Good Water Ripples
Volume I Issue 6 December, 2011
From the President’s Desk: 12/11/2011
The year has passed by so very quickly. I have been very honored to be your president this year. This chapter has so many wonderful, hard working members; it has been a pleasure to see all of the various plans turn into realities. We started the year by brainstorming what we wanted the chapter to look like in the future. With your help and hard work, we’ve come a long way towards accomplishing some of those goals.
Brainstorming Goal: Projects – Ongoing and lasting, variety involving not only grunt work but also education countywide. We’ve worked on projects including Twin Springs, Berry Springs, Hutto Lake., Taylor Regional Park, Round Rock’s Old Settler’s Park, and Rivery Park as well as the Healing Hands Healing Lands school presentations throughout eastern Williamson County.
Brainstorming Goal: Planning – Our 5 Year Plan Committee came up with workable goals and plans for the next five years as well as a One Year Action Plan to help us achieve them.
Brainstorming Goal: Charting Local Events. We not only created a list of events that occur yearly, we also participated in many of them: Kid’s City, Archaeology Day, Tree Planting, Earth Week at Georgetown Public Library, and Taylor Zest Fest. Plans are in place to participate in next year’s Red Poppy Fest.
Brainstorming Goal: Develop reusable displays – The Taylor crew created a wonderful display for Zest Fest. Winnie has almost finished the display for the Red Poppy Fest. I’ve created a display board that can be modified and reused as our activities grow and evolve.
Brainstorming Goal: Tenner Programs – Our Tenner Committee came up with guidelines for Tenner Programs. Winnie presented the first one at our September Meeting.
Brainstorming Goal: Monthly Public Service – Rivery Park and Berry Springs provide opportunities for service – from removing invasive plants, monitoring invertebrates, to prairie restoration and native plants at Berry Springs.
Brainstorming Goal – Speaker’s Board and a PowerPoint Library. We have identified some of our members as speakers and we have started a list of PowerPoint presentations that are ready to go.
It is usually good to plan more than one can accomplish. Our brainstorming ideas that will see progress in coming years are the Book Club, a reference book library and reading list, a signature annual fundraiser, a Junior Naturalist Program, and an education program for habitats, small acreages, and best practices. Some of these goals may not ever happen, but I suspect over time using our Five Year Plan and One Year Action Plans that many of these will become reality over time.
Winnie has created a Year in Review. It is amazing how much this Chapter has done, one step at a time, with many people pitching in to make things happen.
I want to thank each and every one of you for all the effort you have put into our Chapter Projects. I truly believe that our efforts make a difference.
Feeding Winter Birds
As the weather gets colder and seed producing plants go dormant, backyard feeders become an important food source for birds. Central Texas is the home for many wintering sparrows, kinglets, warblers and other bird species. With the exceptional drought, many natural food sources will not be available this year. Some birds will continue to migrate farther in search of dependable food resources. Backyard feeders bring nature into closer proximity and benefit humans by allowing us to observe more bird species and bird behaviors from the convenience of our windows. A birdbath or other water feature will also attract birds as well as provide a needed resource.
Backyard birds enjoy a variety of foods. Black oil sunflower seed is preferred over millet mixes because the birds can utilize the nutrients better from the sunflower seeds. Also millet encourages European house sparrows, which are not a native species and compete for resources with native birds. Black oil sunflower seeds may be placed in hanging feeders near windows or on flat ground feeders for ground foraging birds. There are hanging seed feeders that prevent squirrels either with wire mesh large enough for birds and too small for squirrels or that close the feeder openings when triggered by the weight of a squirrel.
Raw peanuts still in the shell make great food for blue Jays and even the small tufted titmouse. Eastern bluebirds appreciate mealy worms. Bluebirds prefer more open feeding locations, as they are an open grassland bird. Niger thistle will attract goldfinches.
Wild Birds Unlimited carries large seed cylinders that can last almost a month. The Supreme is a nice mix of black oil sunflowers and nuts. A domed squirrel baffle or weather guard may not keep the squirrels out, but will protect the seed cylinder from rain.
Wild Birds as well as Home Depot and Lowe’s carry various suet blocks. Choosing insect flavored suet encourages woodpeckers to frequent your yard. The fruit varieties also attract a different mix of birds as well as ensuring a balanced diet for your visiting birds.
I make a bark butter that I put in the crooks of my trees during the winter. The birds like it so well I have to put it out each day as they eat every bite they can find.
Bark Butter Recipe
1 – 2 lb jar of peanut butter (or Sunbutter)
1 – 2 lb box of lard
Cracked corn (available where bird seed is sold)
Dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, dried mixed fruit, etc)
Cornmeal (optional – can make a thicker consistency)
Nuts such as walnuts or pecans
Melt the peanut butter and lard together and mix thoroughly. When lard is completely melted, turn off heat and begin adding cracked corn. Add cracked corn until mixture is difficult to stir. Chop up dried fruit into ¼ inches pieces and add to mixture stirring thoroughly.
This recipe will fill 2 or more large jars of peanut butter and can be stored in any airtight container. If you’ve added enough cornmeal, you can also make square molds that fit the commercial suet block holders. Softer bark butter can be spread with a knife along tree branches or in ornamental wood crevices for the birds to find.
Sunbutter is made from sunflower seeds and might be a better choice in households where there are peanut butter allergies. It doesn’t matter what kind of peanut butter.
Christmas Bird Count
The Christmas Bird Count is an annual tradition for birders. Beginning on Christmas Day, 1900, Frank Chapman, an ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History and early officer the new Audubon Society proposed to count birds during the holidays rather than hunting them. This was to counter an existing hunting tradition of sports hunting competitions called “side hunts.” On Christmas Day hundreds of game and non-game birds were killed in the quest to win by bringing in the largest pile of feathered and furry quarry. Birds were also being over hunted to provide feathers for the millinery trade. Twenty seven birders participated in twenty five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day in places such as Toronto, Canada; Bristol Connecticut; Central Park, New York; Pueblo, Colorado; Oberlin, Ohio; Baldwin, Louisiana; and Pacific Grove California. Eighty-nine species were recorded. Today over 50,000 counters at more than 2000 locations from above the Artic Circle to southern most tip of South America participate in this Christmas Count.
Due to one man’s vision, the Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running wildlife census to access the health of bird populations. By comparing the data over time, this count provides information on the changes in bird populations. When dramatic changes become evident, it is easier to put conservation measures in place to preserve species. For example in the 1980’s the decline of wintering American Black Duck populations was documented and efforts were made to reduce the hunting pressure. The bird count data has documented range shifts in bird species helping us understand the effect of climate change on bird species. The Christmas Bird counts have provided the data for Audubon State of the Birds Reports, Common Birds in Decline, which includes species such as the Northern Bobwhite, Little Blue Heron, Rufous Hummingbird, and the Eastern Meadowlark. The twenty birds on this list have lost at least half their populations in just four decades.
The National Audubon Society in partnership with Bird Studies Canada, the North American Breeding Bird Survey and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology runs the Audubon Christmas Bird count. Volunteer Citizen Scientists survey birds for three weeks in December and early January. The information is submitted to a nationally based staff of scientists. Each bird count area is defined by a 7.5-mile radius from a central point. To set up a new official Christmas Bird Count area, you have to make an application that includes an assurance that there will be at least 10 participants to ensure continuing good coverage. It must not overlap an existing Bird Count area. There is a fee of $5.00 per participant to help defer the costs of compiling all the data at the national level. It is recommended that you run a trial count the season before so you can discover logistical issues and to make sure the circle has the best possible combination of local habitats and enough participants to adequately cover the area.
Here is a list of nearby Christmas Counts:
Granger CBC Saturday, December 31 Eric Carpenter
Balcones Canyonlands Monday, December 19
Bastrop Buescher State Parks – January 1st
Westcave CBC Tuesday, December 20
Hornsby Bend (Austin) Saturday, December 17
Georgetown CBC Friday December 16
Ed Rozenberg firstname.lastname@example.org
2012 Re-Certification Pin Announced!
The 2012 Re-certification pin is the Mexican Free-tailed bat and was announced at the recent Annual Meeting. The 2012 pin artwork was drawn by Jan Redden of the Gideon Lincecum Chapter. Thank you Jan for another job well done! The recertification pin will be available for order in the first quarter of the New Year. The pin certifies that a Master Naturalist volunteer has reached their annually required 40 hours of service and 8 hours of advanced training in the 2012 calendar year. All service and advanced training has to be completed and reported IN the year the pin is available. Once the calendar year is done the annual re-certification pin for that year retires and is no longer available. The 2011 re-certification pin was the Horned Lizard. A complete listing of past years’ pins can be found on the TMN website http://txmn.org