Ripple Effects: Enhance Backyard Birdwatching When You Feed & Protect Birds

Ripple Effects: Enhance Backyard Birdwatching When You Feed & Protect Birds: Downy Woodpecker Male at Bird Feeder Courtesy US FWS, Leah Schrodt, Photographer
[Downy Woodpecker Male at] Bird Feeder
Courtesy US FWS, Leah Schrodt, Photographer

Applying Anti-Strike Film to Window Courtesy US FWS Brett Billings Photographer Applying Anti-Strike Film to Window
Courtesy US FWS
Brett Billings Photographer

Birdwatching is a fun hobby for all ages and it is a great way to connect with nature and increase self-efficacy, so let’s discuss the benefits and the importance of a safe environment for feeding our backyard birds. First, the benefits of supplemental feeding, and second, preventable deaths from cats and window collisions.

Supplemental food and water are important ways we can reduce stress for backyard birds, especially through the winter months. Sites with bird feeders attract more birds over time than those without feeders, and the birds are in overall greater health than birds at sites without feeders. A higher percentage of chicks hatch at sites with bird feeders, and the survival rates are significantly higher, but supplemental feeding must be done in a safe environment.

Free ranging domestic cats and window collisions are leading causes of bird deaths in North America. The American Bird Conservancy estimates that outdoor cats kill approximately 2.4 billion birds every year in the United States alone. Approximately one billion birds are dying from window collisions each year in North America – that represents about ten percent of our birds dying from crashing into windows (1), and combined, that’s over three billion fewer insect eaters, fewer pollinators, fewer seed spreaders, and fewer parents for the next generation.

Cats should be kept indoors, and windows should be treated, especially if they reflect trees and shrubs. If you have seen a ghostly bird imprint or heard the sickening thump of a bird hitting your windows, then those are windows in need of treatments such as screens, translucent UV tape, or even tempera paint designs, because even birds that manage to fly away have potentially life-threatening internal injuries. Feeders less than 3 feet away don’t allow birds to build up too much speed before they collide, so it’s good to put feeders and birdbaths 3 feet or closer to a window or greater than 30 feet away.

Feeders placed on or near windows have the added benefit of being easy to access and monitor. In addition to a window suet feeder, one of my favorite window feeders is actually a clear plastic suction-cup toothbrush cup holder from the dollar store – it’s easy to clean and there’s no need for binoculars!

In addition to enhancing a backyard bird watching hobby and improving bird health and survival, the ripple effects of feeding birds, keeping cats indoors, and preventing window collisions include pest control in our gardens where birds feast on slugs, snails, aphids and grasshoppers. I for one particularly appreciate Black-billed Magpies when they remove wasp nests from my house! The Bridgerland Audubon website has tools, coloring pages, checklists, and science-based information on window collision prevention. Solutions can be as simple as the careful placement of bird feeders and keeping cats indoors. Find us at bridgerlandaudubon.org, that’s Bridgerland Audubon – A-U-D-U-B-O-N dot org.

I’m Hilary Shughart, and I’m wild about Bridgerland Audubon, wild about Utah Public Radio, and Wild About Utah!Supplemental food and water are important ways we can reduce stress for backyard birds
Credits:
Images: Courtesy US Fish & Wildlife Service, Leah Schrodt and Brett Billings, Photographers
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Kevin Colver, https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections/kevin-colver
Text: Hilary Shughart, President, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Hilary Shughart and Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional ReadingSupplemental food and water are important ways we can reduce stress for backyard birds
WildAboutUtah pieces by Hilary Shughart, https://wildaboututah.org/author/hilary-shughart/

Procure Bird Seed from local Audubon Chapters:
Great Salt Lake Audubon
Bridgerland Audubon
Other Statewide Birding Groups

Hellstern, Ron, Build a Certified Wildlife Habitat at Home, Wild About Utah, July 17, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/build-community-wildlife-habitats/

Hellstern, Ron, Attracting Birds and Butterflies to Your Yard, Wild About Utah, May 28, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/attracting-birds-and-butterflies-to-your-yard/

Beorchia, Mykel, How To Create a Bird Friendly Yard, Wild About Utah, November 9, 2020, https://wildaboututah.org/how-to-create-a-bird-friendly-yard/

Shughart, Hilary, To Grow Your Own Bird Food, Native Plants Are Key!, Wild About Utah, April 12, 2021, https://wildaboututah.org/native-plants-are-key/

Kervin, Linda, Bird Feeding, https://wildaboututah.org/bird-feeding/

Kervin, Linda, Cane, Jim, Feed the Birds, Wild About Utah, December 1, 2011, https://wildaboututah.org/feed-the-birds/

Creating Landscapes for Wildlife… A Guide for Backyards in Utah, Written by Sue Nordstrom and Illustrated by Kathlyn Collins Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning, Utah State University with Margy Halpin, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources; Second Printing 2001,
Updated for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, by Frank Howe, DWR Avian coordinator; Ben Franklin, DWR–Utah Natural Heritage Program botanist; Randy Brudnicki, DWR publications editor; and landscape planning illustrations by Stephanie Duer.,
Published by:
State of Utah Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife Resources,
Utah State University Cooperative Extension Service and
Utah State University Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning;
1991 updated 2001 https://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/landscapingforwildlife.pdf

Sizemore, Grant, Cats Indoors–Cats and Birds, American Bird Conservancy, https://abcbirds.org/program/cats-indoors/cats-and-birds/

Bird-Strike Prevention: How to Stop Birds From Hitting Windows, American Bird Conservancy, https://abcbirds.org/glass-collisions/stop-birds-hitting-windows/

Messmer, Terry, Cowell, Samuel, Dietrich, Dietrich, and Sullivan, Kimberly, Ask an Expert: Seven Tips to Keep Birds from Hitting Your Windows, Utah State University Extension, March 28, 2017, https://extension.usu.edu/news_sections/agriculture_and_natural_resources/bird-windows

Cowell, Samuel, Dietrich, Dietrich, Sullivan, Kimberly and Messmer, Terry, Reducing the Risk of Birds Colliding into Windows:
A Practical Guide for Homes and Businesses [NR/Wildlife/2017-01pr], Utah State University Extension, March 2017, https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2682&context=extension_curall

Klem, Jr., Daniel, Solid Air: Invisible Killer: Saving Billions of Birds from Windows, Hancock House Publishers, October 5, 2021, https://www.amazon.com/Solid-Air-Invisible-Killer-Billions/dp/0888396465

For the Birds (Download Brochure PDF), US Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, rev March 2001, https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/api/collection/document/id/1107/download

Morse, Susan, To Feed or Not to Feed Wild Birds–Bird Feeders Can Be Sources of Joy — and Disease,, US Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.fws.gov/story/feed-or-not-feed-wild-birds

Make Your Home a Safe, Healthy Home for Birds,, US Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Sep 13, 2021, https://www.fws.gov/story/2021-09/backyard-birds

Celley, Courtney, Helping wildlife while avoiding common pitfalls,, US Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.fws.gov/story/helping-wildlife-while-avoiding-common-pitfalls

West Nile virus bird identification, , Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, October 20, 2017, https://wildlife.utah.gov/bird-identification.html

Dragon, Sydney, (Student Conservation Association intern), Conservation in Urban Areas: Backyard Bird Feeding, US Fish & Wildlife Service Bird Walks (Texas), U.S. Department of the Interior, Apr 27, 2021, https://youtu.be/2bkliew6aj8

Inside Look at Fire, Water, Wind

Inside Look at Fire, Water, Wind: 2022 SAQA Quilt Exhibition: WILD! Brigham City Museum of Art & History
View exhibit brochure in a new window:
2022 SAQA Quilt Exhibition: WILD!
Brigham City Museum of Art & History

Kodachrome Reflections Quilt Art Copyright Kimberly Lacy Courtesy Mary Heers Kodachrome Reflections
Quilt Art Copyright Kimberly Lacy
Used By Permission
All Rights Reserved
This Image Courtesy Mary Heers

A Terrible Beauty, Quilt Art & Image Copyright Sara Lamb, Photographer & Quilt Artist All Rights Reserved, This Image Courtesy Mary HeersA Terrible Beauty
Quilt Art & Image Copyright Sara Lamb, Photographer & Quilt Artist
Used By Permission
All Rights Reserved
This Image Courtesy Mary Heers

The Untamed Wind Quilt Art Copyright Jeannette Schoennagel, All Rights Reserved This Image Courtesy Mary Heers The Untamed Wind
Quilt Art Copyright Jeannette Schoennagel,
Used By Permission
All Rights Reserved
This Image Courtesy Mary Heers

One of the most important lessons I learned during last summer’s long hot afternoons was that the best place to appreciate Utah’s natural beauty can sometimes be inside an art museum.

As I stepped off the blistering hot sidewalk and through the doors of the Brigham City art and history museum, I breathed a sigh of relief. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right. A magical place where I could go inside to commune with nature. I had arrived at “Wild,” a juried quilt exhibit featuring some of the best work of fiber artists in the Intermountain West.

A quick glance around the room and I was immediately drawn to a silhouette of a mountain cabin Sunrise I thought, with the brilliant yellow and orange sky. Each quilt came with a typed note from the artist about the piece. I started to read. This was her cabin in the woods. Then came the shock. She had watched the breaking news on tv as wildfire licked the edges of her cabin and then engulfed it in flames. Suddenly the velvet strip running along the edge of the piece looked red hot. The bits of black yarn hand stitched off the nearby tree practically crackled with heat.

Somewhat cautiously I approached the next quilt. What looked like a kaleidoscope of soft sunset colors on a quiet pond turned out to be just that. I breathed a sigh of relief. The freehand swirling of the stitching made the water ripple. The setting sun bathed the air and water in deepening shades of pink. I actually had to resist the urge to run home, grab my fishing pole, and cast my line into the quilted watery pool.

Making the final turn around the room, I saw the piece I liked the best. Here was a tree with a painted white bark with bits of confetti leaves flying off. The rolling waves of stitching created a windy look that practically breezed through my hair. This piece was festive – the leaves dancing their way from one season into the next.

Fire, water and wind. I had felt the presence of these three cornerstones of the natural world inside this cozy museum.

But before I could get too comfortable, I heard a warning cry from one last artist. Her quilt was a strange patch of peacock blue in the middle of a rubbly hillside. Puzzled, I read her story. She loved to romp with her dog up and down this hillside close to her home. Then the patch of blue appeared. She approached it and discovered it was not an exotic bird. It was a stake driven into the heart of the hill. Within weeks the bulldozers and front end loaders arrived and ripped the earth apart.

As I stepped back into the hot outside world, I shouted out three small cheers for all the art museums that help us savor the natural beauty of our open spaces – and remind us to keep working to preserve them.

This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild about Utah

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy Mary Heers, Thank you to Kimberly Lacy, Sara Lamb and Jeannette Schoennagel for permission to display their artwork on this site and upr.org
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio upr.org
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Wild About Utah Postings

2022 Quilt Exhibition: WILD! Brigham City Museum of Art & History, June 25-September 17, 2022https://www.brighamcitymuseum.org/2022quiltshow
Tel:435-226-1439, museum@bcutah.org
Address: 24 North 300 West, Brigham City, UT 84302

International Art Quilt Exhibition and Layered Voices Exhibition, Now Playing Utah, Utah Cultural Alliance, https://www.nowplayingutah.com/event/international-art-quilt-exhibition-and-layered-voices-exhibition/

WILD! (SAQA Regional), Studio Art Quilt Associates, Inc, Jun 25, 2022-Sep 17, 2022, https://www.saqa.com/art/exhibitions/wild-saqa-regional
View WILD! on ISSUU, Jun 20, 2022, https://issuu.com/saqaart/docs/wildfilp1-compressed/

Dunetts, LaVonne M, Wild!: SAQA CO/UT/WY, May 31, 2022, https://www.amazon.com/Wild-SAQA-CO-UT-WY/dp/B0B2WLQG4C/ref=sr_1_1?

Brigham City Museum of Art & History on FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BrighamCityMuseum/

Berries

Berries: Oregon Grape  <i>Mahonia repens</i> Producing Blue Berries in the Grand Tetons Park Courtesy Pixabay, Mike Goad, Photographer
Oregon Grape
Mahonia repens
Producing Blue Berries in the Grand Tetons
Courtesy Pixabay, Mike Goad, Photographer,

Red Raspberry Rubus idaeus var. strigosus Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone's Photo Collection, JW Stockert Photographer, 1972 Red Raspberry
Rubus idaeus var. strigosus
Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, JW Stockert Photographer, 1972

Thimbleberry Rubus parviflorus Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone's Photo Collection, JW Stockert, Photographer Thimbleberry
Rubus parviflorus
Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, JW Stockert, Photographer

Utah-Serviceberry Rosaceae Amelanchier utahensis Courtesy National Park Service, Lee Ferguson, Photographer Utah-Serviceberry
Rosaceae Amelanchier utahensis
Courtesy National Park Service, Lee Ferguson, Photographer

Rose Hips Wood's rose Rosa woodsii Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone's Photo Collection, J Schmidt, Photographer, 1977 Rose Hips
Wood’s rose Rosa woodsii
Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, J Schmidt, Photographer, 1977

The berry season is upon us- huckleberries, raspberries, gooseberries, chokecherries (not a berry but close enough), elderberries, bearberries, while early berries have faded- golden current, serviceberries, thimble berries are now fruit leather.

Berry picking during my youth in the North woods of Wisconsin was a wonderful tradition that I, and our black bear neighbors, looked forward to with great anticipation. We often shared the same patch evident by fresh bear scat and tracks. Those rare occasions where brother and sister bear were with us are frozen in time. “Just keep picking and talking- they won’t bother us.” My grandmother’s refrain. I was enthralled, watching every move and sound they made, with an occasional “woof” from mother bear alerting the youngsters.

Now, so many years later, I take my students to the Tetons hoping for a glimpse of bruins harvesting berries, rose hips, and thorn apples along streams and roadsides. Black bears are efficient berry-eaters, consuming up to 30,000 berries a day in a good year. They gather berries quickly, using their sensitive, mobile lips swallowing them whole. The berries enter a two-part stomach, which grinds the pulp off the seeds which pass through unbroken and are able to germinate, making black bears important seed dispersers.

Our Bear River Range here in Northern Utah was once a stronghold for the bruin. Overharvesting by hunters and the government has left it wanting, but the berries remain. One berry favored by bears is the white snowberry. Don’t copy the bears on this one as it’s toxic, but a great medicinal. Another that I avoid is the buffalo berry, called soapberry in the northwest. It contains saponin, the active ingredient in most soaps. It’s much like biting into a bar of soap, applied in my younger years for mouth cleansing. And please avoid the voluptuous red and white fruit of the bane berry, and cute little mini tomatoes of deadly night shade. You will be all the better for it.

“Harvesting berries can be a powerful meditation, centering us in the power of “now,” and is one of the oldest human experiences. This simple action can be an opportunity to revel in the abundance of nature. Tangibly interacting with food that is so wired into its life source is otherworldly, and it reminds us of a time when humans were more directly connected to the origins of our food. It is a grounding experience that demands every cell in your body resonate with the source of our food, catalyzing our connections to the universe.” Valerie Segrest quote

I strongly recommend “Blueberries for Sal” for younger generations. A delightful 1948 children’s book by renowned author Robert McCloskey. I recently visited the Blueberry Hill in Main’s Acadian N.P., the location for this story, and picked a few myself. Unfortunately, the bears had been replaced swarms of tourists!

Jack Greene for Bridgerland Audubon Society, and yes, I’m wild about Utah’s bears and wild berries!

Credits:

Pictures:
Oregon Grape Producing Blue Berries in the Grand Tetons, Courtesy Pixabay, Mike Goad, Photographer, https://pixabay.com/photos/blue-wild-berries-in-the-tetons-blue-3842367/
Red raspberry (Rubus idaeus var. strigosus); JW Stockert; 1972, Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/plants/rosefamily/Images/08720.jpg
Wood’s rose (Rosa woodsii) hips; J Schmidt; 1977, Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/plants/rosefamily/Images/06964.jpg
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus); JW Stockert; 1973, Courtesy NPS, Yellowstone’s Photo Collection, https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/plants/rosefamily/Images/08718.jpg
Utah Serviceberry, Rosaceae_Amelanchier_utahensis, Courtesy US NPS, Lee Ferguson, Photographer, https://www.nps.gov/arch/learn/nature/images/Rosaceae_Amelanchier_utahensis.jpg
Audio: Courtesy & © Friend Weller, https://upr.org
Text: Jack Greene, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Additional Reading: Lyle W Bingham, Webmaster, and Jack Greene, Author, Bridgerland Audubon, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/

Additional Reading:

Jack Greene’s Postings on Wild About Utah, https://wildaboututah.org/author/jack/

Valerie Segrest, Foods Still Matter: The Muckleshoot Food Sovereignty Project, National Museum of the American Indian, The Smithsonian Institution, 2018, https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/pnw-history-culture/muckleshoot

Valerie Segrest, Food sovereignty, TEDxRainier, TEDxSeattle, https://tedxseattle.com/talks/food-sovereignty/

McCloskey, Robert(Author), Blueberries for Sal, Puffin Books, September 30, 1976 https://www.amazon.com/Blueberries-Sal-Robert-McCloskey/dp/014050169X

A Bear’s Menu, Student Activities, Educator Resources, Yellowstone National Park, https://www.nps.gov/teachers/classrooms/a-bears-menu.htm

Desert Desserts

Desert Desserts: Sacred Datura Moon Flower Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Sacred Datura Moon Flower
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Prickly Pear Cactus Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Prickly Pear Cactus
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Mormon Tea (Ephedra) From Comb Ridge Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Mormon Tea (Ephedra) From Comb Ridge
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

Limestone Crinoids Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer Limestone Crinoids
Courtesy & © Shannon Rhodes, Photographer

My proofreader’s eye has often spotted “dessert” misspelled as “desert,” and to some, those two concepts couldn’t be more dissimilar. During my three days in and along a short 27-river-mile stretch of Utah’s San Juan River this month though, I marveled at the menu.

Terry Tempest Williams captures what she calls “small devotions of the desert alphabet” in her book “The Illuminated Desert.” She lists lizards languishing in desert heat, ravens and rattlesnakes amid the red rocks. A fascinating one, the Sacred Datura, blooms only at night and attracts pollinators like the hawkmoth with its showy white blossoms in the moonlight. If it is food you are after, however, avoid this poisonous temptation. Instead, try a juicy prickly pear cactus pad once you have removed the long, sharp spines. Some say it tastes like watermelon, but it tastes like a banana to me.

Along the path to San Juan Hill atop Comb Ridge, I also find ephedra, a shrub that carries out photosynthesis in its green branches, that has traditionally been said to have been used medicinally and brewed, hence the common name Mormon tea. Some, like Brock Cheney who has researched the claim that Brigham Young advocated drinking tea made from boiling the stems, argue that Young’s “composition tea” was not made from the Mormon tea plant, and once you try it, the bitterness will tell you why. Having not ever had a sip myself, I can say that the Mormon tea shrub does sprinkle brilliant green to the landscape like a garnish.

“Lie down on your backs and try to feel what is special about this place.” That’s the challenge in Joseph Cornell’s book “Sharing Nature with Children,” but it is equally rewarding to do as an adult. Lounging in the raft as another rows, I look from the sediment-laden river that reminds me of watery chocolate pudding thanks to recent rainstorms, to the great blue heron standing as a guide, flying ahead and waiting for us to catch up, just to fly ahead again. I watch with wonder as the western tanager males, songbirds with yellow bodies and black wings, heads aflame with red-orange, flutter among the salt cedars.

This oasis offers a promise of quiet away from the commotion of my city life as the desert bighorn sheep nod from the coyote willow. Even after studying the scorpions in the sand illuminated by flashlight, I stretch out and nibble at the buffet of constellations above me in the sky.

The crinoids encased in the limestone boulders along the riverbank the next morning remind me that this place was once for millions of years, actually, an ancient inland sea. I find deliciousness here in the dry heat, the muddy grit, as a guest who will return, hungry for more.

For Wild About Utah, I’m Shannon Rhodes.

Credits:
Images: Courtesy & Copyright Shannon Rhodes, Photographer
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:     Shannon Rhodes, Edith Bowen Laboratory School, Utah State University https://edithbowen.usu.edu/
Additional Reading Links: Shannon Rhodes

Additional Reading:

Cheney, Brock. 2009. Mormon Tea! Plain but Wholesome: Adventures in Mormon Pioneer Food. http://pioneerfoodie.blogspot.com/2009/02/in-news-mormon-tea.html

Cornell, Joseph. 1998. Sharing Nature With Children. DAWN Publications. https://www.sharingnature.com/sharing-nature.html

Eldredge, Sandra. 1992. Geologic Resources of San Juan County. Department of Natural Resources Utah Geologic Survey. https://ugspub.nr.utah.gov/publications/public_information/PI-14.pdf

Larese-Casanova, Mark. 2011. Amazing Adaptations of Utah’s Desert Plants. https://wildaboututah.org/amazing-adaptations-of-utahs-desert-plants/

U.S. Forest Service. Sacred Datura. https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/beauty/Sky_Islands/plants/Datura_wrightii/index.shtml

https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/ethnobotany/Mind_and_Spirit/datura.shtml

Utah State University Extension. Salt cedar and coyote willow. https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/Saltcedar

https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/CoyoteWillow

Williams, Terry Tempest. 2008. The Illuminated Desert. Canyonlands Natural History Association. https://www.amazon.com/Illuminated-Desert-Terry-Tempest-Williams/dp/0937407119