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In the Bird News From January
February 02, 2009

January has past us by and it is one month closer to spring.

So how come it is still so cold and snowy?

A smart ground hog would stay in its burrow today (darn woodchucks better not show up around here).

Day light has grown here by more than an hour since the first day of winter.

It is really noticeable now, especially on the night side.

Winter weather still dominates the headlines.

Cold, snow, ice....................

Millions without out power.

Over the past week or so, at least eight people have died from exposure and cold here in Michigan alone.

One elderly lady was trying to feed her beloved backyard birds.

Why am I bringing this up?

A simple reminder to everyone to please be careful and to dress properly.

It doesn't take much to slip, fall, hurt yourself and not be able to get up off the ground.

To the issues at hand..............

It is February now and being the first of the month. it is time to clean the feeders.

Take them down, empty them out and give them a good scrubbing.

Now, you can do this in the sink, tub, old trash can etc.

But, make sure they get cleaned and sanitized.

Germs are passed around from saliva and fecal matter.

Just because it is cold out there, doesn't mean that germs can't survive.

It is common for local and state governments to lay down a feeding ban for a few weeks when a certain sickness or virus erupts in certain locations.

Keeping feeders clean helps to minimize the spread of viruses and germs.

Salmonellosis, Conjunctivitis, Avian pox and other sickness and disease can and are spread by unclean feeders.

If you have a problem with sick birds, you should take down your feeders and report it to your Department of Natural Resources or what ever governing body takes care of such matters.

I know about 10 years ago, we had to do that here in Southwest Michigan.

A Salmonella out break was doing a number on the Goldfinches.

To minimize the damage, Michigan's DNR recommended the everyone stop feeding the birds for at least 30 days.

I read about out breaks and measures taken from time to time in other states as well.

The one main reason I don't use trays on mymy tube feeders ....

Birds pooh everywhere, including seed trays.

What happens when other birds show up and start to forage on the seed tray?

You get the idea.

Tasty thought isn't it?

Fresh water is now more important in cold climates.

As winter wears on, more and more creeks and streams are freezing over.

Now, if birds have to eat snow to get a drink, that lowers their body temperature which make them less efficient at hunting and feeding.

Less efficient may mean death on any given day or night.

Do you want to attract more birds?

Here is what I do.............................................

I toss seed and feed on the ground under the spruce trees and near and under the shrubs.

I have an old screen under the platform feeder that sits a top a patio table.


A foot square platform doesn't get the job done, but spreading seed under the feeder and over the table (screened I pick up and keep clean).

I have more room for more birds to feed.

And feed they do.

Juncos are everywhere, cardinals, Blue jays, mourning doves, various sparrows and chickadees will feed from the ground.

Many of these birds are ground feeders by nature so food on the ground (under protection) is a natural thing to do.

Now it helps to already have the birds around.

However, by offering them food in some what natural settings or at least with protection and they don't have to wait in line, I have several birds at a time and several species at a time.

This is how a suburbanite can attract 12 to 15 pair of cardinals at any given time.

I have food for them scattered about.

With cardinals feeding everywhere, that leaves room for chickadees and other birds to feed from feeders.

Can you see how this works?

Give it a try if you can.

My southern friends are planning and getting ready for garden season.

Now don't rub it it, just because I'm sitting with temperatures in the teens and well over a foot of snow on the ground.

I want to make sure you guys get going.

Hopefully you have your gardens planned out and some flowers and veggies started in trays by now.

If not, get with the program.

If I wasn't so busy playing in the snow, I would probably be a bit envious, but there isn't any time for that.

Besides, when you live up here in God's country, you really have an appreciation for the "Four Seasons", especially Spring.

This week's letter is a bit different than others, but I thought it would be nice to mention a few things that are news worthy and in the "NEWS."



12th Annual Great Backyard Bird Count

February 13 – 16, 2009


Dear Great Backyard Bird Count participant,

The twelfth annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is fast approaching–February 13 is less than a month away! Plan to join tens of thousands of other bird watchers across North America as we tally the birds over these four days. Count on your own or with family, friends, and neighbors to make this the biggest, best GBBC ever!

If you know someone who might be interested in joining the GBBC for the first time, please pass along our website:

Great Backyard Bird Count.

You've seen the pictures,

You may have seen it on TV as well.

Homer Alaska and the Eagle Lady.

In Memory - Jean Keene

Jean Keene, 85, was known as the "eagle lady" through feeding the hundreds of Eagles that visited her Alaska home every winter.

Jean died January 13th of natural causes at her home in Homer, Alaska.

A native of Minnesota, Keene moved to Alaska in 1977.

In Homer she found work in a fish processing plant and took scraps home to feed the eagles around her home.

The area became a magnet for eagles, tourists and photographers.

Some residents in her town saw the birds as a nuisance and had a town law passed in 2006 preventing people from feeding certain species.

Jean won a reprieve, however, which allowed her to continue the feeding until 2010. (With Jean's passing, the town will allow for feeding the remainder of this winter only.)

Jean had suffered in recent years from breast cancer, lung trouble and heart disorders.

It is estemaited that 80% of the Eagle pictures we see from Alaska are in part due to "The Eagle Lady" and her feeding the eagles.

100 years of Roger Tory Peterson

Before The Stokes, George Harrison and others, there was a person who forever changed birding.

Roger Tory Peterson’s "A Field Guide to the Birds", first published in 1934, instantly became popular with the growing numbers of birdwatchers eager to know what they were seeing through their binoculars.

Today, some 75 years later, it’s difficult to imagine those early days.

All that was available to help identify birds were either large, technical tomes written for ornithologists with a dead bird in hand or simpler works that were not reliably accurate.

Roger Tory Peterson, a young artist and schoolteacher wanted to make it easy to learn birds and be able to identify them at a distance, out in the field.

He spent three years putting together the field guide that revolutionized bird watching.

Working nights after teaching school all day, he was relentless at his quest.

His simplified drawings reduced each bird to the elements essential to its identification, and he devised the handy little arrows pointing to the feature that nailed down a bird’s ID —the hallmark of his subsequent works.

Popularizing Birding

This year we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of Roger Tory Peterson’s birth and the achievements of this gentle man who was a giant in so many fields.

First and foremost are his field guides, a stroke of genius that forever changed the way people relate to birds.

Peterson challenged himself to meet ornithologists’ standards while at the same time to create a portable book that beginners could take into the field.

He succeeded admirably on both fronts.

Peterson, who died in 1996 at the age of 87, was also known as a writer, artist, photographer, speaker, conservationist and mentor to many of today’s outstanding birders.

He won many awards for his lifetime of contributions to birds and conservation, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Jimmy Carter in 1980.

Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History Jamestown, N.Y., carries on his work today, with a focus on promoting nature study in the classroom.

Here are a few of Roger's qoutes.

"Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we'll soon be in trouble".

"Birds have wings; they're free; they can fly where they want when they want. They have the kind of mobility many people envy".

"I can recognize the calls of practically every bird in North America. There are some in Africa I don't know, though".

"I consider myself to have been the bridge between the shotgun and the binoculars in bird watching. Before I came along, the primary way to observe birds was to shoot them and stuff them".

"Not all is doom and gloom. We are beginning to understand the natural world and are gaining a reverence for life - all life".

Cold-season Hummingbirds

This may seem like a late bit of news, but some sightings are still taking place. Besides, it is kinda fun to read about this.

Winter can be a dreary season for those of us who love hummingbirds.

After the last migrants streak out on their way to the tropics we resign ourselves to waiting until spring to see the little sprites again.

Because of surprising geographical shifts among several hummingbird species, some areas are being given a second chance.

In the Southeast and East, after the cold-intolerant Ruby-throated Humming­­birds depart, other species begin to appear.

The most common visitor is the feisty Rufous Hummingbird, a species that nests in the Northwest and Alaska.

More than 1,000 Rufous Hummingbirds are reported each year from Alabama to Georgia and throughout the East.

Banding efforts show that many of these birds return year after year to the same feeders in the same backyards, proof that these aren’t merely birds who have lost their way.

Hummingbirds aren’t the feeble waifs people once thought.

Significant numbers of several Western species survive in the Eastern United States each winter.

The most common is the Rufous, a species that can, and does, occur in every Eastern state, often annually.

Reports of out-of-season birds are beginning to trickle in from Western states, as well.

What is going on?

It used to be assumed that any hummingbird encountered after the usual migratory period was impaired in some way.

Then they were called vargrants.

It now seems certain that something complex and interesting is taking place.

My personal thought is loss of winter habitats.

The Hummer/Bird Study Group, based in Alabama, is tracking western hummingbirds that appear in the eastern United States after the nesting season.

A network of banders is working to document the phenomenon.

Once a numbered metal ring is attached to a leg, a little bird can be a gold mine of information about its movements and longevity the next time it’s caught in a net.

Noted author and researcher Scott Weidensaul is part of this effort to understand what seems to be an evolving migratory route and wintering range in the East by several species of western hummingbirds.

Working in the mid-Atlantic region, he bands hummingbirds in autumn and early winter, most of them Rufous. But Allen’s, Calliope, Broad-tailed, Black-chinned and Anna’s have been captured and released as well.

The study group has documented 14 species, including the rare-in-this-region Green-breasted Mango, White-eared and Green Violet-ear hummingbirds.

Cold strategies

The little birds aren’t impervious to cold but they have several strategies for dealing with it.

Western hummingbirds, unlike their Ruby-throated cousins, are cold hardy, able to go into a hibernation-like state called torpor on cold nights to save energy.

They turn down their internal furnaces at night then shiver themselves awake in the morning.

Flower nectar usually is not available late in the year, so they survive by consuming insects, often dormant ones, and even tree sap.

You can increase your chances of seeing late season hummingbirds, especially in the Southeast and East, by continuing to keep a feeder out in the cold months.

Bill Hilton Jr. bands hummingbirds at the Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in York, S.C.

Some 13 hummingbird species have been reported from the Carolinas, even though the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is the only one that breeds in the East.

“We suggest you maintain one half-full feeder, changing the artificial nectar weekly, throughout the winter,” Hilton says.

“You may need to bring the feeder in at night to keep it from freezing and put it out the next morning before dawn. In really cold weather, alternate two feeders by putting the warm one out at mid-day and bringing the cold one in.”

Bob Sargent, who bands hummingbirds through the Hummingbird/Bird Study Group, has this advice:

•“Be sure to leave your feeder out all winter, keep it clean and maintained and where you can view it easily. If the nectar is going down in the feeder, watch it for about an hour to see if you have a hummingbird feeding on it or not.

•“Those of you in the range for the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, don't worry, you will not make them stay if you leave your feeder out in winter. When it is time, they will migrate, with or without your feeder.”

Before long, spring will be hear and we all will be watching for the jewels of the sky.

Last in the news........

What a Beautiful Bird.

With help from "American Bird Conservancy", biologists with the "Juan Fernández Islands Conservancy" (JFIC) have advanced efforts to save the Critically Endangered Juan Fernández Firecrown hummingbird.

The global population of the firecrown, a beautiful red hummingbird, is restricted to a small part of a single island, Isla Robinson Crusoe, in the Juan Fernández Archipelago off the coast of Chile.

The island’s remaining forested habitat has been degraded by the presence of invasive plants and loss of native vegetation; the firecrown’s survival has been further compromised by the spread of feral cats.

The species is in such peril that it has been recognized by the Alliance for Zero Extinction as one of the top global conservation priorities.

(Male Juan Fernández Firecrown Photo: Peter Hodum )

Thanks to the efforts of JFIC, 23 firecrown pairs nested in 2008, with 16 of these successfully fledging young.

JFIC has been engaging volunteers and island residents to remove invasive plants such as elm-leaf blackberry and maqui from key areas, and replant seedlings of native plants.

This year, they have restored approximately 4 acres of habitat to benefit the firecrown.

JFIC began a pilot project to fence in certain areas as a way of better understanding firecrown habitat requirements and replanting techniques, as well as protecting and restoring native vegetation.

JFIC has also developed a program to reduce the feral cat problem.

It is expected that 92% of cats on the island will have been sterilized by year’s end (2008).

In addition, JFIC has devoted considerable effort over the past year to outreach, training, and capacity building with the local community to empower them to participate actively in and support conservation measures on the island.

Through education, the native people are beginning to understand the importance of wildlife as a whole and tourist dollars for the community.

Well, that's it for the news and for the week.

A different sort of newsletter.

I hope you found it news worthy and informative.

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

Principle -- particularly moral principle -- can never be a weathervane, spinning around this way and that with the shifting winds of expediency. Moral principle is a compass forever fixed and forever true.

Edward R. Lyman

AMEN to that......................

In this day and age, we have so many things swaying in the wind and shifting every time someone speaks.

Isn't it good to know that your moral principles stand fast.......................

Forever fixed on your moral beliefs.

No matter what, you won't sway and that is a powerful tool to have.

No matter what, you can face today and this week with the knowledge that your principles hold fast and true.

Equipped with this knowledge, you can face the day with a thank you God and a smile.

When you smile you share a special part of yourself and your upbeat principles with others.

Even that stranger you are going to smile at today (and you will) will notice.

Smiles are contagious and put a bounce in your step.

When you have a bounce in your step, you show the world you have something.

That you are someone.

Yes, there is something about a person that smiles and has that special bounce in their step.

Moral beliefs.......



Now share that smile with others and enjoy your wonderful week.

Until next time...........................

Blessings to you.

"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 recieve their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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