We’ve long enjoyed seeing how Sean at The Horticultural Channel has put his Wingscapes Audubon BirdCam into use around his garden allotment. However when we recently checked in with him to see what he’s been doing recently we discovered that his YouTube channel where a wide range of interesting gardening and bird feeding advice and instructional videos (such as this one demonstrating an easy way to connect a BirdCam to a bird table) can be found has a new name: thehortchannel.tv.
Needless to say, we highly recommend that you add this new channel to your YouTube subscription list (we certainly have). Once you’ve done that, why not also pop over to their website as well for even more helpful horticultural advice. And if you feel inclined to leave an encouraging comment on any of their videos, please be sure to say hello for us as well.
For more great BirdCam videos, stop by our Facebook and YouTube pages.
All of us at Wingscapes extend our heartiest congratulations to all those who worked so hard for so long to bring about the successful landing of Curiosity on the surface of Mars.
As the first pictures have already been received with the promise of many more to come in the days and months ahead, we stand in awe of the power of people doing their very best and working together in pursuit of a greater understanding of this universe in which we live. We could not say it better than NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver upon being interviewed just after the Curiosity's history-making landing, "let the science begin!"
It’s not often that bird watchers have the benefit of knowing exactly when an exceptional bird they’ve been hoping to see will be observable in their area, however in the case of three particularly “exceptional birds” - Steve Martin, Jack Black, and Owen Wilson - the date will be October 14th when their new movie The Big Year opens in theaters all across the nation.
Based on Mark Obmascik’s best-selling 2004 book The Big Year; A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession, The Big Year is the first major motion picture ever produced with birding as its central theme.
Needless to say, we’ll certainly be in line early for our tickets. We’d also be very interested in your thoughts about the movie. Are you planning to see it? If you do, please be sure to leave us a comment once you have and tell us what you thought of it.
In order to speak, humans rely on a laryx, or “voice box,” located in the throat to make the necessary sounds. Birds however, don’t have a larynx; they have something far more complex called a syrinx in their throats that allows them to produce the marvelous array of sounds of which they are capable.
Because the syrinx has two chambers instead of the larynx’s one, birds can produce more than one sound at the same time and harmonize with their own voice.
One of the best examples of this ability is commonly demonstrated by the Wood Thrush - such as the one shown here in an Audubon BirdCam image submitted by Paul from Cove, Texas. Listening to its song, you’d swear there was more than one bird singing.
In addition to giving birds the ability to fly, attract mates, and stay warm, feathers also help to keep them dry. Extending from the main shaft of each feather are barbs that are interlocked together by barbules and hooklets which, when all neatly aligned, form a tight weave. A light coating of oil produced by a gland near the bird’s tail is then spread during grooming to give this weave a semi-waterproof finish.
This close-up from an Audubon BirdCam image of a Mourning Dove recorded by nancybirdies in Vienna, Virginia shows just how effective this finish can be. Raindrops simply bead up on the dove’s back rather than soaking through, allowing the bird to stay dry and continue feeding even in the rain.
The ability of the male to provide for the well-being of the female is a cornerstone requirement in the pair bonding of many bird species (not to mention more than a few mammalian ones as well). After all, the reproductive cycle of many birds requires the female to spend long periods of time incubating the eggs; time in which the male may need to bring food to her to ensure a constant temperature of the brood.
Two Blue Jays
Thus many bird species have developed courtship rituals involving the exchange of food, as appears to be being demonstrated in this Audubon BirdCam image of two Blue Jays recorded by nancybirdies in Vienna, Virginia. Even though there is plainly plenty of food at their feet, the male passes a kernel to the female to demonstrate his willingness and ability to help provide for her throughout the nesting cycle.
As we all know, regular dental check-ups keep our teeth healthy and in good working order. Birds, however, rarely visit dentists. Thus to keep their beaks - which are not only their teeth but their primary tools for both nest building and grooming, and which continue to grow throughout their lives - in good working order, they rely on their upper and lower mandibles being properly aligned to ensure an even pattern of wear that keeps one half from becoming longer than the other.
This BirdCam image of a European Starling recorded by the Barbara of Dumfries, Virginia shows the results of a misaligned beak. Fortunately for this bird, as Barbara notes, its ability to eat seems unimpaired. Others with the same problem usually aren’t so lucky.
The question is one often heard wherever members of the binocular-totting tribe gather: how can more young people be encouraged to take up birding? For the National Audubon Society and its network of state and local chapters, it’s a question of great importance indeed - and one that they are mobilizing their resources to answer.
Reporters Kai Ryssdal and Adrienne Hill of American Public Media’s "Marketplace" program recently took up the question and found that far from birding being stuck in a proverbial rut, young birders toting iPads and networking through social media organized meet-ups are coming to be seen as the potential new face of the activity.
What are your thoughts? Does birding need a “face lift?” Is increasing the level of technology employed in birding the key to making it appealing to a younger crowd?
Congratulations to our friend Jeff Gordon on becoming the next President of the American Birding Association. Jeff is a wonderfully nice and down-to-earth guy. The ABA has had a rocky recent history. At times they've been a bit distant and difficult to work with. We are sure that things will change under Jeff's leadership. His appointment will be good for the ABA and good for birding. Congrats Jeff! Wingscapes looks forward to working with you. - Bart
With the Wingscapes BirdCam I reached a goal: I won my school’s science fair and I moved to the regional competition level. I used the BirdCam to record the feeding patterns at my backyard feeder and called this the “Seed n Feed” project. My data filled up over three pages of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets! I also discovered I have a little thief in my family; my two year old dog April was stealing seeds and oranges. (OK, maybe she’s not so little.) We had to add a little fence around the station after seeing this picture.
To begin the project my father and I built a feeding station. It consisted of a post, a feeder, and a platform. I separated the feeder into two different seed sections for better understanding of what ate what. I put sunflower seeds in one section and mixed bird seed in the other. I also had a spot for oranges. I let the birds get used to my feeding station then added the BirdCam later.
I placed the BirdCam at the proper distance, and used the built in laser to get the perfect picture. Then I activated the BirdCam and let the collection of data roll. I refilled my seeds, and reviewed my images every day. Often there were numerous images of the same visitors caught by the BirdCam. One of the hardest parts of the project was trying to decide which pictures to count as new visits. Some days there were LOTS of pictures to view!
I recorded data from each visit including: species, gender, food, time, and date. I recorded the results in a spreadsheet so I could quickly make charts and graphs later. Gray Squirrels were the most common visitor. Blue Jays and Northern Cardinals were the only other common visitors recorded during my project. The BirdCam captured images of mockingbirds, catbirds, and doves in the bushes around my feeding area in this time, but not eating at the station. In the aftermath following the experiment, I got images of other species at my station including: Common Ground-Doves, Mourning Doves, Pine Warblers, and Carolina Wrens.
Squirrels can be described as many things: annoyances, pests, eaters of seeds, bullies, and much more. Squirrels would come in and flip the top off the feeder and chase everything else away. I don’t mind squirrels though, they are a part of nature and they are fun to watch. Also something would steal our oranges at night. Next time I’ll be able to detect which night time visitors are stealing these fruits, because my Dad and I now have the new BirdCam 2.0 with a flash!
A science fair project requires testing a hypothesis. At first I expected oranges to be favored most, but I was way off. After viewing the pictures I decided sunflower seeds were the favorite food. The graphs made this easy to see as well.
Results: I collected data for 18 days in a row. There were 212 total counted visits, and 144 or 72% were for sunflower seeds. 45 or 22% were for mixed seed leaving a measly 6% for oranges. So much for my hypothesis, but I learned a lot!
Gray Squirrels visited my feeder 138 times, Blue Jays 45 times, and Northern Cardinals 17 times during my experiment.
Tips: don’t forget to check or replace your batteries regularly! One day I had very few pictures. My Dad put new batteries in the BirdCam and the next day I had lots of pictures again. I only had to change the batteries one time in a month though. Remember to check your feeders every day and refill your seeds. If I do this again I think I would record weather data as well. The judges asked me why some days had more visits than others, and if I noticed any changes on visits under different weather.
I won my school science fair using the BirdCam. Not only was this project easy to complete, but I had an amazing amount of fun. This would have been very hard without the BirdCam because I would have had to sit many long hours observing and taking notes.
Eleven-year-old old 6th grader Austin Bouton used the Wingscapes BirdCam motion-activated wildlife camera to win the school science fair at his middle school in Florida. All of us at Wingscapes wish him the best of luck in his future science fair competitions.