Great Backyard Bird Count

As all of you may know, I’m a wildlife fanatic. It doesn’t matter if it’s turtles, snakes, squirrels, possums, or raccoons. Birds, of course, are not out of my equation. I love birds, and watching them in my backyard has eased my stress levels during the pandemic. The birds (and all wildlife) go about their day like the pandemic doesn’t exist. It’s a way for me to escape.

Birds are not immune to natural disasters or climate change. They have their own set of problems. Adequate food supply, fresh water for drinking and bathing, air quality, and light pollution. The worst-case for them – extinction. We as a nation and as a world are their greatest enemy. Yet, we can change that. We can become their allies, their saviors. We just need to think about how our actions affect the birds and their habitats.

Every year in February, for over four days, Cornell Labs, The Audubon Society, and many other organizations and donors have developed a way for us to track our feathered friends. It’s called the Great Backyard Bird Count. This year it takes place between February 18th and the 21st. It takes as little as 15 minutes during the four days, or if you have the time like I do, 15 minutes each of the four days. You sit in your backyard, record the birds you see, and go into a worldwide database. This database uses the data for tracking migration, where birds have shifted their habitats and the number of birds. It’s a way to understand the effects of climate change on them.

Please consider spending 15 minutes this year and joining the millions of people worldwide who participate in the annual event. All birds matter and every count is essential to understanding the world around us.

Here is more information on the Great Backyard Bird Count and how you can participate in this important event.

Crazy Mama and Fun Facts

Even though National Squirrel Day isn’t until January 21st (please mark your calendars now), I thought I’d introduce everyone to one of my buddies, Crazy Mama. She and I met about two years ago. She was extremely timid at first. She would sit on one of the large branches high in the Live Oak and watch other squirrels come and have breakfast with me. She never seemed to like being around others. She’s a loner, or so I thought. It turns out she’s quite the lady’s man. I can’t begin to count the number of times she’s been pregnant.

Over the years, she’s become, my buddy. As she’s gotten older (haven’t we all), and the more times she has her litter of pups, she’s became less of an introvert and more of an extrovert. There are times I’m outside working in the yard, and she’ll follow me up in the trees and bark at me if she thinks I’m ignoring her. When she sees me outside, she’ll run down the tree, run up to me and run circles around my feet until I feed her. She never comes down with the morning crew (now around 11) but instead finds times to enjoy her nuts when she can be alone. I never know what to expect from her. I know the glowing eyes make her look demonic, and perhaps there is a sparkle of evil in her, but that could be why we’ve bonded.

From Merriam-Webster:

Squirrels have had their English name since the 14th century. However, it’s Greek in origin. It comes from skiouros, from skia, meaning “shadow,” and oura, meaning “tail.”

Fun Facts:

These tidbits of squirrel facts came from the National Wildlife Federation’s website last year during National Squirrel Day. (Clears throat, January 21st).

  1. Squirrels can find buried nuts beneath a foot of snow.
  2. A squirrel’s front teeth never stop growing.
  3. Squirrels can lose up to 25% of their nuts to thieves.
  4. Squirrels don’t dig up all of the buried nuts, which results in more trees. (So, we can consider them environmentalists).
  5. Newborn squirrels are about one inch long.

Bird Migration

If you follow anything that has to do with climate change, you will inevitably come across dozens of articles and websites (National Audubon Society comes to mind) on how climate change is not only affecting bird migration, but the number and types of birds, their routes, and even their lives.

Here in North Texas, I spend a lot of time in my backyard during migration periods. It’s one of the few occasions where I can see birds from other parts of the world. We get a lot of birds heading down to coastal Texas and into Mexico.

Recently, I came across an impressive website that tracks bird migration day by day. It’s called Birdcast. It highlights the United States based on not only predicted bird movement, for live migration maps and migration alerts. On September 28 it was predicted that 295 million birds would migrate that night alone.

Go check out their website. It’s an eye-opener. Oh, and while you’re there. Map when the birds might be migrating through your town and turn off your outdoor lights at night. Light pollution is one of the largest threats to birds during their migration. A small thing we can all do to protect our feathered friends who can’t speak for themselves.

Thanks for spending time with me. Please, let’s all work together to ensure there is a future for all of us.

A walk on the wild side

My love of squirrels isn’t a secret to most people I know. I’ve been called the squirrel whisperer by many of my loved ones. It takes a while for these beautiful and excitable creatures to trust me, but once they do, we have made a connection.

There are about eleven squirrels now that I’m feeding. 3 years ago, I had 2. Yes, they talk and spread the news of the wealth of tasty treats in my backyard. I make homemade nutrition bars for them, which they love. They also get apple and pear cores that are refrigerated during the hot summer months for a cool and juice treat.

And yes, they all have names. They are my pets and like all pet owners, you give your furry ones a name. They each have their personality, or a characteristic, or sometimes unfortunately a flaw or injury that makes them unique. Stitch has his right ear split down the middle. Smudge has a very large black nose. Tim (trouble I make) well you can figure that one out for yourself.

Every morning I have my coffee on the back patio, and they join us for breakfast. Between the squirrels, butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and at current count 63 species of birds, they have kept me sane during the lockdown and pandemic. Watching them going about their morning routines not know about the pandemic gives me a sense of hope, or at least, a sense of normal.

I belong to numerous wildlife associations, preservation groups, you name it, I’ve probably contributed in some way to help support our wildlife. Let’s face it, they were here long before us. We’ve invaded their homes and their spaces. I feel it’s time we give back to them.

Keep an eye out under this category “coffee with squirrels” for interesting tidbits, and articles about preservation and habitat work that’s going on. I’ll even share links in ways in which you can help. These posts are for the creatures that can’t speak for themselves. I want to be their voice.