Aug 03
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Summer is a popular time for outdoor family reunions, camping trips or sleep away camp for the kids. However, much of the fun in hiking and spending time outside is having encounters with animals in their natural environment.

“There are several easy things campers and hikers can do to get the most out of their outdoor experience,” said Jim Carpenter, CEO and founder of Wild Birds Unlimited. “Some tips are fairly intuitive, such as being quiet on the trail, so as not to scare away animals you are hoping to view. Other tips are very important, but less well known, such as the fact that feathers and nests are all federally protected and not to be collected.”

Carpenter offers the following 10 camping/outdoor tips to make sure people can observe the most wildlife:

1. Bring binoculars for kids and adults.
2. Turn binoculars into a magnifying glass by reversing the end you look through; it works great for looking closely at flowers, butterflies, insects and more.
3. Watch for birds actively feeding early in the morning.
4. Late-risers can still see birds but may have to be more observant as the birds sing less often as the morning progresses.
5. At night, listen for owls calling to each other.
6. Listen for Great Horned Owls calling a five-note hoot that can be interpreted as “who’s awake, me too.”
7. Listen for nighthawks in the evening sky—a nighthawk’s call sounds like a “pee-ernt.”
8. Set out a hummingbird feeder while camping and watch to see who shows up to investigate—don’t use a yellow feeder, though, as you’ll probably attract bees, not birds. Hummingbirds like the color red.
9. Use the simple ratio of ¼ cup of sugar to one cup of water (a one-to-four ratio) for hummingbird nectar.
10. Bird and other wildlife identification guides show you how to look for wildlife; what kinds of behaviors to look for; and what habitats to look in to be able to identify what you see.

May 04
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From left; John Schaust, Eric Ripma, Rob Ripma, Brian Cunningham and Jim Carpenter

Last year our WBU Big Day Birdathon adventure was; well, we’ll say it was interesting. Don’t get me wrong. We had a fun time; but, we only hit 119 species because we kept running into flooded roads. Read all about last year’s adventure and see a self-explanatory picture clicking here.

But! This year was loads of fun. It also helps when you get really close to your goal because of better preparation and the birds and weather cooperate. All said and done, we wanted 150 species and we ended up with 143.

Here are some of the highlights for me:

? In the field by 3am birding in the dark: Great Horned Owl, Barred Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Whip-poor-will, Chuck-will’s-widow, Common Nighthawk just to name a few.

? 90 species before 9 am

? 22 warblers in total

? Not one, but two Pacific Loons

? 19 Greater White-fronted Geese

? #120…the bird that took us over the top of last year’s final number … Blue Grosbeak. It was a special moment as we all just stopped and quietly watched the bird for a moment to honor beating last year’s total.

Overall, we were 18 hours in the field, 143 species and five tired guys. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Click the links to read about more details from our teammates’ Nutty Birder Blog: An April Big Day in Indiana and The Conclusion.

We are still accepting donations so if you would like to donate to our team please click here!

Aug 22
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It is interesting how a sound can trigger fond memories and create expectations. The evening “peent” calls of nighthawks hunting the skies for dinner are, for me, the exciting harbingers of cool autumn nights

I normally hear Common Nighthawks in late-summer when they are gathering in flocks to migrate south. Sometimes there can be just a handful or dozens upon dozens. I just love listening to their short, high-pitched “peent” call and watching them dart around catching insects on the wing. Click here to visit Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s web site where you can listen to the ‘peent’ call.

Sometimes you can see nighthawks in the evening flying over fields feeding on insects. You can also often catch glimpses of them at night where there are lights illuminating towers or buildings. Large-area parking lots, like shopping centers or schools, are popular places to find them as well.

Common Nighthawks are a bit shorter than a blue jay; about 9 inches long. Their wing span is almost twice as long; 2 feet. Their long, angled wings end in a point and have a distinct white patch, or line, toward the end. They fly with erratic, deep wing beats and quickly change direction darting after insects.

Where have you heard or seen nighthawks?

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