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Archive for the ‘Bird Friendly Communities’ Category

Guest post by Wendy Hawkins and Don Lendle

On a beautiful Thursday morning, November 12, 2015, Forsyth Audubon volunteers, Habitat for Humanity staff, and Junior ROTC students convened on the Habitat for Humanity campus, poised to install reinforcements along “de fence” line in preparation for “A.M.-bush” planting (that is, 70 native, bird-friendly shrubs and trees). This border surrounds Habitat Forsyth’s campus at 14th and N. Cherry Streets in Winston-Salem – including the new lodging that is currently under construction. This building will house up to 40 volunteers at a time who sign up to help with Habitat construction projects throughout the year.

Calling in the Troops: For Thursday’s massive planting task, the unarmed forces were called in. “Fall in! Ten-hut! Forward march! Hut-2-3-4! Company halt!” There before us at 09:30 hours stood 40 Junior ROTC students ready to receive instruction. The cadets from Mt. Tabor High School were accompanied by their Army Instructor, Master Sergeant Maurice Kearney. Kelly Mitter, Habitat Director of Operations, welcomed the group. Don Lendle, Forsyth Audubon conservation chair, briefed the young battalion on the value of native plants and their importance to birds, as well as techniques for conquering the clay soil, using compost, and loosening root bound plants.

Soon armed with shovels, rakes, wheelbarrows, gloves, pick axes, and yardsticks, they were off in orderly fashion, marching rank on rank toward the border to be conquered. Organizing themselves into subdivisions (one group per plant), the JROTC focused attention to excavating holes, measuring, and installing the plants – receptive as they were guided by the FA and Habitat experts.

The Big Picture: Providing additional insight and educational inspiration, Wendy Hawkins, our FA education chair, passed around copies of a fun, informative quiz directly related to the plants being installed that day. The students learned about scientific names, the difference between evergreen and deciduous, as well as how these plants would directly benefit birds (and, in turn, people). “Feel free to share answers!” she encouraged, announcing that there was also a mysterious answer sheet floating around. Fielding various questions about birds and plants, she discovered that many of these young people were excited about sharing their experiences with birds and plants at the break table. These take-home tools would prove useful for the written reports of their experience they would later submit to their superiors.

The Victory: Friendly competition ensued as some raced with wheelbarrows of compost which could hardly be filled fast enough by those shoveling. Additionally, their intelligent conversations encompassed current events from police brutality (or not), to the definition of manslaughter, to the passionate attitude one should have toward their career choice. Who would have thought all these issues could be debated and resolved atop a compost pile! The intelligence and cooperation of these youth were inspiring. Now they have come away from this experience with their minds stretched just a little more by this exercise in conservation. By 14:30 hours, all plants had been installed according to proper specs, watered, and mulched and looked beautiful. Everyone had a good time and good work was done. The students were reorganized on the bus and waved enthusiastically as they drove off into the “wild blue yonder” toward their next mission!

The Volunteers: Janice Lewis and Susan Andrews created the landscape design and Janice supervised the plant installation. Audubon members Jesse Anderson, Mary Franklin Blackburn, Jean Chamberlain, Nita Colvin, Carol Gearhart, Wendy Hawkins, Sheilah Lombardo, Sharon Olson, and Anne Stupka wielded shovels and provided encouragement and instructions on planting day. In addition, Don Lendle, as project manager, coordinated the landscaping project with HfH.  Bill and Betty Gray Davis and Kim Brand contributed to the design and plant selection. Jane McCleary at Piedmont Carolina Nursery provided invaluable assistance in procuring plants.

The FA alliance with Habitat for Humanity: The conversation between Forsyth Audubon and Habitat for Humanity began in December 2012. Kim Brand, then Forsyth Audubon Vice President, immediately saw that it was a perfect match to merge bird habitat with human habitat. The Little Greens Garden Club made a $500 grant to Habitat for Humanity for the first bird-friendly yard, and Kim led FA’s involvement in that project. In 2013, Kim received a $10,000 Toyota TogetherGreen fellowship grant to continue the project with six more bird-friendly yards for first-time homeowners who were offered the option of a native landscape design to attract birds and butterflies.

Today, Kim works full-time for Audubon NC where she is the Bird-Friendly Communities Coordinator for the statewide effort. Forsyth Audubon continues to provide financial support and volunteers for our collaboration with Habitat for Humanity. Efforts are currently concentrated on the Boston-Thurmond area of Winston-Salem just north of downtown, focal neighborhood for Habitat’s revitalization initiative. This project will continue in the spring, developing the Habitat campus into a wildlife oasis and helping to revitalize one of our own urban neighborhoods for birds and people.

Photo Credits: Jean Chamberlain and Don Lendle

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Guest post by Rick Mashburn.

The warblers are here. If anybody needs me, I’ll be on Bethabara Greenway.

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warblers can be found along the Bethabara Greenway. Photo by David Disher.

Most folks go to Reynolda for their warblers. But if you don’t do hills or mulched walkways or paths through woods and fields, then Bethabara is the place to be. It’s flat and paved, and the Magnolia Warblers and Black-throated Blue Warblers and Blue-headed Vireos are just as gorgeous as they are up at RJR’s house.

I have found so much bird joy along Monarcas Creek that for years I was willing to make the hair-raising crossing of Old Town Drive from the gravel parking lot to the entrance to the flat, paved stretch of Bethabara Greenway. Not only are there two blind curves, but the rough shoulder required me to roll my wheelchair along the road for a few hundred feet. Every time I made that treacherous passage I wondered which birds were worth risking my life for.

Common Yellowthroat at Bethabara Park

David Disher photographed this Common Yellowthroat along the Bethabara Greenway.

One day Ron Morris called. He said he was writing a newspaper column about the thrills of birding on the greenways. I told him about the thrill of crossing Old Town Drive. Soon after, a woman I mistook for someone else stopped me at the farmer’s market and said, “I read about how dangerous it is for you to get on the Bethabara Greenway. We’ve got to do something about this. It’s just not right.”  She was Susan Jones, then president of Forsyth Audubon (FA). I told her I wasn’t much for raising a stink. She pointed out that the crossing was dangerous for everybody, not just me. She said she would help raise the stink if I wanted. I don’t really know why, but I took her up on the offer.

For three years Susan and I talked with the City of Winston-Salem about a sidewalk and a proper pedestrian crossing. Our initial encounters were encouraging, but over time we moved through impatience to frustration, then cynicism. (One of us lost his or her temper at a certain point, but I refuse to say who.) We told ourselves that we had one thing going for us: tenacity. We were not going to give up, not ever. Then we were told we’d made it onto the list of approved sidewalk projects, but that the list was two-hundred projects long.

Earlier, Phil Dickinson had also been concerned and had lobbied the City for safer access when he was FA President. He and Ron Morris (by then FA president himself) had another idea. Why not shift to the other end of the flat, paved segment, where Indiana Avenue dead ends and there was only a short stretch of rough but cleared land to the greenway? What a good idea that was. Carol Gearhart, FA member and veteran of civic bureaucracy, joined the team. We went back to the City with Plan B.

And poof! A beautiful new flat, paved and safe entrance to the greenway appeared.

Well, not exactly poof, but close enough.

Bethabara before planting

The Greenway access prepped for planting. Photo by Phil Dickinson.

And did I say beautiful? Scratch that altogether. The site was hideous. Raw, bare land and two very ugly metal barricades. Bethabara Moravian Church, just next door, had generously offered their parking lot to anyone using the new entrance. They have a beautiful, well-kept landscape, and we’d created a blight on the neighborhood. Something had to be done.

Getting started on planting day.

Getting started on planting day. Photo by Phil Dickinson.

FA member and landscape architect Bill Davis drew up a simple, elegant plan using native plants. The FA Board generously agreed to cover the cost of the plants and to carry out the installation. Shelley Rutkin oversaw the project with the expert assistance of Susan Andrews and Kim Brand. The City delivered a load of mulch. A big crew of FA members, neighbors and friends showed up one Saturday in October to put trees and shrubs in the ground. Shelley and Susan diligently watered through a very dry fall.

Bethabara - hard at work

We worked hard to plant seven Serviceberries and two dozen other plants. Photo by Phil Dickinson.

Everything is thriving today.

What we created is not just pretty. It’s a birdfood farm: the Serviceberry trees, Inkberry Hollies and Spicebush will all provide sustenance for Bethabara’s resident birds and migrants. The spot has already become a model for how we can all incorporate an attractive bird-friendly landscape into our own yards.

Bethabara - hard at work

The Bethabara Greenway access at the end of planting day. Photo by Phil Dickinson.

As may be obvious by now, this is a big long thank-you note to the members and leadership of Forsyth Audubon, including current president Jeremy Reiskind. There are many others to thank as well. From the City of Winston-Salem: Matthew Burczyk, Myra Stafford, Tim Grant, Alan Hine, Mike Koivisto, Mickey Boone, Troy Galloway and Keith Finch. From Historic Bethabara Park, director Ellen Kutcher. From Bethabara Moravian Church, former pastor Rev. Trip May and church member Phillip Sapp. Landscaper Andy Lawson. And, on planting day, the hearty neighbors of Old Town Road.

What I have been talking about here is just a little path from a street to another path, but for me it represents so much that is good and caring about the community in which we live. Come check it out. Bring your binoculars. I’ll see you there.

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A report on various collision prevention products
By Jean Chamberlain

I enjoy having the natural light coming in through my windows.  I enjoy the view I have of the woods around me and of Pilot Mountain in the distance.  Like many birders I also enjoy watching birds feeding at my bird feeders.  Until recently birds would frequently crash into the windows through which I enjoyed watching birds.  As a raptor rehabilitator, I have cared for many birds that have collided with windows and I know first-hand the damage these collisions cause.  I felt guilty knowing that my windows contributed to the injury and death of many birds, so I began looking for the best way to prevent the collisions while allowing me to continue to enjoy seeing the birds and the view.  There is a very good website that suggests products that are currently available to prevent window strikes: www.flap.org.   Starting in early December of 2012 I tried many of the products recommended on the site and have reduced the window strikes to next to none.

Paper decals seen from outside

Paper decals seen from outside

Paper decals seen from inside

Paper decals seen from inside

I started by making decals for my sliding glass doors. I used solid white Contact paper to make the decals. I purchased a roll at a discount chain for about $6.  It was with the shelf lining paper.  It took only a portion of the roll for the decals on the sliding glass door in the photo.  According to flap.org, decals should be no further than 4” apart vertically and 2” horizontally. There are 58 decals on the door and it still isn’t fully covered.  The decals should be placed on the outside of the window so that they are clearly visible from the outside and less visible on the inside.

I wanted to try something in color with a more pleasing appearance than the white decals.  Decorative cling decals for windows can be purchased at some arts and craft stores.  I found some in a spring seasonal display at Michaels.  They were inexpensive, costing $1 for each sheet containing several decals of various sizes.  I applied the decals on the outside of my kitchen window.  They are easy to apply and they come off so they can be re-positioned.  The decals don’t stand out well in most light conditions though, so I expect they are not as effective as the solid white contact paper.

A couple of online companies (WindowAlert and Duncraft) sell static cling and low-tack adhesive decals with an ultra-violet coating.  The decals reflect ultra-violet light that is visible to birds but is transparent to us.

WindowAlert decals from the outside

WindowAlert decals from the outside

WindowAlert decals from the inside

WindowAlert decals from the inside

WindowAlert sells their decals in several different patterns (butterflies, hummingbirds, squares, maple leaves, hawks and a leaf medley).  I placed mine about 1-1/2 feet apart which has prevented strikes on the windows so far.  According to FLAP, to completely prevent window strikes, UV decals should also be placed 4” apart vertically and 2” apart horizontally.  The decals appear translucent from the outside. When I applied them, I noticed that they actually appeared to turn a purplish blue when seen at an angle in certain light. I suspect this is how they look to the birds. From the inside they appear frosted.

WindowAlert maintains that the UV coating is effective 6-9 months.  The decals cost $6.45 per set.  There are 4 decals in each of the sets except the hawk set which has 2 and the leaf medley which has 5.  The decals that I used are approximately 4” across.

Duncraft has similar UV decals and a decal of a spider web that I really like, but it is more expensive than the other decals (2 for $14.95).

I felt using decals wasn’t practical for the large bank of windows on the front of my home.  This led me to test several of the other products that are available.  I purchased the do-it-yourself residential kit online from Feather Friendly Technologies.  The kit contains a roll of sticky tape with very small square markers attached and two paper strips.  The two paper strips are marked every 2” so they can be used to line up the tape on the window.  The paper strips are placed down the sides of the window (or along the top and bottom). The tape containing the tiny markers is then strung in strips across the window between corresponding marks on each side. It is pressed firmly to the window. When the tape is peeled off the markers remain on the window.  Instructions to apply the markers are provided with the kit.  I applied them to the exterior of the 3 middle windows in my bank of windows.  The tape costs $15.08 per 100’ roll (I used 2 rolls) plus $2.10 shipping.

Applying Feather Friendly markers

Applying Feather Friendly markers

Feather Friendly markers applied

Feather Friendly markers applied

Feather Friendly seen from the outside

Feather Friendly seen from the outside

Feather Friendly seen from the inside

Feather Friendly seen from the inside

The markers are more visible on the outside than on the inside.  I don’t find them at all distracting. In fact, they look somewhat decorative.  From the inside when they are seen at an angle, especially in dim light, they are almost invisible.  They have been effective on my windows.

ABC tape seen from outside

ABC tape seen from outside

I also purchased ABC Bird Tape from the American Bird Conservancy.  It is easy to install. I applied the Bird Tape to the bathroom windows on the back side of my house.  The strips can be applied either horizontally or vertically. I applied them vertically as they can be farther apart (4”apart) when applied that way. They should be 2” apart when applied horizontally.

ABC tape seen from inside

ABC tape seen from inside

ABC tape seen from inside up close

ABC tape seen from inside up close

The strips are visible both on the inside and out.  The tape is less expensive than the Feather Friendly product.  One roll covered both windows. The tape comes in ¾” wide 75’ rolls, costing $10.95 per roll, 3” wide 50’ rolls that cost $12.95 and pre-cut in 3”x3” squares that cost $14.95 per roll. I used the ¾” size.  ABC Bird Tape will also be available soon at Wright’s Backyard Birding Center, 3906 Country Club Rd., Winston-Salem. Call Wright’s at (336) 765-7823 to check availability. Wright’s also carries other window collision prevention decals. No birds have struck either of the windows on which the tape was applied.

A company called BirdSavers sells a product made from parachute cord. AcopianBirdSavers are priced by window width.  As an example, they sell for $29 for use on a 42.5″ to 46.75″ window (10 Cords).  Shipping is free.  On their website they also provide suggestions for making your own.  I decided to make mine.  Parachute cord is readily available at military surplus stores and online.  You can buy it virtually in any length you want.  It comes in a variety of colors.  Olive drab is the most common and is found in nearly every store that sells the cord.  I used forest green which was harder to find.  I purchased a 1000’ roll for $55 from Amazon.

Parachute cord roll

Parachute cord roll

Parachute cord from outside

Parachute cord from outside

Parachute cord up close from inside

Parachute cord up close from inside

 

Cord can be used for the horizontal strip that is strung above the window as well as the vertical strips that hang from it.  Alternatively, you can use a thin board with holes drilled every 4” to hold the vertical strips.  Touch the bottom end of each of the cords with a match to seal it so the white inner strands aren’t exposed.  This gives the cords a finished look.   To prevent the cords from becoming entangled in the wind, I attached the ends to a horizontal strip across the bottom.  It also works to string some light weight fishing line (monofilament) from one side of the window to the other across the cords, wrapping it around each one.  String the line about a foot or so from the bottom. Each of my windows has 15 to 18 strands as I strung the vertical strips less than 4” apart. I used parachute cord on the outer two windows of my bank of windows and on several bedroom windows. It is an inexpensive option to cover a lot of windows and is effective.

Combination of ABC tape and decals

Combination of ABC tape and decals

I have been pleased with the results of using these products.  Since they were applied to many of my windows starting in early December, only one bird, a chickadee, has been injured hitting any collision-protected window.  I was not in the room at the time so I was unable to determine for certain which window it struck, one with markers or parachute cord.   I’m wondering if the chickadee, being so small, saw the markers (or cords) and tried to fly between them.

One window on the front of my house was in a difficult place to reach and was among the last windows to be done.  Four birds struck that window before I applied WindowAlert decals to it in early February.  None has struck that window since then.

I’m happy to report that these products are working for me.  They have reduced collisions and do not obstruct my view from the windows. If you have birds colliding with your windows, I’m confident one of them can help you too.   Let’s stop bird-window collisions!

*The prices for all products are those provided on their company websites as of February 18, 2013.

All photos by Jean Chamberlain.  Jean is a volunteer raptor rehabilitator with Wildlife Rehab, Inc.

References:

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White-Throated Sparrow

A White-Throated Sparrow enjoys a bath. Water is an important component of bird habitat. Photo by David Disher.

Do you think that New Year’s resolutions are for the birds?  Well, these are – for helping birds, that is.  Adopting one or more of these ideas will help birds and the planet.

  • Join your local Audubon society.  Learn about birds and have fun.  Forsyth Audubon.
Tennessee Warbler

Native plants like Pokeberry provide vital fuel for migrating birds like this Tennessee Warbler. Photo by David Disher.

  • Drink bird-friendly coffee.  It tastes great, provides vital habitat for migrating and wintering birds in Central and South America, and improves livelihoods for farm families.  The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center has developed the “Bird Friendly” certification.   The Cornell Lab of Ornithology explains “Bird Friendly” and other coffee certifications.  Our local Whole Foods store now carries bird-friendly coffee or buy it online from Birds & Beans.
  • Follow the American Birding Association’s Code of Ethics when birding.
  • Shop at Goodwill.  The clothing you purchase has an environmental impact.  Conventional cotton crops use nearly 25% of the world’s insecticides.  Learn more about the problems with cotton from the Rodale Institute’s Chemical cotton and see Conventional Cotton Statistics.  In addition to birds being directly killed by pesticides, insects are needed by birds.  96% of land birds require insect food for their young.  No bugs, no baby birds.  You can help by shopping at thrift stores and garage sales or buying clothing made with organic cotton.
  • Remove dead animals from roadways.  This idea is from Laura Erickson in “101 Ways to Help Birds.”    Crows, vultures, hawks, and other scavengers are frequently killed while eating roadkill or preying on the small mammals that roadkill attracts.  You can help by pulling over and flinging dead animals as far from the road as possible.  Be careful to do this only where it is safe and legal to pull off the road.  Carry a shovel, gloves, and hand sanitizer in your car to be prepared.
  • Use eBird.  Scientists use the data in eBird to answer questions about bird distribution, abundance, migration, conservation priorities, and more.  eBird stores your personal bird lists and is fun, too!
  • Buy a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly known as the Duck Stamp.  Ninety-eight cents out of every dollar generated by the sales of Federal Duck Stamps goes directly to purchase or lease wetland habitat for protection in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Thanks to David Disher for the photos in this post.

Please comment to share your ideas.  What are you doing for the birds this year?

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