Wednesday, August 31, 2011

#67 Keeping an Eye On... Acorn Woodpecker

Farmers aren't the only ones with granaries - Acorn Woodpeckers have them too!  This eye-catching species is adept at finding and storing thousands of acorns in custom-built granaries, ready for future consumption.

While other woodpeckers store seeds in crevices, cracks or cavities, Acorn Woodpeckers drill holes in a snag, tree trunk, telephone pole or the side of a wooden house, and jam the acorn into the hole!

Acorn Woodpeckers, found in oak woodlands in the southwest, California and Oregon, live in communal clans of over a dozen individuals. Their diet consist of insects, ants, fruit and copious amounts of acorns retrieved from the clan's storehouse!
photo © adrian binns

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

#66 What's in a Name? Gorgeous Godwits

With a remarkably long, upturned, half-pink bill, Godwits are amongst the most striking species of shorebird. The Marbled Godwit shown here is named for the mottled pattern on it's back.

The word godwit comes from the Anglo-Saxon, god meaning "good" and whit meaning "bird," literally "good bird" as in "good eating!"

The Godwit's genus name is Limosa, Latin for "muddy," refering to their habitat.
photo © adrian binns

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#65 Field Tip... Catching a Few Rays

What is that Blue Jay doing laying on the ground?  Is he injured?  It may seem peculiar, but such behavior is perfectly normal and quite common.  Birds often lay down, cock their head to one side, open their mouth, and spread their wings out like a fan in order to catch the sun's rays. This is known as sunning, and they may stay in this position for several minutes.

Sunning may be beneficial to birds in several ways.  It could be a way of regulating their body temperature.  The spreading of feathers may help dislodge parasites or loosen them for re-distribution.  It is also possible that sunning maximizes vitamin D, an essential nutrient to keep the bird healthy (humans too!).

Scientists are not exactly sure why birds sun themselves, but whatever the reason, it's a treat to witness this interesting behavior in a variety of avian species.  Keep an eye out for birds catching a few rays the next sunny day in the field!

photo © adrian binns

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

#64 Backyard Tip: Humor the Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are easily attracted to backyard feeders, and will provide hours of enjoyment in watching them hover, feed and perch. While hummingbirds eat insects for protein, they need flower nectar for energy, and will readily feed on sugar water.

A wide variety of hummingbird feeders are available - most feature a clear plastic or glass container to hold liquid, and a bright red plastic base to attract the birds.  Some models have a perch on which the active hummers might pause for a moment.

Make your own homemade sugar-water solution by following this simple recipe of 4 parts water to 1 part sugar.

Bring 4 parts water (2 cups) to boil, adding in 1 part white sugar (1/2 cup). Stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Boiling kills bacteria, yeast and mold spores. Remove from heat and let cool for several hours.

Fill your hummingbird feeder with only enough solution that you think will be consumed in 3 days. Store remaining solution in the fridge. Change the solution regularily - every 3 days - and wash the feeders at that time, before adding a fresh batch of solution. Do not add any red dye or food coloring.

You will soon be well rewarded with hummers flitting around your feeder!
photo © adrian binns

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

#63 Field Tip: Binocular first, Field Scope second

Just about every birder enters into the hobby (passion? obsession?) using binoculars.  They are easy to handle, light to carry, and generally cheaper than fieldscopes.  Some birders will eventually add a field scope to their equipment list, to provide that extra magnification handy for looking at distant shorebirds, waterfowl or raptors.

Even when birding with a scope at hand, it's best to start scanning with binoculars first, before using the scope.  You'll cover more territory looking through your bins, and will be able to locate birds more quickly.  To get the desired view, first set the scope on wide angle - zoomed out - and pan to find the bird.  Then zoom-in slowly to bring the bird closer, adjusting the focus while you do so.  Keep in mind that a zoomed-in view is not always the best one, as this magnifies heat waves and motion, which could make the image blurrier.  You may prefer a farther-away but sharper view.
photo © adrian binns