Here at The Edge of the Wood we just tossed out our lawnmower and planted more bird- friendly-berry, bearing-bushes. We think of this as a win-win. Biologists Amy Belaire and Emily Minor found that landscape plantings in private yards play a much greater role in attracting a diversity of native birds in neighborhoods than do the surrounding parks, forest preserves, or streetside trees. Areas with bird-friendly yards had nearly twice as many species than neighborhoods whose private yards were less attractive to birds. So help a bird and help yourself. Sometimes a bird in the hand is worth less than two in the bush.
A recent study looked at the economic value city dwellers place on having birds in their communities. Researches asked how much residents would spend to conserve common bird species and what they’d spend, if anything, on bird food. In Seattle, the value of enjoying common birds is about $120 million in bird seed, housing and plantings. “We know that having a livable, green community that attracts birds also increases the value of homes in that area.” said John Marzluff, a University of Washington professor of environmental and forest sciences and the paper’s co-author. “This paper shows there’s an economic service birds are providing.” Home improvement doesn’t always have to involve a hammer and a saw.
Here at The Edge of the Wood we noticed that in urban areas there are more black squirrels than gray squirrels. Biologists believe that black squirrels may have been the norm several centuries ago, before large-scale deforestation. Today’s woodlands are much less shady than forests used to be, and cities, with their tall buildings, may mimic the darker environs of the early continent. In environments with more sunlight, “squirrel gray” can offer better camouflage. In New York City black-coated squirrels blend in perfectly with the urban human population. … after all, a little black dress is always in fashion.
Trish O’Kane thinks so. She runs a program at the University of Wisconsin that pairs university birding students with underprivileged middle school students in a unique environmental studies program. The kids explore nature and learn about environmental justice issues affecting their communities. They are shown that nature belongs to all of us and not just the few. So get outside and enjoy the bird songs…it might inspire you to do great things.
Well, it seems all the time. Paleontologists are now saying that modern birds are actually living dinosaurs. Then came news from China that some dinosaurs seemed to be marvelous four-winged creatures, perhaps on standby at some runway for takeoff in flight as early birds. Other recently excavated primitive bird species had also adopted the four-wing body plan before they ditched the hind-limb feathers and evolved into the, presumably, more efficient feathered forelimb wings. Here are a cardinal, blue jay, grackle, red-bellied woodpecker and catbird discussing their costumes for the next Jurasic Park movie. Maybe they don’t need costumes at all.
Yes, we admit it, we love our Woody Woodpecker cartoons, even though he is nothing like his quiet, hard working cousin the Red-Bellied Woodpecker. In spring a breeding couple select a nest site together. They visit potential locales, and communicate by mutual tapping. One member of the pair taps softly on the wood from inside a cavity, and the other taps back from the outside, not unlike an open house on a sunday in hipster Brooklyn. These birds also communicate and sing through drumming or hammering against a loud or resonant object. Male Red-Bellied Woodpeckers drum steadily at about 19 beats per second. Here is a Red-Bellied Woodpecker and a Grackle passing the time of day.
Here at the edge of the wood we notice our crows really do talk up a storm. But what are they saying? University Researchers in Seattle, while wearing masks, captured seven crows, tagged them, then let them go. Whenever the scientists walked around campus with the masks on, the crows would “scold” and dive-bomb them. The researches learned that along with the ability to recognize individuals, the crows could also harbor a grudge. Soon their crow family members were doing the same thing. It seems that crows take the golden rule very seriously. So when you see a crow, a person, or any animal, treat that creature the way you would liked to be treated. No one wants to be embarrassed by a crow.
Here at the feeder we love to watch everyone interact. We find these encounters quite complex, and we wonder what is truly going on. It has been found that squirrels can communicate via ultrasound on a frequency higher than human hearing just like bats. So while the squirrels, chipmunk and grackle look as if they are having an awkward social moment, they might actually discussing the upcoming Warhol retrospective at the Met surrounded by newly flowering phlox.
Yes the squirrels, birds, and chipmunks seem to enjoy the spring. The chill of winter is behind them and it is time for a little fun. Food becomes more abundant, and everyone’s mind turns to love. Here at the edge of the wood we notice the playfulness around the feeder. The squirrels are storing some of the food instead of immediately consuming it. We see them digging small holes and inserting a peanut or sunflower seed. Squirrels can remember hundreds of these caches and this survival technique helps the earth by dispersing seeds widely. So remember, the next time you see a giant tree, maybe it was a squirrel that actually planted it. Here they are among the tulips, forsythia, and daffodils jumping for joy.