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.

Posts about Bird conservation

Banding Osprey

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: July 11, 2014 - 11:17 AM

Some of the Ospreys nesting within the Three Rivers Park Distrcit boundries have been banded recently. These photos were taken Thursday at a nest site in Orono. Using lineman's gear, a climber takes young birds from the nest for application of two bands. The first is the standard federal numbered ID band, record of which is kept in Maryland. The second band has two large letters used to identify local birds. Park district personnel counted 108 Osprey nests this season, according to Judy Englund, who supervises the district's Osprey program. Birds using the nests produced 85 eggs. Not all nests were used. 

When hold an Osprey chick, it's important to have a firm grasp of the bird's talons. The chicks are quite docile during the brief banding procedure, but you never know. The bird below is being held by Lizzie Nelson of Minneapolis. The Orono banding event had an invited audience of about 20 people.

Unhatched eggs found in Osprey nests are collected. Ms. England believes that the park district has the largest collection of Osprey eggs in the nation, with the exception of the Smithsonian Institution.

Here is the new duck stamp

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: July 1, 2014 - 6:18 PM

Here is the 2014-15 federal duck stamp showing a pair of Canvasbacks. Every birder should have one. It’s one of the best, if not THE best, conservation investment we can make. (The black spot marks this as a copy.)


New duck stamp on sale Friday

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: June 23, 2014 - 8:53 PM

Federal duck stamps for the years 2014-15 go on sale Friday, June 27. The new stamp carries a painting of a Canvasback. The artwork was done by a South Dakota artist, Adam Grimm. Stamps cost $15. They are one of our best investments in bird conservation. Funds from stamp sale are used to purchase land for national wildlife refuges and waterfowl management areas. Both refuges and WMAs support far more non-game bird species than ducks. The grasslands surrounding the ponds and potholes used by nesting ducks support many non-game species working their way toward endangerment because of habitat loss. Every birder should buy a duck stamp. Buy two, and give one to a friend. Duck stamps are important to birds and birders. You can buy them at most post offices, and at many of the big-box hunting and fishing stores.

Canvasback is the species featured on the 2014-15 federal duck stamp.

Rain means swallows, bluebirds can use help

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 28, 2014 - 11:40 AM

This rotten weather, bad as you might think it is, is worse for some of the migrant bird species now here, early migrants like Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. Both eat insects, although bluebirds can supplement their diet with berries. The swallows rely completely on flying insects. This rain is making it almost impossible to find insects. I asked Carrol Henderson about this. Carrol is supervisor of the non-game wildlife department of the Minnesota DNR. This is his reply:

“Yes, I think our "insectivores" are In for a difficult couple weeks ahead! If someone has easy access to nest boxes in their yard or property, they could order mealworms from companies like Grubco or Rainbow mealworms, and place them in "feeders" like tuna cans or old breakfast food bowls (these keep the mealworms from escaping) on elevated sites like on top of a fencepost or fastened on a tray on top of a post near the nest box. The mealworms can be kept sealed in their containers in the garage as long as it is so cool. Otherwise, they may need to be stashed in an obscure spot in the refrigerator!  

“This cool weather is also a good reminder for people to plant fruit-bearing shrubs with shrubs like American highbush cranberry and bittersweet as an early-spring emergency food source for returning bluebirds.” 

Many wild-bird supply stores also carry meal worms. This White-breasted Nuthatch is taking a meal worm.

How hard can it be to build a duck nesting box?

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 25, 2014 - 10:12 AM

Is building a duck nesting box a test of possible cognitive degeneration and/or onset of significant memory deficiencies, or am I just a really crappy carpenter?

Yesterday I built three duck nesting boxes. The end result will be one box because the first two assemblies were unassembled and retrofitted to accommodate unexplained error in measurement. In one case I needed congruent sides, cutting one, then using it as pattern for the second. This involved carefully tracing its outline on a second board, then cutting on the lines, a skill acquired in kindergarten. Yet the second side turned out a quarter inch shorter than the first. 

I had to cut the first side down to size. This happened twice. I was building an ever-shrinking duck box. 

It didn’t help that one of the boards I bought was a quarter-inch narrower than the others. That speaks to the wisdom of cheap lumber. 

Today I will attach the front of the box, with an entry hole that looks exactly like it was made by a large woodpecker, which is a real-life touch not mentioned in the plans I was using. The plans, by the way, come from the Minnesota DNR publication “Woodworking for Wildlife.” Carroll Henderson wrote the book and supervised the detailed drawings. I’m certain he made things as simple as possible. I mean, he includes a plan for building a bluebird nesting box from a single board. How complicated can that be?

I’m counting on Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers, potential tenants, having a tiny sense of aesthetics, favoring practical considerations. I will mount the box on a steel pole in the far recesses of the marsh behind our house, where it will not be seen by humans.

I’m going build a second box, employing the lessons of the first. I’m hoping to confirm that the answer to my question is that I’m a crappy carpenter, but with potential for improvement.


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters