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Nest boxes are simple — don’t complicate things

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The first day of spring always reminds me that it’s nest box season. It’s time to build and place a few more nest boxes for my favorite birds — the cavity-nesters. This group includes bluebirds, chickadees, titmice, house wrens, tree swallows, screech-owls, kestrels and wood ducks. Most people love bluebirds, but they nest only in […]

Disregard robins when looking for signs of spring

Thursday, March 17, 2011

When I was a kid, one of the things I learned on television was that, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” Apparently, however, it’s OK for Mother Nature to fool me. Blue skies, sunshine and temperatures in the 50s put a smile on my face March 2 and 3. Robins, bluebirds, cardinals, chickadees and […]

The Crossley ID Guide to eastern birds

Thursday, March 3, 2011

More than 30 bird identification guides line my book shelves, so I guess I’m a collector. Most are very good. Some even include CDs. But they all follow the same basic format — artwork or photos of a few individuals along with a range map and brief written description. Which guide is best is an […]

Have a few minutes? Take part in the bird count

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The 14th annual Great Backyard Bird Count takes place Feb. 18-21. A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society and Bird Studies Canada, this popular citizen science project is an opportunity for all to discover the wonders of nature we call birds. Begun in 1998, the GBBC enlists birders of […]

Bird-friendly coffee has a rich, robust history

Thursday, February 10, 2011

If you’re enjoying a cup of coffee while you read the morning newspaper, you’re in good company. Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee every day. That’s 146 billion cups per year. It gets us going in the morning and gets us through the day. We are the leading consumers of coffee, but coffee is […]

Size matters in the bird and publishing world

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bigger is always better, right? Cities and countries compete to build the tallest buildings. Gardeners vie to raise the biggest pumpkin. Anglers long for that monster bass. In the February 2011 issue of Pennsylvania Game News Mike Raykovicz writes, “The emphasis today seems to be on antlers, and the bigger they are the better.” s […]

White deer; not just a myth but a reality

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shortly after my wife and I moved to the ridge back in the summer of 1985, we began exploring the surrounding woods. On one of our first outings, we took separate paths. When we met back at the house, Linda was bursting with excitement. “I got a quick look at an animal I didn’t recognize,” […]

Great horned owls offer great entertainment

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A few nights into the new year, three different species of owl sang within earshot of the back porch. It began shortly after 9 p.m. with the tremulous whistle of an eastern screech owl. A few minutes later a barred owl sang from deeper in the woods. “Who cooks for you, who cooks for you […]

2011: New Year brings new reading possibilities

Thursday, January 6, 2011

As we head into a new year, nothing beats a good book by the wood stove on a cold winter night. Here are some recent classics I recommend. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen Ambrose (1996, Simon & Schuster) and Our Natural History: the Lessons of […]

Don’t feed deer this winter, doing so causes harm

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back in February, as a brutal winter unfolded, I explained that feeding deer in winter is a bad idea. I quoted experts from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, and a veterinarian from the National Wildlife Health Center in Wisconsin. All agreed that supplemental feeding is bad deer management. That […]

Feral cats not family or environmentally friendly

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hunters and birders may seem unlikely allies, but they share many of the same conservation goals. One is maintaining healthy populations of birds and mammals for viewing and hunting. Free roaming feral cats pose a serious threat to this objective. The University of Nebraska Extension service has just published a review of the feral cat […]

Day with Smithsonian birds was dream come true

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Last month I wrote about Marcy Heacker, a research associate and forensic ornithologist in the bird division of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. I met Marcy earlier this fall, and she invited me to visit for a behind-the-scenes tour. A few weeks ago my daughter, Nora, joined me for the visit. In advance of […]

These nature books make great holiday gifts

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

I’ve got a bookshelf of titles to recommend as holiday gifts this year, so each gets just a thumbnail description. Suffice to say, if it’s on this list, I recommend it: • Bird Feathers: A Guide to North American Species (Stackpole Books, 2010, $34.95) by S. David Scott and Casey McFarland is the first truly […]

A winter roosting box for chickadees is a tight spot

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Recently, at a wild bird trade show in Missouri, a women approached me and thanked me for “a great idea.” She said she had read a story I had written about winter roosting boxes a few years ago. Candace Stuart, owner of a Wild Bird Center in Denver, began offering workshops for kids to build […]

Notice the small trees, they yield the best surprises

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Late October brought the first hard frost to the ridge, and now the temperature dips to the low 30s most mornings. Frosty temperatures send my wife and me in search of persimmons, which ripen after a few cold nights. Ours grow in the hayfield. Persimmon Persimmon is a small, inconspicuous tree that rarely grows taller […]

Oaks and acorns: The lifeblood of the outdoors

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Just because a resource is common and abundant today doesn’t mean that will always be the case. When Europeans settled North America, for example, migratory flocks of passenger pigeons darkened the sky turning day into night. The last one died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. Inestimable herds of bison roamed the Great Plains. Today, […]

Understanding bird feeders

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Last week I spent two days at a wild bird products trade show in Missouri. It’s a great way to see new products, but I was reminded that truly new feeder designs are hard to find. Improvements and variations on a theme, however, are never in short supply. Any discussion of bird feeders should begin […]

Dropping temperatures will mean hungry birds

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Weather forecasters are calling for overnight low temperatures to dip into the 30s this week, so it’s time to pull out the bird feeders and stock up on some seed. Here are some tips to keep in mind when shopping for food for wild birds. Sunflower seeds attract the greatest variety of feeder birds. Black-oil […]

Forensic ornithology is an interesting science

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I made a new friend last weekend at the annual Berkeley Springs (W.Va.) Fall Birding Festival. Marcy Heacker and I spoke to the group on Saturday evening. Marcy works at the Smithsonian Institution’s Division of Birds where she identifies feather fragments as a forensic ornithologist at the Feather Identification Laboratory. Usually her work involves bird […]

Goldenrod unfairly fingered as allergy culprit

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Though most wildflowers have faded by late September, goldenrod is just taking center stage. More than 100 species of goldenrod (genus Solidago) brighten North American meadows in late summer and early fall. They are the bright yellow flowers that turn open fields into seas of gold. My hayfield came into full bloom about a week […]

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