Dec 20
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Boy Scouts Bird Study merit badge class in conjunction with Christmas Bird Count

Boy Scouts Bird Study merit badge class in conjunction with Christmas Bird Count

It always amazes me that so many kids want to learn about birds. We can only take so many for our class and there is always a waiting list.

What class is that? We just completed our fourth annual Bird Study merit badge class in conjunction with the local Christmas Bird Count. This has been a very fun partnership between the Boy Scouts and the local Amos Butler Audubon.

It was a very snowy day for the class and we were all bundled up for the birding part. But, the snow didn’t deter us from finding our required 20 different species nor did it deter us from having fun.

One of the highlights was a Red-tailed Hawk perched in a tree for all the boys to see it through the spotting scopes.

Another highlight was a very common bird that is not commonly known, Horned Larks. A flock flew overhead making their distinctive flight call, listen here. Horned Larks live in fields and can sometimes be drawn to yards with cracked corn.

Hopefully, some of the boys were inspired to begin the hobby of birding or bird feeding. At minimum, they learned a little bit more about noticing and appreciating birds.

Special thanks to the Rob and Eric Ripma of Nutty Birder for assisting with the class.

Aug 28
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Banded Chickadee in the Hand

Banded Chickadee in the Hand

“Daddy, you should become a bird bander so I can help.”

Last weekend we attended the inaugural Young Birders Conference hosted by the Indiana Young Birder’s Club. My teenage daughter was interested in going and insisted on bringing me along. Of course, I was delighted to join her.

The real highlight for both of us was the bird banding demonstration. She got to hold a Carolina Chickadee (pictured above). Can you see the band on its leg?

The chickadee hatched this year. It wasn’t happy about being captured; but, it was docile enough. My daughter helped write down all the data the bander was collecting. After the band was placed on the leg, the chickadee was placed on its back in my daughter’s hand. It didn’t realize it was free to go and stayed in her hand for about two minutes. How cool is that!

My daughter also got to help collect data on a recaptured White-breasted Nuthatch. Recaptured birds are always exciting because someone has previously banded them. The whole point of bird banding is to hopefully recapture/recover banded birds so scientists can use that information to understand things like lifespan, migration, population trends, territory movements, etc.

What a special time I had with my daughter and what a fascinating, unique experience we had with the birds.

To learn more about bird banding or report a bird with a band, go here, http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbl/

Feb 14
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It’s not like I need an excuse to go birding! And truth be told, if I am outdoors or even just have a view to the outdoors…I am always watching for birds.

I am not exactly sure when or how my passion for birds developed, but I do know the bug bit me at an early age.

I remember I was around eight years old when my curiosity about birds led me to try to catch one. I believe I patterned my cardboard box trap after the one Wile E. Coyote used in an attempt to catch The Road Runner in the cartoon of the same name. I wasn’t anymore successful than he was, but at least I didn’t fall off a cliff in the attempt!

My point with all this is that birds can be truly captivating to children.

Birds come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They have enchanting songs. And they can FLY! Birds can go anywhere they want at anytime they want. The sense of freedom and adventure that this represents to a child’s imagination is irresistible. If they could, they would be a bird, too.

So, since trying to actually catch a bird is totally illegal these days, just how does one go about getting kids to start thinking about the birds that live around them everyday?

I would suggest that this week’s Great Backyard Bird Count is the perfect activity for introducing kids to the world of birds!

The GBBC website, www.birdcount.org, makes it easy for young and beginning birders to get started. The website’s GBBC for Kids section includes a Top 10 gallery of the most likely seen birds and several clever bird-themed activities, such as a birdsong quiz, coloring sheets and on-screen jigsaw puzzles. Children can also take and send in photos of their backyard sightings as part of submitting the family’s bird tally online.

The GBBC runs from February 15 through 18 and it’s a great way to have some family fun over the long Presidents Day weekend and participation is free!

Please let us know your family’s plans for participating in this year’s GBBC.

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 24
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I must admit to how lucky I feel working for a company like Wild Birds Unlimited.

It is a company that truly aspires to live up to its Mission Statement to “Bring People and Nature Together.” It is not just a slogan…it is the ever present motivation behind what we do and it has never been more important than with WBU’s efforts to bring a new generation in touch with the natural world.

For the sixth consecutive year, Wild Birds Unlimited and the National Audubon Society are partnering to provide scholarships to underserved children to attend National Audubon Society summer camps nationwide. These very special camp experiences allow young people to connect with nature and gain a desire to preserve it for future generations.

And if you don’t believe the kids have a great time…just read some of the quotes from some of our previous campers:

“I loved the nature there a lot. Some of the things I saw really amazed me like a new type of bug I discovered that I’d never seen. I really hope I don’t get chiggers again.”

“I like playing camouflage. I was it. I won twice in a row! I saw a great blue heron. I caught a frog then put him back in the pond. But first I dropped him and had to chase him. I LOVE camp!”

I saw a butterfly. It was black and white. I caught it in the net then let it go. And then another, and another, another, another, another, another, another and another—WHOOPS. That one was a moth!

I have been to other camps and they either babysit you or you have no fun. This camp was different. I was busy all week having fun, but I learned. I liked the hikes in the woods.

Parents and caregivers should apply now to give their children the opportunity to attend one of these camps.

Scholarship eligibility is determined by each Audubon Center.

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