Great Midwest Weather Monday, Aug 15 2022 

Rarely, are we in the Midwest United States envied for our weather. We typically experience hot summers and cold winters. The change of seasons is fun to some extent. It is just that winters can be long, bitter, and dark when we have weeks with little sun.

However, our weather is currently perfect. Unlike much of the country (our coasts are hot and dry and south has had storms with flooding), the Chicago area is in the 70s/low 80s during the day with low humidity and pleasantly cool in the evening.

Also, we’ve had a good amount of rain, so our grass, shrubs, and trees are lush and green. The flowers, birds, and butterflies are in abundance. (Except for the rare occurrence of monarchs.) And fields are plentiful with fruits and vegetables.

I love the summer–the deep greens and lavish flora and fauna that surrounds us. The best part is that I can work on the patio surrounded by wee creatures coming and going. I find it inspiring, rejuvenating, and exhilarating.

*Photos: Black swallowtail butterfly, goldfinch, hydrangea, hummingbird.

*Take care of yourself while you take care of your family. Follow along with weekly photos, affirmations, prayers, suggestions for caring for yourself, and a little humor with my book, Inspired Caregiving.

Help Our Wee Friends. Temporarily Remove Birdseed Feeders Wednesday, Apr 27 2022 

Are we required to wear a mask or not? Should we remove our seed/grain bird feeders or continue filling them? Current guidance on birdfeeders is almost as confusing as mask wearing. However, I have some helpful information for you.

Although no official ruling has been made, wildlife agencies recommend that we do, in fact, take our feeders down until May 31, 2022, or until infections subside. Risk is relatively low for songbirds to contract or spread the avian influenza (EA H5N1 strain of avian influenza HPAI), but if that should happen, the spread could be devastating, especially for domestic poultry. A mass outbreak could cost billions of dollars and millions of lives in poultry.

The United States declares that it has the strongest avian influenza surveillance program in the world. This program, APHIS, collects and tests large numbers of samples from wild birds in North America and says that the outbreak started on the East Coast and swiftly spread through the Midwest and beyond. The virus has been detected in several states including, Pennsylvania, Utah, Texas, Idaho, Colorado, Montana, and North Dakota.

HPAI is a highly pathogenic avian influenza. However, the effect of the virus varies with the type of bird. According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), HPAI was detected in the state of Illinois in wild Canadian geese on March 10, 2022. Since then, wild bird mortality from this virus has been confirmed in Champaign, Fulton, Sangamon, and Will counties with a more recent mortality event of more than 200 birds in Cook County. Impacted birds include waterfowl and waterbird species and raptors, including eagles and owls, as well as domestic poultry. Recently, the U.S.D.A. reported 41 dead bald eagles infected with the virus across the country.

The organization also that any occurrences of deceased or sick bald eagles be reported. Caution should be taken when disposing of any deceased wild birds. The recommendation is that gloves and a mask be worn, the carcass sealed in double-plastic bags, and then hands and clothing should be washed with soap and water.

Other recommendations include the omission of feeding wild birds in close proximity to domestic flocks. It’s important that pet birds and backyard poultry remain housed in a building until the risk decreases. Also, feeding geese, ducks, gulls and other shorebird species should be avoided as not only does the gathering of birds while feeding increase the risk of them contracting the virus, so does our human presence since we can carry pathogens on our hands, clothing, and shoes, as well.

According to IDNR, it is unlikely that hummingbird and oriole feeders will contribute to the spread of HPAI because these birds are more species specific. Therefore, hummingbird feeders may remain up.

When we may again feed our songbirds, IDNR recommends that bird feeders and baths be completely emptied and cleaned weekly with a solution of nine parts water to one part bleach and then thoroughly rinsed.

For more information, see articles on the CDC website, U.S. Geological Survey, Wildlife Illinois, and the IDNR.

***Parenting is rewarding yet exhausting. Get a daily boost with Inspired Caregiving.

My Wee Bird Friends Monday, Aug 23 2021 

Sadly, I believe my resident hummingbirds have left for the season. I haven’t seen any of them for a few days. Last week, a wee one flew around in front of me on the other side of my patio door for several minutes. Perhaps, she was saying good-bye.

One of the greatest joys for me this summer were my hummingbird visits. When the weather was perfect for working outside on my patio, I had a vantage point of view of the hummingbird feeder and butterfly bushes in my little garden that drew the tiny creatures near me. The birds’ fluttering and feeding captivated my attention so much so I felt they’d hypnotized me. I had difficulty looking away to return to my work.

The United States sees only about two dozen of the 325 species of hummingbirds in the world. Most are found in Central and South America and do not regularly migrate.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are common in the United States and the ones who migrate to my area. They fly 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico during both their spring and fall migrations. The longest migration of any of these birds is by the rufous hummingbird which flies more than 3,000 miles from Alaska and Canada to Mexico.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds weigh only 3 grams but are mighty with an ability to dart quickly and even fly upside down. Interestingly, hummingbirds rotate their wings in a figure eight beating them approximately 80 times per second.

Hummingbirds are dressed in 1,000 to 1,500 feathers, which is fewer than any other type of bird. They cannot walk or hop. Their feet are tools for scooting sideways while perched, scratching, and preening. They have no sense of smell but extraordinary eyesight.

My winged friends consume approximately one half of their weight in sugar daily. They can feed five to eight times per hour. In addition to nectar, they also feed on insects, spiders, tree sap, and juice from fruits.

Hummingbirds do not suck but rather lick nectar with their fringed, forked tongue and draw the nectar up into their throats. They may lick 10-15 times per second.

The bee hummingbird is the smallest measuring 2.25 inches long. And in spite of their minute size, hummingbirds can be very aggressive attacking jays, crows, and hawks if they enter their territory.

Their average lifespan is three to 12 years.

*See some of my writing tips in my post, Begin With a List.

*Check out my website, Mary K Doyle.com.

*Photos: Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds

Killdeer Pair Tuesday, Jun 15 2021 

I’m working on the most enjoyable book. It consists of poetry and nature photos. I’m shooting photos of wildlife and writing poems inspired by what I see.

Keeping my eye out for interesting creatures and plants is making me more aware of the environment. I love walking through woods and fields and noticing what’s going on around me. I had no idea how much was literally in my backyard.

This photo is too blurry for publication because of the distance I had to zoom in. But I wanted to show you these adorable birds. Aren’t they cute together?

The photo is of two killdeers, one of the many birds I’m newly discovering. The killdeer is considered an upland shorebird, although they don’t live at the shore. Killdeers have two black bands around the neck, a brown back, and white belling. They are known for their broken wing impression which draws intruders away from the nest.

Wherever you live, you’re likely to find new species, as well. Keep your eyes open. You’ll be surprised how many fascinating plants and creatures are right underfoot!

*Who Do You Want Your Children to Follow?

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If You’re Going to Fly, Fly Like an Eagle Tuesday, May 5 2020 

When I was a kid, I wanted to fly. I had to restrain myself from jumping off ledges and thinking I could soar into the sky. Strange, but true.

If you want to fly like a bird, the eagle would be a powerful choice. The eagle represents freedom as it lives high, soars majestically, and sits at the top of the food chain.

The royal creature was chosen as the symbol of the United States of America on June 20, 1782 because of its strength, longevity, and that it is native to North America. The scientific name comes from Haliaeetus leucocephalus signifying a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head. At that time, the word “bald” meant “white” not hairless.

Eagles are members of the Accipitridae family which also includes hawks, kites, and vultures. Scientists loosely divide eagles into four groups based on their physical characteristics and behavior. The bald eagle is considered a sea or fish eagle.

Bald eagles are found throughout most of North America, from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico, but half of the world’s 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska. Sexual maturity is attained at four to five years. These great birds range from 28-40 inches in length. Females are about 25% larger than males averaging as much as 13 pounds to the males 9 pounds. Their eyes are similar in size to humans but their eyesight is four times greater than our perfect vision.

It’s no wonder they are so amazing to watch in flight. Eagles are powerful fliers soaring on thermal convection currents at speeds of 35-43 mph when gliding and flapping and about 30 mph while carrying fish. They can dive at speeds between 75-99 mph. And their impressive wingspan is between 6 to 7 and a half feet across.

Both male and female adult bald eagles have a blackish-brown back and breast; a white head, neck, and tail; yellow feet, legs and beak; and pale-yellow eyes. Their call consists of the weak staccato, chirping whistle kleek kik ik ik ik. The calls of young birds tend to be more shrill than those of adults.

We are blessed to have nesting eagles in the little town in which I live along the Fox River in Illinois. Bald eagles usually are sensitive to human activity while nesting. However, the ones in my area don’t seem to mind a fascinated yet respectful audience below snapping photos.

Eagles have the largest nests of any North American bird. Nests can be up to 13 feet deep and more than 8 feet wide. These mammoth nests can weigh as much as a ton so they require a sturdy perch. Coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting are typically more than 66 feet tall and offer proximity to prey.

Eagles mate for life, at least the life of one of the pair. Nest building occurs by mid-February. One to three eggs hatch from mid-April to early May and the young leave nests late June to early July. Around 50% of the newly hatched eagles survive the first year.

Eagles are opportunistic feeders devouring dead or decaying fish. Their preferred prey includes grebes, duck, gulls, coots, herons, egrets, and geese up to 4 pounds in weight. Along some areas of the North Pacific coastline, bald eagles are now preying on seabird colonies rather than their traditional kelp. This may be due to overfishing and otters interfering with their food source. Ironically, being at the top of the food chain makes them more vulnerable to consuming toxic chemicals in the environment.

Eagles maintain a respected role in the Native American culture. Pow wow dancers use the eagle claws and feathers as part of their ceremonial dress. In the Navajo tradition, eagle feathers represent the protector. Navajo medicine men use the leg and wing bones for ceremonial whistles. The Lakota people present eagle feathers as honorary symbols to those who achieve a notable task. The Pawnee consider eagles as symbols of fertility because their nests are built high, and they fiercely protect their young. The Choctaw relate the bald eagle with the sun and a symbol of peace.

The average lifespan of bald eagles in the wild is around 20 years, with the oldest confirmed one having lived 38 years. Premature death often results from impact with wires and vehicles, gunshot, poisoning, electrocution, trapping, emaciation, and disease.

The Department of Interior removed the bald eagle from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened, but eagles are still protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.

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Choosing a Memory Care Home Site-Unseen” and “Perfect Opportunity to Ponder” are two of my most recent posts on my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books. And watch on my Author FaceBook page for upcoming virtual presentations.
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All photos on my site were taken by me, Mary K. Doyle, unless otherwise noted.

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