|Back to Back Issues Page|
It Must be June
June 01, 2009
Even though you were a bit cooler than normal, You are always welcome here.
I was just thinking to myself and how my favorite month has once again, come and gone.
(Male Black-chinned hummer pictures to your right).
I'm pleased to know that many of you enjoyed the letter last week.
Spittlebugs aren't high on many people's lists, but it's always good to know what something is and why.
Welcome new readers.
Stick around a spell.
You will find I share a bit about myself, my faith, my family and even the fur kids from time to time.
Hopefully we can become friends and you may learn a thing or two (as I learn from you) and possibly be entertained.
May is my time of year and I will miss it.
June is here and that means it's time again, gang...................
Time to clean and sanitize your feeders and water sources.
If you aren't on a regular cleaning schedule, I find the first of the month is always a good reminder.
As weather begins to warm up (if it ever will here in Michigan), you will want to be more diligent with keeping things clean for your birds.
Especially feeders that contain sugar water of hummingbirds, orioles and other birds that visit.
It has been cooler than normal this spring in much of the Great Lakes region, but that hasn't slowed down the birds.
Sure, plants are a bit behind, and cooler days keep some insects in hiding, but wildlife abounds.
Bunnies are doing their best to keep my sunflowers mowed down.
I put bird netting on and they find something else to their liking.
Salvia is critter resistant, but seems to be a favorite of slugs.
Time for some friendly baits, cleaned and crushed eggshells and other tools of the trade.
I'll be glad when the shrew population rebuilds, as they help to keep slugs in check to some degree.
Birds are still busy attracting mates, nesting, feeding nestlings and fledglings.
The war cry of flickers are heard in the distance.
Every now and then, there is the familiar sound of hummingbird wings.
(Baby Canada geese eating under one of my feeders.)
The first part of June is okay.
There is to much for the month of May to contain so June gets what May left behind.
I'm cool with that.
Late May and early June also mean graduations and open houses to attend.
We had two of them Saturday and thankfully that is it for this year :-)
God Bless our youth and young creative minds.
Feeder activity has slowed some, but that doesn't mean there is a lack of action.
Babies continue to show.
Bunnies popping up every where.
Little chipmunks scurry around.
Young squirrels come later :-(
When living in suburbia, there is a lack of natural predators and certain critters are abundant.
That goes for skunks, coons, woodchucks and others creatures.
Some of you may get a glimpse of a fawn or two.
Even Canada geese manage to find our yard at least once a year.
They are messy, but who can turn down babies?
I grew up in the country and never saw this much in the way of furry creatures.
When the natural order is off balance, wildlife (including insects) can get out of control in a hurry.
Shrinking habitat plays a huge factor as well.
Sitting on the deck this past Friday a spotted 6 and then 8 Turkey vultures circling on the other side of the woods.
All of a sudden flashes of thew Old West came to mind.
The old westerns where the vultures are circling, waiting for the hero to die............... you know, just before he is rescued.
Funny how the mind can work at times.
A Quick in the News
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its final decision to ban all residues of the highly toxic pesticide carbofuran (sold under the name Furadan), on food sold in the U.S. Carbofuran is responsible for the deaths of thousands of birds, and has been the target of an American Bird Conservancy campaign to prevent all uses.
The agency's announcement confirms a proposed action dating back to July 2008.
The manufacturer, FMC Corporation, now has 90 days to challenge the decision. EPA is also proceeding with the cancellation of all registered uses of the pesticide."
"Chalk up One for the Good Guys"
Next up, BARN SWALLOWS
It must be June because there it goes.
Here swoops another one.
If you are like me, you are blessed to see these busy birds swoop over the field, dipping and weaving in flight.
They nest near or on houses and other man made structures and they will reuse a site as long as it is successful.
Wearing a royal blue swallow-tailed coat and ruddy vest, and itís scissoring through the air on an endless quest for insects.
That almost magical bird is a simple barn swallow.
A common or bland name for an elegant bird, but the name suits this companion of rural farms and open spaces.
Even crowded cities host the barn swallow.
In fact, city parks are a great place to watch them, especially at this time of year when they are feeding the nest full of babies that fledge in June.
As the fledglings leave the nest, watch mom and dad feeding them on the wing in mid-air.
Although they have no need for nest boxes or bird feeders, barn swallows are true companions to us humans.
They nest near or on houses and other man made structures and they will reuse a site as long as it is successful.
Thereís no formal bird feeding necessary either, unless you characterize mowing the grass as feeding.
The birds will follow us across wide lawns to catch the bugs we stir up while mowing.
Not one or two birds, but scores of these airial magicians will appear.
A little water, plenty of open space and the frugal use of insecticides may bring them to the neighborhood.
The barn swallow is easily recognizable the world over.
In fact itís the most widespread swallow in the world, residing or migrating through nearly every continent.
I love swallows, they are peotry in motion.
Magic on a wing.
All swallows deserve more recognition.
Don't you think?
Most of you may be familiar with the mud nests these insect eaters make, but there is more to this airial acrobat then meets the eye.
With help from the "University of Michigan," I give a bit more in depth information on these lovely birds.
June is a good time to write about Barn swallows as they have reached their northern boundries as well.
Barn swallows are native in all the continents except Australia and Antarctica.
The breeding range of barn swallows includes North America (as far north as Alaska and northern Canada), northern Europe, northcentral Asia, northern Africa, the Middle East, southern China, and Japan.
They winter in South America, South Asia, Indonesia, and Micronesia.
Barn swallows are very adaptable birds and can nest anywhere with open areas for foraging, a water source, and a sheltered ledge.
They seek out open habitats of all types, including agricultural areas, and are commonly found in barns or other outbuildings.
They will also build nests under bridges, the eaves of old houses, and boat docks, as well as in rock caves and even on slow-moving trains. While migrating, they fly in large flocks and tend to fly over open areas, often near water or along mountain ridges.
Barn swallows generally nest below 10,000 feet in elevation (3,000 m).
Barn swallows are small birds.
They range in size from 5.75 to 7.83 inches long (14.6 to 19.9 cm) , with a wingspan of 12.52 to 13.5 inches (31.8 to 34.3 cm.)
They weigh between 0.6 to 0.7 oz (17 and 20 g).
Barn swallows are metallic blue-black above and pale beige to rusty orange below.
They have light brown or rust on their throat and forehead, and have a long, deeply-forked tail (the deepest fork of our swallows).
Males and females are similar in appearance, though females tend to be less vibrantly colored and have shorter outer tail-streamers.
Asymmetry of physical characteristics in barn swallows tends to be transmitted to the young in distinct parent to offspring patterns.
Tail asymmetry tends to pass from father to son and from mother to daughter.
Alternatively, wing asymmetry does not appear to transfer at all on a reliable basis from parent to offspring.
Barn swallows are socially monogamous.
However, extra-pair copulations are common, making this species genetically polygamous.
Breeding pairs form each spring after arrival on the breeding grounds.
Pairs re-form each spring, though pairs that have nested together successfully may mate together for several years.
Males try to attract females by spreading their tails to display them and singing.
Several studies have researched sexual selection in barn swallows.
Documentation shows female barn swallows selecting for symmetrical wings and tails in potential mates.
Observation shows that individuals with asymmetry tails showed a decrease in strength and longevity.
Therefor, females that selected symmetrical mates would presumably be selecting superior mates.
In addition to selecting for symmetry, females also tend to select males with longer tail feathers.
Observed connections between the tail length of male barn swallows and their offspringís vitality and longevity.
Males with longer tail feathers exhibit traits of greater longevity which is passed on to their offspring.
Females thus gain an indirect fitness benefit from this form of selection, as longer tail feathers indicate a genetically stronger individual who will produce offspring with enhanced vitality.
Individuals with longer tails have also been observed to demonstrate greater disease resistance than their short-tailed counterparts.
There is also evidence that males select female mates with long tales.
Unmated adults often associate with a breeding pair for up to an entire season.
Though these "helpers" do not usually feed the young, they may help with nest defense, nest building, incubation and brooding.
"Helpers" are predominantly male, and may succeed in mating with the resident female, leading to polygyny.
Barn swallows usually breed between May and August, but this varies greatly with location.
They usually raise two broods of chicks each summer.
Both birds of a pair make the nest. They build the shell of mud, and line it with grass and feathers.
The female lays 3 to 7 eggs (average 5).
Both parents incubate the eggs, which hatch in 13 to 15 days.
The chicks are naked and helpless when they hatch.
Both parents feed and protect the chicks, as well as removing fecal sacs from the nest.
The nestlings remain in the nest for about 20 days before fledging.
When barn swallows are handled by humans they tend to attempt to fledge at least a day too early, so it is wise to leave them alone if at all possible.
The parents continue to care for the chicks for up to a week after fledging, feeding them and leading them back to the nest to sleep.
By two weeks after fledging, the barn swallow chicks have dispersed and often travel widely to other barn swallow colonies.
Young barn swallows are able to breed in the first breeding season after they have hatched (1 year old birds).
Generally, young barn swallows do not produce as many eggs as do older birds.
In North America, both barn swallow parents incubate the eggs and feed the nestlings.
However, females provide more parental care than do males.
During the nestling period, barn swallow parents may feed their nestlings up to 400 times per day.
Different from many birds, Barn swallows feed their chicks insects compressed into a pellet, which is transported to the nest in the parentís throat.
Although all swallows are socially monogamous, barn swallows differ from most swallow species in the sharing of parental care.
Juveniles from the first brood of the season have even been observed assisting their parents in feeding a second brood.
Extreme lifespan: (wild) 8 years (high)
The average lifespan of barn swallows is 4 years. Barn swallows of 8 years of age have been documented, but these are considered the exception. Survival prospects and longevity appear to increase with tail length and wing and tail symmetry.
Barn swallows are diurnal and migratory.
They have individual songs and often sing as a chorus.
Barn swallows are often seen in large social groups sitting on telephone wires or other elevated structures.
They also nest colonially, probably as a result of the distribution of high quality nest sites.
Within a colony, barn swallows defend a territory around their nest.
Records show barn swallows will cover a territory of at least one square mile to hunt for food.
Communication and Perception:
Barn swallows use vocalizations and body language (postures and movements) to communicate.
Barn swallows sing, both individually and as a group.
They have a wide variety of calls used in different situations, from predator alarm calls, to courtship calls, and calls of young in nests.
Nestlings give off a faint chirp while begging for food.
Barn swallows also make clicking noises, which they create by snapping their jaws together.
Barn swallows are insectivores. Flies, grasshoppers, crickets, dragonflies, beetles, moths and other flying insects make up 99 % of their diet.
They catch most of their prey while in flight, and are able to feed their young at the nest while flying.
Barn swallows like most wildlife forage opportunistically.
They have been observed following tractors and plows and lawn mowers catching the insects that are disturbed by the machinery.
They drink on the fly as well, by skimming the surface of a body of water while flying.
American kestrels and other hawks, such as sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper's hawks, eastern screech owls, gulls, common grackles, boat-tailed grackles, rats, squirrels, weasels, raccoons, bobcats, domestic cats, snakes, bullfrogs, fish and fire ants are predators of barn swallows.
Barn swallows usually give alarm calls when predators come near.
Most predators of barn swallows attack the nestlings, but hawks, falcons, and owls tend to hunt adults.
Barn swallows mainly escape predators by being swift and agile in flight and by building their nests in places that are difficult for predators to reach.
Economic Importance for Humans:
Some people feel that barn swallow nests are a nuisance, and are unsightly when they are attached to buildings and other man-made structures.
As with many species of birds, large colonies in urban areas can also create detrimental cleanliness and health issues for humans.
Finally, salmonella can be transmitted through their feces, posing a threat to livestock that live in close proximity to barn swallow colonies.
On the other hand................
Barn swallows are quite effective in reducing insect pest populations.
They also can serve as an indicator or trigger organism, indicating possible environmental trouble, as declines in their relatively abundant numbers may precede other more obvious effects of environmental stress.
Barn swallow populations are generally considered to be stable and sufficiently extensive.
However, declines in the amount of acreage devoted to agriculture in recent years have resulted in reduced barn swallow numbers.
This can be attributed to a reduction in habitat as the barns and outbuildings which once housed barn swallows, give way to more urban settings.
Another contributing factor is the reduction in food supply.
Insects attracted by the presence of livestock and the ideal surrounding habitat are the primary food source for barn swallows living in agricultural areas.
Locations where farming has ceased exhibit a 50% reduction in insect populations.
Barn swallows continue to be widespread and common throughout their range.
There are an estimated 190,000,000 individuals worldwide.
Did you ever think there was this much an more to know about Barn swallows?
However, before I go, Here is your thought for the week.
The potential of the average person is like a huge ocean unsailed, a new continent unexplored, a world of possibilities waiting to be released and channeled toward some great good.
Did you read that?
I mean really read it.
Your potential, my potential is so vast that few of us ever tap their God given potential.
It is sad.
We have this greatness in us and more than 95% of us never realize it.
We were kept down by unknowing parents, teachers and others.
Blessed are those that have/had parents or others to encourage them and to teach them.
Every so often you may read about a person that had a parent, grandparent, teacher or someone else that always encouraged them to do better.
Someone that told them they can be what ever they want to be and dare to dream and follow those dreams, not the other way around.
Then there are some that have always marched to the beat of a different drummer and knew what they wanted from life or followed a path.
It doesn't have to be riches, it can be many other things.
You could be a healer, a teacher, a listener, a volunteer, a great gardener and the list goes on.
One important thing is to always give and help others.
Our potential seems to be limitless, but it is up to you and me to take the step.
Step from your comfort zone and explore your dreams.
Step forward and release your vast warehouse of potential.
Boy that makes me smile.
Knowing I can and you can follow our dreams.
We can move onto something great.
Now that deserves a smile.
Smiles can be the first step forward.
Have you ever gone to work or someplace and when you get there you think..... now how did I get here?
I don't remember a thing of the about the drive or walk.
We do so many things by rote, we do it without thinking.
Something as simple as taking a different route to work or to the store makes you think a bit and that is a step forward in channeling your abilities.
Can you imagine, if the great explorers of the past and all of our inventors were afraid to dare?
If they were afraid to explore.
If they were afraid to take risks
Exercise your mind as well as your body.
Be the you, you were intended to be.
Help others like your children and grand children to realize their potential.
It's never to late.
Until next time my friend.
"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,
PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.
Better yet, have them sign up so they can recieve their own letters.
|Back to Back Issues Page|