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Gardening For Wildlife, #29 Finaly some rain,Part 1 on feathers
August 27, 2007

The sun sets before 8:30 in the evening.

Yes, that is one less hour of sun just on the evening side of the day.

The weather dished up a mixed bag this past week.

Yes, we finally had some rain.

Not enough to consider building an ark.

Not as much as some parts of the Mid-West but the 5 to 6 inches spread out over much of the week was a blessing.

The moisture was much to late to help many farmers, but it is good for the lakes and aquifers.

It's amazing how fast things green up though.

Brown lawns all of a sudden need a good mow job.

Fields filled with Golden rod, limp a week ago is now standing tall and heads of yellow are beginning to open.

One thing the wetness brings will be a surplus of blood sucking mosquitoes.

If you have any place where stagnant water may sit, it is wise to empty it now.

Temperatures reached the 90's in mid-week and Sunday was one of those days you would like to bottle. Sunny, mid 70's and low humidity.

Just a gorgeous day.

The dehydrator is busy drying chives, peppers and whatever I can find to dry.

Because I'm the country boy, I learned the skills to freeze, can and dehydrate from my mom. That means the job was given to me by Karen (what a city girl).

Yes, I even make jams and jellies all by my self.

You can't take the country out of the boy.

For many, this is considered the last week of summer.

Not for me.

I refuse to let go, I will hang onto summer as long as I can.

Fledgling Goldfinches are everywhere now.

What a hoot it is to watch them and of course, I do enjoy the sounds.

It's great because they come from everywhere.

When most other birds fledge, you may get a family or two, not the whole neighborhood.

Have you ever taken the time to watch birds fly?

I mean really watch.

As the maneuver, glide, bob and weave.

This time of year I make a point to watch the birds of prey in flight.

They actually play in the wind.

I'm not talking how they circle and float in the thermals, I mean how they catch a wave and shoot almost straight up.

How about the moments when the catch a stiff breeze and hover in one spot.

If you get the chance, watch how they do this repeatedly.

The young Red-tails are always up for a good play. Often they do this together.

Yes, 3 young hawks that circle and catch the wind over and over.

What is play will help them as adults as they learn new skills.

Flight, play and hunting is all possible because of the feather.

Feathers Part I

You may have a closet full of clothing.

Maybe a dresser or two filled.

You have cloths for winter, summer, rainy days.................

Cloths for just about any occasion.

Birds don't have this worry.

They wake up and are ready to face the day.

There's no need for gloves, boots, bathing suits, suntan lotion or rain gear.

Birds have the all-purpose body protection with feathers.

Birds are totally different from the rest of the animal kingdom.

Only birds have feathers.

Feather help them fly and to help them keep warm.

They camouflage some birds and help others stand out.

Feathers help birds withstand raging winds, rain, snow, cold and heat and high doses of sunlight.

They help birds withstand collisions with tree branches and enable them to live in nearly all climates.

Chickadees are better equipped to handle temperature extremes better than fur covered mammals.

Humans haven't been able to invent a material that holds warmth as well as down feathers.

Did you know, that hummingbirds are the only bird that lack down feathers.

Yes, the mighty feather.

Feathers are made of a protein called keratin. The same stuff our hair and fingernails are made of.

They're complex structures...........

An individual wing feather has up to 1,000,000 tiny, interlocking parts.



Run your fingers down a feather and these parts detach.

Run your fingers back up and these hooks re-engage to make the feather smooth again.

Birds do the same thing when they preen.

Feathers grow from skin follicles set in nice neat rows called feather tracts.

The feathers over lap so no skin is left uncovered.

Birds can move each feather independently, using tiny muscles within the skin.

This helps the bird place its wing feathers, into position to execute a turn, to slow down or stooping (dive for food).

It also tells the bird when its body feathers need to be realigned or smoothed out.

There is a price to pay, however.

This versatile outer wear requires constant maintenance.

Birds spend a great deal of time bathing and preening to keep the feathers clean and looking good.

The ability to fly and keep warm or cool depends on well maintained feathers.

After a good bath, birds use their beak to smooth out its feathers and pluck out any dirt or parasites.

With its beak, it zips up the feathers .

You may think birds are dirty, but the opposite is true.

Birds are very clean and only become infested when they are to ill to preen.

Most birds finish preening with a nice wax job.....

Just like we wash and wax the car.

Well, it's actually a wax oil from the preen gland near the tail.

The oil keeps the feathers flexible, water resistant and might also prevent harmful bacteria and fungi from growing.

I'll continue next week on feathers, there is to much to discuss in one news letter.

Be sure to tune in for Part II

Speaking of next week.

It is a holiday weekend for many of you so "Gardening For Wildlife" newsletter will go out Tuesday instead of Monday.

Be sure to give the other guy a breack when you're on the road.

We all love our humminbirds.

We want to learn as much as we can about these flying wonders.

Hours of research went into the most recent web page.

Amazing features of the hummer brain

I hope you find it as interesting as I did

It's Time to fly.

Be sure to wear your smile.

After all, it is FREE and just may be priceless to someone in need.

As always,

"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: Feel free to forward this to friends and family or send them to so they can register to recieve their free copies.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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