Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Little Birds

I've been reading the book Winter World by Bernd Heinrich. For years I've watched little chickadees and common red polls come to the bird feeder during freezing weather. I've wondered how little birds can survive the cold winters without fur boots and fur parka's. I've learned much from this guy that spent a lot of time outdoors in the woods watching animals, birds and bugs.

While we lived in Wasilla we had trouble with carpenter ants. Doug waged a war with them - they always came back - it seemed hopeless! He sprayed repeatedly. They would clean up their dead and be back again. He followed them outside the house and found a huge colony in an underground log. When he got rid of that log he got rid of the ants. (We found their ant cemetery in a pocket of insulation in the wall!)

In his book, Bernd wrote of his own struggle with carpenter ants and was going to call in an exterminator until he noticed that "a huge phalanx of red ants came in, waged war, and within one week heaps of still-wiggling dismembered carpenter ants and carpenter ant parts were strewn inside and outside the cabin. The raiders totally eradicated the carpenter ant colony, and then went back to their huge nest in the nearby field."

That's like fighting fire with fire! One can fight ants with ants! Although, I don't know if we have red ants in Alaska, that would be better than using insecticides - for the sake of our little birds. I've seen new ants in the yard the last few summers - they look like red ants, well - they are red.

From Minnesota:

Black-capped chickadees live throughout Minnesota in all seasons. In mid-May a pair starts excavating a nest hole in a tree in a forest or open space such as a back yard. Because of their tiny beaks, chickadees search for well-rotted wood, often in birch trees or pine stumps. Both parents quietly chip away or pull out the soft, dead wood to create a cavity 4 to 10 feet off the ground. They carry away most of the wood chips to fool predators looking for a nest to raid. To keep out larger birds, the little chickadees make their entrance hole only about the size of a quarter. They work seven to 10 days to make a cavity and spend another four days building a cuplike nest of moss, plant down, hair, feathers, and spider webs. The female lays and incubates six to eight speckled eggs. When the chicks emerge in about 12 days, both parents handle feeding chores. Young leave the cavity after about 16 days, but they follow their parents around, begging for food for another three or four weeks. YOUNG NATURALISTS

While basket weaving with Marie and Calli, Marie told about reading an article about chickadees with their normally tiny beaks growing long and out of control. I was bothered to hear that, it really troubles me. Since this was the first I've heard about it, I thought it was a new disease but bird-watchers have been -- watching --- this problem for a while and without a clue yet as to why. (I have been feeding chickadees for many years and have not observed this problem yet.)

I suspected insecticides. These little birds will use spider webs (which could be sprayed with insecticide) for their nests; and with the beetle bark war whole areas have been sprayed in an effort to get rid off these forest-killing beetles. Another possibility mentioned is bird seed, that possibly the seed was contaminated some where along the way. This trouble is concentrated in Northwestern USA and Alaska, specifically mentioned to be seen in South central Alaska where I live and Fairbanks - people feed birds everywhere. Another suspect is fire retardant. It was used in this area in 1986; Fairbanks area has big fires where this fire retardant is used most every summer. This idea makes sense to me since chickadees use rotted trees for nesting, woodpeckers bang on dead trees for grubs. Also mentioned are PCB's and DDE's

Researchers tested chickadees last year [1999] and found signs of PCBs-an industrial waste product from electronics manufacturing-in all birds, regardless of whether their beaks were deformed. The testers found very low concentrations of DDE, a byproduct of the pesticide DDT, in all of the affected birds. ALASKA SCIENCE FORUM

The bug and animal world's health troubles will soon move up into our people world. My haphazard use of chemicals to keep my environments comfortable is not a good thing. If it's going to trouble the animal kingdom it will surely begin to show up in my body too.

Marie told about another troubling story, a baby born with two faces.: Baby Girl Born With Two Faces Worshipped As Reincarnated God - FOX NEWS and Baby doing well month after birth. DAILY MAIL.

After reading about this baby I wondered what India's major industries were, then read about what they are doing about environmental protections along with their rapidly growing industries. Way too much pollution!

According to another study, while India's gross domestic product has increased 2.5 times over the past two decades, vehicular pollution has increased eight times, while pollution from industries has quadrupled. Corrosion In India.

I've sprayed around my house outdoors to keep spider populations down, but plan to employ fly swatters, magazines, books, good spider stomping shoes, my husband, my sons, my grandchildren - whatever or whoever is excellent at getting rid of spiders - this coming summer ----instead of insecticides. At least out on the decks where the little birds come to eat. Why? Because their troubles seem to 'come home to roost' ---eventually.


elizabeth embracing life said...

Wow, thanks so much for the education. I really enjoyed reading all of this. It's very sad, but the chemicals used in food is already having such negative affects on people, but often misdiagnosed.

Marie VW said...

Wow, that is really informative. Good research! I am reading this book by Barbara Kingsolver called "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life". I've really just started it, but I think it has a lot of information like that in it. She mostly writes fiction, but this one is kind've a journal of her attempts to personally produce everything her family will consume for a year. Makes me excited for a garden again this year. I think I might try grow a little bed of plants and maybe some vegetables right next to my little entrance. We'll see. I will remember to try use something more natural to deal with the pests.