Monday, July 28, 2008

Maybe They Do Get Headaches...

  I wanted to take a moment to discuss a good book I just recently purchased by author Mike O'Connor. Mike O'Connor is the owner of Bird Watchers General Store located in Massachusetts and the author of Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches - and other Bird Questions You Know You Want to Ask. I first heard of Mike O'Connor on the Ray Brown's Talkin' Birds radio show (and podcast). On the show Mike calls in each week to answer a backyard birding question. Recently Mike was interviewed by Steve Moore on Birdwatch Radio, and it was at that point that I decided that I've got to check out this guys book!


His book is based on questions that he answers from a column in the area local paper (The Cape Codder) called "Ask the Bird Folks". I haven't finished reading the book yet, but I have to say, it had me chuckling out loud at some of his humorous answers to a variety of birding questions. While anyone would find this book entertaining, birders will especially enjoy it. Mike is a funny, light hearted, easy going guy that tries not to take life to seriously. There's something here for everyone to learn.

...but if you can't wait for the book or want to get an inside look, Mike keeps an archive of all his columns from "Ask The Bird Folks" here:


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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Prizes and Other Cool Stuff

For those not aware but may be interested, The Round Robin blog, sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, is asking for the assistance of anyone and everyone that may be interested in helping them re-organize their website. In their most recent post, they’ve added an extra incentive to those willing to participate!! Their awarding prizes to random individuals that participate in a short exercise that will help put certain items in various categories. There is no right or wrong answer. The prizes will be given to three respondents selected at random. Hurry, because this only last until noon, (Eastern Time), July 28th. It took me only 10 minutes to complete.

Here’s a link to their latest post that explains the details and what the prizes will be:
Here is another neat citizen science project being offered by Project Wildbird that studies seed and feeder preferences of wild birds in the United States and Canada. They began this study back in 2005 and it currently continues through at least December of this year. They are inviting all people who feed birds in the US and Canada to participate in the study by completing an online survey of your backyard feeding experiences that’s based on your daily observations of 3 different types of bird feeders and seed. In exchange for giving them a little bit of your time - and here’s the cool part - they will provide you with the bird feeders and seed. Follow the links below for more details:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Beak Job

Eagle Chick

Here is an interesting local story that I have been following for a few weeks now--

An eaglet that hatched inside the Norfolk Botanical Gardens park a few weeks ago was admitted to the Wildlife Center of Virginia located in the city of Waynesboro.

After two unsuccessful clutches, an adult eagle pair nesting on the property of the botanical gardens finally had success after one chick hatched on the 27th of April. But after what appeared to be an abnormal growth on the eaglets beak, the chick was removed at only 3-1/2 weeks old for further examination. After a thorough examination by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) veterinarian, it was decided to permanently remove the chick from the nest to provide it immediate medical attention.

Eagle Removed

Over a period of seven weeks, the growth on the eaglets beak was examined, probed, tested, treated and finally scheduled for surgery, but just days before the surgery the growth simply fell off. The eaglet is still being treated for minor beak deformation, but experts are optimistic that the eagle will reach full recovery.

Eagle Chick2

Follow the links below to read more about this:



here's another story about a bald eagle that was shot by a poacher. More than three years after a poacher shot off her upper beak, a team of experts have attached an artificial beak, improving her looks and, more importantly, helping her grasp food. To read more about this interesting success story follow the link below:


Monday, July 14, 2008

Local Nesting Activity

I remember as a child how exciting it was to find a bird nest that had eggs or nestlings in it. Now that I'm an adult, I still get excited when I find a bird nest, especially when its on my own property. I work to make my 1.5 acre lot as bird friendly as I can, so its nice to see that hard work payoff.

It's been a great spring / summer for watching nesting birds in my yard. I've been fortunate to witness and photograph several nesting species.

First on the list is the Eastern Bluebird. Out of the four bluebird houses I have set up, there have been a total of 6 broods raised this year.



They can be quite competitive with one another when it comes to nesting territory so their houses need to be spread out. I try to spread mine out at a minimum of 75 yards...but what I have been reading lately says they should be 100 to 150 yards apart. I currently have three houses on my property and a fourth one on my neighbors property.

A few days after hanging this Fuchsia plant on my front porch overhang the House Finches moved in. It was fun to watch them at such a close range - from egg to fledgling.




My 4 year old daughter was especially fond of them. She asked to be picked up every time we walked by them so she could have a peak.

One cool fact about House Finches that I learned from the All About Birds website is when nestlings defecate, the feces are contained in a membranous sac, as in most other birds (shown in the second house finch photo). The parents eat the fecal sacs of the nestlings for about the first week. In most songbird species, when the parents stop eating the sacs, they carry the sacs away and dispose of them. But House Finch parents do not remove them, and the sacs accumulate around the rim of the nest (shown in the above photo).

Another nearby nest in my backyard belonged to this cute little Chipping Sparrow.


I found at least three different Chipping Sparrow nest along a row of Leyland Cypress trees in my backyard.

IMG_1031 Chipping Sparrows.

Chipping Sparrows commonly nests in small evergreen shrubs or trees.

Close by in a flowering plum tree was the nest of a Northern Mocking bird pair.


I had to act quickly to get this next photo as Mockingbirds are very aggressive defenders of their nest. I was NOT welcome here!!


...there were three Mockingbird babies in this nest.

Below is a baby Killdeer that was passing through my front yard. They often nest in a nearby grass field.

...cute little buggers aren't they?


It was tough to get a good photo of these birds. They never seem to stop moving. It's always neat to watch the adult Killdeer do their broken-wing act. Its purpose is to lead predators from the nest by putting the focus on them.

Last but not least is my Purple Martin colony.


This is my second year at being a Purple Martin landlord. Last year I had 2 pair; this year there are 6 pairs. I have learned a lot about these birds in the last couple years. It's definitely been a rewarding experience!

Here in the eastern part of the United States, Purple Martins nest almost exclusively in man-made housing.


Well, that should pretty much cover it for now. But stay tuned, you never know what might show up next!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Ahhh, fresh cantaloupe, I can smell it now; or better yet - taste it! This will be the second year I have grown cantaloupe in my garden. I had great success growing them last year. They have always been one of may favorite fruits, but I had forgotten how much better home grown ones tasted. As a child, my Dad grew cantaloupe every year, and like everything else, once you get use to it you tend to take it for granted.

This year I'm growing a heirloom variety I ordered from Park's Seed Company called Organic Melon Hales Best. So far so good. I planted the seeds directly in my garden this spring once all danger of frost had passed, and as you can see the vines have really taken off. You can buy young cantaloupe plants at many garden centers, but I prefer to plant the seeds. They normally come up fast and don't go through all that transplant shock stuff.


Cantaloupes are fairly easy to grow. One of the downsides is that most varieties tend to spread, requiring a larger space to grow in the garden; however, there are now other varieties of cantaloupe that grow as a bush and do not spread. One such variety from Burpee is called Honey Bun - these varieties are better suited for smaller gardens.

Cantaloupe, as with most melons prefer a soil pH closer to neutral than many other plants. A handful of lime mixed into the ground where they are planted can help tremendously.

When ripe, the skin will be a pale orange color. They should feel a bit heavy for their size and will be very fragrant. Another thing that I have noticed when ripe is that when picking them they tend to come apart from the vine with very little resistance.


The picture above shows a couple of my developing cantaloupe still a couple of weeks from being ready. Can't wait!!

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fun Stuff...

Here is a cool little game called "Eagle Eyes" developed by Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You're presented with five groups of two photographs. You have to spot five differences in between the photos in each group. It's easier than it sounds.
The photos are mostly of birds. The photos themselves are impressive. You can choose from several timed versions of the game. Or, you can play without time restrictions. It's a little addictive once you get started. Good luck!

...and while I'm on the subject of 'Fun Stuff' here's a neat video of a parrot that ended up on Animal Planet's Pet Star. Many of you may have seen this already, but I thought I would share again. Parrots are considered to be among the most intelligent birds. You'll be amazed by how many tricks he can do.!.html

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Breaking Garden Trends

Here is a link to a blog post I read earlier today from Veggie Gardening Tips that offers some great advice for the backyard vegetable gardener. Many times we get caught up doing conventional type gardening, like grouping similar plants together or planting in rows (which I am very guilty of myself). The new trend in gardening today is to mix things up - plant your herbs among your vegetable plants, mix in your vegetable plants in with your flowers, etc, etc.

The conclusion often results in healthier plants that require little or no pesticide control; which in turn makes everyone/everything healthier and happier!

Here is a link to the blog post:

...and speaking of gardens, here's today's harvest from my vegetable garden:


My tomatoes should be ready soon!

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