Winter Bird Feeding

Red-breasted Nuthatch mining out the nest site Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Red-breasted Nuthatch mining out the nest site
Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
This time of year, we see a cast of characters flying among the trees and bushes as they search for food and a place to nestle to conserve warmth and energy.

Black-Capped Chickadee Copyright Stephen Peterson, Photographer
Black-Capped Chickadee
Copyright Stephen Peterson, Photographer
One of these characters is the Black-capped Chickadee a small bird with a black head, white cheeks and cream colored feathers under its grey wings. The Chickadees are found in all 29 Utah counties.

Dark-eyed 'Oregon' Junco Male, Junco hyemalis montanus, Courtesy and copyright 2008 Ryan P. O'Donnell, Phorographer
Dark-eyed ‘Oregon’ Junco Male, Junco hyemalis montanus, Courtesy and copyright 2008 Ryan P. O’Donnell, Phorographer
Another member of the cast is the Dark-eyed Junco, a medium-sized American sparrow with a neat-flashy look. It has solid slate-grey feathers over most of its body except for its pink sides and white underbody. The Junco is found throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The third cast member is the Red-breasted Nuthatch which has a pale red chest, grey wings and a black feathered head with stripes of white below and above the eyes. Its tail is short, its bill is long and it’s one of the few birds that climbs headfirst down trees.

Red Breasted Nuthatch Courtesy US FWS Dave Menke, Photographer
Red Breasted Nuthatch
Courtesy US FWS
Dave Menke, Photographer
All three birds find the majority of their winter nourishment from nuts and seeds, since most insects are hiding in dormancy or are dead.

When a harsh winter hits and heavy snow fall covers their natural food source, the birds can rely on bird feeders to find nourishment.

Although winter bird feeders are beneficial, some Utah residents may hesitate putting out nuts and seeds for the following reasons:

One, they worry the birds may become dependent on the feeders.

Clark Rushing, assistant professor in Department of Wildland Resources in the Quinney College of Natural Resources at USU explains, “In a typical winter these birds don’t need the extra food from a bird feeder to make it through the winter, but…when the snow covers up their [natural food source] they rely on the feeders which increase the birds’ survival rate over the winter. When [snow] conditions [return to normal]… they go right back to feeding on natural sources.”

Another concern some Utah residents have is if the feeders will impact the birds’ migratory behaviors. They worry species who normally migrate might stick around for the winter because they found food.

Rushing says, “This is not a huge concern because most of these bird species use photo period as a que to migrate, which means they start migrating in the Fall when the days start getting shorter and food is still relatively abundant – so food is not the que that these species use to migrate.”

When starting the hobby of winter bird feeding, there are a few good tips to remember.

First, is the importance of keeping your feeders clean. Some diseases can be spread by bird feeders, so keeping them clean is essential.

According to Rushing, “The recommendation is to take [a feeder] down every two weeks, empty it and give it a light cleaning. [Avoid using] harsh detergents. If you see evidence of mildew or mold then a diluted bleach mixture, which you then rinse off, can be really beneficial. Let the feeder completely dry before you put bird seed in it. When [the feeder is wet] is when you have the most problems, so keep it dry.”

Having a variety of feeders and foods is the best way to attract an assortment of birds to your yard during the winter months.

Rushing adds, “The great thing about bird feeding is it connects people to wildlife.”

It’s one of the few ways you can enjoy watching wildlife out your own dining room window throughout the cold winter months.

This is Shauna Leavitt and I’m Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos:
 Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Courtesy Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
 Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Courtesy US FWS, Dave Menke, Photographer
 Black-Capped Chickadee, Courtesy and Copyright Stephen Peterson, Photographer
 Junco, Courtesy and copyright 2008 Ryan P. O'Donnell, Photographer
Audio: Includes audio courtesy and copyright Kevin Colver
Text: Shauna Leavitt, USGS Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University

Sources & Additional Reading

Dr Clark Rushing, Assistant Professor, Wildland Resources, USU S.J. & Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, http://qcnr.usu.edu/directory/rushing_clark

Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Utah Birds, http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/ProfilesL-R/RedBreastedNuthatch.htm

Black-capped Chickadee, Utah Birds, http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/Profiles/BlackCapChickadee.htm

Dark-Eyed Junco, Utah Birds, http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/ProfilesD-K/DarkEyedJunco.htm

eBird, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://ebird.org/home

Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://feederwatch.org/

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

Hellstern, Ron, Bird Feeding in Winter, Wild About Utah, Nov 26, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/bird-feeding-in-winter/

Hellstern, Ron, Project Feederwatch, Wild About Utah, Feb 26, 2018, https://wildaboututah.org/project-feederwatch/

Hellstern, Ron, Winter Bird Feeding, Wild About Utah, Dec 4, 2017, https://wildaboututah.org/winter-bird-feeding/

Kervin, Linda, Bird Feeding, Wild About Utah, Nov 25, 2008, https://wildaboututah.org/bird-feeding/

Journey North

Journey North was founded in 1994 by Elizabeth Howard It is sponsored by Annenberg Learner
Journey North was founded in 1994 by Elizabeth Howard
It is sponsored by
Annenberg Learner
Maps used by permission, Elizabeth Howard, Director
To those who take personal pride in their yard, park, field, or community you could become part of an amazing network called Journey North. This is a free, extremely easy Citizen-Science online activity that people can simply enjoy, or enter data about their own backyard and join over 80,000 other people and schools that participate regularly.

Journey North began in 1994 as a way for people to contribute to the study of Phenology (which is the observation of seasonal changes in living things). Of course these changes take place based upon latitude, altitude, soil types, and proximity to water.

Basically, people observe what is happening in their own yard on any particular day, then they go to www.learner.org/jnorth/ where they can register their location and record their observations of certain birds migrating back north, or the budding and flowering of plants as the temperatures warm in the Spring. It’s interesting to compare the differences between Southern sites like Moab and Saint George to the Northern cities like Logan.

Nobody ever inspects your property, and the data is kept confidential on the Journey North site. There are no ads or phone calls to try to sell anything. This is strictly to collect science data. There ARE options to email other observers around the world, but nobody is required to respond.

Once you enter data, a dot will appear on the world map showing your general location. The dots are colored, based on the date of the entry so everyone can witness seasonal changes sweeping northward in full color.

What kinds of data does Journey North record? They’ve prepared a general list realizing that not all these species will be seen by everyone. A sample of birds includes: Hummingbirds, Bald Eagles, Whooping Cranes, Common Loons, Orioles, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Robins, and Barn Swallows.

Other sightings include the first day you observed: Milkweed growing, Monarch Butterflies, Earthworms surfacing, Frogs singing, the emerging and flowering of Tulips, the flowing of Maple sap, the date when tree buds opened into leaves, when ice melted off of nearby lakes, and when you first saw bats chasing insects around city lights.

Some reports come from around the world including South America, Eurasia, Africa, Asia, Australia and all of North America so don’t be surprised to see data about Gray Whales and Manatees. There’s even “Mystery Class” contests where people can try to guess the location of a school based upon their observation entries and the length of daylight they have reported during the season.

Journey North provides an opportunity for everyone to become a Citizen Scientist.

This is Ron Hellstern, and I am Wild About Utah.

Credits:

Images: Courtesy Journey North, jnorth.org, Map images used by permission, Elizabeth Howard, Director
Text:    Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

Additional Reading
http://jnorth.org/ has moved to:
http://www.learner.org/jnorth/

Journey North’s Spring Monarch Migration Monitoring, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Citizen Science Central, http://www.birds.cornell.edu/citscitoolkit/projects/journeynorth/monarchs/

Our .state butterfly, the monarch, is at risk, Make Way for Monarchs, a Milkweed-Butterfly Recovery Alliance, July 29, 2014, http://makewayformonarchs.org/i/archives/1455/

Recovery of Native Bonneville Cutthroat Trout in Right-hand Fork

Bonneville Cutthroat Trout
Bonneville Cutthroat Trout
In the 1970s, many feared Utah’s native fish, the Bonneville Cutthroat Trout, was extinct.
A search began and in a short time, with a sigh of relief, state managers were able to report the Bonneville cutthroat trout was still in Utah’s rivers and streams, but the sub-species was imperiled and had experienced dramatic reductions in abundance and distribution rangewide.

For over a decade, managers and anglers worked to keep the fish off the Endangered Species list.

In 1997, to ensure the long-term conservation of our state fish in Utah, four federal agencies, two state agencies, and the Goshute Tribe, came together to create and sign the Conservation Agreement for Bonneville Cutthroat Trout in the state of Utah.

The signers of the agreement rely heavily on ongoing, research and monitoring about important populations and the trout’s environment, to make good management decisions.

One source of this data is the Fish Ecology Lab of Phaedra Budy, professor in the Watershed Sciences Department and Unit Leader for the U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit at USU and her research team.
With this data, managers can focus their restoration efforts on areas where they are most likely to succeed.
One such location is the Right-hand fork, a tributary of the Logan River located in mountains of Northern Utah.
Prior to 2013, the Right-hand fork was brimming with exotic and invasive Brown Trout. In 2002, Budy’s lab recorded 4,000 brown trout per kilometer in the tributary – denser than any other recorded population on earth. This exotic fish pushed out native trout.

Brown Trout thrive in Right-hand fork because of the creek’s abundance of spawning gravel, beaver dam ponds, and bugs; but the principal reason why trout flourished here is that the stream is spring fed. The spring stabilizes the water temperatures year round keeping it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, which promotes fish growth and survival.

Budy hypothesized the dense population of Brown Trout were overflowing into the main leg of Logan River, increasing the exotic trout population there. She predicted if managers could replace the Brown Trout with a population of Bonneville Cutthroat trout, these native fish would thrive. Once the native trout population were recovered and robust, they too would begin to overflow into the main arm of the river and increase the native trout’s population throughout Logan River.

Cutthroat Trout Conservation Project at Temple Fork
Courtesy YouTube.com and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, https://youtu.be/zwHdFx0Qbo0

In about 2010, a partnership of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, U.S. Forest Service, Cache Anglers, and Utah State University began taking steps for recovering the Bonneville Cutthroat trout in the tributary.

In 2013, they used a chemical treatment to remove the Brown Trout from the Right-hand fork.

To ensure the exotic trout would not re-enter Right-hand fork, researchers installed structures at the mouth of the tributary allowing trout to exit but not return.

The new population of Bonneville Cutthroat trout had to come from the Logan River, so the genetics would remain the same.

Paul Thompson, deputy director of the Recoveries Program in Utah’s Department of Natural Resources said, “Because [the Logan River] has whirling disease we couldn’t move live fish, so we collected eggs from the spawning fish in Temple fork, another tributary of the Logan River.”

The Cache Anglers played a large role in the relocation of these trout.

Budy explains, “Removing [the eggs and embryos] then restocking the juveniles was largely the responsibility of the Cache Anglers. They did a wonderful job.”

The Bonneville Cutthroat trout are now thriving in the Right-hand fork with multiple age classes and big, fat, catchable native trout.

It has been over 50 years since managers feared the Bonneville Cutthroat trout waswere extinct. With ongoing conservation efforts, the native trout has now been restored to 40% of its historic range.

This is Shauna Leavitt and I’m Wild About Utah.

Credits:
Photos: Courtesy and Copyright Paul Thompson, Utah DNR
Text: Shauna Leavitt

Sources & Additional Reading

http://cacheanglers.com/

https://wildlife.utah.gov/fishing-in-utah.html

Bengston, Anna, Cutthroat Trout, WildAboutUtah.org, 2014, July 10, https://wildaboututah.org/cutthroat-trout/

VanZanten, Chadd, A “no-trouts-land” on the Logan River, WildAboutUtah.org, 2016, December 5, https://wildaboututah.org/a-no-trouts-land-on-the-logan-river/

Cutthroat Trout, Native trout of the interior west, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, https://wildlife.utah.gov/cutthroat-home.html

McKell, Matt, Small Stream Cutthroat Trout, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, May 10, 2016, http://wildlife.utah.gov/blog/2016/small-stream-cutthroat-trout/

Hansen, Brad, Albert Perry Rockwood, WildAboutUtah.org, 2017, February 3, https://wildaboututah.org/albert-perry-rockwood/

Project FeederWatch

Feederwatch Handbook and Instructions Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Click to view the .pdf
Feederwatch Handbook and Instructions Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Click to view the .pdf
There are several programs where citizens can report their observations of nature to science organizations who need their data. Today, I refer to “Project FeederWatch” hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the premier institute for the study of all kinds of wild birds.
View or download Project Feederwatch materials from feederwatch.org Courtesy Project Feederwatch
View or download Project Feederwatch materials from feederwatch.org
Courtesy Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
The main goal of the program is to combine the interests of backyard bird watchers with the needs of professional ornithologists. By making simple, standardized counts of the birds in their yards and reporting them to the database, citizens are contributing directly to the scientific understanding and monitoring of bird populations. Our observations help those scientists study changes in the distribution and abundance of feeder birds over time. And people of all ages and experience levels can contribute to actual research by participating in Project FeederWatch.

Observation sites can be as large as two tennis courts, or as small as a single feeder. Make sure the site is easily seen through your windows, then just use that same site all season. You simply observe the birds that come to that site for two consecutive days each week. And your counting time can be less than an hour, or more than eight hours, depending on your personal choices.

The scientists want data collected only during winter months, so in 2018 the reporting time ends April 13.

Record and report the largest number of each species you see at any one time during the two days to avoid double-counting birds.

When the observation season is completed, you can learn the numbers and distribution of various species and see how your yard compared to others who have been observing throughout the United States and Canada.

A couple of tips to get you started: Place your feeder in a quiet area where they are easy to see and fill. It is best to have them around 10 feet from natural cover such as trees and shrubs. This provides them cover and discourages cats and squirrels from leaping to the feeders. Buy fairly large feeders so you don’t have to fill them so often. The best all-around attractant is black-oil sunflower seeds due to its high fat content and it is easy for small birds to handle and crack open. Suet, or cakes of beef fat containing a variety of seeds, is another great choice for attracting insect-eating birds such as woodpeckers, chickadees, and nuthatches. The cakes are placed in small cages to hold the suet while birds enjoy the feast. If you can provide grit (sand, very small pebbles, or ground eggshells) the birds will appreciate it since they use that in their gizzard to basically “chew” the seeds. Water is essential for birds even in winter, but you may need to provide a birdbath heater to keep ice from forming. And NEVER use anti-freeze since it is poisonous to ALL animals. Keep your cat indoors. You can also prevent birds crashing into windows by breaking up the reflections on the glass with netting or other decorations.

And if, one day, while you’re enjoying a melodious chorus of bird songs that suddenly go silent, you may have a visiting Cooper’s or Sharp-Shinned Hawk hunting for lunch.

For more information, and how to register, go to feederwatch.org

This is Ron Hellstern and I’m Wild About Utah!

Credits:

Images: Courtesy & Copyright Project Feederwatch, feederwatch.org
Audio: Courtesy and Copyright Kevin Colver
Text:    Ron Hellstern, Cache Valley Wildlife Association

Additional Reading

Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://feederwatch.org/

Feederwatch Handbook & Instructions, Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://feederwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Handbook.pdf

Instruction summary, Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://feederwatch.org/about/how-to-participate/instructions/

Detailed Instructions, Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, https://feederwatch.org/about/detailed-instructions/

HOMESCHOOLER’S GUIDE TO PROJECT FEEDERWATCH, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, http://www.birdsleuth.org/398/

Beyond Penquins and Polar Bears, College of Education and Human Ecology, The Ohio State University, Funded by NSF, February 2009, http://beyondpenguins.ehe.osu.edu/issue/arctic-and-anarctic-birds/project-feederwatch-integrating-real-time-science-and-math