Archive for Birdwatching

Feathered Friends Need Water During Hot Weather

Posted in Around Your Home, I Wish I'd Thought About That, Lifestyle with tags , , on July 3, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Don’t forget to provide water for the feathered friends in your backyard during this extremely hot weather we are having this summer. Although birds lack sweat glands, they can perspire through their skin and thus reduce body heat. Birds can also get rid of excess body heat by panting, which allows water to evaporate from the surface of the air sacs. The challenge is both of the above cooling methods are dependent upon a ready source of cool water.

There are manyways to offer water including birdbaths, drippers, misters, shallow dishes and small ponds. Birdbaths are probably the most common source of water.

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They can be ground level birdbaths, pedestal birdbaths or hanging birdbaths. It is important to consider the area where the bath will go. Some birds prefer to drink at ground level in an open area. If there is an abundance of vegetation on the ground where predators can hide, it might be wise to place a birdbath on a pedestal. Whether your birdbath is on the ground, a pedestal or hanging, the following are suggestions for the best results:

  • Look for a basin that can be easily cleaned and has a gentle slope so birds can wade into the water. The bowl should be no more that 1” to 3” deep. Anything deeper, the birds will avoid it.
  • To accommodate more than one bird at a time, the diameter should be at least two feet.
  • Make sure the bottom surface is tough enough for solid footing, or place small rocks in the bottom to create different depth levels for birds to perch on.
  • Your water source will be more obvious to birds if the inside of the bath is a dark color. Tests have shown that water in a dark container is used more often by birds.  Reflections from the water are much more noticeable to them.
  • Keep your birdbath at least 15 feet from your other feeding areas.
  • Clean water is a must; replace water every 2-3 days.
  • Add a dripper of mister accessory to keep the water fresh. The noise and movement these accessories create, draw the birds like a magnet.
  • Birds can’t fly well when they are wet. Place the water source near shrubs, trees or fence for quick escape from predators. Having perching space nearby makes it convenient for birds to sit and preen after bathing.
  • Locate your birdbath in a shady part of the yard. This will keep the water at a cooler, more refreshing temperature in hot weather.
  • Drippers, misters or small pump-driven fountains that keep the water moving have the added benefit of preventing mosquito eggs from hatching.

Not all birds need to drink water. Hummingbirds, for example, have a largely liquid diet as they feed on nectar producing flowers. They do enjoy playing in water, however, and love to zip through the mist created by a mister. They use wet leaves near the mister as a wash cloth.

There is no better way to get birds flocking to your yard than a good source of fresh water. A bird’s need for water through every season of the year is so strong that even species you never expected will be attracted to a strategically placed water source.

Having a birdbath is an advantage to anyone who enjoys observing nature in general and bird behavior in particular.

Independence Oaks County Park

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 30, 2012 by Pat Hansen

If you are looking for an outing that is not far from home, Independence Oaks County Park is the largest unit in the Oakland County parks system at 1,088 acres with a state-designated Wildlife Viewing Area.  The park encompasses rolling hills, wooded ravines, the headwaters of the Clinton River, and a variety of wildlife including white-tailed deer. The centerpiece is Crooked Lake, a 68-acre lake with crystal-clear water that is free from the buzz of motorboats and jet skis.

The park has a 14-mile network of trails with most of it in a rugged, undeveloped area on the west side of the lake. There are three loops that can be combined to make a 3-mile loop that begins near the Lewis E. Wint Nature Center and leads across the park’s highest ridges along Crooked Lake. Cutting across the loop are several connector trails that allow you to shorten the hike.

On the east side of the lake are the paved trails that are popular with inline skaters. They include the river Loop, a paved 2.2 mile loop that includes a stretch though the Clinton River Flood Plain Natural Area, a wetland area, and the All-Visitors Loop that leads to an observation deck on Crooked Lake. The All-Visitors Trail is designed for individuals with disabilities.


  • A boat launch for non-motorized boats, seasonal rowboat, canoe, kayak and pedal boat rentals are on Crooked Lake. Catch and release fishing is allowed on Crooked Lake.
  • On east side of the lake are picnic areas, rental shelters, a ball field, sand volleyball courts, playground equipment, horseshoe pits and a beach with a bathhouse on Hidden Springs.
  • In the winter, the park offers cross-country skiing, ski rental, ice skating, ice fishing, and warming shelters. “The best groomed cross-country ski trails in southeast Michigan are at Independence Oaks” says Hour Detroit Magazine’s Best Winter Getaways List!

Nature Center:

  • The Lewis E. Wint Nature Center provides hands-on natural history exhibits and a feeding station viewing area. Year-round educational programs are conducted by the parks system’s natural resources staff. Specialized nature programs include StarLab, Nature Discovery and Scout Badge Days.

Cohn Amphitheater: Offers a shelter and fire circle and accommodates 150-200 guests for events or weddings. Bench seating is available.

Rubach Sensory Garden: Featuring a gazebo and water garden is located near visitor center.

Independence Oaks is just one of the facilities that make living in Clarkston, MI and the surrounding areas a desirable proposition. You can “vacation” after work or on the weekends and never be far from home.

Address: 9501 Sashabaw Road, Clarkston, MI (2-1/2 miles north of I-75 Exit 89)

Phone: 248-625-6473 (Wint Nature Center); 248-625-0877 (Park)

Park Hours of Operation: Approximately 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, or as posted at park entrance. Open year round. Closed Christmas Day.

Fees & Permits: Daily or annual vehicle permit required (available at the park) or online. Oakland County residents $5.00 per vehicle fee, daily, or $25.00 annual fee. Non-Oakland County residents $8.00 per vehicle fee, daily, or $46.00 annual fee.

E.L. Johnson Nature Center in Bloomfield Twp

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 23, 2012 by Pat Hansen


Shortly after World War II, the Olsen family purchased 16 acres along Franklin Rd and built the home that now serves as the caretaker residence at the Nature Center. They dredged the low, swampy area east of their home which eventually filled with natural underground spring water and formed the pond that visitors enjoy today. During the years the Olsen’s lived in the home, they created the natural sanctuary by planting thousands of trees, shrubs and wildflowers. They planted native species and experimented with species from other areas of the country as well. They introduced fish into the pond, and kept detailed records of the wildlife they observed on the property. The Olsen’s sold their beautiful property to the Bloomfield Hills School District in 1968.

Bloomfield Hills School District

The thriving and growing school district purchased additional acreage adjacent to the Olsen property, creating a thirty nine acre site to be used as a nature center to enhance the teaching of science. When Telegraph Road was widened in 1977, a multitude of trees were planted to somewhat screen the Nature Center from the busy road. When the district decided that a good way to enhance Michigan studies for students would be to purchase, relocate, and restore a log cabin of the early nineteenth century era, the availability of land at the Nature Center made it a logical destination site. The search for an existing cabin of that time period was to no avail, so the 1985 recreation millage funds were used to build a facsimile. It was completed in 1987 and was furnished to approximately represent the late 1800’s time period. Today, students and adult visitors, delight in the opportunity to enter the cabin and instantly step more than a hundred years backward in time. Today, the Bloomfield Hills School District integrates the Nature Center as part of the curriculum for grades 1 through 8.

In 2000, an additional .6 acres of land were donated to the Nature Center and subsequently generous grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the United States EPA, enabled the demolition of the two, thirty-year old “temporary”, classroom buildings, and the construction of a 5,000 square foot permanent structure designed along “Green” principles to serve as a Visitor Center as well as classroom space. The dedication of the building took place in September, 2006, and the Nature Center continues to serve students, community members and visitors throughout Oakland County, and beyond. The nature center was named the E.L. Johnson Nature Center in honor of the long time, dedicated school district superintendent, E. L. Johnson.

Trail Information

The Nature Center has nearly two miles of mulched trails. The distance around the perimeter trails is 9 tenths of a mile.

  • Pets – Pets are not allowed at the Nature Center due to the caged wildlife and other animals that roam freely on the property.
  • Bicycles – Not allowed on the trails.
  • Fees – There is no trail fee, however, donations are appreciated.
  • Cross Country Skiing Is allowed on all trails.
  • Snowshoeing Is allowed on all trails.
  • Jogging – Is allowed on the trails.
  • Restrooms – Available at Visitor Center
  • Handicapped Access and Strollers – There are no paved trails; however, most of the trails are hard-packed so wheel chairs and strollers can operate when conditions are dry.
  • Benches and Picnic Tables– There are a few scattered throughout the site.

Other Activities Offered at the Nature Center

  • Day Camps throughout the summer months. Registration is required.
  • Fishing on selected weekend dates from June through Aug.; catch and release only; must be accompanied by a parent. Registration required.
  • Fall Family Day featuring canoeing, fishing, crafts.
  • Bird Banding in May; registration required.
  • Maple Syrup tapping and making on selected weekend in March.

You may register online at for the Nature Center Camps or Call 248-433-0885.

The E. L. Johnson Nature Center is located at: 3325 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI.  Phone: 248-341-6485

The Information Center Exhibit Room is open on weekends only: Sat. 11-2 and Sun. 12-3

The trails are open week days from 8 am-7 pm; Sat. & Sun. 9 am-4 pm.

The Nature Center offers a peaceful respite from hectic schedules. You can walk the trails or just sit on the dock and watch the fish, frogs and turtles swim by.

Spring is Here … Well, Almost

Posted in Around Your Home, Lifestyle with tags , , , on March 13, 2012 by Pat Hansen

Here in Michigan, we have had spring teaser days, on and off, for almost three weeks. The forecast for this week promises to bring even warmer days. We know winter isn’t over until mid to late April in the lower part of Michigan so we try to enjoy the balmy spring weather whenever we can. Yesterday was a beautiful day, and better yet, it was Sunday, so many of us could get outside and enjoy the day.

The signs of spring were apparent. Mallard ducks were out on Quarton Lake in Birmingham. The weeping willow trees were yellow against the bright blue sky. Dog walkers and walkers alike were out everywhere. Parks and playgrounds were filled with children and their parents or nannies. Outdoor tables at restaurants were occupied with customers wanting to savor the first real taste of spring. Ice cream store owners enjoyed a briskly, successful day.

On the way back home I encountered 40 cyclists, paired in twos, racing down Cranbrook Road. This took a bit of patience on the part of drivers trying to get by them on a narrow road. It also brought to mind how vigilant we need to be when the warm weather arrives.

Along the east side of Lahser Road, near Quarton Road, there were two geese headed to an open ditch at the side of the road. Soon we will see them, with their offspring, swimming in the ponded water. Again, we will need to exercise caution as the geese and their goslings will wander across the road. I also spotted a red winged blackbird perched atop the marsh grass, undoubtedly, its nest was underway.

The birds have returned and soon their songs will fill the air. The birds are busy gathering materials for building their nests. Their nests will not only be in trees, but also on ledges, in chimneys, on balconies and occasionally on the ground.

Last year I had the thrill of watching a pair of mourning doves build a nest in a floral arrangement on a side wall of my porch. It was exciting to see the eggs hatch and the adult birds feed the little ones. It wasn’t long before the little ones left the nest. I hope they return this year. I have cleaned the area where the nest was, as suggested on an online bird site. The site stated that birds will return as long as the old nest has been removed and the site is clean.

It is likely the snow and cold will return again, but at least we know that spring is not far behind, and warm, sunny days are ahead.

Attracting Hummingbirds

Posted in Around Your Home, Green Building with tags , , , on May 5, 2011 by Pat Hansen

There are five different varieties of hummingbirds that have been spotted inMichigan between May and late August, the most common is the Ruby-throated hummingbird. The male has a red, metallic throat while the female is less colored with a white/gray throat. The female is the larger of the two. Gardeners and bird watchers are fascinated by these birds and often create gardens and hang feeders to attract them.

Because of the fast pace of their wings, they expend extreme amounts of energy, making it necessary for them to feed every 10 to 15 minutes from dawn until sunset.

Although hummingbirds eat tiny insects, they prefer nectar, which tends to be most abundant in trumpet-shaped flowers. They will also feed from other flowers, typically blooms that are reddish or purple in color.

Garden center specialists will often suggest using both a feeder, filled with sugar and water, and flowers or shrubs with high nectar content for attracting hummingbirds. The feeder should be in close proximity to the nectar producing plants.

The feeders are constructed to allow the birds to feed with ease. Many of the feeders are red, making them attractive to the birds. The sugar water is easy to make at home; a combination of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. After combining, bring the solution to a boil let it cool before filling the feeder. Boiling it will keep the solution fresher for a longer period of time, however, if the feeder is not emptied quickly, change the solution within a few days. Clean the feeder often to avoid mold spores and fermentation.  Never put honey into the feeder.  The recommended perennials, both spring blooming and summer blooming are often shown with bird symbols on the plant containers.

Some of the recommended perennials are:

  • Ajuga                         
  • Columbine
  • Dianthus
  • Iris
  • Bee Balm
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Bellflower
  • Coneflower
  • Coral Bells
  • Delphinium


Some recommended annuals are:

  • Salvia
  • Impatiens
  • Lantana
  • Hibiscus
  • Fuchsia
  • Petunia
  • Dahlia
  • Nasturtium
  • Snapdragon


Don’t forget the Honeysuckle and Trumpet vines, Azalea and Rhododendron shrubs.

If you want to encourage more hummingbirds to take up residence, plant several different hummingbird gardens in your yard with plenty of distance between them.  Hummers are territorial and will dive bomb other birds if they get too close to the food source.

It may take a season or two before the hummingbirds appear, but when they do, they will return every spring if the food source is available.

It’s for the Birds

Posted in Around Your Home with tags , , on November 17, 2010 by Pat Hansen

While putting away a glass bird bath for the winter a few weeks ago, I wondered how all the beautiful cardinals and finches it attracted would find a food and water source during the winter. I decided to do some research by visiting a store that specialized in bird feeders.

It was surprising to learn how many bird feeder styles are available. There are feeders that cater to the birds that have already visited the yard and patio, such as cardinals, finches and chickadees. The sighting of a red cardinal perched on a fence covered with snow, is one worthy of a photograph. With advice from the staff of the specialty store, I learned how to attract and feed them.

Things to remember:

  • Place the feeder where it is visible. Birds generally find their food by sight.
  • Sprinkle some seed on the ground to encourage the birds to the new feeding area.
  • Use a seed type or seed blend, based on the birds in the area.
  • Keep the feeder clean and the seed fresh.
  • Birds are attracted by activity; if a flock of sparrows deem the feeder a good source of food, other species will check out what all the fuss is about and the word will spread quickly.
  • An ample supply of a high-calorie food, such as suet, seed cylinders and peanuts is critical. Peanuts are a high-fat food that a variety of birds will eat for an energy- filled treat. To stay warm, birds will expend energy quickly, some losing up to 10% of their body weight on a cold night.
  • Birds store the needed calories as fat, but they can only store enough for 16 to 24 hours. This is why you will see birds in a panic at the feeder right before it gets dark and at first light.
  • A feeder, seed and water are the only requirements to get started with feeding. The local bird specialty store provides a variety of feeders. I found the staff to be very knowledgeable and helpful with selecting the appropriate feeder. They also gave me good advice about keeping uninvited squirrels and neighborhood cats away from the feeder. . . now, we’ll see if it works.
  • If you don’t live near a natural water source such as lake, pond or stream, you should consider providing a water source for the birds. Surprisingly, there are heated bird baths available, but also you can put out a plastic container filled with water to satisfy their needs.

Fortunately, for the birds, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 41 million Americans spend $2 billion annually on bird feed and the numbers are increasing yearly

Audubon Society

Wild Birds Unlimited

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