Friday, May 13, 2011

The Birdy Blogs I

This time of the year, the forests in Southern West Virginia are electric green, the air is warm, and most of all, the birds are in full chorus! What better time to make your backyard paradise a haven for feathered friends? If you liked the Baltimore oriole, I hope you get a lot from my next two blogs. n honor of Spring bird season, and because there’s just so much to say on the topic of birds, my next two blogs, – the “Feather Diaries” will be aimed to get you started attracting birds . We’ll start with why, environmentally you should emphasize bird habitat in your gardening. The second will be practical advice on how to do this!
If you read, “Wildlife Friendly” – one of my first blogs, you already know some tips for having a “habitat yard” for birds etc. But birds get their own blogs because they’re so wonderful to watch, they do have special requirements, and they need our help!
It’s the month of May- birds are at the height of their breeding activity. This is the loudest and flashiest they will be all year. So go ahead, poke your head out the window and see how many birds you hear. It’s OK, I’ll wait…. …. If it’s morning as you read, you may have just heard a cacophony of bird calls. If it’s later, maybe you heard a few different peeps. But the truth is, if you are 45 or older, you have heard louder in your lifetime. You may not realize it, since it’s happening slowly - but since 1967, bird populations of even common species have fallen between 50 and 80 percent. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring is becoming reality. The reasons for this depend on many, many variables -but generally, there are some major factors that affect pretty much every bird, everywhere in our country.
1) Habitat fragmentation: Hungry migrating birds stop over at last year’s foraging spot to find it has become a Big Lots. Also, some birds need a minimum acreage of continuous habitat to breed successfully. Even when a great deal of the habitat is left intact, if it is bisected by houses, strip malls, roads, etc – it becomes unsuitable. (See: American Restart, Bobolink, etc).
2) Herbicides/ pesticides not only eliminate insect and seed foodstuffs, they also work their way into the bird’s delicate systems: (See: DDT and Bald Eagles)
3) Cats. They’re an invasive species! I know, I love Basil too. But it’s true. These cats evolved, albeit culturally – far away from North America. Native wildcats like bobcat and mountain lion are not anywhere as fecund as the housecat. If he still had his…cottonpuffs…Basil could multiply himself by the hundreds, maybe thousands in his lifetime. Native cats also seek bigger prey – whereas Basil is pretty much expertly designed to kill tiny little birds. The housecat has been here for less than 400 years, a blink of an eye in evolutionary time, and passerines (perching birds) are dropping at way too fast a rate to counter-evolve defenses.

Now that you’re convinced to join, let’s move on to the business of attracting birds to your garden!

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