Feathered friends flocking back to region

“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark,” speaks of the unwavering confidence that even though yet unseen, the sun will come up.

Rain or shine, there will be a new day of life to sing songs, fly, and accomplish a day’s work of building nests and caring for families. The delightful chorus heard in the early morning hours from so many birds is a sure and welcome sign of spring and certainly has the power to inspire humans to have the same attitude about life each and every day, which must have been the insight of “yesterdays” message as quoted 100 years ago by R. Tagore, Nobel Prize for Literature, 1913.

The month of May brings back favorite migratory birds to our backyards. The sight of them tells us that warmer weather is really here and everything is right with the world. Expert bird watchers as well as amateurs anticipate certain ones and make early preparations such as making sure the bluebird house is cleaned out, hummingbird feeders are filled with sugar-syrup solutions, and oriole feeders have juicy oranges. Our feathered friends have traveled thousands of miles from Mexico, Central and South America, which takes an enormous amount of energy and calories.

Feeders offer a respite from the long journey and a source of nutrition until natural nectar sources are found.

In addition to the amazing sight and sound of hummingbirds, the oriole is a definite favorite with its flashes of bright yellowish-orange color in the midst of the new delicate leaves on the trees. Called “leaf-out,” the arrival of migratory birds is most likely timed to when leaves emerge when there are also insects to eat. These birds catch your eye and are beautiful to observe at a feeder.

They may try to sip nectar from a hummingbird feeder, but are happier in one designed for them. The same solution can be used, but the opening is larger with a larger perch. Like hummingbirds attracted to red-colored feeders, orioles are attracted to orange-colored feeders. Halving a juicy orange nearby or on the feeder is popular with the oriole and considering they like the darkest colored berries such as mulberries, cherries and purple grapes, a smear of grape jelly is an enticing treat. A grape jelly solution can also be made in the nectar receptacle by using one part jelly and one part water. Just mix the jelly and water until it is a smooth consistency. On a side note, even though high fructose corn syrup is an added ingredient to so many foods, and it should be avoided by humans because it is unhealthy, a jelly without it is also a better choice for the oriole. Of course, in hotter weather, the feeder needs to be regularly cleaned with hot water.

Certain trees, shrubs, and flowers attract the oriole by providing habitat for food, sanctuary and nesting. Conversely, they suffer from the loss of habitat and the use of harmful pesticides and insecticides. A guide to a healthy yard and beyond from the Audubon in “10 Commandments for a Healthy Yard” adopted from “The Killer in Your Yard,” states that Americans, in their quest for perfect lawns, golf turfs, and flowers pour approximately 136 million pounds of pesticides on their lawns and gardens, which is three times more per acre than what the average farmer uses. They state that according to the EPA’s wildlife mortality database, millions of birds are killed each year from the three common chemicals used by homeowners, namely, diazinon, chlorpyrifos, and brodifacoum. According to the Audubon’s guide, a host of nearly 50 pesticide active ingredients currently used in the U.S. have caused documented cases of bird kills. These chemicals, also found in storm water systems from local surface waters and run-off, are primarily from single-family homes. Birds are exposed to the contaminated water and are eating pesticide treated plants and seeds.

Roger Tory Peterson stated , “Birds are indicators of the environment. If they are in trouble, we know we’ll soon be in trouble.” Taking care of the more fragile among us is really the same as caring for ourselves. The “10 Commandments” from the Audubon has some suggestions with details on how to “go organic,” use native plants, know the life cycle of insects and treat only when necessary, along with utilizing natural defenses such as adjusting nutrients and testing the pH levels of your soil. A section of “what is the stuff on your shelves” is a guide to the dangers and safety precautions of common lawn and garden chemicals. It reminds us that there is an unintended price tag with the overuse of chemicals. Pesticides harm birds and other wildlife. Insecticides, which cause death by acting on the nervous system of unwanted insects, also poison good insects (such as the honeybee, also in decline which pollinate one-third of our food supply), fish and birds. Unfortunately, the residues of all these chemicals remain in the environment, including the fruits and vegetables that we eat.

Chautauqua County offers the opportunity to enjoy nature year round. There are also organizations where “birds of a feather can flock together” to share and learn. The Audubon in Jamestown is a good source of information and support as well as the County Association of Bee Keepers and the Lake Erie Bird Club. Recently celebrating their 50th anniversary, members meet to share recent bird sightings, collect data as citizen scientists, and take field trips. For more information about the club, call 673-1627. They have monthly meetings at BOCES on Fredonia-Stockton Road.

Make it a good week and enjoy our fine feathered friends.

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