May 22
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Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend’s Warbler

He must have had a strong premonition!

A few weeks ago (May 3) my colleague Brian posted a blog entitled, “Competitive Birding for Conservation.” He wrote about Team WBU’s upcoming Birdathon with high hopes and expectations and he questioned if we could surpass a total of 150 birds.

The reality is that we tallied exactly 150 birds! He must be psychic!

The Birdathon was a tough 24 hours of hardcore birding filled with exciting discoveries of uncommon birds and heartbreaking misses of some common ones.

But one of the constants throughout the day was the quest to count as many of the 40 potential species of warblers that can be found in Indiana during spring migration. While some warblers nest in the state, most of them are just passing through. So, you always revere every sighting of these colorful songsters.

We ended the day with 23 warbler species…not as many as we had hoped to find; but, enough to make for some exciting birding.

Warblers are truly the door prize for bird watchers! And while these insect-eating birds are not typically attracted to seed feeders, they can be attracted to your back yard with suet products, mealworms and/or water.

It is truly a magical moment when you glance outside and see your first Townsend’s warbler visiting the suet feeder or a Pine Warbler munching down on mealworms. And I don’t think I have to be psychic to assume that Brian would agree that attracting them to feeders is a whole lot easier than spending 24 hours chasing them all around the state!

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Sep 26
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Red-breasted Nuthatch

Recently, I was birding in Sapsucker Woods at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Which, by the way, was totally cool! There was a nasally “yank” call from high in an oak tree that caught my attention. It was higher-pitched than the call of the White-breasted Nuthatch that I often hear.

It was a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

It is a colorful bird that is best characterized by its posture; often seen upside down. Nuthatches are known for hanging upside down, sideways and right side up while looking into tree trunk crevices and under branches for small insects, insect eggs and other tasty morsels.

They can be enticed to visit feeders when they are in the area. They prefer blends with sunflower seeds, peanuts and tree nuts. They also really like suet products like Naturally Nuts and Bark Butter Bits.

The best part is; they may be in your area. Red-breasted Nuthatches are on the move. They are “irrupting” southward this winter in search of more abundant food sources. Check out an interactive map from eBird.org to see where they have been spotted recently.

Have you seen any Red-breasted Nuthatches?

Aug 23
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It seems like every time I look at the local listings for each weekend’s events and programs, I quickly become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of activities! There is so much to see and do that it often becomes difficult to make a choice.

And woe be it for me to add to the clutter…but, I do have a recommendation for a simple and free activity that you might consider for this weekend.

Introduce someone to the inspiring world of the birds around us!

This weekend is the inaugural kickoff of a new grassroots initiative called Pledge to Fledge that has the simple motivation of building a broader appreciation for birds by helping non-bird watchers to truly see and enjoy birds for the first time.

Pledge to Fledge (as in helping to fledge a new bird watcher) is designed to help nurture anyone, from young child to Senior Citizen, in becoming a casual bird watcher and to help them appreciate and be more aware of our feathered friends.

While I have been accused of being a little dramatic at times, I truly believe that having the gift of birds and the beauty of nature as part of our daily life provides for a lifetime of inspiration and joy. Sharing your passion for birds with someone else can be a simple act, but it can have a profound impact on their lives.

Watching and appreciating birds can enhance the lives of not only of the bird watcher, but of the birds, too. When people discover the allure of birds they often become more connected with the natural world around them, and once connected, it is hard not to become interested in bird conservation and the quality of our environment.

Please consider sharing your love of birds with your family and friends this weekend.

Check out the Pledge to Fledge web site to learn more about this growing global initiative. Contact your local parks or nature centers to see if they have scheduled bird walks or activities, or simply take a few friends birding around your own neighborhood.

Be sure to head to your nearest Wild Birds Unlimited Store to learn more about how to attract and watch more birds in your own backyard and consider sharing the fun at your feeders with your neighbors this weekend.

It is a terrific opportunity to cut through the overwhelming clutter of all those other organized events this weekend and to simply share your love for birds with others.


Pledge to Fledge today!

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Jul 11
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Red-cockaded Woodpeckers

After a quick hour of travel to Webb Wildlife Management Area with a bus-load of Wild Birds Unlimited store owners, we step off the bus to low humidity and 82° F. There are no bugs. Is this really the South in summer?

We begin meandering down the gravel lane with clear views through the pine stands on either side of us.

The first bird calling is the Bachmann’s Sparrow. Do you hear its whistle-note followed by a trill reminiscent of a towhee? Look, here it is in the spotting scope.

Do you hear the Northern Bobwhite’s calling to each other? “Bob, bob, WHITE”

Wow! Our target bird for the day! See the woodpeckers with the big white patches on their cheeks? Those are Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. There are three of them at eye-level flaking bark off the pines to find insects. (pictured above)

Just down the lane is a Blue Grosbeak in the grass. What a view!

There’s an Eastern Bluebird perched on the nest box.

On the utility wire above is another “blue” bird, the Indigo Bunting, singing “fire, fire, where, where, here, here, see it see it.”

Oh, look, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird is chasing the Indigo.

Someone found a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher nest. Look in the scope. You can see the babies’ heads pop up when mom and dad come in with caterpillars.

Listen! Do you hear the squeak-toy call of the Brown-headed Nuthatch? There they are. I see them; a foraging family group.

Do you see the Northern Parula? Its throat and chest are yellow but so is its lower bill. See how brilliant the yellow is in the sunlight?

Here comes another group of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers. There are five this time.

Too bad we didn’t see the Mississippi Kites. Oh, wait, there’s one!

What a perfect day for bird watching!

Have you ever had a perfect day outdoors?

Jul 03
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Do you ever notice or look for birds when you travel?

One of the wonderful perks of my work is to find locations for the Wild Birds Unlimited storeowners to go birding and then lead them.

We were in Savannah, GA for our annual conference and we did part of the Colonial Coast Birding Trail.

We started at Tybee North Beach which is on Tybee Island. It is the junction of the Atlantic Ocean and the Savannah River. The habitat of sandy ocean beaches and coastal shrub offered up birds such as Royal and Sandwich Terns, Black Skimmers, Brown Pelicans and of course gulls.

We visited Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and found many wading birds like herons and egrets. We saw a couple Roseate Spoonbills as well as Purple and Common Gallinules.

We ended our afternoon at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. An abandoned WWII Army airfield, this 2800 acre area is a coastal lowlands habitat with mixed hardwoods, grasslands, freshwater pools and salt marshes. It boasts one of the largest Wood Stork rookeries in Georgia. There are 47 nests this year and those young are very loud. It is quite the nesting area for wading birds like six species of herons, three species of egrets, White Ibis (like in the picture) and more. Other birds we found include the Red-headed Woodpecker, Yellow-throated Vireo, Painted Bunting, and other edge and woodland birds. Click here for a pdf of the site map.

What birds have you seen in your travels?

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