Bird Watch – From My Perch
Migratory birds are arriving daily from the North. You can use e-Bird (Bird Log) to enter the birds you see. This information is uploaded to the Cornell University Ornithology Lab. The data becomes available to birders all around the globe. With more and more people using this global database, scientists are learning more about migratory patterns and about the abundance or decline of individual species. There is a “world” version as well as a “Central America” version, BirdLog CA. You don’t need both, if you are a world traveler, choose the world version, otherwise, the Central America version is fine.
If you are curious about when the warblers arrive, there is a terrific companion app called BirdsEye CA. There you can browse birds, look up a particular species and learn quite a bit about it. You can also select the pin icon for a look at all the recent sightings and their locations. There is a link to “notable sightings” on the home page where you will find unusual or rare species. You will be able to see when and where they were seen. Once you have signed in to BirdsEye CA with the same user name you use for Bird Log CA, you will be able to also see your own lists and even find out how you stand among the top 100 Birders of Belize.
iBird Pro is a superior application for studying birds, listening to their songs, looking at photos, range maps and getting good descriptions. However, the app only covers birds of North America. It is still a great resource for studying migratory birds. There are lots of features. You can flip through photos and listen to the songs. This app is not tied into the e-Bird network so does not show current locations of birds. In fact their maps do not even show Belize. They are developing an app called iBird Journal. It seems it will function similarly to BirdLog, but again, only migratory birds of Belize are included. iTunes App Store or you can go to BirdsEye.com for download links for other operating systems.
There is a mailing list for Belize birders on yahoogroups.com where local birders exchange information, share interesting sightings, or they might post pictures of mystery birds to get help identifying them. One of the members posted an interesting article from “Science News,” September 21, 2013 (www.sciencenews.org) entitled “Collision Course,” addressing the issue of making windows safer for birds. You can read it yourself but here are some take home points. Birds can’t see glass. Reflections in windows can attract birds. Window screens can help prevent bird collisions. Washable tempura paints provide a simple warning and can be easily changed. Most birds won’t fly through a space less than 4 inches wide between vertical stripes or 2 inches high between. Stripes or dots on the outside of the window can break up reflections, vertical lines should be spaced no more than 4 inches apart, horizontal lines, 2 inches or less. Single decals such are not helpful. Bird feeders placed closer to windows resulted in fewer bird collisions than those placed further away. Glass companies are working to develop glass that reflects only UV waves, which birds can see.
An update on hummingbird feeders, I have had good success with the hummingbird feeders simply by keeping them filled with clean water (1 cup sugar to 4 cups water), changing them daily. There are times when I’ve had to refill my three feeders twice a day. Then I was gone for three days and by the time I returned, the rush was over. There are still several visiting daily, but nowhere near the numbers we were getting in August and September. The lesson is: be faithful.
At one point we began having trouble with bees. Bees would swarm to the feeders and drain them in short measure. I noticed the bees were going to one of the two kinds of feeders. They loved Perky-Pet feeders and left the other feeders alone. I tried several remedies. The one that worked best was something I call “Bee Gone.,” basically use a small amount of dish-soap with water, add a few drops of orange essential oil mixed together in a spray bottle. Spray directly on the feeders. The birds don’t seem to mind. It helped with the stingless bees and the honey bees but not for long. Eventually, I decided to remove the Perky-Pet feeders completely. Suddenly the bees were gone. Eventually I put them up again and had no more problems. They need to stay up because the Orioles prefer them. The feeders that the birds love and bees do not prefer are made by a company called First Nature and are available on the web for about US $11 plus shipping at FirstNature.net and other locations.
During the months the Flamboyant trees are blooming, hummingbirds flock to the feeders. After that the larger numbers will stick around as long as you keep the feeders filled with clean fresh sugar-water. It also helps to have lots of other blooming flowers in your yard.
The most common hummingbird is the Rufous-tail, but during migration, you may have Ruby-throated and Black-chinned Hummingbirds. If you live in urban areas, put up a hummingbird feeder. Many migrants are already trained to go to feeders in the North so will readily find yours. Eventually, the residents will notice those foreign birds enjoying the strange-looking flowers and they’ll check it out. Depending on where you live, you might attract any number of resident species.
Next article will be an update on the Scarlet Macaw, their status, what is being done, and how you can help. Please send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any interesting birding news or comments.