Follow by Email

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The importance of using FRESH seed, besides attracting more birds


 

 
Carolina Chickadee
Using fresh birdseed is just as important as planting fresh grass seed or fresh tomato seeds. Both boil down to what, and how many of them, you want to appear in your yard. (of course, feed fresh birdseed year 'round, but hold off on the grass and tomatoes). In my unscientific observations, I've seen that fresh seed is available only at specialty stores.  Seed sold at "big-box" or grocery stores almost always has been sitting on a shelf too long, and/or has seeds not appealing to north Texas birds.

   You probably wouldn’t buy grass seed left over from last year, or tomato seeds that have been sitting on a warehouse shelf for several months. They lose “viability” over time. This is especially important in cold weather, since birds need the energy and nutrition from fresh seed to stay healthy. Also, many birds who eat insects have switched to seed for the winter.

   Birdseed’s the same. It loses nutrition over time. It looks the same to you and me.  But birds (who depend on nutrition to stay alive) know the difference instantly. Almost all birdseed will retain some viability from the previous year - not 100%, but enough to attract birds. (The only seed that's not good the following year is Nyger/thistle, which has to be new each year).

   Filling feeders with fresh seed should be augmented with planting several kinds of “birdscape” plants in your yard. These are plants whose seeds are especially prized by birds. And the seeds are certainly fresh. Keep in mind that the best time to plant trees and shrubs in north Texas (unlike up north) is now.

   I’d be glad to e-mail you my list of birdscape plants that are native to north Texas.  They’re the trees, shrubs and flowers that grow naturally here. In my experience, also, our local birds look for them, and flock to them.


OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.

 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Calling birds by their right names avoids confusion


 
The names of birds change frequently, thanks to the governing organization - American Ornithological Union. Most of the time the name-change doesn’t concern an amateur birder, but it can as one gets more into the activity. For instance, the Robin, Cardinal and Mockingbird were modified several years ago to American Robin, Northern Cardinal and Northern Mockingbird (in order to avoid confusion with, for example, the rarely seen Clay-colored Robin – and so on).

Sometimes names have changed to correct incorrect or outdated customs. Like:  the “chicken hawk” is now the American kestrel or Kestrel in everyday conversation. It really never attacked chickens. In fact, a chicken is larger; the Kestrel being about the size of a Blue Jay.
 
The Baltimore Oriole went away, and then returned. Several years ago it was lumped with the Bullock’s Oriole as the Northern Oriole. Further DNA testing, however, showed that they were two distinct species, so the original names were reinstated.

This sort of thing happens quite a lot, and probably some bird’s name was changed while I was writing this. But it rarely has much impact on amateur birders.

 

 

The Christmas Bird Count (CBC) is the granddaddy of all birding events – with over 1500 separate events and at least 50,000 participants each year, across the country. The way the CBC got started, however, is unique.

It began in 1900 as an alternative to the Sidehunt tradition. At the time, the Sidehunt was an informal custom involving going outside on Christmas morning for several hours and shooting (with a gun) every bird and animal encountered (not popular with neighbors). Frank Chapman, a noted ornithologist of the time, started the CBC to counter the hunt. He encouraged some friends to go out on Christmas morning and count, not kill.

It grew from there. The CBC has not only provided a lot of good, raw research material. It has also uncovered and created many strong friendships centered on birdwatching.

PS: There is almost certainly a Christmas Bird Count scheduled to take place in your part of north Texas. All skill levels can participate, and it takes place during Christmas season (not necessarily hristmas Day). To find one near you, try an internet search, or contact a local birding organization.


 
OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.