Wednesday, January 18, 2012

#86 Sapsucker Holes

Did you ever wonder who created those neat rows of tiny holes on the bark of a tree?  This is the clever work of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, a member of the woodpecker family, and uncommon winter resident in our area.

The birds drill into the bark in order to release the sap from inside, hence their name. These interesting hole designs - that also can be rows of squares - do not damage the tree.

Hummingbirds are attracted to sapsucker holes not to consume sap, but to feed upon the insects that are also drawn to the sweet liquid. The insects provide a valuable source of protein for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds as they migrate northwards to their breeding grounds.

It's amazing that the efforts of one sapsucker can have such wide-reaching affects!
photo © adrian binns

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

#85 Field Tip: Irruptions

In the birding community, "irruption" is the word used to describe an irregular, migratory movement of a large number of birds that does not normally occur in a given area.

Irruptions do not apply to all species, but are known to occur with crossbills, siskins, purple finches, redpolls, bohemian waxwings, red-breasted nuthatches, and also some owls.  By definition, irruptions are irregular, but studies show that they occur in cycles of approximately 2-10 years.

Species irruptions occur when food sources are poor on their wintering grounds, compelling the birds to spread out more widely than usual, and in larger numbers.  Finches and other seedeaters move in as a result of poor crop production.  Owl irruptions coincide with cyclical crashes of rodent populations, which happen to rely upon seeds.

Interestingly, irruptions do not always involve the same species at the same time, and are not related to cold winters.  While last winter there was an irruption of Saw-whet Owls, this winter we are currently experiencing an irruption of Snowy Owls, which are being reported in unexpected areas throughout the Delaware Valley region, much to the delight of birders!
photo © adrian binns

Thursday, January 5, 2012

#84 Backyard Tip: Put your Xmas Tree to use

Now that the holidays are over, here is a wonderful suggestion for what you can do with your Christmas Tree.

I see so many placed out on the curb, and know that homeowners are missing out on creating a small micro-habitat for birds.

Do not discard your evergreen tree. Instead, I place mine outside near my feeding station. This now provides an additional place for the birds to hide, and find protection from the elements and predators.
photo © adrian binns