Announcements from the Dec. 7, 2022 Chapter Meeting

Highlights from the December 2022 Chapter Meeting

The Announcements

Save the date for a special valentine to the chapter: Annual Banquet on Wednesday, February 1, 2023 at Texas Discovery Gardens. Please view the full set of December announcements by clicking here. Further activities are listed on the chapter calendar. Opportunities and contacts, websites, and other details are available in the announcements.

Highlights of the Meeting

Christmas Bird Count and Backyard Birding

Many thanks to Marcus Cole, Educator at Trinity River Audubon Center, and David Hurt, naturalist and owner of Wild Birds Unlimited/Lovers Lane, for engaging presentations on the Christmas Bird Count and Backyard Birding.

Counting Birds – Marcus began with a review of the Trinity River Audubon Center (TRAC), how it was created out of an illegal landfill operation. He provided background on the National Audubon Society, showing how outrage over the slaughter of millions of birds for the fashion industry helped drive a conservation movement.

Marcus described how Frank Chapman proposed the first Christmas Bird Census in 1900 as an alternative to traditional Christmas hunts. That effort included 25 counts with 27 observers. Now the oldest community science project, the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) has grown to 2,883 count circles with over 80,000 observers.

Demonstrating resources on the Audubon website, Marcus discussed how the CBC is organized into area circles with a compiler coordinating localized work. An interactive map guides volunteers to available circles. Narrative and numeric summaries of annual counts are organized by state and county. Data can also be portrayed by species over time.

Marcus encouraged us to take part in the 123rd CBC. You can volunteer by contacting a compiler, found on the map above, or here. Jake Poinsett, who spoke at our November meeting, is the compiler for the TRAC circle. See the announcements for three CBC opportunities.

In closing Marcus shared the good news from TRAC that admission fees are scheduled to be discontinued sometime in 2023.

Backyard Birding – Moving to bird behavior and feeding, David Hurt wove information on equipment/technique options together with anecdotes from a lifetime of birding. Describing the joy of bird feeding, David pointed out that some 82 million Americans feed birds and that this is a year-round pastime in Dallas.

David’s top advice for attracting more backyard birds is to provide fresh water in the landscape. The container should be shallow, with a rough slope to allow easy access. The water should be changed weekly. Adding motion – a drip or creating ripples – lets birds identify the water from the air. This brings more birds in; it also doesn’t attract mosquitoes.

Noting that outdoor cats kill 630 million birds (or more) annually, David cautioned against bird baths and fountains if you have outdoor cats.

Going on to feeding, David noted these mainstay foods to attract most birds: black oil and striped sunflower seeds, safflower seeds, peanuts and suet. Some 90% of feeder birds will eat black oil sunflower seeds. Shelled versions are “no mess” food, helpful to avoid attracting rats. Feeding consistently attracts more species more often. Use blends that do not contain wheat, milo and corn as these fillers just end up on the ground.

David stressed the value of suet as a year-round food, especially over the summer (minimize dripping with no-melt blends). Suet is better fed against a tree trunk or rough board to serve as a tail brace for woodpeckers. A relative newcomer, bark butter (spreadable suet) has been shown to attract 135 species nationwide. In addition to pre-made, there are many recipes for bark butter online. Making your own bark butter feeder is easy: just drill cavities into a log and hang it up.

To avoid feeding squirrels there are both food and feeder options. Hot pepper treatments for seeds, suet and suet pellets make food unpalatable to squirrels but don’t bother birds. The bitterness in safflower seeds makes them unattractive to grackles and squirrels. Feeders that are 10+ feet from a tree and 4+ feet above the ground can be made squirrel resistant with baffles. Weight-activated feeders make food available to smaller birds while excluding squirrels and larger birds.

Further tips  · mix suet and mealworms for titmice, chickadees and bluebirds, then use a feeder that excludes larger birds
· platform feed millet December–March to attract dark-eyed juncos and white-throated sparrows and mid-April–early May for painted buntings
· feed Nyjer seed for finches November–May, shaking the seed weekly till finches arrive; a yellow ribbon or feeder attracts finches
· dispose of old, spoiled seed promptly (1 month in summer); don’t put new seed on top of old seed; store seed in a metal container
· blending native plantings with supplemental feeding benefits birds most

Going Deeper: describes solutions to declining bird populations.
Audubon’s trend viewer survival by degrees shows how 2/3 of bird species are at risk due to increasing temperatures.
Audubon’s species migration tool shows migration patterns by species.
Audubon’s DIY suet recipe

Contact information: Marcus Cole and David Hurt

When the recording of this meeting is available it will be posted here.

Thanks to our guests and members for participating in this month’s meeting. I hope all feel welcome at NTMN.

Take care,
Scott Hudson
North Texas Master Naturalist


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