Archive for October, 2013

Owl Prowling with the Bird Shed

Bird ShedHere is an adventure in Owl Prowling with the folks from the Bird Shed!

Saturday night just a mile from shore in Eastern Massachusetts was cold and windy, but that did not deter parents and children from participating in an Owl Prowl at a wildlife sanctuary that boasts vast open spaces of marsh and field, ideal habitat for Short-eared Owls.

A word of caution to trip leaders – have a back-up plan!  Twice now I have taken these folks Owl Prowling only to have them go home cold, owl-less but soundly entertained.

As before, on Veteran’s Day, we watched the harriers at dusk wrapping up their day’s hunting, and opening up the fields to the Short-eared Owls who swoop in to fill that otherwise empty niche.  Even in poor light it is easy to see the difference in the birds as the former fly with precision, low and purposeful, whereas the owls are fluttering around like kites on a tight string, still making their mark, but in a much more conspicuous manner.  Unfortunately for me, I have not been able to show these frigid weather enthusiasts a living example.

Still, they loved the Eastern Bluebirds, the roaming deer, the fox, and the hard to see American Woodcock.  The highlight of the trip this weekend though was the Moon rising like an orange carnival tent, filling the telescope with its brilliance and filling the young boys with a sense of awe.   Within a few minutes, the moon had left the horizon and become smaller.  But for those few minutes, we were connected to every person in every millennium who ever stood in a large open space and watched a full moon rise in the same moment the sun set behind them.

Next time I’ll bring a flashlight so we can enjoy the Woodcocks.  I am striking out on the Owls.

The Esstential Backyard Birders Tool Kit

Bird ToolsWant to know some essential  backyard birders tool kit?  The Bird Shed answers!

1.  Attracting Birds to your backyard

Let’s start with getting the birds to your backyard.  Providing food, nest boxes, nesting materials, water, and natural habitat can attract birds to our backyards, giving us much nicer views of them and, when done properly, making life easier for the birds. Attracting birds is also a great way to introduce young people to nature, and it’s something the whole family can share. Having a bird-friendly yard has never been more important – nearly 80 percent of wildlife habitat in the United States is in private hands, and an average of 2.1 million acres each year are converted to residential use.

How do you begin?

An easy way to start out attracting birds is to put up a bird feeder. Food is a powerful incentive to any living thing and birds are no exception to that.  Having and maintaining Bird Feeders is the first and foremost tool to get our feathered friends to spend some time with you.  Keeping them well stocked and understanding what types of food will attract what type of bird is essential for success.  We’ll be covering types of food and species in a later post so stay tuned for more.

Some birds, especially woodpeckers and chickadees, excavate cavities in tree trunks for nesting and roosting. Many other species, such as wrens, bluebirds, and some ducks and owls, nest in cavities that other birds have made. Nest boxes offer these birds a place to raise their young, especially where natural cavities are at a premium. Our nest box section describes the features of a good nest box, where to place it, and how to avoid predators.   Again, knowing what essential nesting requirements by species will take the guessing out of selecting a good bird house or nesting box.

2.  Water and Bird Baths

A source of clean water, for drinking and bathing, may attract birds that don’t visit feeders. We can help ensure that your water helps birds, not mosquitoes or algae. And we’ve got ideas for other great attractants, too, such as building a brush pile.

3.  How to spot them

How to choose binoculars

  • Look for a right eyepiece that focuses to adjust for individual eye differences, plus central focusing to adjust for various distances.
  • Most popular magnification strength among experienced birders is either 7 x 35 or 8 x 40. Those larger than 10 x 50 tend to be overly bulky and difficult to hold steadily.
  • Depending mainly on lens quality, binoculars for birding can range in price from $50 to more than $1,000.

4.  Field Guides

  • Our online field guide is a good place to start identifying birds you see in in you area. We also recommend getting a couple of good print field guides. The three listed below are illustrated in color, show range maps for all species, and contain a birder’s checklist in the back. They are standards in the field and are available at most bookstores.

5. Bird song recordings

Learning bird songs will quickly expand your ability to distinguish one species from another. It frequently is the only way to identify species that remain hidden. Song differences are also the best way to identify certain look-alike species, such as alder and willow flycatchers. You can purchase recordings of bird songs or borrow them from your public library. Recordings should rarely be used to attract birds, because nesting birds can be threatened by invaders in their territories.

There are so many different tools out there and so many different ways of using them that we would love to hear from you.  Join the discussion on our Facebook page.  We would love to hear from you.

Happy Birding!

What to do or not to do if you find an injured bird.

Awhile back we received an email about how to care for an injured bird.  We thought it would be useful to post this short article from the national wildlife organization on what to do and NOT to do:

550px-Care-for-an-Injured-Wild-Bird-That-Cannot-Fly-Step-5If you find an injured bird, carefully put it in a cardboard box with a lid or a towel over the top, and place in a cool, safe place. Birds go into shock very easily when injured, and often die from the shock. If a bird has hit a window and is still alive, it may just need a little time to regain its senses, then may be able to fly away. Do not try to force feed or give water to the bird. If it is still alive after a few hours, you can try to find a local wildlife rehabilitator. Many belong to your state association for wildlife rehabilitators, and can be found with an on-line search.

The Wildlife Rehabber website has a listing by state of many rehabbers that might be useful:

The Wildlife International website also has a directory of rehabilitators worldwide that may have other facilities listed for your

If you have found an orphaned bird, the first step is to determine if it is really orphaned. When many young birds first fledge and leave the nest, they may still have a little down with short tail and wing feathers. Fledglings often also have weak flight muscles and may be fed for a few days by their parents outside of the nest. This is a very vulnerable time for young birds, as they are easy prey for roaming cats and other predators. It is important to keep fledglings safe and to allow the parents to continue feeding them.

If the bird has fallen out of the nest prematurely, or if a tree was cut down and a nest of young is found, a rehabber may be needed. The following chart from the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association can help you determine the proper course of action: .

Picture courtesy of wikiHow.