents ignore their youngsters or fly away for a time.

Eventually the young bird attempts to forage for itself and with some success.

However, as soon as mom or dad reappear, the cries and flapping wings start back up.

Fledgling and juveniles must also learn what to eat and what not to eat (poisonous) and how to remove stingers from wasps and bees.

Herons and kingfishers must learn how to wait patiently and at the right moment spear or dive into the water to catch its prey.

Osprey, Bald Eagles and other types of birds learn how make corrections from what they see in the water and where the fish actually is.

They must to be successful hunters.

Woodpeckers must learn to hunt for food in various ways.

There are many attempts and failures and if a young bird isn't successful it will starve.

Eventually, mom and dad will leave the fledgling to feed for itself.

There are time tables to keep.

For many birds, this is a must as new nests are being built and eggs laid.

For other birds time is important for lessons learned, as migration looms.

Yes, birds must learn a lot in a short period of time, and we often don't think about bird schooling.

Singing Lessons or Bird Talk:

Think of the several different calls a bird makes.

Songs for territory and mating.

Alarm calls, I'm mad, Real danger and more.

Certain species like this Meadow Lark will face the sun while it sings, to show off its bright colored breast.

Research now suggests that Black-capped chickadees have one of he most complex languages in the bird world.

Every dee-dee-dee and every pitch (high and low) and length, has a different meaning and may even indicate direction according to some scientists.

That is truly amazing.

Or is it?

Birds are smarter than we give them credit for.

You may have heard several baby birds at their music lessons.

It is very easy to catch the birds teaching their little ones to exercise their wings and to fly together.

You may also witness parents teaching youngsters to sing or speak the language.

We all know they have the "feed me squawk" down pat, but now they must learn the language of "communication".

The language of "love", "danger", what kind of danger.

The language of "I'm mad", "alarm calls", "Where are you", and understanding all of the above.

Many species of birds even understand these signals from other species.

This is how several species can gang up on a crow or hawk that happens by.

Alarms are recognizable.

Blue jays have discovered that false alarm calls will leave feeding stations open as other birds scatter,.

Jays are quick to move in for a fast and uninterrupted feast.

Young birds must be taught about all the dangers out there.

Just like we try to teach our kids.

What birds and animals are predators ( there isn't always a second chance).

All of these lessons aren't over once the parents stop tending to the now juveniles needs.

After mating season, many birds of a feather will flock together and the extended family continues to teach.

Even if it is simply from watching, listening and learning.

Juveniles are still learning survival skills.

Still learning where to find food, how and when to sing and what to fear.

If this year's baby birds survive and are one of the 25% that will see their first birthday, they have learned well.

But lessons aren't over.

Bath Lessons:

Hygiene is very important.

Feathers must be kept groomed and clean.

You may have witnessed jays, robins and other birds teach their young ones to bathe.

They bring their offspring to a birdbath,or watering hole.

The little one stands on the edge and watches mom or dad go in, and splash and scatter the water.

He/she fluttered his wings, and was eager to try it for himself, but seemed afraid to plunge in.

Some birds like juvenile cardinals learn the fine art of leafing as a shower/bath.

Food is always a motivator and often works for bath time too.

You may also see some birds bathing or flying through sprinklers.

After a bath, preening is the next life lesson and you may watch this too.

A careful watcher will see birds giving some of these baby bird lessons, and many others as interesting and entertaining.

I see it as an educational lesson for me as well.

The key to observation is to be quiet and still, and not frighten the birds.

(View of Mission peninsula looking west)

In all of this amazing bird schooling, there is the little hummingbird.

Yes, the jewel of our gardens.

After mating, the female does all the work herself.

Nest building, to raising her small brood herself.

Records show that hummers are quiet during feeding.

Unlike other birds, where babies squawk and parents may make a sound or two, mother and babies remain silent.

No squeaks.

Not a squawk.

Not even a peep.

Complete quiet.

Stealth Mode.

Hummingbird fledging is usually sudden.

After several days of hanging on tight and exercising its wings, the little bird lets go and flies short distance from the nest.

These little birds are still dependent on mom for a short time, but instinct allows for them to tongue flick everything within reach.

As flight capabilities improve, the young hummers begin to forage on it own.

Still, the dependency on mom is still there and the young hummers let out a high pitched squeak.

After a few short lessons on where to find food, the fledgling hummingbird is left to fend for itself.

Few skills are taught, as they now become competition for food (or so the adults see it that way).

This especially holds true with Ruby-throated hummingbirds as they will chase off their own fledglings from a territory.

I see this take place in late summer every year.

The most amazing thing about hummingbirds.....................

The God given gift of migration that hummingbirds have.

Instinctively juvenile hummingbirds know to pack on the weight in late summer and early fall.

When the time is right, they head south.

Without a parent or flocks to follow.

Juvenile hummers will take off on their own (usually after the adults have left).

If they survive the rigors of migration, most will successfully make it to the species wintering habitat.

I might add, that keeping your feeders up will not deter migration.

In fact, your feeders often make a difference in the survival of migrating hummingbirds.

And the cycle continues.


(A view from Mission Peninsula looking east.)

To continue on living, many species of birds must migrate.

Migration is dictated on the length of daylight hours, not so much on the warm or cold weather.

And it certainly isn't dictated on you keeping your feeders up, or not.

For many birds, it is simply following the food trail.

Many of our birds migrate to various southern locations for the winter months.

Some species migrate from Northern Canada to the northern tier or two of states.

Others may migrate to the Caribbean Islands, Latin America and even to the southern parts of South America

These birds are known as Neotropical birds.

Many birds must be taught the migration trail as large flocks gather and move by the thousands.

Some species like Sandhill cranes will remain with their parents until they return north and are finally chased off.

For some species of birds, school does indeed last for several months.

Amazing creatures, our birds.

Our 'Creator' really blessed us when he made birds.

As I repeatedly say,

Birds don't need people.

People need birds.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

"It is good to dream, but it is better to dream and work. Faith is mighty, but action with faith is mightier".

Thomas Robert Gaines

The word of God.

"But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead"?

James 2: 18 and 20

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

A Blessed week to you .

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

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Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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