Do Birds Like Milo?

Bird Seed

Sunflower seed, cracked corn, milo.

We recently bought a bag of cheap wild bird seed. It contained mostly milo with some sunflower, cracked corn, and millet mixed in. We should have known better but dumped a scoop of it on top of our platform feeder at Winding Pathways and watched what happened.

Birds swooped right in. Cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, and even a cardinal. They were joined by red-headed woodpeckers. The birds quickly devoured the sunflower seeds, then the corn, and finally the millet. They left the milo untouched.

Birds don’t like milo. Sure, they’ll eat it if they are hungry and there’s nothing else available, but they often leave it uneaten.

Milo is a type of sorghum grown in places too arid for corn. Its seeds are round, reddish, and about the size of a BB. The less expensive a bird seed blend is the more likely it is to have a high percent milo seed.

The very best all-around seed for feeding a diversity of seed-eating birds is black oil sunflower.  Many birds like cracked corn, which is inexpensive. Ground feeding birds like doves and juncos love millet, but they just don’t like milo.

Leave it in the store. It’s not a bargain.

Owls and “Mouseterious” Happenings

Guest Blogger, Sue Fehsinger of New Hampshire

Mice got into the hybrid system of my Prius and destroyed it. They also got into our greenhouse and ate some important seeds my husband  Bob was growing. These critters are a common problem, but we have always used live traps; after all, they were here first and are just doing what they need to do to survive. That is until they crossed the line and, reluctantly, we declared war and the snap traps and peanut butter came out.

Once a nature lover, always a nature lover, though, and hoping that some good can result, Bob puts the dead mice out in places where they will be found by “someone” looking for an easy meal.

Yesterday he had an amazing experience. He had caught a couple of mice and put them out but yesterday afternoon no one had taken them, so he moved them to a more open place. As he was crouching down, he felt something soft. An owl swooped down and took the mouse while Bob still had the tail in his hand. The owl remained still in a nearby tree, for the rest of the afternoon while the second mouse stayed on the ground and we waited to see what would happen next, but nothing happened before dark. This morning both are gone.

We have hosted at least one pair of Barred Owls for many years. We rarely see them, so yesterday was a real treat, but we regularly hear them (“Who cooks for you?”) Since mice are the secondary host for deer ticks (those are the ticks that carry Lyme disease) these owls and the yearly expanding family of hawks which also lives here are very welcome.

Be sure to take in the International Owl Center in Houston, MN, this winter. Their Owl Festival is scheduled for March 1-3, 2019. Whooo’s up for it?

Keeping Binoculars Handy

We celebrated the first day of 2019 with a drive in the country. An inch of crusty snow had fallen a few nights earlier, and the countryside looked wintry. Wildlife seemed tucked in on this frosty morning, but as we rounded a gravel road’s bend, we spotted 20 huge white birds in the stubble of a picked corn field.

They were too far away to identify. Were they snow geese or swans? Fortunately, our binoculars were at the ready and we were soon delighted to watch trumpeter swans feeding on corn missed by the combine.  

In previous years we would have had to rummage through coats, mini shovel, rope, and other debris stowed behind the pickup’s seat to find our binoculars. Too many times the birds we wanted to see departed before we found the optics. Not this time.

We recently received a Bino Dock device. It fits securely in a car or truck cup holder, making it easy to grab our binoculars quickly. Roof prism binoculars fit snugly into the Dock, reducing the odds of damage caused when optics are stored loosely under or behind a seat. More important they’re instantly available should we spot an unusual animal or even vintage airplane we want to observe more closely.

We found only one downside to the Bino Docks. Because they hold optics at the ready, they are visible from outside the vehicle. This could make them a target of thieves who are able to quietly and quickly break a side window and be off with valuables. We solved this problem by simply putting a dark colored baseball or stocking cap over the binoculars when we are away from the car. Remember it’s never wise to leave anything that appears to be valuable visible within a parked car. Stow them in the truck, under the seat, or cover them.

For information on Bino Docks see www.binodock.com

  Please note:   We were not paid to review Bino Docks.     

Hearing Aids Help Enjoy Wildlife

A tiny migrating warbler changed my life.  As I sat on my back deck a few springs ago a tiny bird landed on a twig about ten feet in front of me. I could see it singing but couldn’t hear a thing.

Military Training and Hearing Loss

My hearing loss probably started as an Army trainee in the late ‘60s guiding 50 caliber shells into a machine gun. Every time the gun spit a bullet downrange a massive blast of noise and pressure hit my skull. In later years I spent hours running chainsaws, vacuum cleaners, and lawn mowers. All to the detriment of my hearing.

Hearing loss is an insidious stealthy condition. It crept up on me so slowly and gradually that I never noticed it. My wife certainly knew something was going on as I increasingly asked her, and everyone else, to repeat sentences. Conversation in restaurants became challenging and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, became my constant companion. Night and day my ears never stop buzzing.

Call to Action

Dr. Jennifer Reekers

Fitting hearing aids is a process and building a relationship

Seeing, but not hearing, the warbler spurred me to call Dr. Jennifer Reekers at Heartland Hearing Center in Hiawatha, Iowa. Soon I was sitting opposite her in a hearing test booth that confirmed what I already Low-frequency sounds were easy to distinguish but my ability to detect other sounds dropped as high frequency increased.  Dr. Reekers shared good news. Thanks to modern technology she could improve my ability to hear and reduce the pesky tinnitus.

Shortly after receiving my new hearing aids I hiked a six-mile trail to Hanging Rock overlook at Effigy Mounds National Monument. Along the trail, I was serenaded by warblers and Orioles. In a moist trailside valley nature’s most beautiful sound brought me joy.  It was the first time I’d heard a wood thrush since my hearing declined.

Everyday Sources of Hearing Loss

Millions of Americans suffer hearing loss, often caused by loud noise exposure.   Although most people realize that gunshots and fireworks can cause hearing problems, few recognize that exposure to common everyday lower intensity noise causes gradual hearing loss.  Vacuum cleaners, blenders, coffee grinders, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and the dreadfully loud hand dryers in public restrooms can contribute to a permanent hearing loss.   Damage is cumulative.

Prevention!

Solutions exist! The best, by far, is to prevent hearing loss by protecting the ears from loud noise. Inexpensive muffs and plugs mute the scream of vacuum cleaners and power tools. I keep a pair by every noisy machine and always put them on before pushing the start button. Rather than allowing a restroom hand dryer I keep a clean handkerchief in my pocket and use it to dry my hands. Parents should be especially careful to protect their children’s hearing by choosing quiet toys over shrill ones and making sure kids wear muffs when exposed to noise.

Ironically enjoying music can contribute to hearing loss. Many concerts are at such a high decibel level that even short exposure can lead to lifelong hearing problems.   Fortunately, devices are available from audiologists that reduce the volume of noise entering the ear while retaining sound quality. They enable enjoyable safe listening.

Technology to the Rescue

By the time I recognized my hearing loss, it was too late to prevent it, but the hearing aids restored my ability to distinguish sounds. I will probably always have tinnitus, but technology has diminished its impact. These days I’m careful to muffle loud noise to avoid further damaging my hearing.

Thanks to Dr. Reekers my hearing aids help me enjoy conversation, birds, music, and more of life’s delightful sounds. I encourage everyone to protect their hearing from loud noise and to seek the help of an audiologist to improve their ability to distinguish sounds.

Man with binoculars

Birding again is a joy with hearing aids, thanks to Heartland Hearing

Update on a Young Redtail Hawk

Hawk in wading pool

Young hawk cooling off.

On May 31st just before we were leaving for an Outdoor Writers Association of America Conference, a friend messaged pictures to me of a large bird in her little dog wading pool.  It looked like a hawk of some sort. The day was super hot for late May and the bird seemed distressed.  Soon it wandered off.

Rich and I drove to our friend’s home and looked around, finding the bird burrowed into the cool, wet soil shaking its head as gnats and flies tormented it.  I emailed Dave Coates who has worked with eagle counting and asked if he had contacts for someone to rescue the bird.  He suggested the Mcbride Raptor Center that I knew had closed.

Then, Rich reminded me of Phil who works with raptors at the RARE group. (Raptor Advocacy, Rehabilitation, and Education is now the contact group).

I buzzed True Value on Mt. Vernon Rd. and the staff kindly put me in touch with Phil.

That is where our involvement stopped.  And, I had wondered several times since the outcome.

Dave emailed me in mid-June because he had also wondered about the outcome.  His email spurred me to follow up. Here is Nancy’s reply.

“The red-tailed hawk was taken to the RARE center by Phil where they fed her, gave her fluids and made sure she was healthy, then returned her to a tree in our yard. They thought the parents would find her and help her until her flying feathers were more mature. She stayed for about 24 hours but then she was gone. We’re hoping she reunited with a Mom hawk. Actually, I keep thinking I’ll see her in the wading pool again someday.”

So, all is well that ends well. This is the second raptor rescue of the season we have been involved in. Many thanks to folks who care enough to follow through.

Links to Stories of Wondrous Yards

The Gazette in Cedar Rapids has had several interesting nature stories connected to creating wondrous yards.  Living Section features “Birds do it, Bees do it”, “Add a Little Luck to Your Landscape” and Purslane (by Winding Pathways).  We loved reading about the birds and bees’ cooling strategies and welcomed the return of clover to yards as natural nitrogen fixers and deep-rooted water retention plants.  And, of course, we love to eat purslane.  Let us know ways you fix this healthy vegetable.

Also an article on wasps of late summer.  They are beneficial, ‘though deserve keeping distance.

First Chrysalis of Summer.

Success on the Bena Farm!

Best of all was the picture of the Monarch Chrysalis from friends, Nancy and Gordon Bena found on their farm.  Let’s keep encouraging habitat for insects that form the basis of life for many other creatures.