Wild Bird Crossing Logo
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Water with Care Called Up for Service
Myths About Migration
Water with Care Called Up for Service
Bird-a-thon 2002
link to seed moths link to Daddy Bluebird
Birdscaping Your Yard

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
All About Birdseed
The Economics of Bird Seed
With the stock market on a roller coaster, terrorists, fires, and droughts in the news, we thought that the educated consumer might find some relief in a birdseed update.
If you're like most of us, you've spent a lot more of your free time over the past year sticking closer to home, and maybe improving your gardens, water ponds and feeding stations. But when it comes to filling all those feeders, you may be surprised to see the price of seed on the rise.

The reason behind the impending increase is simple economics: the law of supply and demand. Birdseed has become more in demand, and unfortunately the supply is not keeping up due to a number of factors.

Here at Wild Bird Crossing, we want to keep you as informed as possible about the price of seed. Birdseed, from Black Oil seed to Millet, is a commodity, and this year there is going to be a short crop-- which means that prices are on the rise. We are receiving weekly updates from our seed vendors and we want to pass this information along to you.

Demand was very high for Nyjer (thistle) seed in late May and early June. Nyjer seed comes from overseas and must be sterilized prior to entry into the US. The sterilizing plants got behind schedule this spring because seed shipments were delayed--due to the problems with the potential for war between India and Pakistan. It was also reported that Ethiopia had cornered the market on Nyjer seed futures, and are now defaulting on delivery. Prices of Nyjer seed have already risen.

Black Oil seed had quite an excess of stock in previous years, but that excess is finally being depleted. There is a strong demand for Black Oil seed, and stronger than expected export sales. With demand high and farmers keeping a close reign on their inventory as they hold out for higher prices, it is anticipated that the price of Black Oil will double, or there will be shortages.

Millet stocks have also been depleted. Between the drought and the fires, no one is planting. This could change, but even if Millet is planted the majority of the crop will be set aside as forage for livestock, due to a shortage in pastures and hay crops.

Safflower yields were extremely low last season, so the old crop is already in short supply. The new crop is off because the dry weather has caused widespread delays in planting.

The latest update we have is that the seed market has gone absolutely nuts (no pun intended). Millet prices have increased 50%, and Black Oil seed has more than doubled at the broker level! Keep in mind that Black Oil Sunflower is not grown for birdseed, but for oil, and the crushers will be outbidding everyone for the limited supply. When the crop is good, excess Black Oil is sold directly for birdseed, but the word on the street is that there may not be enough seed to last the year.

Price increases are passed on to us by our suppliers. We have always tried to keep our prices reasonable and will only adjust prices when we must. A lot of you may wonder why the bigger chain stores don't increase their prices as often as smaller stores like Wild Bird Crossing. The reason is that the larger chains will buy based on pricing set by the distributors in September or October of each year. Then the seed is bagged and sent to a central warehouse for the chain. The seed will sit in the warehouse until needed to replenish the stock on the chain store's shelves--meaning the seed you buy could have been sitting all year in the warehouse!

Because we are a smaller store, we bring in up to 10,000 pounds of seed every two weeks. This means that our stock is always fresh and rotated. The distributors bag and package seed for shipment out to smaller stores like us on a weekly basis. The seed does not sit in a bag for months, getting musty, because it is continually shipped, unloaded, brought into the store and then back out the door on its way to your bird feeder.

Many of you have been inquiring about our annual seed sale. Unfortunately, we may not be able to hold our sale this year as we had planned. We are dependent on the availability of quantities of seed that the local vendor may not be able to deliver. As it stands now it does not look promising.

So, what can you do? The distributors are estimating that Sunflower Chips may not be as much of an issue as they are byproducts of seed precessing. Wild Bird Crossing has always carried Sunflower Chips, and many of you have converted to them over the years as they are less messy in the yard. If you aren't already using them, this may be the year to give them a try. The distributors will also be working hard to come up with seed mixes to keep the price down. We will keep you informed of any new mixes or changes to the current mixes that we carry. How about suet? If you don't have a suet feeder you may want to consider one. Suet gives an added station where the birds can feed, and may make your seed go a little farther.


Bill Goes to the Mill.

 Nancy made me stand hereDid you ever wonder how all that birdseed ends up at Wild Bird Crossing? Well, here's a behind-the-scenes look at where it comes from.

Wild Bird Crossing brings in approximately 10,000 pounds of seed every two weeks. Some of the seed is shipped from Meyer and Son in Pennsylvania and comes to us on a trailer truck. The pallets of seed are off-loaded from the truck and hand carried into the store by the staff. (Who needs a gym when there's birdseed to carry in!) We also have a local seed distributor that delivers, picking up seed at the milland sometimes we make a trip right to the mill to pick up the seed. New England Wild Bird Food is located along the railroad line in Deerfield, MA. The seed is delivered to them in bulk by railcar and is bagged and palletized there for shipment.Bill lost in the warehouse

Every couple of weeks Bill makes a trip to the mill to pick up some of our seed. Occaisionally one of our vendors is out of stock on a certain type of seed and we will have to bring in a larger load from the mill.

When this happens we rent an 18 foot box truck and pick up four or five pallets of seed from New England Wild Bird Food. Of course the same thing happens whether we get the seed delivered or we pick it up ourselves--the seed has to get hand carried into the store and stacked! Over the course of a year if our average order is 5,000 pounds of seed per week, the staff has moved over 260,000 pounds of seed into the store and that same amount back out again!

When you look at it that way, That's A Lot of Bird Seed!

Bird-A-Thon 2002
     In the spring of each year Wild Bird Crossing has a team of birders that participate in the Massachusetts Audubon Society's Bird A Thon. The Wild Bird Crossing group "birds" for the Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary in Worcester. Wild Bird Crossing has also been the call-in center for the Broad Meadow birding teams over the last few years, and believe me, this year it was the driest seat in the house!

For the last few years the weather has been good, but this year our luck ran out. Friday night the weather held and the birders were out in force to identify as many species as possible. The Wild Bird Crossing team easily got Virginia and Sora Rail and the Great Horned Owl and Barred Owl were calling up a storm. Hummingbirds showed up at the feeders, Turkey Vultures soared up above, Woodcock displayed, Warblers flitted in the trees, and Life was good! Then came Saturday and the old saying "It's New England, wait a minute and the weather will change" could not have been more true!
The Broad Meadow birding teams in true birding style began reporting in early and what reports they had! The inner and outer cape teams were in wind and water, the Martha's Vineyard team was reporting Nor'easter wind conditions and sheets of rain. The wind was blowing so hard they had trouble opening the car doors, and when they finally got out they were blown across the street! But they got the Barn Owl on Friday night, which was their target bird.

The teams near Boston, North Shore and South Shore, were in the rain, reports from Worcester were coming in with hail, and the teams in the Springfield area were in snow and mud. The Quabbin team reported cars sliding off the road in the snow, and the team from the Berkshires was in 5 inches of wet snow with trees breaking and unplowed roads. They kept wondering if it could get any worse, and sure enough, it did! It was the kind of weather that would send people home on a Christmas Count. But this was MAY after all, wasn't it? It was the first time the call-in center had an ear on the phone to get the bird reports and an eye on the Weather Channel to give out up-to-the-minute weather briefings.

You may wonder what anyone could possibly see in all that weather. Surprisingly enough--the thrushes were everywhere, running in the streets to escape the deeper snow, and even though the usually dry, dusty fields were mud plains, the sparrows were still there, and a Lapland Longspur even made an appearance. Despite the howling winds, the coastal teams found a number of birds, including the Western Grebe, a write-in species and a great bird! As for the warblers, they made themselves known and nearly all were accounted for.

At 6:00 p.m. on Saturday the weather had finally cleared a little, the Bird A Thon was over, and the counts were called in to Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary and tallied up. The result--an astounding 226 species identified! Down two from last year's total of 228, but once all the counts were totaled--

The Broad Meadow Brook Sanctuary won the Bird A Thon for the third year in a row!

It appears that adversity is irrelevant and the spirit of competition is alive and well--even when Mother Nature has a hissy fit in May! But it's New England...wait a minute and it'll change!

Return to the top of the page

Careful with that watering can!
What happens when Mother Nature cuts back on the water supply? Lately we've been hearing a lot about the less than adequate water level and water conservation. It's interesting to note that drought is a normal part of the weather cycle at various times and places around the world.

In places where drought occurs regularly, plants have adapted to erratic water supplies, wildlife has found watering holes that survive normal rainfall swings, and changes in water supply become just another rhythm of life. In places developed by humans, water needs become greater and less flexible. We move into an area, take down the native trees and shrubs, and replace them with acres of lawn and exotic (not naturally occurring in the area) plants that require completely different culture in order to thrive. Then, to keep our investments healthy, we add chemicals to the soil and water. To create something that matches our vision of what "home" should look like, we can overdo our use of chemicals and water, destrouing habitat, poisoning the land, and wasting precious resources.

Water is important. Well-watered plants support a host of other creatures: beetles and other insects, frogs and toads, snakes and spicer, birds and mammals. It doesn't take a ton of water to keep them all going, but it does take some thought and planning. Watering our lawns more deeply and less frequently encourages grass and other plants to develop deeper roots, reducing their need for frequent surface watering. A rain gauge can help you track the amount of rainfall your yard receives and determine whether additional water is necessary. And products that release water to plants as needed can reduce the amount of time you spend watering your plants and the amount of watre you use. Simple changes in watering strategy can save time and water - two resources worth conserving.

Return to the top of the page

Even doves go to war
     They don't make the conscious choices we do, but for as long as humans have debated the need for warfare, birds have been cooperative and useful in our various conflicts.

     In the Middle Ages, birds were captured on an enemy's thatched roof and then turned into weapons by having flaming twigs attached to them before being released to fly back to their homes. The resulting fires were calculated to drive the enemy into the open. During World War II, thousand of homing pigeons were used to transport information across hundreds of miles (and enemy lines) saving lives and military operations in the process.

     In "modern" warfare, it seemed that technology would usurp the place of birds. With satellites that can identify individuals from space and optics that can turn night into day, what purpose would birds have?

Apparently plenty. Last year, in the ongoing war between India and Pakistan, a hawk carrying a microcamera and a transmitter was captured by the Indian Border Security Force. According to the local press, trained hawks were being used by Pakistani military forces to gather intelligence and to monitor enemy troop movements in a remote area.

     In a completely different kind of battle, the United States Air Force has hired raptors (and their handlers) to keep runways free of gulls and geese that present a hazard to takeoffs and landings. The grassy spaces along runways are ideal spots for gulls and geese to forage: the problem is that they ignore air-traffic control when coming and going. The damage to equipment and potential for loss of life were considered significant problems, but so far, the regular patrol of raptors has been successful at controlling gulls and geese at several air bases.

Some of us are happy enough to discover that birds bring us comfort when they visit our feeders. But our continuing fascination with with birds will undoubtedly lead to the continual discovery of ways that they can help us meet all sorts of challenges. In present day Plymouth, England, there is a hospital that uses pigeons to transport blood samples to its laboratory across town. Their efforts save time, money and lives--and they don't have to worry about traffic jams.

Another kind of war; another solution from the birds.

Return to the top of the page

Through the Looking Glass
As the owner of Wild Bird Crossing (no, this isn't Marley) I get a lot of questions about binoculars, or about optics in general. As a result, I've decided to address the issue here. This is by no means meant to be a complete discussion, and I expect that you will have additional questions.

There are many good articles and publications that address this subject in detail, but through experience I have come to realize that many beginning birders have never seen this stuff before. I suppose that with any new hobby you tend to read all the technical data after you've already laid out your hard earned money buying the wrong thing.

Most people come in to the store and mention that they want to buy a pair of binoculars that are more powerful than the ones they have. Mistake number one. Or they want a pair of pocketsize binoculars: mistake number two. Or they want a good pair of binoculars for under $100.00. A good pair of sneakers cost 100 bucks!

(A) Techno stuff:
Roof vs Porro, Magnification, the Numbers, Eye Relief, Coatings and Phase Correction.
Roof vs Porro Prism Binoculars:
When you look at something through binoculars, somehow the image has to be flipped over and around so you're not looking at a bird flying upside down and backwards. Remember that binoculars are essentially a combination of magnifying lenses, prisms and mirrors. Porro prism binoculars are the normal looking binoculars like the kind your Grandfather had. Roof prisms are twin straight tubes with no "bump outs" on the sides. "Porros" are easier to manufacture, and therefore less expensive. A $200 pair of porro prism binoculars will have better optics than a $200 pair of roof prisms binoculars.

Magnification and The Numbers:
The first number you see on a pair of binoculars is the magnification: 8 X 30 or 10 X 50 or how many times closer the object will appear. The second number is the objective lens diameter (the lens furthest from your eye) measured in milimeters. All things being equal, a larger objective lens will give you a brighter image along with a larger, more cumbersome binocular to lug around. Generally speaking, most birders use a 7 (7X) or 8 (8X) power binocular but some people like a 10 (10 X) power binocular. However, along with more magnification comes more hand-shake. If you don't think handshake is a problem, take your binoculars out at night and try to see the moons of Jupiter. It's almost impossible not to shake when holding even an 8X, never mind a 10X. Now, tripod mount those binoculars and try again. Voila, there are the moons, as clear as day.

Eye relief:
This is the distance the ocular lens (the lens closest to your eye) is away from your eye. A long eye relief binocular in most cases is better for eyeglass wearers.

This can get complicated. There are different types of coatings applied to the lenses and prisms of binoculars that have a dramatic effect on the way the light is transmitted through the binoculars. In general, the more coatings the better.

Phase Correction:
When the light reflects off the silver faces of a roof prism it gets out of phase (slightly out of alignment) which can cause the image to appear slightly less sharp. The good news is it can be almost entirely corrected, but at a premium.

(B) Cost:
In a nut shell: good binoculars cost money. The more you spend, the better the optics. A good entry-level binocular will run you about $150 to $200. You may spend as much as $300, but in most cases you don't need to and you don't get much more for your money. You are better off saving your money for some field guides or birdseed. The next level is about $600 to as high as $1500. Is it worth the difference? Most birders who bird at least one day a week seem to think so. Both my wife and I have Swarovski 8 x 30 SLC's that sell for just under $800. I made the mistake of selling Nancy's binoculars one day because I was out of stock and I just happened to have hers with me. NOT A GOOD IDEA! (Did I mention that I gave them to her for a wedding present?) She now has a new pair, but she claims it's not the same, go figure.

(C) Summary:
I've just begun to scratch the surface on what to consider when buying new binoculars. Don't get too caught up in all the technical stuff and just play with a few pairs. The bottom line is--you get what you pay for, and the more you spend, the better the optics. If you can't afford high-end binoculars I would tend to lean towards porro prism binoculars. You can get a pair that will serve you for many years at a fair price. Don't buy roof prisms unless they are phase corrected, and you won't get phase correction for cheap money. Roof prisms are the favorite of most birders because they are smaller and lighter weight. They are also much more shock resistant and many models are waterproof (a whole other discussion). Once you decide on your price range, make sure that they "feel right". Do they fit your hands well? How about your eyes? Some binoculars close up more than others do... this is important if you have close set eyes. You should only be seeing one circle when you look through the binoculars if they fit your face. And not all eye relief is created equal. If you wear glasses make sure your binoculars work well with them, and make sure your glasses are clean so you can see clearly through the binoculars.

Please feel free to stop by the store and ask all the questions you'd like, and look through a pair of $1400 Swarovskis just to say you did!

Return to the top of the page
Myths About Migration

If you feed the birds in the summer they won't migrate and they will die in winter.
Hummingbirds migrate by hitching a ride on the backs of Canada Geese.
  Birds migrate at night.
  Migrating birds can fly up to 20,000 feet high.

Migration a term derived from the Latin migrare, meaning to go from one place to another, happens twice a year in North America. In spring the migration movement of birds is South to North, from their wintering grounds to their nesting places. In fall, they leave their nesting grounds to winter in warmer climates.

Migratory behavior is inherited, but birds will not migrate without the proper physiological stimulus. In the spring, the lengthening days trigger the pituitary and adrenal glands to release chemicals that prepare the birds for migration and breeding. The birds begin to accumulate large amounts of fat just under the skin--reserve energy so they can fly non-stop over large distances to their breeding grounds. Once they arrive, they are ready to find a mate and begin nesting. Later in the summer, after breeding and molting, the shortening days again stimulates the release of hormones that changes their metabolism profoundly so that they again accumulate the fat reserves for the Southern migration.

While some birds such as Hummingbirds migrate over large distances (but not on the backs of Canada Geese!) many others only migrate about 100 miles or so, and still others are considered "year round" residents and don't migrate at all! Mexico and Central America are the main wintering grounds of the North American species that do migrate. Some, however make truly incredibly journeys. The Arctic Tern makes one of the longest of all migration journeys, nesting from the Arctic to Massachusetts and migrating to the Antarctic. Banded birds that were nesting in Canada have been tracked across the Atlantic to Europe, then Southward along the West coast of Europe and Aftica to the Antarctic Circle. This is an annual round trip of between 22,000 and 25,000 miles! Quite a long flight, wouldn't you say? Too bad birds don't get Frequent Flyer miles!

The pattern of migration is different among birds also. Bolder, strong winged birds such as hawks feed on the wing and usually migrate during the day. This provides quite a display for Northern hawk watchers during September. Smaller birds, like songbirds, tend to feed and rest by day and migrate at night when they are not as vulnerable to the attacks of hawks and other enemies. Nigth migration can sometimes be seen during a full moon. The numbers are usually greates between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. with the maximum number usually between 11:00 p.m. and midnight.

Research with radar has shown that these nocturnal migrants fly between 2,000 and 3,000 feet above sea level; however, there have been many records of birds flying between 15,000 and 20,000 feet both day and night. An airliner provided the highest altitude record for a North American bird. In 1963 a plane cruising 21,000 feet near Elko, Nevada, struck an object. When the plane landed, a feather was removed from the leading edge of one of the plane's horizontal stabilizers and was sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for identification. The bird was identified as a Mallard, an altitude record-breaking duck!

While there is still much to be learned about bird migration and migration patterns, there are a few things that we know will help our feathered friends.
   In the late summer and early fall, the birds are eating a lot to "fatten up" for their Southward journey. Make sure your feeders are full.

Return to the top of the page

An Original Father's Day Saga
by John Worrell
This is a true story... a sort of Bluebird soap opera

A pair of bluebirds laid claim to one of our boxes in April. Having heard from reliable sources that you can train them to come to your whistle with mealworms, we began feeding late that month. A ritual soon developed.

I would head out each morning to a tray placed about midway from our house to theirs, whistling a merry tune --"Whistler and His Dog", or the "Marsellaise" or some such. At first both birds would move warily to perches farther away as I advanced. In a few days they were holding their ground. Soon the female, and sometimes the male, began to come to the branches in the poplars closest to the tray as I approached.

They would wait until I had retreated sufficiently not to pose a threat; then they would dart to the tray. He always let her gobble up most of them first before he pitched in. As the last act in the daily ritual she would retire to a nearby tree branch, where he joined her carrying the final worm, which he would ceremoniously feed her.

The second week in May the ritual altered, as she began setting on six shiny blue eggs. Thereafter, if she were not out when I made my musical trek to the worm tray, he would go ahead and eat about half the worms. He then stuffed all that remained into his beak --banging them on the wooden bar, I suppose to kill or stun them before heading to the top of their house. She joined him, and he would feed them all to her there. Frequently he would stay with the nest while she went off to their favorite tree to undertake her meticulous daily preening at her leisure.

The six babies hatched just the day before everyone came for our family reunion. So, a great deal altered in the lives of the bluebird pair. The radical behavior change in their feeding ritual was apparent even before all the strange people showed up in our yard, however. For the first time, on the morning of the hatching, they were both out fidgeting on the bar by the tray when I arrived. Although they moved up to the closest tree limb as I came to the tray, she hardly waited for me to leave before returning to grab up a few mealworms and return to the . bird box. He then ate a few before initiating a rapid feeding shuttle for the newborns. She eventually joined in the end of that process before heading up to her favorite limb for a shorter than usual preening.

That is the procedure that continued each day, with only minor variations, for more than a week. When tragedy struck. The mama bluebird mysteriously and finally disappeared. The most likely culprit is a sharp-shin hawk that we suspect as having picked off both of a pair of bluebirds last year before they could even nest. She may have been less wary than normal during her eagerness at finding sufficient food for the expansive appetites of her rapidly growing offspring. This left daddy bluebird a single parent, sole provider for house full of half-grown chicks. And six is above the average number of bluebird nestlings, so it would have been taxing for two parents to fledge the entire brood.

Blue pursued his awesome responsibility with unrelenting dedication. Every day he was frazzled perpetual motion, unkempt but unflagging. A few more like him and our garden and flowers would have quickly become pest-free. We upped the mealworm daily ration and added a second feeding, trying to assist as best we could. He can hold almost 20 of squirming little critters in his beak at once, making it look like he has a ragged growth on his face as big as his head as he darts to the box to unload all at once. The chicks apparently scrapped it out for the spoils while he cleaned up any he had missed including those dropped into the high grass beneath the tray. He seemed not to miss a one. Afterward he continued to hunt the fields for caterpillars and grubs, the baby food of choice.

A catbird, also feeding babies, soon learned our daily feeding routine and decided to join in. Linda said he tries to mimic my whistle as I head out to the feeding tray. Then, as Daddy Bluebird became engrossed in his mission, the catbird slowly advanced to worm-grab. Fortunately, the catbird had not become as accustomed to my presence as the bluebird, so I can easily protect our investment. Eventually the catbird gave up trying.

About three days after the female disappeared, we watched a fledgling graduation ceremony. The first to leave the box was certainly precocious. He had few of the usual baby-spots, vestigial of his thrush family relationship, and bluer coloring than is normal when first they fledge. He sat, demurely exposed but unmoving, on a low limb of the poplar nearest the feeding tray as Daddy pursued his tireless efforts at feeding the remaining five in the box. Finally, as the worms in the tray were about all dispatched, Number One Son joined Dad on the bar near the tray. Daddy then began the demonstration of worm picking. He went to the ground and caught a fat, green caterpillar, which he brought back close to the fledgling, but did not offer to him. Still holding it in his beak, he went back to the ground. The second time the young one joined him there. Some intervening wildflowers prevented us from seeing the pedagogical details, but he must have dropped it there for the son to pick up, as it was not to be seen when they both left the ground.

Twice this first fledgling approached his recently departed house that still contained his siblings, but he did not enter. The second time, Daddy clearly and intentionally drove him away. We watched him undertake several more entertaining juvenile explorations, after which he headed over our house to the top of the large, dying weeping willow in the opposite yard. There, for many minutes, he practiced a surprisingly accomplished bluebird chortle before heading away to life on his own.

The babies left in the box soon became sufficiently familiar with my whistling to begin their urgent "feed-me" pleas as I approached the worm tray some 50 feet distant. But no others followed their brother out, neither that day nor the next. I suppose that the fight for survival in the crowded box, especially such a large brood with a single provider, gave an even greater than usual advantage to the most aggressive. This may be nature's way of making sure that the earliest out would be capable of taking care of themselves, while also affording more time for the parent to bring the rest up to speed. A second left two days after the first, but we were not rewarded with the sight of his emergence festivities.

In another two days, a couple more fledged at dawn. When we made the breakfast feeding, Daddy Blue was already waiting at the tray. As usual, he immediately snatched up a large bunch of worms. But this time, instead of making a beeline for the babies in the box, he headed up into the nearby foliage to the eagerly waiting recent fledglings. The young had apparently learned well in the box how to grab multiple worms at once, because his deliveries were almost as quick as they had been to the box. The transfer was instantaneous. The two fledglings were not together, so he alternated directions on his trips, all the while ignoring the two still remaining in the box. But it was not long before a plaintive chirping emitting from a tiny head sticking out of the hole in the box reminded him that continuing responsibilities remained there as well. He resumed hunting the field for fat caterpillars for the two remainders, eventually alternating his provisions between the sets of siblings inside and out. It took another four days for the last two to get up the stamina or nerve to leave their natal home. We have been intensely entertained by watching these processes of nest-clearance by bluebirds and many other species over the years. We have learned that it is routine for one chick to be well behind the others in breaking out into the harsh world of self-responsibility. But a time lapse of four days between the final two and any of the others-- much less for the last to be more than a week later than the first sibling to leave the nest-- is well beyond anything we have previously observed. Beginning with the first to fledge --who appeared almost ready for the world from the outset-- the stages of degree of unreadiness in each successive one to follow was regular. These final two had surely been literally at the bottom of the box throughout Daddy's heroic ordeal, and even when they finally flew they remained fully dependent upon him for another three days.

All that had initially changed for the final two fledglings was their environment. They had traded their crowded, now stinking box for an infinitely expansive world of fresh air and greenery. But now, hidden in nearby poplars, they seemed to be no more capable of utilizing their freedom or flight than before. Unlike the previous two who fledged together, these did not separate. They preferred to huddle together in the reassuring proximity they had shared since hatching, scarcely moving more than a few feet from branch to branch, as they let Daddy continue to provide. He would pick up the worms as he always had, now, however, taking them up to a limb carefully selected for its vantage. It afforded him simultaneous sight of us and of the secreted pair. When he felt confident that no threat was lurking, he sped to feed them and to return to repeat the shuttle. Each day, however, the late and reluctant final twosome began moving about more and becoming less shy.

Interestingly, the Daddy Bluebird continued vigorously to defend the now-empty box for more than a day from a pair of insistent tree swallows. It was only after we had cleaned out the box, and he had succeeded in discouraging the swallows from trying for it, that he finally abandoned it.

Finally today, appropriately on Fathers' Day, Daddy Blue appears to have earned a rest. Last evening and today, for the first time since the parental pair initially appeared about three months ago, there are no bluebirds to be seen or heard in their regular corner of our backyard. The usual annual pattern is for the entire family to completely disappear from the natal haunts just as soon as fledging is completed. I assume this is a natural defense practice against any predator who may be beginning to close in on the nest. This present silence, therefore, appears to mean that our saga has come to a happy, natural ending. A full two weeks after his helpmate disappeared, and taking far longer than it does under normal circumstances, a new generation of bluebirds is launched.

Return to the top of the page
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Seed Moths
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It's getting to that time of the year again. Seed moths in your birdseed, and in your house! seed moths Seed moths are a naturally occurring problem with birdseed. Seed moth eggs are laid while the crop is still in the field, the seed is harvested and stored in silos until it is processed and packaged for sale. The seed moth larva and seed moths are already in your birdseed. This is not harmful to the birds, however .battling seed moths in your house can certainly be trying. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your seed moths in check:

1. Store your seed in tight containers and freeze your seed for at least 24 hours. This will not harm the seed but it seems to kill the moths and larva.

2. It's been said that a stick or two of DoubleMint or Spearmint gum will even kill the moths. Put a stick in your container. We have not tried this yet, however it's cheap enough to give it a try.

3. If you don't have room enough to freeze your seed, put your seed in the coolest driest place you can find.

4. If all else fails and you find caterpillars crawling and moths flying, or if you want extra protection from the start, try the Pantry Pest trap. One trap covers a 1,000 square foot area and contains a patented controlled time release pheromone lure to attract the moths. Pantry Pest traps are available at Wild Bird Crossing.

Birdscaping Your Yard

What is birdscaping?

Birdscaping is a term used for landscaping your yard while simultaneously providing habitat for your birds and other wildlife.

There are 3 basic needs that you try to address when trying to attract birds to your yard. (1) Food, (2) Shelter, and (3) the most often overlooked - water. Only a small percentage of birds eat seed but all birds need shelter and water. Some of the most beautiful birds like warblers and waxwings almost never visit your feeder but may nest in your shrubs or stop by for a drink or bath.

When setting up a water feature one thing you need to think about is how to keep fresh water in the bath. Recirculating water in a birdbath is a joke--like peeing in the bathtub! Fresh water should be added continuously to the birdbath by using a dripper or the birdbath should be cleaned and refilled daily.
Marley's Pool
The shallower the birdbath the better. Most birds want no more than an inch of water. The birdbath should be placed in the shade approximately 8 to 10 feet from ground cover (shrubs, trees, etc.) to thwart predators like house cats that like to hide in the underbrush and jump out at unsuspecting bathers. Birds find water by sight and sound, so by adding a dripper to your birdbath you create movement and sound, making it much more attractive to the birds. A shallow birdbath evaporates rapidly, and the dripper will keep it full. Without it, one dove takes a bath and your birdbath will be splashed empty!

When landscaping, think of what you can do to enhance the habitat for your birds. Woody ornamental shrubs can be as important as nest boxes, birdbaths and feeders. When planning your birdscape, keep these things in mind: cover, food, color and height. Find a good garden center or nursery with Massachusetts Certified Horticulturalists that can answer your questions. (Wild Bird Crossing uses Bemis Farms Nursery in Spencer, MA for our planting needs). Look into plantings that produce fruit in spring and summer, like Viburnum or Elderberry. Add some plants such as Blue Hollies that hold onto their foliage and fruit in the winter for cover and food. Plant shrubs that remain close to the ground and others that grow tall. Keep a few small brush piles around for sparrows and wrens, and keep some dead trees or at least a large dead branch or two for the woodpeckers. Provide some colorful nectar plants like Weigelia or Trumpet Vine for the hummingbirds and butterfly bush for butterflies. The new, disease resistant varieties of Flowering Crabapple provide some height, beautiful springtime flowers and a plethora of small attractive fruits that persist through the winter and get devoured by the birds in the early spring. Background plantings of spruce, pine or arborvitae will provide additional shelter for the birds. Hanging flower baskets work great for adding color and they are attractive to hummingbirds--not to mention the occasional house wren who may take up residence right in the basket! We like Blue fan flowers for this because they tolerate full sun and produce flowers all season. The baskets you see hanging in front of the store are all provided by Bemis Nursery. Don't forget to add nesting boxes to the mix, and the more the better...they should be of various sizes, and mounted at different heights. Many different birds will use nest boxes and then bring their young to the feeders for your enjoyment.

While you're at it you might as well put up a bat house to get your mosquito eating friends a place to live. Of course, you know where to come for your nest boxes, bird baths and bat houses...and you might want to browse through our bookshelf for more ideas. We are open every day and Kim, Michelle, Nancy Jen or I will be available to help you with any questions you may have.

Happy Birding!

Return to the top of the page