Tag Archives: Birds

The Prairie Ecologist Article Photo of the Week A red-bellied woodpecker – January 3, 2013

By Chris Helzer/The Nature Conservancy

This photo was taken several years ago outside the house of my in-laws in eastern Nebraska.  I don’t usually photograph birds, but I was there and the birds were there, and one thing led to another…

A red-bellied woodpecker pauses near a feeder during a snowstorm. Sarpy County Nebraska

It was snowing, but the mid-day light was still bright enough for photography. As the snow fell, I stood in my coveralls near several bird feeders, hoping the birds would ignore me. I had covered my camera in a plastic bag and wrapped my lens in cardboard (held on with rubber bands) – only the best technology for me! While the snow piled up on my camera, eyebrows, and beard, I pivoted the camera around on my tripod, attempting to focus on bird after bird as they came near the feeders. Most of the time, of course, the bird either landed in a non-photogenic spot or moved away before I could get a bead on it. In spite of that, I eventually managed to get a few useable shots.

This one is my favorite from the day – mainly because of the completely white background. It would look like a studio shot except for the blurry snowflakes coming past the tree trunk. In reality, the snow on the ground and in the air behind the bird just blurred together into a pure white background.

The Prairie Ecologist



Why Are Some Wild flowers Highly Scented with Brightly Colored Petals?

Thought You Might Enjoy this Q&A From Ask.com regarding Wildflowers

Question: Why Are Some Wild flowers Highly Scented with Brightly Coloured Petals?

Top Answer: Some wild flowers are highly scented with brightly colored petals so as to attract pollinators like insects and birds. The pollinators feed on the nectar and help in distribution from pollen grains from anthers to stigma of the same plant or another plant. This enables continuation of reproduction.

Ion Exchange, Inc.

To Purchase Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants Visit Our Website At Ion Exchange, Inc.

Enhance Your Bird Feeding Station with White Wild Indigo Article

Many bird-feeding stations are barren of cover for birds at your feeders.  You can solve this problem by providing instant cover with fully mature fall or winter-harvested stems of the White Wild Indigo.  When the plants mature and fall comes, the plants will go dormant leaving their study and durable stems erect with dried leaves and stems still in tack.  This makes for the perfect little bush that will give birds a secure place to land.

Just break the stems off at ground level.  Get a two or three gallon container.  Fill with any soil.  Insert the stems into the soil for a secure upright position of the stems.  You may want to put a heavy rock in the bottom of the container to keep the wind from blowing it over.  Place the pots near your feeders.  When the birds land in the branches of the White Wild Indigo, they can rest there and feel protected against predators.

Within minutes you will have more birds right next to your feeders feeling secure and safe.  This will enable you to stand much closer to your feeders and observe birds up close.

You can plant White Wild Indigo from seed and they will mature in two to three years or you could plant them as live plants and they will mature faster.  Seeds should be scarified with sand paper to thin the hard seed coating if planted in the spring and place in a plastic bag with moist sand or vermiculite.  After 10 days you may plant the seed.  If planted in the fall they will not need scarification.  They grow to about four to five feet in height and have beautiful white flowers up and down the sturdy stems in early to mid-summer.  As they mature, they will develop black seedpods, which are very attractive.  They are native from Canada to Southern Texas and Florida and throughout the central region of the U.S.  They will thrive in most soils.

Howard Bright, aka Earthyman

To Purchase White Wild Indigo Visit Our Website At Ion Exchange, Inc. Native Wildflowers & Prairie Plants

The Natural World Article By Earthyman From Ion Exchange, Inc.

The natural world, as recognized over and over again can be our best teacher. The struggles and stresses that we perceive in our daily lives can get to be such a drain on us. When this happens, our lives are no longer in cadence or harmony with others and the natural world. We start to feel distressed and lost while even armed with our fine educations, years of therapy, self-awareness and physical fitness. Where do we turn? There seems to be no answer and no one to help us.

I remember when I was very young and my parents used to argue with each other, I would get very upset and walk out of the house. There was an old red oak stump in our timber. I would just sit there, staring at the ground and trees around me. It was my escape and my haven from stress and turmoil. This little wood lot that had been so mistreated and now barely remained had become my friend and companion. Having been stripped of all valuable timber long ago, then grazed, then abandoned, now recovering but extremely scarred, the landscape did not complain but only saw new opportunity for change and a new life. The stripping of its timber was not harbored in a memory bank filled with judgments of greed or bad behavior. No one was being held responsible for the condition of this little parcel. Out of what looked like total defilement and desolation came a new beginning and a new life for this old, old piece of ground.

There were Yellow Warblers, Myrtle Warblers, Scarlet Tanagers, Ruby Crown Kinglets, and Purple Finches, over 100 species of beautiful birds in this small haven along with squirrels, rabbits and copperheads. It was amazing that this land, so poor, could house and care for such a diversity of life. Underneath the shallow leaves and humus of the oaks and hickories, it was only 2″ to shale rock. Erosion had not even allowed a new soil to stay in place. Now a new soil was starting to form. The oaks grew ever so slowly, but they grew. Now, down the slope, a small clearing, a little knoll occupied by Andropogon virginicus, or Broom Sedge as we called it, was dotted with Eastern Red Cedars. From here, I could lie down in the grass and look to the south and east to see a whole horizon bounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Only 12 miles away, I could see Big Bald Mountain on the North Carolina line marked by the Appalachian Trail. It was a beautiful wilderness within site of this abandoned and forgotten vestige that was once a link and connection to these mighty mountains. Like a child cast out into a desert of chaos and severed from its mother, this little wood lot had become an island. My education and awareness might not have been that well established at the age of nine but my feelings were in tact and I knew this was a place where I could go and start to heal and find comfort. I didn’t have to worry about conflict here. I was accepted and I fit in with the rest. I became part of that landscape and it is still within me. I have learned from the great spirit of the natural world. Every change is an opportunity for a new beginning. Nature does not hear or respond to shame, blame, doubt, and guilt nor does she harbor regrets or grudges. She takes what she has and moves on to constantly create more beauty in the world.

I think it’s time to move on and create some beauty in our world. Won’t you join the natural world



Audubon Society – 110th Annual Christmas Bird Count

Bulletin Staff Writer

Billed as the “world’s longest-running uninterrupted bird census” by the
National Audubon Society, the 110th annual Christmas Bird Count starts in
Baxter County at midnight tonight, conducted by “citizen scientists.”

For 24 hours Friday, midnight to midnight, bird lovers plan to walk through
local bird habitats recording the number of species they see. Every year,
the data compiled by tens of thousands of observers throughout the Americas
contributes to a greater understanding of which birds are where, and when,
says Phil Hyatt of Mountain Home. That information, he says, leads to
better conservation.

The roadrunner was moving north,” Hyatt said. “We also documented the eurasian
collared dove in two CBCs. They simply were not known in Arkansas when I
was a boy. Neither were house finches.”

Hyatt, 57, became interested in birding in 1966 during a bird walk in
Florida led by a naturalist. He helped manage the state’s bird records for
Audubon Arkansas in the early 1970s and currently volunteers at Buffalo
National River with the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory. His job in the
Christmas Bird Count is to compile the data gathered in Baxter County, in
addition to observing and counting.

But you don’t have to be an expert like Hyatt to take part.

Who can participate?

“We have about 12 people in Baxter County who regularly count,” Hyatt said,
“but the more observers we have, the better the data.”

He hopes more volunteers will get involved, either in the field or watching
their own backyard bird feeders.

Anyone who lives within the designated area can participate, Hyatt says.

“All CBC count areas are designated as circles 15 miles in diameter,” Hyatt
said. “The center point is usually chosen to locate the count area in
desired and variable habitat. In our case, the Midway Post Office serves as
the center point. This allows us to include most of Mountain Home inside
the bypass, most of Cotter, all of Gassville and Lakeview, most of Bull
Shoals, the Pigeon Creek area, but not Cranfield, much of northern Baxter

Hyatt says anybody interested in participating, whether by joining a group
in the field or watching their own backyard feeder, should call him at
736-1952 for instructions before the count begins.

Diane Mikrut, president of the Audubon Society of North Central Arkansas,
says she’s excited about her first Christmas Bird Count.

“I love nature and I love birds,” she said. “I’m looking forward to being
out there with people who can coach me on how to identify birds.”

Mikrut plans to meet a group at 7:15 a.m. near Lake Norfork.

“We try to match inexperienced with experienced observers,” Hyatt said.

Some groups, he says, will have two to four people. Others may have as many
as 15 or 20.

While there is no fee for feeder watching in the Christmas Bird Count,
field observers are charged $5, for which they receive a copy of the
summary journal published at the end of the international count.

What’s involved in participating?

Observers in the field, whether on land or water, count the numbers of all
birds they see by species, according to Hyatt, and he compiles their
results as though seen by one person.

“Phil sets up regions in the park,” said Park Interpreter Julie Lovett of
the Bull Shoals-White River State Park. “It looks like a big wagon wheel.”

Her group is meeting at 9 a.m. at the trout dock in the park, just past the

“We’ll count at the river and then go up to the wildflower garden,” she
Feeder watchers count birds in a different way, since the same bird is
likely to return to a feeder several times during a day, Hyatt says.

“We ask people watching feeders to count the highest number of birds of one
particular species at any given time,” he said, “and keep track of the
number of hours they watch.”

Hyatt says that rare species sighted during the count week also should be
reported to him.

“If we see an eagle or osprey in the count circle three days before or
after the count day,” he said, “we can record it as seen during count week
but not on count day. This allows the gung-ho observers to find rare
species and still report them.”

Once Hyatt receives all the local data, he compiles it and sends it to the
state Audubon organization with the number of people involved, the hours
spent observing and the weather conditions.

Weather matters.

A look at Hyatt’s historical data for Baxter County shows that only three
turkey vultures were spotted in 1998. In 1999, 248 were counted.

“Turkey Vultures don’t like cold, rainy weather,” Hyatt said. “If the count
day happens to be rainy, you may not see any. If it is warm and sunny, you
may see 248. So we record weather conditions.”

Hyatt says that while weather matters, the degree of expertise in observers
does not.

“The variations in the count are so wild that the data isn’t perfect,” he
said, “but you get so much data that volume compensates for the lack of
scientific accuracy.”

Why does it matter?

The National Audubon Society lavishes praise on citizen scientists who take
part in the CBC. Its Web site states, “Each of the citizen scientists who
annually braves snow, wind, or rain, to take part in the Christmas Bird
Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation.

“Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running
wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations, and to help guide
conservation action.”

Hyatt and Mikrut agree.

“We don’t see the population change over night,” Hyatt said, “so we don’t
realize the change in the environment and habitat until it’s too late.”

He cites Baxter County’s prairie history as an example. Birds that once
populated local prairies and farm fields no longer find their preferred
habitat here, where forests have taken over much of the land.

The Audubon site states that bird counts help “identify environmental
issues with implications for people as well. For example, local trends in
bird populations can indicate habitat fragmentation or signal an immediate
environmental threat, such as groundwater contamination or poisoning from
improper use of pesticides.”

“Birds are one of the very first indicators of what’s happening on our
planet,” Mikrut said.

Hyatt says scientists are using CBC data to watch the effects of climate
change on birds. Statistics at www.audubon.org show that “177 species show
a significant shift north and this northward shift was correlated with an
increase in mean January temperatures in the contiguous 48 states of almost
5 degrees during that time.”

But according to Hyatt, the best thing about the CBC is that it’s fun.

“We do this for fun more than science,” he said. “The science is very
useful and important, but it is also a fun day. The amount of adventure is
up to the participant — riding, walking, boating. We need more boaters who
are willing to look for loons and grebes and know what they are looking at!”

To participate in the Christmas Bird Count, call Hyatt at 736-1952. For
more information, visit www.audubon.org.

The Audubon Society of North Central Arkansas meets on second Mondays at 1
p.m. at Redeemer Lutheran Church. Guests are welcome. On Jan. 11, Lucinda
Reynolds will speak on “Birds, Bugs and Native Plants: Part of a Perfect
Balance (Creating a Backyard Habitat).”

“If the CBC sparks an interest in people,” Mikrut said, “that would be