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Bird School, Part III
August 22, 2016
Look who had a birthday.
Snicker Doodles, birthday was this past Saturday.
Her real birth date, we didn't bring her home until late October last year.
No she didn't get a party.
She is still a doll, however.
People and there pets, huh?
A short but nice trip up north with our oldest daughter and grand kids.
Charlevoix, MI. is a good place to visit, just to see how the other half live.
The area also offers activities for families like 'Raven Hill Discovery Area'.
Once we found the place (it was a challenge at first), it was well worth the trip.
Kids and adults had fun and learned a few things along the way.
From prehistoric history, ancient history, to how things work.
Not to mention getting to hold a snake and large spider.
Sunsets are always special.
A majestic fly over by a Bald eagle.
A showing the family a few of 'Earl Young's' famous Mushroom Houses (or hobbit homes).
Earl Young was a Charlevoix local who built so many structures with local stone and wood.
Huge boulders were often used, and roofs often had the undulating appearance.
The homes are a tourist attraction.
I'll be sharing a few pictures today (they don't do the homes justice).
Needless to say, Grandpa and Grandma were tired and glad to rest in our own beds.
We've been blessed with a few needed rains the past couple of weeks.
downpours that left 3 to 5 plus inches at a time.
Mostly run off and it would've been nice to have it spread out.
Still, we'll take it.
Not as bad as some floods and better than the droughts.
Late summer insects, like Katydids, and crickets replace the spring and early summer songs of the birds.
Nature is so grand.
This is Part III on bird school.
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.
American robins have no less than six different calls they make.
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" and "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.
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.
You may have witnessed Blue jays, Robins and other birds teach they young one to bathe.
They bring their offspring to a birdbath or puddle.
The little one stood on the edge and watched his 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 Northern 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.
You also observe the robin parents taking their babies to the ground, and shows them where the worms live and how to get them.
Later on they will learn that berries are good too.
Cardinals bring their offspring to find berries, seeds and insects.
Often backyard feeders are one of the first lessons for some species and the last for others.
Black-capped chickadees seem to 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.
To continue survival, many species of birds must migrate.
Migration is dictated on the length of daylight hours, not 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.
Migrate south while there is still plenty of food to be had
Many of our birds migrate to various southern locations for the winter months.
Some species migrate from Northern Canada to the northern tier or northern states.
Many American robins will only migrate as far as needed to find food, while others make the long trip.
Still, a few hardy robins will remain around here all winter.
Other species 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 (safety in numbers).
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.
Hummers get special recognition,
In all of this amazing bird schooling, there is the little hummingbird.
Yes, the jewel of our gardens.
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.
Not a squawk.
Not even a peep.
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).
(More on hummer migration this fall).
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.
Amazing creatures, our birds.
Our 'Creator' really blessed us when he made birds.
Well, it is time to fly for now.
Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.
“In matters of style, swim with the current;
in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
What are you going to do?
Go with the crowd, or be your own person?
"And Simon Peter answered and said,
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.
“The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope,
The grandson thought about it for a minute
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
Your friend indeed,
Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.
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