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Monday Afternoon Tallahassee

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  • Edwwjr@aol.com
    I had a short time to bird Monday afternoon. Special species seen were a pair of pintails and a pair of limpkin at Lake Henrietta. At the Southeast Farm on
    Message 1 of 2 , Jan 31, 2011
      I had a short time to bird Monday afternoon. Special species seen were a
      pair of pintails and a pair of limpkin at Lake Henrietta.

      At the Southeast Farm on Tram Road there were a male common goldeneye and
      two American pipits. The vast majority of ducks were northern shovelers
      and lesser scaup. Only a few buffleheads.

      Southwood had no geese on Biltmore but some hooded mergansers were in the
      pond on the way out to US 90.

      Ed Woodruff
      Tallahassee

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    • Jim Stevenson
      I should know, after 57 years of pissing people off with my frankness, that I shouldn’t make posts like this, or the one where I suggested Ivory-bills were
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 1, 2011
        I should know, after 57 years of pissing people off with my frankness, that I shouldn’t make posts like this, or the one where I suggested Ivory-bills were likely extinct. Some of us are slow learners. If you don’t like Devil’s Advocate stuff about feeders, DON’T READ THIS!

        First, let me apologize to Candy for not giving enough of a thoughtful response. I was leaving the house and afraid in the Monday morning rush nobody would answer her query. Boy, was I wrong! Yall provided great stuff, and I have intentionally held off on this post for that very reason.

        But mostly, I wanted to simply caution those maintaining feeders of some of the pitfalls (though this medium has touched on some of these).

        1) If cats, feral or otherwise, or accipiters, are using your yard as a smorgasbord, I believe you have a moral obligation to take down your feeders until the hawks leave and the cats find other hunting grounds (or their owners do the responsible thing and bring them indoors). [This also goes for the hapless lower vertebrates like lizards that cats brutalize.] {And please don’t make the mistake of suggesting cats killing wild animals is somehow “natural” selection.}

        2) You must take it upon yourself to keep the water as clean as possible, as well as the feeders, as these common areas become sharing grounds for all kinds of avian diseases. There are libraries full of documented cases of feeders leading to mass die-offs of birds, through food or dirty water. BTW, many feral cat colonies have tremendous mortality because of feline leukemia and other diseases. They are doing that, not for the cats, but to satiate their own consciences.

        3) I do not maintain hummingbird feeders in the winter, as I am concerned that they could affect the biology of the birds. One could say, “There is no evidence...,” but I’m wondering how we could know. I’m not saying it does, just that I don’t take that chance. I know people get all kinds of life birds and extra birds on Christmas Bird Counts (not that these nearly artificial records have anything to do with the stated purpose of CBCs*), and it’s great having them around, but we are enticing them to spend their winter many hundreds of miles out of their normal range? I do not criticize people for doing this; I just wouldn’t do it myself.

        4) Keep various objects like growing vines on and around your windows, as avian mortality on glass has skyrocketed. If they focus on vines and such while flying, they have a better chance to see the glass. Light, artificial objects like lamps behind the glass also gets their attention and discourages them from experiencing “pane.”

        *Assessing the wintering populations of North American birds. The contest for the most species on a CBC might elicit a tad of criticism from me, but we’ve all done it one time or another.

        Are you mad at me yet? :0-

        The entire concept of feeders should be seen realistically, as something that may be far more “good” for people than the birds they draw. Forgive me if I consider the well-being of the species, and not the individual, the real issue. Individuals die and their (often) inferior genes fertilize the grass. Species die (which means all individuals), and it is an incalculable loss for humanity and Earth. I am not convinced that even well-kept feeders aid wild bird populations as much as they hurt them, but I’ll stop short of saying that. I still visit in Tallahassee on occasion.

        Winter, and probably fall, are tough times for avian survival, and literally millions of birds die during these “dark” times because of low light, meaning less food, and the rigors of migration. Many of these are young birds, but none that would die, and are saved because of feeders, should be contributing their genes to their species’ future. Can you imagine what would happen if the humans having the most babies were, well, never mind.

        Winter in Alaska has produced perhaps the most intriguing negative results, where up to TEN PERCENT (!) of the Black-capped Chickadees are developing severe beak deformations, apparently caused in part by the make-up of the sunflower seeds they consume as their primary diet at feeders. [It’s a complicated case with certain chemicals also being involved, in a bizarre synergism.] For Northwestern Crows the numbers are more like a staggering 17%, because of other manmade factors.

        Is giving a wild bird an unlimited supply of grape jelly really doing it a favor? I have a nephew, 23, who eats PB&J every day, and weighs 435 pounds. That’s not a misprint. 435. PB itself may be a bit more healthy, but the same concerns linger (I’m waiting for the birds to request bread and a knife) [I can see them loafing around.] I know there are some who have suggested that some of these artificial foods are benign to birds, but I would be very wary (I mean, look at the FDA). What I believe is that there is an alternative, and I know many of you are actively involved in this.

        Grow vegetation that provides them a partial food source, so that they also must forage elsewhere for sustenance. Oaks, mulberries, peaches, plums (little known and badly underestimated), and so-on ad nauseum. Many of you have had great ideas for vegetation, and combined with a clean water source, offer the bird’s species the best chance to share their beauty with your great grandchildren. They also don’t lose their cautious nature like they do at yummy feeders, where sharpies pick them off like I snatch oysters at the Coastal Restaurant. OMG. [We may actually be raising a generation of accipiters with poor hunting skills!] {I think I’m kidding.}

        This isn’t a black and white issue, and I offer as much conjecture and opinion as actual facts. It’s stuff to think about. But I will share my own story. I bought a small, isolated forest on Galveston Island 16 years ago, which obviously had great potential for birding. At that time, I made some hard decisions about what I was going to do to draw birds (I sure never drew them very well in ornithology labs!). Seriously, I built a small pond with native aquatic plants to keep the water clean, and planted the aforementioned trees, and a few others like hummingbird bushes. I rarely put out seed, occasionally a cut orange for a good oriole picture, and I messed with a banana one day and got stung by a wasp. Guess that taught me.

        The result? My yard list stands at 315 species; I am told the largest one on the country. It’s my only list I keep anymore (I am my father’s son!). The first three reasons for this large list are “location,” but these birds drop in, feed, and are on their way.

        Folks, populations of songbirds have been reduced by a mind-numbing 40% over the past 25 years, with virtually all reasons pointing back to us. How ironic would it be if those of us who admire birds, joined the fray and loved them to death?

        Humbly questioning our presence,

        Jim, in chilly Galveston





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