About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Young naturalist's thoughts

This year my nephew Evan's summer job has been to help me out at the Wild Birds Unlimited store. He's been unboxing and building feeders, stacking and bagging seed, feeding mealworms, cleaning and a variety of other jobs to make my workload easier. He has multiple interests including sports, nature, art, and music. I asked if he would like to be a guest blogger. He passed along his latest work of art and some food for thought.

After working at the store, I walk home and see the birds sitting on the power and phone lines. They kind of remind me of musical notes on a staff.

I am getting to know the bird songs. Some are long and full of notes, others do a chip chip or twitter and there is the drumming sound the woodpeckers add.  The sound is cool and very beautiful.

Watch birds on the wire translated to musical instruments:  https://youtu.be/4y0kwdzejYM

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer birdfeeding!

Any backyard bird watcher knows birds flock to feeders in summer especially as the babies fledge and approach the feeders with their parents. Summer bird feeding also can bring you different species that aren’t around in winter.

Studies show the average bird forages for food about five hours per day to meet their energy requirements. As the seasons change, consider the following tips to meet your summer backyard birds’ nutritional needs as well as attract some migrating visitors.

Some tips for creating a summertime backyard buffet:

1. Clean your feeders regularly
It is super important to keep your feeders clean, especially now when so many baby birds visit. The stress can make birds vulnerable to disease. Wet weather can also produce mold and mildew which can be fatal to birds. Dump out any moldy seed and disinfect your feeders with a 1 to 9 parts vinegar to water solution or bring your feeder to the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, Michigan to be cleaned for a small $5.00 charge.

2. Keep your seed dry
Hot, humid summer weather creates the potential for mold. My favorite secret weapon against soggy seed is Feeder Fresh which is available at the Wild Birds Unlimited store in East Lansing, MI. This is a desiccant that I stir into the seed to absorb the moisture.

3. Choose Food that Produces Less Mess
Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds means there's no debris on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything happily.

4. Keep suet feeders full
By adding suet to your wild bird's summer menu, you will attract wrens, warblers, thrushes, brown creepers, brown thrashers, and blue jays. You can also attract orioles, chickadees, titmice, and the ever popular bluebird.

5. Discover Foods that Last Longer
Seed Cylinders are also a high-fat, quick-energy food source that is specially-designed to meet your birds' hearty appetites. The Wild Birds Unlimited popular no muss, no fuss Spiral Seed Cylinder Feeder holds cylinders of tightly packed seed held together with gelatin so there is no seed spray. The whole block is completely edible. And depending on bird activity in your yard, a large cylinder packed with energy rich pecans, peanuts and sunflower seeds can last weeks.

6. Attract Different Birds
Mealworms, nectar, fruit, and jelly attract many different birds. Hummingbirds and orioles, can be immediately attracted to feeders with nectar (and fruit and jelly for orioles), making summer a sweet time to feed the birds. Some birds attracted to mealworms include: wrens, robins, bluebirds, jays, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, titmice, chickadees, and even Purple Martins.

7. Just add water
Baths not only provide clean water to quench thirst, baths also help birds maintain their feathers. A good part of a bird's day is spent just cleaning and grooming their feathers by bathing, scratching, and preening. It’s so important that it is often the first place parent birds bring their newly fledged babies.

Related articles:
Do I need to clean my bird feeder? http://bit.ly/HNX410
How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/umlwXg
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/HNZTPx
Where Do Birds Go At Night? http://bit.ly/uoQOBw

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Photo Share: Roadside Flowers

School's out and Evan was nice enough to share what he found on a walk. And I think he deserves extra credit for the impressive bubble lettering!

"It was a short walk, but the path was filled with color. Queen Ann Lace, Crown Vetch, Morning Glory, Chicory, Red Clover, Daisy Fleabane, Dandelion, Thistle Flowers and tall grasses grew. 

They are unaided by gardeners, exposed to car exhaust and chemicals put on the Winter road, but still they thrive and make me happy." Evan

If anyone else would like to share a photograph of nature send it to bloubird@gmail.com with a description and permission to post it on the Friday Photo.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why raccoons wear a mask

Photo via Holly: "One of our 5 babies (trouble makers:) Too cute!”

Just why do Raccoons wear a mask? Probably not because they are night time feeder bandits. Maybe just as the ancient Egyptians used kohl eye makeup to protect their eyes from the harsh glare of the sun, the black around the eyes helps ‘coons see better at night by reducing glare. Or the black fur may emphasizes their eyes for display behaviors, like mating rituals or aggressive posturing.

And just look at those feet and hands! The most important sense for the raccoon is their sense of touch. The "hyper sensitive" front paws are protected by a thin horny layer which becomes pliable when wet. This makes their sense of touch enhanced when underwater.

I know they can be little monsters but with diminishing green spaces it's impressive that they have adapted to human-dominated landscapes. Please do not attempt to trap and remove raccoons from the property. Not only could you be taking a momma away from nursing babies, trapping and removing these intelligent beasties will do nothing for long-term control, as the newly vacant niche will quickly be filled by raccoons from surrounding areas. Relocating raccoons—even to wild or wooded areas—is illegal in many places and will likely result in their death.

Related Articles:
5 Amazing facts about Raccoons http://Interesting raccoon.html
How to keep raccoons from your yard http:/keep-raccoons-from-your-yard.html
The Beast! - A new indestructible suet feeder http://indestructible-suet-feeder.html
Trapping and relocating wildlife is the kiss of death http:/relocating-wildlife.html

Raccoons use Mission Impossible-style tactics to help baby over a wall: https://youtu.be

Monday, June 19, 2017

Baltimore Oriole baby

Baltimore Orioles left me for awhile. There were a lot of blooms and bugs this year which meant not as much action at my oriole feeder. Orioles usually hit my mid-Michigan feeder at the beginning of May with a big song and dance and leave me at the end of July. I have my jelly/nectar feeder on the window at the East Lansing Wild Birds Unlimited store and he'll sing right to the customers when he's happy and give me the look if I haven't had a chance to fill his jelly wells.

In June his visits are less frequent as he's busy incubating eggs and then sourcing out bugs for his babies. When I put out mealworms his visits increase again as he feeds regularly and takes some worms home. Then last week he brought up all his babies to feed right out side my window.

In July he becomes more secretive. As Baltimore Oriole babies become independent, parents begin their fall molt and are more susceptible to predators as they grow a new set of feathers. Peak migration is August and September but some begin going south as early as July if they are done nesting.

October through February most orioles hang out in the tropics. In March and April some orioles begin moving north again. On average, they probably travel about 150 miles each night in flocks, flying at about 20 miles per hour. If the weather is favorable, it will take an oriole about 2-3 weeks to complete his migration north to reach my window again by May.

Related Articles:
Can birds predict the weather? http://bit.ly/w3bhs8
Facts on the Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GzSTbi
Close-up of Baltimore Oriole http://bit.ly/GAf6T7
Favorite Oriole feeders http://t.co/OjG4Lz4

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Baby squirrels

American Red Squirrel Credit: Bill Thompson/USFWS
Look for baby squirrels in the road and showing up at feeders. Red squirrels breed either once or twice a year for 105 days. They mate in early spring from March to May and again in August to early September. In the warmer parts of their range, they breed twice. Males and females have multiple mates. Males invade the territory of females and chase them. They drive off other males by calling or chasing them.

Related Articles:
- White baby red squirrels http://white red-squirrels.html
- Do Birds Go White Feathered in Old Age? http://bit.ly/zj2nVM
- Leucism in birds http://bit.ly/wNnSTz 
- How to have more colorful birds at your feeder http://bit.ly/yTJjPd
- How Many Species of Squirrels are in Michigan? http://goo.gl/Hz0N4q
- What American Red Squirrels Eat http://goo.gl/ktqWLB