Friday, March 27, 2009

Bluebird Nest Box Monitors Needed!

The Michigan Bluebird Society installed 3 nest boxes in the field surrounding the house at Lake Bluff. These boxes need to be monitored once a week and we're looking for volunteers to do that. A monitor can be responsible for one or several boxes.

Monitors check for invasive house wren and house sparrow nests and remove them, check for bird activity, keep a log, note eggs and generally follow the progress of the hatchlings. Monitors are need for the entire bluebird nesting season which is basically March thru August. The birds often have more than one brood and a vol monitor could just montor one brood if they wished.

This is an excellent learning activity for families and children. There is the chance to not only help bluedbirds but to watch young birds develope and fledge.

For more info or to vol as a monitor contact Lake Bluff at or 231.723.4042.

The Challenge for Birds and People...

Someone recently emailed me the following article written by Cornelia Dean that appeared in New York times March 19, 2009. It’s not ‘just more bad news’ but a reality that deserves some thought:

‘Habitat destruction, pollution and other problems have left nearly a third of the nation’s 800 bird species endangered, threatened or in serious decline, according to a study issued on Thursday. Described as the most comprehensive survey of American bird life, the report analyzed changes in the bird population over the last 40 years. “This report should be a call to action,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a news conference in Washington. Citing surveys by government agencies, conservation organizations and citizen volunteers, the report said that the population of grassland birds had declined by 40 percent and birds in arid lands by 30 percent. It estimated that 39 percent of bird species that depend on American coastal waters were in decline. Many forest birds are threatened by urban sprawl, logging, wildfires and “a barrage of exotic forest pests and disease,” the study said. In Hawaii, the home of more than a third of American bird species, the situation is particularly grim, the report said. Most of that state’s bird species are in danger. Climate change will make things worse, and work is urgently needed to prevent “a global tragedy” of bird loss, the report added. But there was also an upbeat side to the news conference. The study found that herons, egrets, ducks and other birds that benefit from wetlands conservation were rebounding. Findings like this “show us that conservation can really work,” Mr. Salazar said. Other speakers agreed. The report’s gloomy assessment makes it “a key document,” said John Hoskins of the United States North American Bird Conservation Initiative, an umbrella group for public and private efforts. But its data also show that “when agencies, organizations and individual citizens work together to conserve precious resources, some really good things happen,” Mr. Hoskins said. The report draws on data collected by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and the United States Geological Survey, organizations like the American Bird Conservancy and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and volunteer participants in the Christmas Bird Count of the National Audubon Society. John Fitzpatrick, the director of the Cornell laboratory, which also oversees citizen bird-counting, said that a wealth of data gathered in such volunteer efforts had helped scientists make major strides in assessing the health of bird populations and in drawing more general conclusions about the environment. Beyond taking part in counting efforts, the report urged ordinary citizens to assist conservation by drinking shade-grown coffee (coffee-growing in the shade helps preserve the winter habitat of species like warblers), donating unused binoculars for distribution to biologists in the tropics, reducing pesticide use, landscaping with native plants and keeping pet cats indoors. “Education is urgently needed to make the public aware of the toll of pet cats,” Darin Schroeder of the American Bird Conservancy said at the news conference.’

Spring is in the air...

....and a young squirrel's fancy turns to construction. This red squirrel decided he had an urgent use for some clothesline cord at Lake Bluff. We used the cord in winter to jury rig a feeder away from black and gray squirrels. Yesterday this little fellow decided it was now his. When I tapped on the window he stopped and looked at me with a 'What? It's mine now' look.

Rich, Lake Bluff

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Owling field trip Saturday March 7th

Fifteen members of the Manistee Audubon and friends met at the Manistee airport on a still, damp, March night for an owling expedition to the Manistee State Game area and part of the Manistee National Forest. We car-pooled out to the State Game Area access to Jenken's Bayou and hiked through the packed snow to the edge of the bayou. After instructions on patient listening Brian Allen used Saw-whet Owl imitations to try to lure in this difficult to find little owl. Despite a very quiet and patient group and ideal still conditions no Saw-whet owl responded, dissapointment!. On to the next species.. Screech Owl. After several tries we heard one trilling nearby but the bird demonstrated little enthusiasm in checking us out. Fortunately a second bird started to call, this time with a more dramatic wail. The second bird came in closer but we were unable to spot it in our flashlights. Some of the group also heard a third owl farther out, three screech owls in this area is a good find even if we were not able to see them.

Next we tried what we though was a sure thing, luring in a Barred Owl. Brian had actually heard one calling as he loaded up the car back at his house, a good omen? For the first time Brian couldn't make the call, a frog in the throat? Tim Granger to the rescue. Tim made many good hearty Barred Owl imitation calls but to no avail. For some reason the owls (they had to be out there) wouldn't call back as we watched the clouds clear and the moon come out behind the tall oaks. On to Rainbow Bend in the National Forest but even here on the along the quiet waters of the river there were no owls responding. Despite not seeing the owls the group seemed happy to have heard the screech owls and we all enjoyed the relatively pleasant night with clearing skies.


...and so are hummingbirds. You can follow the ruby throat migration at The site has a page with a map and when people see the birds in their area they can submit a siting which is then posted. Hopefully the map and site are kept updated (so many are not)! At the time of this writing, hummers are reported as far north as northern Louisiana-Georgia. This website also has some care and feeding tips worth looking at.

Reminder 1: hummer feeders should protect the nectar against ants and bees. Conventional wisdom says the birds won't drink when ants are there (maybe their formic acid taints the nectar taste?) and that bees, especially hornets, may attack hummers. Buy a feeder with an ant moat (or try a homemade version) and that is designed aganist bees.

Reminder 2: always, always, always check nectar often. We do daily. If it's cloudy or if you see any black mold. immediately discard the nectar and clean the feeder. Some experts say the birds won't drink from a dirty feeder but mold can sicken and kill them so why take that chance? Birds already face enough human created hazards!

Northern Orioles also drink sugar water nectar but can't use the bee-proof hummer feeder design. There are nectar feeders made for them. At you may find some info or check with our local hardware or feed stores. The foto here shows a female perched on an alder branch. There's usually a small group of orioles that hangs around Lake Bluff and it's a real pleasure to watch 4 to 6 or more bright yellow males mixed in with females jockeying at the feeder.

-Rich Krieger, Lake Bluff