Learn, Participate, Conserve
If you've ever been birding with accomplished birders, you may hear them say they check the radar or wind maps the night before heading out to predict when certain species, like the black and white warbler above, will be arriving in the area. Another great source for determining migration timing is the Cornell "Birdcast" website. The site also gives quick updates about certain species on the move. If you're interested in learning more about birding or becoming a birder here a few tips:
• Buy a decent pair of binoculars. This is the number one, most important thing to own in order to become a birder. A very good pair will usually start around $200.00, but what a worthwhile investment!
• Download a birding app or pick up a field guide. The best resource for you depends on how you learn best. Go through your guides when you're sitting in the waiting room at your doctor's office or waiting to pick up your kids from school. It's much healthier than stalking social media sites! This is how you will become familiar with all different birds, but also how to easily find them when you spot something you want to identify.
• Find an active birding group near you. Your local or state Audubon can help you with this! Most accomplished birders want to help a newbie become interested in birding, so don't be afraid to go on birding walks with professionals. Some require a small fee, but most are free. We all have to start somewhere, so never be embarrassed to ask questions. Learn and participating leads to conservation, and that's the goal.
• Visit parks or other familiar places. If you set aside time to actively seek out birds on your own, soon you will be hooked and will start noticing birds you never realized were always there. Birding truly is a healthy hobby and one you will enjoy for the rest of your life.
Remember to always choose bird friendly coffees! Coffees with the Bird Friendly® Coffee designation protects migratory birds and their habitats and are certified organic, with a healthy soil base and zero pesticides
Have you ever walked through the woods, a neighborhood or the parking lot of your local grocery store and were sure you heard an oriole? And then you heard a titmouse and then a manic robin? You look around for a little flock of birds only to find a single bird perched on a street lamp, treetop or shrub branch singing all of these songs, one after another. That's our country's favorite mimic, the northern mockingbird. These birds are incredible. They not only copy birds, they can also mimic dogs and cats as well as insects. They are able to recognize people by sight and tend to nest where they've have the most success in the past. They may seem bland at first sight, but those flashes of white under their wings make them stand out in flight. They are intelligent, they are talented and they are one of our all-time favorite birds.
Our hummingbirds are on their way back! They give us such joy, don't they? So the one thing we shouldn't give them in return is a fungus that can kill them and may be passed on to their babies. By allowing nectar to ferment, and mold to build up in feeders, that's exactly what we're doing.
Here are some pointers to ensure you have healthy, happy hummers this year:
• Make your own nectar (never buy it) using 4 parts clean, boiled water to 1 part white, cane sugar. That's 4:1
• Never make the nectar stronger trying to attract more hummers
• NEVER, EVER use red dye. This is a rookie mistake, and for some reason, people and companies still do it. There is nothing good about adding manmade products to nectar. Have you ever seen Red Dye #40 occur in nature?
• Never use artificial sweeteners or honey, they can be toxic
• Cool nectar to room temp before filling your feeder
• Buy easy to clean feeders
• Place feeders in the shade, whenever possible, to make the nectar last longer
• Hang feeders where outdoor cats can't reach them
• Wash your feeders with hot water and/or vinegar (never soap) and change the nectar every three or so days. Cloudy nectar is fermented. If you see black mold anywhere on the feeder, soak it for 1/2 hour in vinegar and rinse WELL
• Don't fill feeders to the top unless you have very popular feeders. Only put enough for three or so days in the feeder, since you'll be changing it and washing the feeder
• Store extra nectar in the fridge for two weeks
• Always offer trees and shrubs for natural sources of nectar
It's a commitment that not everyone should make. If you are not able to change the nectar and wash the feeders regularly, or if you think it's okay to leave feeders up when you travel, this may not be the right hobby for you. Instead, please plant nectar sources in your yard or garden and refrain from feeding hummingbirds. They depend on us to keep them safe, so not feeding them at all is a much better option than causing them harm.
Poison oak (toxicodendron diversilobum) is currently flowering on the west coast. In some areas, green berries are already starting to develop from female flowers like this one. You can see the ovary surrounded by petals stained with urushiol oil. You can tell that this plant has sustained damage because the oil has come to the surface, therefore, bumping into it could cause an unsuspecting hiker or walker to wake up with a nasty rash, a.k.a. contact dermatitis. Check out the Rash Plants app for photos of the rash and very useful info about remedies. Also visit the Rash Plants tab under Nature Education for poison oak, poison and sumac identification.
Two more Naturedigger apps are now compatible with the iPhone X! You can download the latest version of Horseshoe SOS just in time for spawning season (below), and Knotweed! just in time for... "oh no it's knotweed season!"
If you haven't checked out either app, they are full of great information and photos and definitely worth a look. They are free with no in-app purchases.
Spawning horseshoe crab pair
Our latest update to Lakes SOS includes iPhone X compatibility and a cool new icon. The next update will include banded mystery snails, new Chinese mystery snail photos as well as silver and black carp comparison Quick ID slides.
Our favorite designer Stephanie Gallegos of brandedbyg has done it again! We've had several different icons for the Lakes SOS app over the years, but have decided to go with Stephanie's latest creation to complete our SOS app series. Many thanks to her for being able to work on this and get it to us before the next Lakes update. Let us know what you think!