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Backyard BIRD Sanctuary Update

December 12, 2013

FeedTreeSix months ago, for the first time in my life, I started a backyard Bird Sanctuary. I put out a few Feeders and waited. NOTHING. Not a single Bird showed up for the first few weeks. But the,,,,,all of a sudden…..I guess the word got out, and the Birds & critters started arriving.

Now, some months later, we have over 30 different kinds of Birds stopping in each day for a visit. We moved up to some 10 Feeders, a Salt lick and Gravel pile, as well as two different Watering pools. This also attracted the local Fox, Red squirrels and Chipmunks. The Rabbits and Possums come in after dark. It is a very important addition to your Feeders to have Watering holes, BirdsBATHSalt licks and a Gravel pile as part of your Feeders. The Birds need the water with their feed, and the gravel is part of the way that most birds help to digest their food.

To try and separate some of this feedings, we set up one specific Tree with a Corn feeder and open Nut Feeders for the critters. Otherwise they would come in and Bully the Birds for all the food. This has worked for the most part. BUT…….the Squirrels still come into the Bird feeding areas and chase away everyone, from time to time.

Corn

I have learned more in these last 6 months about Birds, then I have learned from a lifetime out on the Trails. Interactions, Feeding habits, how the weather affects the actions of the Birds. I realize that this set up Feeding center is not a copy of wild food feeding for these Birds. But it has given me great insight into Bird actions, songs and food habits.

I started out by asking the members of Hiking Michigan, for advice. This was a great place to start, because I received many, many helpful tips on what to feed the various Birds and what kind of Feeders to use. I also used a wonderful book called them6cOhcq-L2VJh5P9bW_Cciw “Backyard Bird Feeders Bible”. An outstanding book on almost everything you could think of about Bird Feeding.

But the most interesting thing I noticed, was that Birds act differently, depending on what other species are around, and what kind of feed is out for them. These preferences and interactions seem to vary. One Book may tell you one thing, and the actions observed in your particular Sanctuary, may be something completely different.

It is good to get all the advice from experienced Birders that you can get, and also read as much about the different Birds in YOUR part of the world. But the fine tuning of your feeders and Sanctuary, the feed YOU use, and where things are located, will come from YOUR observations of YOUR Sanctuary.

TwoBirds

I would like to Thank all the Hiking Michigan members who helped me get this going. It is one the most rewarding things I have done at my Home. It is so very relaxing watching the Birds & Critters come and visit each day, right here in my own backyard.

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Survival and Outdoor Saftey

December 1, 2013

A few years back many of the women Hikers started talking about feeling unsafe out on the Trails. This went for both Hiking and Biking. As a male, it was something I never much considered. So……after a few open Hike discussions, we sat down around a Campfire, and the women put together their thoughts on what they felt made them feel safer out on the Trails. What is good about these WOMEN SAFETY sheets, is that they where put together by women, for women. A women’s insight on feeling safer outdoors. We also exchanged ideas with one another on the simple things that did so much when it came to making anyone more safe out in the local Parks. You can Download the WOMENS SAFETY sheets here. The main intention for these Safety Sheets where for the comfort and safety of Women, out on the Trails. But the shared ideas here work well for EVERYONE out in the Parks, and also help out in a Survival situation.

WomenSafety-1

WomenSafety-2

It has been a few years since we all talked of this concern together. I have come to realize that there is much connected between personal safety and survival, while out in the Forests. Many of the items we may carry along with us for Survival, do double duty when it comes to personal safety. Here is a picture of what I carry on every Hike I take. The Bag that goes around my shoulder is my Camera bag, and I use it as a base to carry other survival and safety items. There are two different Flashlights. One is small, and also contains a magnifying glass, Compass and high pitched whistle. The other Flashlight is a very bright beam, that doubles as a signal light and is fashioned to be used as a stabbing tool.

The knife on the Camera bag strap has many, many uses. It works with my flint and magnesium strip to start a fire. It has a small wood cutter on one side of the blade. I keep this knife, sharp enough to shave with. In a defensive mode, it would easily cut directly through the thickest coat and reach the skin of any assailant. The Walking Stick I use is one of the older style types. It weighs a bit more, but it is indestructible, with a sharpened poker-like end to it. I certainly would not want to be “impaled” by this. There is a Cool web site that still make these older, self-defense style sticks, called “Bear Sticks”. You can check them out at the link here: BEAR STICKS  BearStick

Also dangling from my Camera bag is a small container of “Pepper Spray”. It was purchased at a local Police supply store. It contains the maximum legal strength of Pepper spray the public can use legally. With all the funny laws out there, the last thing anyone needs is to be sued for protecting ones self by spraying an individual attempting to attack you. Empty this small canister on an Attacker, and he or she, will definately be going to the ground. I also carry some “Pepper Wash” in one of the pockets of my Camera bag.

Because I use this Camera Bag as my base for Hiking, it allows me to carry quite a bit easily, over my shoulder with ease. This includes some goodies, and other personal needs like Insect repellent and Water. One of the very best SURVIVAL KITS I have ever seen, was put together by a friend-Jim, at M4040 web site. The items in his Survival Kit are store bought individually, or put together by what he had in his own home. It is OUTSTANDING! Download the M4040 Survival Kit here.

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SurvivalKit-2

SurvivalKit-3

Just as an extra thought here. There should be things we all should have packed in our Cars at all times, through every season, whether we are heading out to the Trails at that moment or not. These items make a great base for safety, and have many, many uses for Survival as well. Download the CAR OUTDOOR KIT here. It is amazing how many things we all use for outdoor survival, works for outdoor safety and self defense. I hope this article and Download sheets helps out everyone in feeling safe and calm while outdoors. Because isn’t one of the reasons we head outdoors is to feel good about things and calm about the world?

CARKit

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Getting Cold……What to do/What to wear??????

November 18, 2013

Technology has infiltrated almost everything we do these days. Even hitting the Trails and enjoying a Winter outdoor experience. When I was a Punk, we had leather Hi-top boots, which we coated with a substance called “Bear Greece”, for waterproofing. We used Wool socks and a Wool shirt. Pants where the most difficult item for cold conditions. We all know the rule that one NEVER wears a pair of Jeans for any outdoor adventure. The cotton base absorbs moisture, and the insulating value is ZERO!

So……with all this itchy Wool stuff, from Hats to socks, we took our primitive cloths out for a spin in the middle of winter. I have many remembrances of just plain freezing my butt off while snow shoeing or even strolling down a Trail in the snow. My Jeans would literally freeze solid on my legs. GREAT FUN!

All that has change over the last 40 years, especially more recently in the last 3-5 years now. The Synthetics have taken over. Now my boots are “GORTEX” lined, and insulated. I wear a multi-layer sock set-up, starting with a breathable pair of “POLYPROPYLENE” liner socks, topped by a combo synthetic/wool based otter sock. Warm feet is one of the Big 4 for Winter warmth.

Next is the head gear. No more solid wool hats. again, a combo of a breathable synthetic material, mixed with a wool based or POLYPROPYLENE/GORTEX material, allows one to vent your head if to hot, or cover up completely when the winter winds are blowing. This is number 2 of the Big 4, for winter Trail warmth and enjoyment.

Keeping your hands warm while out on the Trails in wintertime is another key ingredient for a full warmth set-up in the winter. We bleed away alot of heat through our hands, and if not properly warmed or heaven forbid they get wet, it could very well start the “Hypothermia”process. That is our biggest concern in the outdoors in the Wintertime. We will get back to that shortly.

The final ingredient in the Big 4 mix for keeping warm, safe and enjoying your outdoor winter experience is controlling your core body temperature. Once we loose that core body warmth while out on the winter Trails, it is hard to regain it. And that usually becomes the final stage before we start the deadly Hypothermia process.

For many years, the layering system was the best way to go out on the winter Trails. A Polypropylene first layer, followed by a wool shirt, a fleece vest and a possible fleece lined/GORTEX outer layer jacket. The GORTEX allowed for blocking the wind and wet snow, as well as letting and perspiration to wick away from our bodies. We can also vent ourselves by unzipping certain layers, or removing them all together. This is still one of my personal favorites for Winter wear.

But recently, technology has taken some huge strides for winter cloths. I am a gear nut, so I buy most of what comes out. Some things are useful and become a regular part of my outdoor wear, and other items just take up space in my closet. about 2 years ago, “COLUMBIA” came out with something called the “OMNI-HEAT & REPELLENTCY” system. This very thin material is used to line winter jackets, fleeces and almost anything these days.

On a very cold winter day, I now might just put on a single layer of POLYPROPYLENE or GORTEX combo, and slip on an OMNI-HEAT lightweight jacket. This leaves me with the maximum level of movement, with the ultimate level of warmth, wind and water protection. It is an amazing material. Once mixed with various GORTEX and POLYPROPYLENE layers, an entire winter outfit, from head-wear, to foot wear, can be put together and weigh almost nothing, and have the warmth value of 20 pounds of layered cloths.

Like Polypropylene and GORTEX, OMNI-HEAT comes in different thicknesses depending on what level of heat and protection you might be looking for, compared to what weight level of cloths you want to put on and drag along the Trails with you.

To some of you, this all may sound a bit more like Gear-head stuff, then actual Outdoor equipment selections. But once you realize how lightweight you can actually dress and still be toasty out on the Trails in winter, these high tech cloths are just wonderful! The ultimate protection from frost-bite and the killer Hypothermia, without being a “Rolly-Polly” of layered cloths, can make a big difference in how warm you are and safe you can be out in the winter snows of Michigan. Download our HIKING WINTER TIPS pdf file here.

WINTERTips-1

WINTERTips-2Hypothermia is something that can KILL. and it can come on very quickly. Sometimes without much notice, until it is to late and your miles from home base or fire or something that can save your life. It is well worth investigating these new synthetic materials for winter use. The wind and wet protection and the easy, lightweight warmth derived from these new materials, changes everything for winter fun.

The 10 ESSENTIALS for Fun and Safety out on the Trails. These 10 items was first created by a Seattle based Mountaineering group, back in the 1930s, and still stand tall to this very day. These common sense things that may seem like nothing, but are so easy to have with you, may very well be the difference between surviving and perishing out on the Trails. Always having water with you goes without saying.

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BIRDIES are Here……in DROVES!!!!!!

November 15, 2013

FinchThis has been a very interesting experience for me. After many, many years of leading Hikes and IDing birds, Volunteering for Bird Habitat re-newels, and generally enjoying spotting and watching for Birds out in the Field, I finally decided to start up Bird Feeders and Bird Habitats in my own yard.

One of the Feeding Trees

One of the Feeding Trees

When I first started a couple of months ago, I had absolutely NO results. Not a single bird showed up to sample any of the delectable treats I was leaving for them. I checked with local neighbors, who have been feeding the Birds for years in my area, and they told me that this was the slowest year for Birds coming to their Feeders, that they had ever experienced.

So I made a Post to all you HM people about this problem and concern I was having with the total lack of response to my Feeders and Bird habitat I was creating in my yard.

I received so many responses from you HM Hikers, it took me almost a week to sort through all the great advice.But it was sure worth it, and I now Thank all of you for your wonderful suggestions and directions in what to do.

I now have one of the most extensive Bird Sanctuaries in S.E.Michigan. 🙂 🙂 I have now erected over 8 different types of Feeders, from open Tray style, to Nut-filled tubes. I have Suet blocks and special Saffron seed feeders. I also have installed a Water-Bath at ground level, which has turned out to be extremely popular with ALL visitors.

m6cOhcq-L2VJh5P9bW_CciwBesides following the advice from all of you experienced and helpful HM members, I came across a Wonderful book thatSiskin has been, and will continue to be my “GO TOO” book on Bird Feeders and Backyard Bird habitats. It’s called the “Backyard Bird Feeders BIBLE”, by Sally Hayes. What an unbelievable Book. It covers everything from store-bought food, to creating your own mixes. I have followed much of the advice in this Book, and have come to find that the best advice I received from you HM people, where the advice most given in this Bird Bible.

All this Food, Water and other Goodies has also attracted other critters. 5 very old, fat Fox Squirrels, and one very small youngster. A unique Red Squirrel (what a treat), and 3 Chipmunks. I enjoy the Chipmunks, Red squirrel and small Fox Squirrels. But those large adult Fox squirrels are just plain Bullies and gluttons. By using some Pepper sprayed on the trees and ground, and chasing some of these squirrels with my Witches broom, :-), I have managed to keep the peace amongst all the critters so far.

All but one. A night visitor, who just wants to pull down feeders and destroy whatever he can get his hands on. A very large Possum. Still working on

No Trouble....Baby Squirrel

No Trouble….Baby Squirrel

a fix to deal with this guy. I do not wish to harm him, but he better behave or he will leave me with no alternative. Suggestions?

So……with weeks worth of patience, all the great advice from all you helpful HM Bird people, and an example of just about every food known to Bird-dom, the Birds are arriving in droves on a daily basis. The proper habitat, Trees and Bushes, not to mention plenty of cover, has attracted almost every species in the area. Now the neighbors are wandering by and wondering why they see flocks of Birds circling the property. 🙂 Finches of all colors, Sparrows of every type, Jays, Cardinals, various Woodpeckers, Juncos, Red-breasted and white breasted Nuthatches, Chickadees, Titmice, and even Pine Siskins. This is just the tip of the Bird list so far. New species discover the Sanctuary almost every day.

I am installing a couple of audio/video cameras to listen and watch the activity. Mostly to listen to all the sounds. And believe me there are many sounds. Next Spring I will be constructing a small Pond and waterfall, complete with Frogs, Turtles and even better habitat for even more Bird species.

Once again, I would like to say Thank You for all the suggestions and advice you HM Birders gave me in helping to put together the start of what will be an ever-growing Bird Feeding Sanctuary, here in Rochester.

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What Happened to the BIRDS????

November 3, 2013

A few weeks ago a made a Post requesting advice from all the HM members, on how to best attract Birds on my property. I received so many wonderful suggestions and ideas. So I went out to my nearest “BIRDS UNLIMITED” store and purchased all types of Bird feed and Feeders, and placed them all around my yard.

I have Suet blocks, Nut Feeders, general seed Feeders, you name it. I will make a separate Post on all the suggestions I received and all the research I did afterwards, in search of quality Bird Feed and Feeders. For now, I wanted to focus on something odd that has happened.

Well……I set up all these various Feeders around the Yard. The property has White Pine Trees and Apple Trees and many other species of Trees and shrubs. An all-round habitat for almost any kind of Bird. YET…….after more then two weeks, I have almost no visitors. No Birds at all.

I started to talking with neighbors and friends in the Rochester area, and they too have noticed that there has been very few Birds visiting their Feeders as well. Puzzling indeed? Many locals have told me they have not had a single Bird of any type, come and Feed. I realize we are just past the Migration time for Birds heading to their Winter grounds, or even shifting to their Winter food sources, but…….No Birds at all? Very odd?

I went and visited some of the local Parks and finally found some Birds. But very few and only in very selected areas. High food and water source areas. But these backyard Feeders,complete with Bird Baths and Water Feeders too, are attracting almost no Birds. And this seems to be something that just started happening this year, from August onward. So what is happening here?

Is this taking place all over the state? Up North as well? Please let me know and give some feed-back on what might be happening with our Birds. Like I mentioned. This is not held to any one species. It is across the board. All Birds seem to be hiding or have gone somewhere. What Happened Here??????

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Never to Young

October 14, 2013

I was reading a short Facebook post from a friend and it contained a picture of a youngster with a HUGE smile on her face. The post went on to say that now, her niece can ID a Mallard duck and Turkey. Probably something she will never forget.

All I could think of after reading this post was the many times my parents took me out to the forest and Parks, and the trips I made with the Scouts, as a youngster. These things I still remember to this very day. They have also influenced my entire life in so many different ways.

It is never to early to take the young ones out to the Parks. I can remember an early HIKE with Hiking Michigan, in which a couple brought their 1 year old. The Dad carried the youngster in a harness back carrier. I was walking behind him, and watched as the young one just stared at everything we passed and just “Cooooed” at the Birds, Trees and Flowers. You could feel the joy just coming from this child.

I am sure she remembers these Hikes her parents took her on, one way or another. Or at least she remembers the feelings she experienced in the calming and beautiful forests she was being exposed too. Because her parents took the time and made the effort to take her there. They’re Never to Young. 🙂

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FALL COLORS

October 8, 2013

FallLeavesIt is starting to be that time of year again. When the Trees & Bushes loose their greens and change to a colorful array of reds, yellows, oranges and pinks. There are specific reasons this takes place each year. The weather of course, is the trigger. But the scientific reasons are much deeper then the mear temperature changes at this time of year. Check out our sheet on, “WHY LEAVES CHANGE COLOR”.

What also makes this Info sheet interesting, is that with the knowledge on just why the leaves change, and what Trees & Bushes produce what colors, you can almost select the Fall colors you wish to observe. If you know where there are old Oak trees, you have a good chance of seeing some brilliant red and orange colors in the leaves. Create your own Fall Colors Tour. 🙂

WhyLeavesChange

We are very lucky here in Michigan, with some of the very best Fall colors anywhere. A few of my personal favorites in Southeastern Michigan are listed in our Info sheet called……“FALL COLOR TOURS”. The sheet describes some of the best places for Fall Colors in S.E.Michigan.

By understanding some of the reasons why the leaves change color, and what trees produce what specific colors, you can go to places in the area that will please your Fall Colors experience.

ColorsTour1

For instance……..Highland Recreation area (HAVEN HILL and the NATURAL AREA) have examples of almost every tree that grows in our state. This means you will see almost every Fall color imaginable there. Seven Lakes State Park is another example of a place that has so many different tree species, that you can see almost any co,or you desire there.

In Macomb county, Metro Park, Wolcott Mill, has many old Oak and Maple trees, since the area was settled so long ago. The deep reds and yellows there, are magnificent in these older trees. In the Park and on the old Farm roads that surround the Park, you will enjoy some outstanding colors.

There are of course, many beautiful places through out Michigan to view Fall Colors. Our Info sheet on the “FALL COLORS TOUR”, will help you get started in Southeastern Michigan, with some of the very best.

Here are a few Southeastern Michigan Park Maps to help you roam a bit deeper into the Fall Colors. The maps are free and all are recently GPSed and updated.

HIGHLAND Recreation Area (Haven Hill/Natural Area)

SEVEN Lakes State Park (Near the city of Holly)

WOLCOTT Mill Metro Park & Farm Center (Macomb county)

PONTIAC Lake Recreation Area (off of M59/Highland road, near Highland Rec.)

ORTONVILLE Recreation Area (NE of the city of Ortonville)

If you are looking for more Park maps, stop in at the Hiking Michigan web site, and visit the PARKS MAP Page.

 

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