The Birds and the Bears

Grizzly Bear_DenverZoo_LAH_1488Last week’s news story about a local woman’s encounter with a bear while out walking prompted me to consider the responsibility we have in preventing this sort of event, which resulted in the death of the bear.

In most cases, bears approach humans because they associate us with food. As one who delights in feeding birds, I’m very aware that what I intend for the birds may also be relished by bears. While bear sightings in my neighborhood are very rare, many neighborhoods along the Front Range extend into bear habitat. We would do well to take precautions.

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A Garden for the Birds

The following article was first published by the Colorado Springs Gazette on March 21, 2009:

broadtail-hummingbird-keystone-20may07-lah-837rA brightly colored hummingbird zooms past on its way to a feeder. A finch fills the air with music. Birds provide us with hours of entertainment. How can you welcome more wild birds into your yard?

Like other animals, birds have a basic need for five essential elements: water, food, shelter, safety from predators, and a place to raise their young. While it’s fun to provide bird houses and feeders full of seed, you can design your landscape to offer these necessities and truly give yourself a yard for the birds.

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Foiling Flickers

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM! My story about flickers was fictionalized, but based on personal experience. Last spring, flickers really did invade our home.

By August, my husband and I realized we’d nailed scraps of wood across 15 large flicker-sized holes. Piles of fluffy insulation littered the ground beneath each one. That fall we replaced much of the cedar siding on our house, to the tune of over a thousand dollars. The question became critical: What could we do to prevent the birds from drilling into our new wood?

A lot of people must be having the same problem. A quick web search turned up plenty of suggestions, but not much in the way of success stories. Inflatable owls don’t work—the birds are smarter than that. Flickers quickly become accustomed to hanging strips of aluminum, Mylar balloons, and small colored windmills. What else could we do?

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What’s that bird that’s driving me crazy?

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM. I was awakened early this morning by insistently loud hammering on the metal chimney guard on our roof. Yup, it’s that time again. Our resident Northern Flicker is announcing his ownership of our property. This year we’re ready. But last year we had a major issue with these woodpeckers. They drove my husband crazy, and inspired me to write the following story:

Not even the cat is awake before 5 am. Soft snoring comes from the bedroom, darkened by shades against the early appearance of the sun this time of year. It’s a lazy Saturday morning in mid-March. Nothing important is scheduled for hours. Later there will be errands to run, chores to catch up on, phones ringing and dishes. Right now, all is peaceful, all is calm.

BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM

Like a staccato burst of machine gun fire, the noise reverberates off the metal gutters directly outside our bedroom window.

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A Memorable Owling Trip

I went camping last weekend.

Why would anyone even partly sane choose to go camping in February? This was no trip for sissies. We set up camp at 9,500 ft., on top of a mountain in Colorado. It was definitely cold. One weather website claimed a low of 8º F, much lower than the predicted 16º. While I am a die-hard camper, this was pushing even my limits. So why did I do it? One word: owls.

owling-camp-rampartrangerd-2009-02-28-lah-541

As I’m sure you know, owls are active at night. Therefore, if you want to see one, you must become a night-owl too. And, if you’re going to be up that late, you might as well spend the night. At least, that was the theory.

Why this time of year? Owls are early nesters. They are currently flirting with one another, pairing up (sometimes with last year’s mate), claiming territories, and in general, going about the business of making baby owls. (Ornithologists explain that the predilection for winter nests produces hatchlings just when most rodents are having their litters, ensuring plenty of small, newborn prey for the owlets.)

A birding friend is doing a survey (part of Colorado’s Breeding Bird Atlas II project) to determine which bird species are breeding on her assigned quadrant at, you guessed it, 9,500 ft. elevation in the Pike National Forest of Colorado. She needed to go count owls. Well, we couldn’t let her go all by herself, could we? So we packed our hot cocoa and hand warmers and set off. Continue reading “A Memorable Owling Trip”

Surviving Winter: A Tropical Vacation… in Colorado

The greater Denver area sports at least three options for anyone in need of a green-leaves-and-humidity break from winter: The Denver Botanic Garden, Westminster’s Butterfly Pavilion, and the Denver Zoo.

OrchidHere I am, still in the middle of winter. There are five more weeks until spring, and that’s just according to the calendar. At my altitude of 7,000 ft, I won’t be seeing green until the end of April. I need something to encourage and motivate me… something green and flowering… something more productive than pacing the floor, complaining about the gloom, and dreaming about a trip to the Bahamas that isn’t in the budget.

My husband is well aware that his wife develops a bad case of cabin fever by mid-February. That’s why our annual Valentine’s Day date involves a visit to a tropical rainforest. No, we don’t buy a plane ticket. In fact, we head north. We hop in the car and make the hour drive to Denver.

The greater Denver area sports at least three options for anyone in need of a green-leaves-and-humidity break. Other parts of the country will have similar places, where you can escape winter for a day. Continue reading “Surviving Winter: A Tropical Vacation… in Colorado”

The Birds and the Bees

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and once again the topic of love is in the air. We often mention “explaining the birds and the bees” as a euphemism for discussing… well… sex. But is this valid? Is there anything similar between the mating habits of people and birds and bees?

Bee on Anthemis tinctoria
Bee on Anthemis tinctoria

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and once again the topic of love is in the air. We often mention “explaining the birds and the bees” as a euphemism for discussing… well… sex. But is this valid? Is there anything similar between the mating habits of people and birds and bees?

Yes, the goal is often the same—babies! However, the way members of a species choose one or more mates, and then rear their young, varies not only between birds and bees, but even among bird species within the same family.

So, how do the birds and the bees “do it”?

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