Welcome to my Bird Blog!

Welcome to all my fellow bird lovers and gardeners! I'm so glad you stopped by.

Migratory bird populations have taken a nose dive in the past 40 years. But you can help bring their numbers back by creating beneficial, beautiful and fun habitats in your own backyard. Discover favorite plants and environments that shelter and feed colorful songbirds, as well as how to make them feel welcome by offering their preferred natural foods.

Grandma Pearl
(Connie Smith)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Attract More Birds to Your Yard: Build a Brush Pile for Wildlife

 Brush Piles Are Awesome!

I am very fortunate to live in the woods!  Here is my newest brush pile, which includes lots of small branches and saplings that have fallen in windstorms, or just because they didn't receive enough natural light.  The leaves are mostly oak--they are the last to come down in the autumn.

Here's another brush pile that I started in August.  You can see that a small animal has already made its way into the complex network of branches and leaves.  Inside a brush pile animals and birds can find all sorts of small invertebrates, larvae, rootlets, seeds, moss and all kinds of marvelous food!

I have seen juncos enter and exit from this brush pile.  They spend a lot of time around these areas, foraging for insects and getting away from snow and windstorms.  They also sleep in these piles at night!  I know they use them for nesting places as well, because I have seen fledgling birds perching just outside this entrance hole.
Male Junco perching on a branch near one of the brush piles.

 Small animals like chipmunks love to hide their food in these piles.  They also create warm nests in the spring and fall, but come winter weather, they head underground by burrowing beneath the brush pile.

You have to clean up your yard anyway, right?  So why not make a beneficial habitat to attract more birds, just as Mother Nature does.  Even if you don't have a large yard, maybe you have a garage or shed near which you can start to build your brush pile.  Just make sure you aren't offending your neighbors, or upsetting your local code enforcer!

Have Fun!
Grandma Pearl

Friday, June 6, 2014

My Beautiful Blue Garden Surprise!

Much to my surprise, a tall plant with dark blue buds suddenly appeared in my garden in early May.  I never planted it, so the birds must have done it for me!  I watched it grow taller, and eagerly awaited the blooming of the many flowers along the branched stalk.  After several weeks, I was rewarded for my patience.

Pretty Blue Wild Lupine 

Isn't it a beauty?  I love the deep blue color.  It reminds me of a sweet pea. 
In my research I also found that it is a wild lupine which grows all over the U.S.  But this blue color is the only one that grows in my  NYS region.  All the rest are shades of blue, purple, orange and yellow.  Actually, lupines are a member of the pea and clover family. 

 I also learned that the wild lupine is an essential plant for the larvae of the Karner Blue Butterfly.  If the little caterpillars don't find a lupine around, they won't survive.  It's their only food source!

Karner Blue Butterfly from NYS Dept. of Conservation

I'm looking forward to possibly seeing a Karner Blue--that would be awesome.
See pictures and learn more about the connection between wild lupines and the KarnerBlue Butterfly in an article written by Kim Mitchell and Cathy Carnes.

How to grow lupines:

Preferred soil conditions are sandy dry soil in full sun to semi-shady conditions in a cool climate.  Mine is growing in one of my semi-shaded gardens here in the woods, but they are also found on open savannas, and recently logged or burned areas.  Their seeds need snow cover to protect them over the winter. 

Blooming in late May through June, they produce seed pods, which pop open and spread their seeds.   You'll know when that is about to happen because the pods will turn black.  And then the lupines will die back in July.  When the Karner Blue Butterfly larvae hatch, they browse on the leaves of the lupine.  It takes a lot of lupine leaves to ensure the butterfly larvae will survive to metamorphosize into adult butterflies.

Learn more about collecting and replanting seeds from Ellen Brown in her article here:


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Beautiful Moth Identified

This is the beautiful 'Io' Moth that I found in my backyard this morning!
The eyespots are meant to confuse and distract any bird or other animal trying to make a meal of it.  This is the female, while the male is very yellow in coloring.

Here's a look at the underside of her wings.  When they are folded in the closed position, all you see is an orange-brown coloration just like that of the under wings.  She did not fold them for me I think because it was a chilly morning, and she was trying to absorb any warmth she could!
These lovely moths are found mostly east of the Rockies and into Canada.
But their spiny caterpillars hold a nasty surprise should you happen to touch one.  Here's a link to an article written by J.B. Heppner, Florida Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry.
with more pictures of the Io Moth and its caterpillars, and further details of what happened to a man who accidentally came in contact with an Io Moth caterpillar.  Click Here

She seems to enjoy perching on my little 'Supertunias'

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paton's Birder Hummingbird Haven Saved!

Hummingbird Haven successfully protected 

thanks to the American Bird Conservancy, and an international fundraising campaign, which acquired and has turned over to the Tucson Audubon Society, Paton’s Birder Haven located in Patagonia, Arizona.  

Wally and Marion Paton began the sanctuary in 1974  by planting flowers and creating water features.   Dedicated birdwatchers lined their outside fence, so they decided to graciously welcome them in.  They kept that gate open until their deaths.  

The property then passed to their children, who were determined to make sure their parents’ legacy would continue to benefit all bird lovers wishing to visit.   The special efforts of Victor Emanuel, American Bird Conservancy, and the Tucson Audubon Society further ensured the preservation of this site as a hummingbird destination and sanctuary.

Among the large variety of hummingbirds that visit this haven are the Violet-Crowned Hummingbird, and the Magnificent Hummingbird.

Grandma Pearl

Violet-Crowned Hummingbird Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/pleautaud/3216226893
Magnificent Hummingbird Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidbygott/4456740326/

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Starthroat Hummingbirds and More from Colombia

Hummingbirds and Lots of Other Birds Migrate from Colombia Every Year!

This beautiful Hummingbird's breeding range is in Mexico and Panama, but it is typically found in Colombia, Bolivia, Brazil and other South American Countries.

The best way to see this gorgeous bird is to travel to its habitat.  Sign up for a South American Nature Tour, or go to Paton's Birder Haven in Arizona.

Here is an excellent video made by Colombia Bird Watch

You'll be amazed at the variety and color of tropical birds!  From the world's tiniest woodpecker, to the many-hued tanagers, to wetland birds including snail kites, this video takes you on a tour of Colombia's bird life.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Male Northern Oriole Just Arrived--Thin and Hungry!

I am always amazed at the beauty of Northern Orioles, not just for their physical appearance, but for their lyrical songs and enchanting call notes.  They have honored me once again with their presence in my yard after a long migratory journey from South America.   

Male Northern Oriole Just Arrived, and he's looking thin and very hungry, but very handsome!

Orioles make the long trip northward in the spring to make nests and raise families because their babies would suffer and die in the extreme tropical heat.  So it's easier for them to survive and thrive where days and nights are relatively cooler than in the southern climes.

The returning male has already spotted a female and begun to court her!  I saw her follow him to the basket feeder he found earlier.  In it I have all kinds of chopped nut pieces, including pistachios, peanuts and walnuts; as well as tiny pieces of dried fruit.  I watched as the Oriole deftly poked each nutmeat between his toes and began to break off pieces with his narrow long black beak. 

This is my most visited bird feeder year round, and it couldn't be easier to make and install using items you probably already have around the house.  

If you want to make Orioles really happy, serve them grape jelly in glass containers or jelly feeders, which can be tucked in among the branches of your smaller trees or inside a tall hedgerow or shrubbery plants. 

 Or add a fruit feeder with orange halves attached.  Oranges are another favorite treat that attract orioles to your yard and gardens.  

And offer them pieces of string or thin yarn that's about 4" to 6" long.  They'll use them to skillfully weave in and out of their amazingly elastic hanging pouch nest.  It doesn't matter what color the yarn is, but I have used orange before just because it matches their feather color!  

The nesting materials can be draped over tree branches where the birds will find them easily.   Remember, they'll be searching your land from the sky, so think about the most visible areas of your yard from that point of view, and place the yarn accordingly.  Or you can incorporate them into a nesting ball with other materials lots of backyard birds can use for their cozy constructions.

Learn the easy steps to Making a Nesting Ball for the Birds

These awesome birds eat tons of insects, including beetles, wasps, and flies of all kinds.  Orioles are a gardener's friend, so be careful not to use toxic insecticides that will make them sick, as well as kill off their natural food sources.  
Beautiful Feather Colors of the Northern Oriole include yellow, orange, black and white.

The beauty of the Northern Oriole to me is breathtaking, and I can't get enough of that bright orange and black contrast, with a little yellow mixed in for good measure!

7 Natural Ways to Entice Orioles to Your Yard
 Oriole Nectar Feeder

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easy Straw Hat Bird House

You've seen them on sheds and the sides of garages--old straw hats where the top of the crown has fallen apart.  And then some very smart birds have used those hats for their nest.

They not only look rustic and inviting, but they make a beautiful statement while providing a great place for your favorite backyard birds to raise their young.

Here's what you'll need to make this easy project:

  • Newspaper or old tablecloth to cover your work surface
  • Large straw hat with a 4" (approx.) deep crown to accommodate most backyard birds
  • Stapler
  • Glue Gun
  • 12" x 12" piece of bubble wrap or other thick plastic to cover back of hat
  • Scissors
  • Wire cutters
  • Assorted silk flowers of your choice
  • Bottle cap measuring 1 1/2" in diameter
  • Marking pen
 I found my straw hat at the local craft and hobby store, along with the silk flowers and bubble wrap.  They also carry glue guns, wire cutters and staplers, if you don't already have them.  This project cost under $20.00, but will vary with your location and the supplies and tools you already have on hand.

  1. Start by tracing around 1 1/2" bottle cap or jar lid with marking pen in the middle of crown top;  and then cut on marked line with scissors.
  2. Turn hat over and place bubble wrap over the back of the crown opening.
         3.  Use staple gun and start by attaching each corner to back of hat with a staple; then fill in with staples approximately every inch or so.  We don't want baby birds falling out!
Don't worry about the staple points showing through on the other side of the hat brim.  They will be covered by your flowers.

           4.  Use your wire cutters or scissors to clip off silk flowers from their stems.  Leave approximately 1/4" to 1/2" of the stem so you have a glue attachment point.  Save the leaves from the stems to poke in between the flowers at the very end.

5.  Use your glue gun to attach each flower over the staple points along the top of the straw hat brim.  Then begin to fill in empty spots with more flowers and some leaves.

Remember to have fun with this.  There is no right or wrong way to add your flowers.  You can place a band of ribbon or lace around the bottom of the hat crown behind your flowers if you wish.  Maybe you want to add a pretty bow as well.  
I wouldn't make ribbon tails that might flap in the wind and spook your birds, though.

Note there are 2 small metal grommets reinforcing air holes in the crown of my hat.  If your hat has those holes, you can hang your creation so that the holes face downward.  That way any moisture or condensation from inside the bird's nesting area has a way to evaporate or drain.

Speaking of hanging your hat--the straw is so flexible that you can poke a hole in it with an old nail or awl.  Be sure to leave at least an inch between the edge of the hat brim and the hole.  Alternatively, you can put a small square of duct tape behind the hat brim before you make your hanging hole.  That will reinforce the brim area so it can't rip out when hung.

I hung my hat on a cup hook that I had screwed into the wall.  Hang yours from 5 to 7 feet off the ground.  Then stand back and admire your creation!

Keep in mind, it may take a while before your birds find this inviting home, so be patient!
Have fun.

How to Make a Bird Nesting Basket in 5 Easy Steps
Building the Ultimate Brush Pile for Your Birds

Pearl's Backporch Scrapbook