Big City, Little Homestead

Living rural in the city.

Category: Birds and Wildlife(page 1 of 4)

Meet my squirrel! Mangey, but adorable.

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This little guy or girl comes by my backyard every day and raids my two bird feeders, sometimes with the help of another squirrel.

Because it has sarcoptic mange, I’ve been concerned about its winter survival. You can treat mange with ivermectin, selamectin, or any of the class of avermectin insecticides that kill mites and other topical parasites that cause itching in pets and livestock. Left without treatment, the animal will suffer fur loss and diminished immunity, not to mention being driven mad with the itching. It will also lose out on some time better spent food gathering and stashing. Finally, there’s an increased risk of transmitting it to other animals and species. I certainly don’t want this, but I’m not sure if the mites that affect squirrels also affect birds.

It’s possibly illegal for me to have done this, but as my dog, Daisy, died and couldn’t take her HartGard pills with her on her journey, I took one of the pills, shaved off a slice, and slathered it in peanut butter. I put one out on the patio about a month ago, hoping the right squirrel would take it. Then, I started occasionally feeding it a tidbit or two to get it used to me, so I’d be able to treat it more directly. The mange cleared up, but in the past week, it has come back (probably the eggs in the nest have hatched and new juvenile and adult mites have latched on). So I followed up with a second treatment. He (or she) has stopped running away when I open the patio door, because it knows something edible is going to come flying out and land somewhere in the garden. Sure enough, it made a beeline for it today!


This was Buddy, the black girl squirrel

I had friends in the suburbs who used to feed a black squirrel. They named it Buddy, and it would come right up to them every day. Then Buddy disappeared – for a little while. It turned out Buddy was a new mom, and she brought her babies around to visit.

While the squirrels I’ve befriended (that is, provided drugs, nuts, water, and a house for) have been bold about coming around to me, usually they aren’t so bold with their babies. But over the years, sporadic friendliness (sporadic for their own good) means there’s a shared moment of mutual recognition when we meet each other in the garden, or on either side of the patio door.

Spring migration is underway – and it’s dangerous

The other day, I watched a documentary by New Hampshire Public Television on bird migration. I learned a few startling facts about habitat loss and other pressures that decimate bird populations. Most alarming of all was that their mortality while migrating is as high as 85%. I doubt that is due to hurricanes and low seasonal food, though these are real risks that birds have always faced. I’m sure that most are due to human activity:

  • Building and tower lights on at night throwing birds off course, exhausting and killing them. Birds migrate at night, and the light of the moon used to guide them. Now, our overlit cities and buildings misguide them.
  • Critical habitat loss on migration routes. Birds need to land and feed and stay according to the season and weather, before proceeding north (or south) again.
  • Bird strikes on power and cellular telephone infrastructure – wires and towers, and not just those of wind turbines.
  • Bird strikes on buildings, now more than ever – readGlass architecture is killing millions of migratory birds.
  • And the grand winner: Our pet and feral cats are the biggest killers by far.Do not underestimate the carnage that any sweet kitty causes. It’s not good fun. If you absolutely insist – you’re wrong, but still – on putting your cat outdoors, do it only at night, when birds are in flight.During the day they need to come down and search for food, water, and rest. They need it. The cat’s just playing.(So put a BirdBeSafe clown collar on kitty!)

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How to give wildlife fresh, unfrozen water in winter

With the onset of truly cold weather now, with snow on the ground that sticks around, water is pretty much everywhere – in solid or powdered form. That makes it hard for our furry and feathered friends to get enough to drink. In fact, in winter,birds can suffer even more from lack of water than from lack of food. Today I’m going to show you just how easy it is to help your backyard wildlife friends get the water they need,

Don’t feel guilty that this might not have occurred to you yet. I’ve providedmy house sparrows and their wild friendsa wonderful backyard habitatwith a pond for water (the kind of space which Rewildingcan help you provideand certifyfor wildlife), but after November, it’s frozen. It took me yearsto finally give them this basic need in winter.

Until one day, I had the brilliant idea of how to do so with things I had on hand, in under 5 minutes (once all objects were located). And when you read to the bottom of this post, you’ll know why this is very timely, indeed!

DIY Heated Watering Bowl instructions

All it requires is: Continue reading

I’m going to implement at least one project from this link I’m sharing –10 Cool Ways To Attract Endless Wildlife To Your Backyard!

I actually have made the wine bottle bird feeder. The birds love it.

How to stop killing birds with your windows – resources

Bird strikes against windows kills millions of birds every migration. While I was in Toronto this week, I saw a newly constructed glass building in the newWest Don Landsarea that used bird-friendly glass, with dots impregnated into the glass every 8-10 cm (ideally, every 5 cm). Birds need to see that the reflective glass is not “air to fly through,” so interruptions or obstructions in the reflected light are necessary. This post has a few links to retrofitting windows, but the standard to bird-friendly architecture – do it by default! – is here: Bird-Friendly Building Design – American Bird Conservancy.

Though we need to carry out this design everywhere, Toronto bylaws require it. Toronto is in the middle of a flyway.There is a push to make bird-friendly design a provincial or general building standard, but it’s only beginning, with all the (energy-expending) glass buildings being constructed, almost as if in a rush before the standard is in place.

Here is a guide on bird-friendly retrofitting your windows:

It amounts to using visual cues, mainly decals, strings, and UV solution, at frequent intervals across the window so that the bird can see it. (And if you have trouble installing it yourself, I will help you.)

Here is a guide about what DOES NOT work:

American readers, you can support Audubon and the push to standardize bird-friendly building measures and standards in this action alert for theFederal Bird-Safe Buildings Act. Building collisions kill millions of birds each year. A new bill would help reduce deadly collisions, by incorporating bird-safe building materials and design features into federal buildings.

Also, from theAudubon Society on Twitter:

More about the West Don Lands mentioned above: the Corktown Common park was a joy to visit. It has a constructed wetland that they seeded well with native species. It has reeds, duckweed, and native water fleur-de-lys, making it a wonderful habitat for birds. I only wish it were larger, but that it is so accessible to wandering humans means they have a chance to see nature they won’t otherwise see. That may whet their appetite for the real thing.

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