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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Feeding Birds

My BirdCanada post this month is about the pros and cons of feeding the birds. 

Love to hear your thoughts. Have you struggled with this dilemma too?
Any words of wisdom to share?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Messenger

If plummeting numbers of songbirds are any indication, the planet is in trouble. The makers of The Messenger are hoping to help - and they need ours.       
The Messenger is a new feature documentary that follows birds on a visually breathtaking yet perilous journey through our changing world, offering perspectives from international researchers and conservationists on the key threats to migratory songbirds. 

SongbirdSOSProductions, an independent Canadian film-making company that's been working on this important project for close to two years, needs funding to finish the film. They have the support of Bird Studies Canada as a National Outreach Partner; now they're looking to the public for financial help through a crowdfunding campaign. 
Check out the video and ways you can help here:

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Birds of San Migeul de Allende

In February I went to San Miguel de Allende (SMA), high in the mountains of central Mexico, to attend the 10th anniversary of the SMA Writers Conference. It was fabulous. 

On my first day in SMA, however, I discovered there was a lecture on The Birds of San Miguel, hosted by the local Audobon chapter, at the library in town. Obviously, I skipped out of the writing workshop I’d signed up for and headed to the library.

San Miguel de Allende.
CC license photo. 

Want to know more? Get the whole story here.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Christmas Bird Count highlights

Thank you to the Gabriola photographers who contributed to my BirdCanada photo essay highlighting some of the bird species seen during the 2014 Christmas Bird Count on Gabriola.

Here are just a few of the featured birds - to whet your appetite ...

Fox Sparrow in winter. No, there was no snow on December 28 on Gabriola.
In fact, it's January 31 and the bulbs are up!
Photo by Sharon McInnes

Great Blue Heron.
Photo by Sharon McInnes

Male Barrow's Goldeneye.
Photo by Douglas Green.

Male Mallard.
Photo by Iain Alexander

To see the whole post, please go to:

For details on the actual numbers of species and individuals that made the count, check out the Nanaimo/Gabriola Birding FaceBook page - or email me at

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area vs KM

My Bird Canada post today is about the birds of the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area. You probably already know that a serious struggle is currently underway: it's the City of Burnaby, the City of Vancouver, most First nations, and thousands (maybe tens or hundreds of thousands!) of citizens of BC against Kinder Morgan, the Texas-based multinational pipeline company. 

Burnaby Mountain, home to birds and bears and all kinds of wildlife.
It's a Conservation Park!
 Curious, I delved into the bird life on the mountain.  To read the piece, click here

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Cold weather and little hummingbirds

It's supposed to go down to -3 C tonight on Gabriola, the exact temperature at which nectar begins to freeze. So if you're feeding a resident hummer or two, it's time to do 'whatever you do' to make sure there's drinkable nectar available first thing in the morning and just before dark, which are prime feeding times - and hopefully in between too. 

Okay, we're not there yet but one never knows!
This photo was taken in the spring of 2008 during that freak snowstorm.
Note the Rufous Hummer!
People more creative than me have dreamed up all kinds of ways to keep nectar from freezing, some involving the use of trouble lights, hand warmers, plumbers' heat tape, or wrapping the feeders with Christmas lights, bubble wrap, or even warm woolen socks - anything to boost the temp just a little. 

For a few ideas with illustrations, check out these sites:

I haven't managed to rig up anything useful yet so I'm going with tried and true: bringing in Feeder #1 (which has been out all night) as soon as its light and replacing it with Feeder #2 (filled with fresh nectar). This does require getting up early and keeping an eye on the situation during the day - so it won't work for folks who sleep late or work all day.   

In a pinch - when I've been surprised by a sudden dip in temp and don't have any extra fresh nectar prepared - I've warmed up the frozen nectar "in situ" in a double boiler/steamer on top of the stove. Only takes a couple of minutes. 

December 3 update:

About a week ago, I set up a trouble light right next to the feeder. So far, it's kept the nectar from freezing overnight. The Annas are happy. And so am I.

Whatever you do, thank you

Monday, September 29, 2014

Seven Gabriola jays, one hungry hawk

Read all about it (and see lots of photos) at BirdCanada

Here are a few of the stars, just to whet your appetite ...

Mr. Fuzzy Chin

Mr. Big Blue Brows