Best Birding In the World!

Birding in our Back Yard

We’ve traveled throughout the United States seeking interesting birds, and we just discovered the very best place.

It’s our backyard! Since we began actively diversifying the plants in our yard they’ve welcomed many new bird species to visit, rest, and eat. And, we live next to Faulke’s Heritage Woods, a 110 acres of shrubs and old trees that is a warbler and woodpecker haven.

Anyone who plants an array of bushes and grasses in their yard, even if it’s a tiny yard, can enjoy birding at home. Planting appropriate shrubs, mainly native species is important because some shrubs like barberry are invasive and crowd out beneficial plants.

Because the yard is right out the door, it is an easy place to grab the binoculars and a glass of wine or cup of tea and sit quietly.

Here’s what we’ve seen or heard in our yard in the past two weeks:

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Care for Your Rain Barrels This Summer

Problem with Hot Weather

A friend emailed today with this dilemma:  “I got a whiff of a horrible smell near my rain barrel. I looked inside, and there’s a horrible, putrid layer of something floating on the top of the water. I think it might have come from all the fuzz from the trees in the past few days. Do you think I should empty the barrel, scrub it out, and start over? I do have that screen over the top, but something obviously got through it and seems to be “growing” on top of the water.”





Three linked rain barrels

Keep your rain barrels clean in hot weather with these easy tips.

It’s important to do these three things to keep the water fresh:

1.  Clean gutters to keep leaves, catkins, and other stuff from getting into the barrel and clean the screen at the top of the barrel.
2.  Use the water.  Don’t let it stand in the barrel for too long.   If it’s really rainy water moves through the barrels and helps keep it fairly fresh.

3.  A couple of times during the summer empty the barrel, take the lid off, and wash it out with tap water.

4. Winding Pathways has cleaned the screens on our rain barrels several times already and after each rainstorm.  They tend to plug up most during the first few rainstorms.    It might also help to put a very small amount of chlorine bleach in the water.  It’s toxic to bacteria and molds that might live in the barrel.
A little practical maintenance will make using rain barrels a pleasure and help your plants.

Reflections on Heron Rookeries

Reflecting on Heron Rookeries

Guest blog by Sigrid Reynolds

Heron rookeries are one of the most peculiar sights you will see.

Heron Rookery

Photo by Sigrid Reynolds

Picture three large sycamore trees in the middle of a swamp in Ohio. Skunk cabbages, those harbingers of spring,  poke up along the early pioneer road that crosses these wetlands. One narrow parking spot across the street hosts cars and vans while up to 20 nature lovers with binoculars and huge camera lenses stand on the shoulder across the street. Clacking, clicking sounds pulse from the trees that host more than a score of messy stick nests. About half of them have great blue heron silhouettes standing sentry nearby. By late April, fluffy chicks poke their heads up from under a parent.  And, by June, the adolescent chicks, now the size of their parents, still demand food.

Hmmm, one’s mind drifts to adolescent humans taking over home acreage while ravenously emptying the fridge.

Great Access

This heron rookery between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio, has sheltered generations of great blue herons and has delighted visitors to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park every Spring. Rookeries abound across the US but few are as accessible as this one, less than eight miles off I-80. Along the same interstate in the Indiana Dunes, is an enormous rookery of up to 98 mating pairs.  It is closed to visitors during nesting season.

Herons return each year (as do the nature photographers) and re-inhabit their nests, adding more limbs and sticks as needed. One year in a Nebraska swamp, herons arrived to find an eagle pair has appropriated their home.


Eagles nest earlier than herons and find that their nest makes the perfect platform for more sticks. A tussle seems to go on between these two large species of birds.  YouTube has intriguing videos of eagles vs. herons.  Here is an amazing one. Usually, eagle activity won’t drive the herons away but does cause turmoil.

Human endeavors do drive off herons. When wetlands are drained for subdivisions, the amphibians and fish that feed herons disappear. So, these magnificent birds must seek a landscape that can sustain them and their hungry families.

Our parks and nature preserves protect these nesting sites so that we can continue to see the solitary visitors we welcome to our neighborhood ponds and creeks. I’m grateful for these preserves every time I sit on my back patio watching “our” heron arrive. He lands on a branch of my neighbor’s big pine to peruse food possibilities before he heads down to the shores of the small pond that marks our property line.

Great American Campout!


Ready for summer

So, Memorial Day is upon us!  Let’s get outside and play! This is a link to the National Wildlife Federation’s website. Share your summertime stories with others.


The 14th annual Great American Campout™ kicks off Saturday, June 23rd but with Memorial Day weekend upon us, now is a great time to get outside and jumpstart your summer of camping- no skill required! Pledge now through October to join thousands of campers across the country who will be camping to help Protect America’s Wildlife. And don’t miss out on your chance to a win a week-long stay at a Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Camp-Resort of your choice! 

Your pledge also counts towards our goal of 200,000 campers which will allow the National Wildlife Federation’s Trees for Wildlife™ program to donate 5000 native trees to help wildlife. 

Tell us about your public Campout event and encourage others to join in on the fun around your campfire!