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Bird Irruption & Legend of the Poinsettia
December 06, 2010

Winter is settling in here in the Great Lakes region.

Along with cold temperatures comes the infamous Lake Effect snow.

Yep, our very own snow making machine.

On any given event, it can drop an inch or two, to several feet of snow over a few day period.

The Lakes also leave us with day upon day of cloudy (no sun) skies.

You have to take the bad with the good if you choose to live in a certain place.

For me, the pluses far out weigh the negative aspects.

Tuesday, December 7, is Pearl Harbor Day.

Take time to remember our fallen heroes, veterans and current heroes.

As each year passes, it seems that less and less is mentioned about the "day that will live in infamy".

I dare say, it will be a forgotten blip in history within another generation.

The turkeys are no longer fun to watch as they have been coming for several days in a row.

No longer do they gleen under the feeders, they have to tear up and scratch my flower beds.

I know they are doing what turkeys do, and it is my fault for throwing scratch feed and oilers under the bushes for cardinals, juncos and other ground feeding birds.

Maybe if I stop putting seed down for a few days.

No matter, I'm sure I have lost some phlox, columbine and a few other plants that have had the crowns destroyed.

This is new to me.

I suppose I could feed them elsewhere, but they would still drift over to the flower beds.

Oh well.

Things are decorated for Christmas.

I put up and decorate the Christmas tree and the few yard ornaments,

Karen decorates the rest of the house.

Things are more simple than the past.

I was a Clark Griswold wanna be when it came to outdoor lighting.

Thousands of lights and they had to be just so (perfect).

When it became too much like work, I scaled way back.

I wonder what took me so long to do that?

Karen has eased up some inside as well.

Aren't we supposed to enjoy the season?

It is difficult to do so when you spend more time with decorations than you do with family and thanking our Lord.

(Tree sparrows)


There is something a bit special about the first snows of winter.

Although, winter and Christmas scenes always look more inviting in pictures and on TV.

Tis the season to be jolly and of good cheer...................

For the next couple of weeks, letters may be longer (like they aren't already) as I add a Christmas legend or two.

I had planned on adding readers Christmas favorites to each letter, however, several are coming in and most are more than a couple of sentences (which is good).


Later this month I will put out a special letter just with your special moments and traditions.

Keep them coming and maybe a couple of the men will share too.

Simply send this back to me along with your Christmas favorite memories or traditions.

Along with your"

First Name (last is optional).

Region or city you live near.

Ans State or Privince you are in.

Let's really have a nice special letter.

Yes, there is a topic this week as well on Bird Irruption.

Sit back and relax.

Take your time and enjoy the newsletters this month.

Here is another legend of Christmas.


Legend of the Poinsettia:

Bright, flaming red, star-shaped Poinsettias are known as 'Flower of the Holy Night' or 'Flame Leaf' in the United States. One of the most popular flowers in Central America, it was brought here by Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first US ambassador to Mexico, over a hundred years ago.

Still, most of the supply of this famous beloved Christmas flower in American cities is said to come from California and the folklore attached to it comes from Mexico.

This flower also represents the deep love for Christ and great devotion of a pure innocent human being to baby Jesus.

However, in this instance, the devotees were two beautiful, naÔve children who were not so fortunate as their friends to have enough money to do what their heart yearns for.

These poor children from Mexico were known as Maria, the sister and Pablo, her dear little brother. Just like all the other children in the village, they were looking forward to the Christmas festival and the annual Nativity play in which a large manger scene was set up in the village church.

The season was full of parades and parties that were mainly centered around this church and all the people, especially children, used to gift presents to the baby child on Christmas Eve.

Now, these two children loved Christ and the season of His birth very much but do not had any money to buy something for the baby Christ. They ardently wished to buy something special for the Christ but couldn't even buy the simplest of things for Him.

They were sad at heart and were quite disheartened by their poverty and misery when they set out for church to attend the service. They took the longer route in a vague hope to find dome blossoms to gift the child but couldn't find any.

Finally, they picked up some wild weeds growing along the roadside as a gift for the Baby, squared their shoulders and approached the Church door. But how cruel little children can be, when they start teasing their fellow mates.

Yet, Maria and Pablo braved their way to the manger and placed the greenery carefully around the manger.

What happened next was the biggest surprise for all that were present! Bright red star-shaped flowers burst forth from the weeds and looked most sparkling of all gifts that the Christ child had received that day.

Did You Know:

According to the Animal Poison Control Center by the ASPCA,

The 'deadly' poinsettias to pets is really just a myth.

Latex in the plant can be irritating, but not much more.

Cats and dogs can experience gastrointestinal irritation including the symptoms of drooling, vomiting and diarrhea.

The symptoms experienced are not dangerous and can be treated at home

by giving your cat milk or water to settle the stomach upset.

While your pet won't die from eating poinsettia leaves, you should still keep them out of reach.


An irruption is a dramatic, irregular migration of large numbers of birds to areas where they arenít typically found.

Possibly at a great distance from their normal ranges.

While one or two vagrant birds of northern species may appear at southern feeders in any year, an irruption is characterized by large numbers of unexpected birds.

Depending on the species, irruptions may occur in cycles from 2-10 or even 15 years, or they may be much more unpredictable

The fundamental difference lies in the prefix.

Irruption starts with a variant of Latin 'in', and means bursting or breaking in.

Eruption starts with a variant of Latin 'ex', and means bursting or breaking out(think volcano).

They're not interchangeable words.

Every winter across North America, bird watchers anxiously await the possible incursion of birds that don't normally winter in their areas.

These periodic bird irruptions (not eruptions) add a dramatic level of excitement to winter birding.

For new readers and novice backyard birders, irruptions occur when one or more species of bird(s) all of a sudden appear out of no where.

(Pine Siskin).

If you are new to birding, it is a first time thing and many spot birds that are new to them and wonder why they haven't seen them before or where did they come from.

Sometimes harsh winters or the lack of food will cause irruptions, but not always.

Some birds irrupt every other year, while another species may not irrupt for 10 to 15 years.

The birds most commonly associated with these winter irruptions are the winter finches (Pine Grosbeak, Red Crossbill, White-winged Crossbill, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin, Common Redpoll, and Evening Grosbeak).

Other species will also shift from their typical wintering grounds into other areas.

For example, Bohemian Waxwing, Black-capped Chickadee, Clark's Nutcracker and Varied Thrush will stage periodic winter irruptions.

Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned kinglets will irrupt from time to time.

I have never seen kinglets in great numbers, but I will have them visit certain years.

The arrival of winter finches to your backyard does not necessarily indicate a harsh winter ahead.

It is generally believed that irruptions are driven by a lack of food on the normal wintering grounds.

For example, Common Redpolls feed primarily on the catkins produced by birch and alder trees.

(Purple Finch).

When catkin production is low, Common Redpolls leave these areas and irrupt into areas where food is more plentiful.

Common Redpoll irruptions can be extensive, ranging as far south as the Middle Atlantic States or central Kansas.

On major years of irruption, you may see too many redpolls to count,

It was this way a couple of years ago for me and for much of the upper Midwest and northeast United States

It was the same winter two years ago that Snowy owls were spotted in several locations hundreds of miles south of their normal range.

Some years, you may see a few Common redpolls.

Still, most years you wont see a thing unless you live in Common redpoll country.

Another member of the finch family are Pine siskins.

Siskins are distributed across much of Canada and at higher elevations in the western portions of the United States and small populations in the Appalachian Mountains.

Irruptions of Pine Siskins is biennial, meaning this species irrupts every other year.

What is interesting in the Western regions is this.

They seem to take turns irrupting east of the Rockies one time and west of the Mountains the following irruptive year.

Yet, in the east they are almost like clockwork.

Last year I was Purple finch-less, I'm hoping for better results this winter.

Then there is good OLE reliable, the Red-breasted nuthatch.

Red-breasted nuthatches are one of the most reliable birds to irrupt.

In my Southwest Michigan yard, several appear every two years and this is the year.

The little nuthatches arrived about a month ago.

If they would stay year round, they would be in my top five favorites, as they are a very friendly bird, much like chickadees.

It is a rare winter when no species of bird is irrupting somewhere in North America.

An event could be geographically limited; for example, Varied Thrushes (native to the Pacific Northwest) occasionally undergo greater dispersion on their typical winter range in the Pacific Northwest.

On the other hand, an event could be as dramatic as the simultaneous irruption of several species into one area.

This occurred in the Northeast during the winter of 1997-1998, and again two winters ago, when Red and White-winged crossbills, Common Redpolls, Evening Grosbeaks, and Pine Grosbeaks staged a massive "super-flight" into a region.

(Red-breasted nuthatch).

Scientists would like to better understand how and why these irruptions occur.

Is it food related?

What other reasons call for irruptions?

You can even become an volunteer or amateur scientist.

By monitoring birds in your backyard or your favorite birding areas and reporting irrupting species over the Internet to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Irruptive Bird Survey at BirdSource.

By doing so, you can help answer some of these questions:

What bird species and how many individuals are irrupting?

When does the irruption begin and how long does it last?

To what geographical extent is the irruption?

What influence does food availability have in areas where birds have irrupted?

Be on the look-out for irrupting species (and note wild food availability in your locality).

Well, it is time to fly for now.

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

No man or woman of the humblest sort can really be strong, gentle and good, without the world being better for it, without somebody being helped and comforted by the very existence of that goodness.

Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) American Bishop

Think about it my friend.

In this day and agewhere we are taught me,me,me,..............

It is really about giving, helping and sharing with others and those in need.

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4:32 (New International Version)

"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."

Luke 6:35 New International Version Bible

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

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

Gardening For Wildlife.

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