Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

10 Ways to Help Migratory Birds

December 2, 2013

From the National Wildlife Federation

ImageFrom the American Bird Conservancy: top 10 things you can do in your home or yard to help declining migratory birds

The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) often gets asked how people can help birds during this time of year. Toward that end, ABC has identified the top ten things people can do to aid or protect migratory birds in their homes and yards.

1.  Keep your cat indoors—this is best for your cat as well as the birds, as indoor cats live an average of three to seven times longer. Even well fed cats kill birds, and bells on cats don’t effectively warn birds of cat strikes. For more information, go to

2.  Prevent birds from hitting your windows by using a variety of treatments to the glass on your home—check out ABC’s tips at

3.  Eliminate pesticides from your yard—even those pesticides that are not directly toxic to birds can pollute waterways and reduce insects that birds rely on for food.

4.  Create backyard habitat—if you have a larger yard, create a diverse landscape by planting native grasses, flowers, and shrubs that attract native birds. You will be rewarded by their beauty and song, and will have fewer insect pests as a result.

5.  Donate old birdwatching equipment such as binoculars or spotting scopes to local birdwatching groups—they can get them to schools or biologists in other countries who may not have the resources they need.

6.  Reduce your carbon footprint—use a hand-pushed or electric lawnmower, carpool, use low energy bulbs and Energy Star appliances. Contact your energy supplier and ask them about purchasing your energy from renewable sources.

7.  Buy organic food and drink shade-grown coffee—increasing the market for produce grown without the use of pesticides, which can be toxic to birds and other animals, will reduce the use of these hazardous chemicals in the U.S. and overseas. Shade coffee plantations maintain large trees that provide essential habitat for wintering songbirds.

8.  Keep feeders and bird baths clean to avoid disease and prevent mosquitoes from breeding.

9.  Support bird friendly legislation both locally and in the U.S. Congress.

10.  Join a bird conservation group—learn more about birds and support important conservation work.

According to ABC, birds need our help now more than ever.  In addition to the ongoing threat of loss of habitat that is becoming magnified by global warming, millions of birds are directly killed due to a number of different human-related causes.
Scientists estimate that 300 million to 1 billion birds die each year from collisions with buildings. Up to 50 million die from encounters with communication towers.  At least 11 million die from car strikes.  Another 1 million may die each day from attacks by cats left outdoors.

Some of these deaths occur year-round but many occur during the peak spring and fall migrations. Some studies suggest that perhaps as many as half of all migrating birds do not make it back to spring and summer grounds, succumbing to various threats on either end of the journey.

“Protecting and helping birds is not only the right thing to do, it is also good for the economy and the future of our environment. Birds are invaluable as controllers of insect pests and as pollinators of crops, and also generate tremendous economic revenues through the pastimes of bird feeding and birdwatching,” says ABC President George Fenwick.

A recent federal government study reports that over 20 percent of the U.S. population – 48 million people – participates in birdwatching.  Of that total, about 42 percent (20 million people) actually travel to see birds. Birders spend about $36 billion annually in pursuit of their pastime.  The top five birdwatching states by percentage of total population are: Montana (40%); Maine (39%); Vermont (38%); Minnesota (33%); and Iowa (33%).

Photo of Scarlet Tanager by Brian Tang

PERMALINK: National Wildlife Federation

Bird Photo Booth: Take pics as birds feast on seeds

December 2, 2013



Homeowners love the sound of birds chirping during the day. Some of them attract these winged creatures onto their front yards by putting up bird feeders. As much as you want to observe these birds up close, you know they just fly away if you get too near.

Let Bird Photo Booth solve that problem and even save those moments forever. It is a bird feeder with a slot inside where you put your old iPhone or GoPro camera. The camera is connected to a device inside the house via Bluetooth or WiFi, enabling you to snap photos of feeding birds yourself without disturbing them.

This weather-resistant contraption is made of sustainably harvested white oak hardwood and comes with a macro lens and circular polarizing lens that zooms in the birds automatically while providing finer details. It also has a lens cap protector, stainless steel perch and bowl for the seeds, and foam inserts for both iPhone and GoPro.

The iPhone foam insert also works with 4th and 5th-gen iPod Touch, while the GoPro protective foam insert fits all models, including the new GoPro Hero 3 editions. Android device owners will have to wait a bit, as usual.

The company even suggests you could also communicate with the birds using FaceTime, but that might just scare the birds away. They also recommend to turn off the device’s auto-lock functionality so you won’t miss a moment.

The Bird Photo Booth is available online for $150, plus shipping.


Gardening for the Birds and the Bees

March 16, 2009

goldfinchonyuccaGardening to attract birds, bees and butterflies is fun and easy.  Besides creating a beautiful oasis for yourself to enjoy, you will be helping not only birds, but other vitally important  pollinators whose habitat is at risk due to development, pollution and pesticides.  You’ll also get a bigger variety of birds.  Most of the world’s plant life (and one-third of our food supply) could not exist without pollinators, so everything we can do to help them is crucial.  Their needs are no different than ours: Food, water and shelter.

An appealing habitat will have a wide assortment of plants.  A yard dominated by a grass lawn does not attract as many birds and other wildlife as one filled with an assortment of flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees.  If you don’t have a yard, almost every suggestion we make here can be adopted to a few pots on your porch or balcony.

And here are those suggestions.

1. Use native plants.

Nothing beats planting native vegetation to feed area wildlife. Choose nectar and pollen-rich plants like wildflowers and old-fashioned varieties of flowers. Hummingbirds love bright, tubular flowers, many of which do not require much water.  Trumpet vine, salvias, sages, penstemons, hyssop, Texas red yucca are just a few of these kinds of plants. (As you can see from the photo, other birds also like these tubular blossoms.) Native plants are superior to exotics.  A succession of blooming annuals, perennials, and shrubs guarantees nectar and pollen throughout the growing season. Plant extra parsley and dill for butterfly larvae to feed on.  Lavender is beloved by butterflies.  Goldfinches flock to sunflowers.  Fruiting plants will attract many varieties of birds.

Any size garden or patio can attract pollinators.  Even a window box or hanging basket of plants will attract butterflies and bees.

2. Go organic.

Most pesticides are toxic to bees and wildlife. An estimated seven million birds a year die from exposure to lawn pesticides. Poison is unnecessary to protect your garden from insects and diseases. Poisons may eliminate one problem you’re having, but create more by killing beneficial organisms. You’ll disrupt your garden’s ecosystem while exposing yourself and your pets to the toxins.

By adding plants that attract beneficial insects, you can work with nature to control pests and diseases.  If you do choose pesticides, apply them carefully and selectively, insuring they have no way to reach ground water or escape from your property. Do not use pesticides on open blossoms or when bees or other pollinators are present.

3. Provide shelter.

Birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators need shelter for protection from predators and the weather and to rear their young. In addition to healthy trees, consider leaving dead trees standing. Unless it is diseased, dangerous or unsightly, a dead tree provides great wildlife habitat.  It also makes for easier birdwatching.  An oriole or tanager visiting your yard will be much easier to spot in a dead tree than in one with dense foliage.  An Oriole feeder with grape jelly, hung in a dead tree, assures you of Orioles. Brush piles also provide great bird habitat.
4.  Banish the gas-powered lawn equipment.

Atmospheric and environmental scientists report that flowers’ scents are being destroyed. The cause? Air Pollution.  Flowers produce scent molecules that travel easily in the air but pollutants break apart the molecules, destroying their smell. Bees depend on this fragrance to locate food. One single leaf blower produces more air pollution in a year than 80 cars.  And makes more noise. Get rid of the gas-powered lawn mower, the leaf blower and the edger.  There are plenty of environmentally friendly alternatives to these obnoxious tools.  Your neighbors will be happy with the silence too. Our towns and cities are noisy enough as it is.

5. Provide water.

Water is the single greatest attractor for birds and other garden wildlife. Include birdbaths in your garden and keep the water fresh.  Adding a dripper, water wiggler or mister to your birdbaths helps too; birds see moving water from far away and mosquitos don’t lay eggs in moving water.

6. Be a lazy gardener.

At the end of the gardening season, leave seed heads on plants.  Birds will eat seeds from plants throughout the fall and winter.  Instead of raking (no leafblowers!) all the leaves in your garden, leave some in piles; insects will come and birds will find them.

We modern humans have destroyed a lot of wildlife habitat with our buildings, parking lots, lawns, and gas-guzzling cars.  By creating a garden habitat with wildlife in mind, you’ll help minimize our impact and get the bonus of beauty on the wing in your backyard.

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