Bird Watch America

Wow, this has been an exciting week, figuring out my coming travel schedule. I'm going to a Bald Eagle Festival in Connecticut in February, Detroit Lakes in May (doing a digiscoping workshop and seeing Scott Weidensaul), Potholes and Prairie Bird Fest in North Dakota in June and the ABA Convention in Utah in June--whoot! I'll have to try and schedule a Birds and Beers in all those places. If anyone has suggestions, drop me a note.

So, I've been sorting through all my notes from Bird Watch America to see what is exciting to the birding consumer in the coming months. Here are some things on the horizon.

The coolest thing that I saw that appealed to me as a birder is the Remembird--which I was surprised to see at the show. I've heard of it and it's popular across the pond, but they are now going to offer it in the US. It's pretty darned sweet. It's a microphone that can be attached to your binoculars. You can use it to make audio notes as you are watching birds and it is capable of recording some bird songs (depending on how close) so you can take it home to compare to your cds--and the software that comes with it allows you to keep it organized on your computer (and a big plus for me--it's Mac compatible--whoot). As if the recording potential weren't cool enough, the device comes with a card of North American bird calls from Cornell. It comes with headphones, but I'm sure you can find away to attach it a portable audio speaker if you are so inclined. I did get one and I can't wait to play with it--it was tested in northern Minnesota and the device works in sub zero temperatures--I'm just not keen to bird in that kind of weather.

Feeders made out of recyclable material seems to be a growing trend. These are some of the hopper style feeders offered by Woodlink, but many major bird feeder companies are offering feeders made of recyclable plastic.

Speaking of Woodlink, last year they offered the Martini Hummingbird Feeder, this year they have the Sundae hummingbird feeder--cute.

When I worked at a bird store, customers would come in complaining about the seed mess under their bird feeders and why couldn't someone design something to catch it. I would answer that it would have to be huge. Well, someone in Utah took those complaints to heart and came up with an idea, it's called the Seed Hoop and it can be mounted to most feeders like the one on the pole above or on a hanging feeder and it catches the bird seed that the birds kick out, leaving a mess.

Here is a three day sample. The full jar on the left is all the seed that was caught by the seed hoop and the jar on the right is what was on the ground. It's been tested at bird stores in Utah and appears to be making customers small note, they don't have huge amounts of squirrels in Utah so it hasn't had a heavy duty squirrel test. One squirrel has been found eating the seeds on a seed hoop and it was able to support it's weight, but still, it might make squirrel proofing your feeder somewhat tricky, but it's a cool idea if it helps keep the area under a feeder clean.

Squirrel proof feeders are still a popular item. This was a new one called the Birdie Banquet and promoting itself as "aesthetically, one of the most pleasing bird feeders available, at any price." It's cute and my concern was that it looked like it was made out of hard plastic and chewable by squirrels. The company assures me that it's made of "space age polycarbons with additives for durability" and not chewable by squirrels. I'm skeptical, but I was told it has a lifetime warranty, so what do you have to lose. I'll be curious to see what happens to it under field conditions.

Continuing along the squirrel repellent category, we have the Squirrel Stopper baffle system. They've been at Bird Watch America before, but now have made some adjustments to their design. The above photo is the inside of the baffle system. It attaches to a pole and has springs, so it bounces, making it almost impossible for a squirrel or raccoon to get past. You can get the baffle or the whole pole system. It costs about the same as any other standard (well made and sturdy) pole and baffle system. I think when the ground thaws out that I'm going to give this go in Mr. Neil's yard.

This is called the Two Bowl Bird Bath. The idea is that if you have a bath shallow enough to accommodate all sorts of bird sizes from large to small, it will evaporate quickly. This system allows you to have a deep bath and the second bowl inside allows a smaller amount of water for small birds to bathe in. If you don't want the whole bird bath, you can get just the inner dish and use it with a bath you already have. The company that designed it is located in Iowa and they have tested it in winter weather with a heated bath and it works well.

Here is a phrase that will get your attention--Nite Guard: Solar Powered, Night Predator Control Light! This is designed to keep all sorts of predators from your yard: keep coyotes out of chicken coops, keep great horned owls away from your purple martin houses, keep raccoons and deer from raiding bird feeders and gardens. The idea is that red is a natural danger sign and other predatory animals perceive it as the eye of another animal watching them. I'm kinda curious about how this would work with skunks around our beehives. It's solar powered so you don't have to use batteries and the company is based in Minnesota so it should work in all kinds of weather.