Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.
As long as the temp offered some above-freezing respite each day, birds could find melt water to drink. Not so today, with colder weather. Consequently, the bird bath on our deck has been busy all morning. It's as well-used today as I've ever seen it. Six and seven birds at a time are coming to drink. Water is an issue for birds as much as for all else touched by the drought. If you have water for the birds, keep the container filled, keep the water fresh and clean. If you want more birds in your yard, water is a good idea. The photo shows a Red-bellied Woodpecker drinking about noon today. The water is in a pan held by the wooden frame. There is a heating coil embedded in the pan bottom. Ours it set on a patio table on our deck. The photo was taken through a patio door.
Birders' Exchange (BEX), which began as a small optics "recycling" program at the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences in 1990 has become the major conservation initiative of the American Birding Association. The BEX program supplies optics, books, and other new and used donated equipment to researchers, educators, university students, and children’s programs throughout the Central and South America.
BEX is helping to support an increasing number of people who are conserving migratory and endemic birds, protecting some of the most ecologically important habitats, and teaching children about the value of birds.
To further its mission, BEX needs our help. BEX recipients need good quality optics, preferably rubber-armored and/or waterproof, and in excellent working condition. BEX has no budget to repair optics, and non-waterproof optics have a very short life span in the wet climates of the tropics. Financial donations are welcome; they allow BEX to purchase high-quality optics at discounted prices.
Optics are required for meaningful conservation efforts.
The program is under the direction of Betty Petersen, American Birding Association Birders' Exchange director, firstname.lastname@example.org, 800-850-2473 X223. The shipping address for BEX donations is ABA/BEX 1618 W. Colorado Ave. Colorado Springs, CO 80904
For more information, visit www.aba.org/bex
Our heated bird bath is soaking in bleach right now. It will be on the deck within the hour. The birds that were on the sunny edge of our pond yesterday morning are back. They found melt water there yesterday in early afternoon. Today, we'll see how long it takes them to find our open water. We have a simple metal pan, heated electrically from beneath, mounted in a rough wooden frame. We tend to avoid fancy. Birds have never complained.
Watching our muskrats this morning I noticed bird activity on the far side of our pond, where the morning sun had hit. The birds were at the pond edge, pecking at the ice. They were looking for water. I had cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, goldfinches, House Finches, and one Downy Woodpecker. Eventually, one observant goldfinch found open water at the muskrat lodge near that shore. The mammal had an entry hole in the half-inch-thick ice. Soon, chickadees were drinking there, too. It's very dry everywhere -- no rain, no snow, ponds iced over. Birds can't find water. This is a good time to put your heated bird bath to work, or to buy one. You'll need an outdoor electric outlet. Water is almost better for attracting birds in the winter than food is. Natural food always is available, but water can be difficult to find at best. Snow will help when it arrives. There's almost always a bit of melting snow and drops of water somewhere. That won't lessen the attraction of an open bowl of water in your yard. Below, a chickadee at the muskrat lodge opening. By the way, this is not the traditional cattail lodge often seen in marshes. This muskrat built with sticks and clumps of muddy leaves, all of it speckled with duck weed.
Enough already. Sony will release in November birding binoculars that film video in HD as well as taking 7-megapixel photographs of the bird you're looking at. If you can't identify the bird when you see it, you can look at your photos when you get home.
This is another case of doing something because it can be done, not because it should be done.
What is termed "birder-friendly features" include magnification up to 20x, electronic as well as manual focus, image stabilization not only for the photos but also for binocular use, optional 3-D shooting, and integrated geotagging (via your GPS unit). All this for from $1,400 to $2,000.
Next up: drone birding binoculars, optics mounted on your very own drone, a machine you guide from the comfort of your couch. It will hover with the hummingbirds and hang with the hawks. It'll have software that IDs the bird for you, sending you a text message or a Twitter or posting to your Facebook account.
No more wind or rain or sun in your eyes. No more brambles or bugs or wet feet.
No more near misses. No more hope for another sighting that brings you into the field again. No more losses to flavor the wins.
No thanks. Give me good basic binoculars and a pair of comfortable shoes.
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