Monday, February 11, 2013
Friday, February 8, 2013
When feeding wild birds, make sure you feed high quality seed for maximum nutrition and energy. To attract the most species, black oil sunflower seed is the best. In addition to sunflower seeds, peanut chips provide a great source of fat and energy. This mix attracts nuthatches, cardinals, woodpeckers, chickadees, tufted titmice and house finches. Try not to feed the cheaper mixes, as this will attract unwanted, non-native house sparrows and starlings. In addition, nyjer seed in a thistle feeder will be devoured by goldfinches. Finally, birds love suet, which provides a concentrated source of energy. Suet should always be hung so that critters other than birds cannot get to it.
To attract a variety of birds, different types of feeders should be purchased. (Note, unless you want to be eaten out of house and home, squirrel proof feeders are a wise investment. There will be plenty of spilled seed on the ground for them to nibble on.) For a basic set up I suggest a hopper feeder, nyjer feeder and suet cage. Additionally, one can add a platform feeder close to the ground to attract birds such as sparrows, doves and juncos as well as a tube feeder for smaller birds.
It is vital that you provide a safe, hygienic feeding station for your avian guests. Please make sure that feeders are either at least 30 feet away or within 3 feet of windows so as to avoid deadly collisions, and make sure that there is cover nearby for the birds to retreat to. In addition, feeders need to be kept clean in order to prevent diseases from spreading through the local population. At least once a month, empty and clean your feeders with a mix of water and bleach. Please be sure to dry thoroughly before refilling.
Finally, because hundreds of millions of birds are killed by cats each year, I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping your cat indoors. A bird’s life is challenging enough, fraught with harsh weather conditions and natural predators. There is no need to tip the scales against them by allowing your cat to predate birds. For more information on this topic see: http://www.hobaudubon.org/pdfs/CatsIndoors.pdf
Saturday, September 1, 2012
HOBAS is proud to announce that we will be partnering with Community Cloud Forest Conservation (“CCFC”) by providing educational scholarships, at $150 each, for two young Guatemalan women to continue their schooling beyond the 6th grade. In order to earn these scholarships, which are privately funded, each scholarship recipient must attend agro-ecology camp, where they are taught sustainable agricultural practices, conservation of the cloud forests and family planning. Young women that show leadership skills in this scholarship program are invited into teaching roles for CCFC’s “Kids and Birds Initiative” program, which is funded by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. These young women teach the “Kids and Birds Initiative” curriculum to younger students in 8 remote mountain villages. HOBAS’ scholarships would specifically support girls who are being trained as teachers.
Why are we sending girls to school in Guatemala? The answer is simple. By providing these scholarships we are doing our part to protect the birds that visit our backyards and natural areas in the warmer months and contributing to the conservation of the cloud forests that they call home. Did you ever stop to think about where the Baltimore oriole you are enjoying in your backyard spends most of his time? What many people don’t realize is that “our” birds of spring and summer are really just visitors, and actually live the majority of their lives in tropical countries such as Guatemala!
Guatemala is a beautiful country, and consists of forested mountains, glimmering lakes, and extensive wildlife. It is a biologically rich country with over 720 species of birds, many of which are familiar to us. There is a high diversity of ecosystems and in fact, Guatemala represents nine different biomes, or geographic areas, that occur from sea level up to more than 4,000 meters above sea level.
In the heart of Guatemala's central highlands are the two mountain ranges of cloud forests, the Sierra Yalijux and the Sierra Sacranix. These two mountain ranges have been designated Important Bird Areas by BirdLife International. Over thirty species of neotropical migrants that visit Long Island call the cloud forest their home in winter, including: black-billed cuckoo, yellow-billed cuckoo, olive-sided flycatcher, wood thrush, golden-winged warbler, blue winged warbler, prothonotary warbler, worm eating warbler, Lousiana waterthrush, Kentucky warbler, black throated green warbler, hooded warbler, Northern waterthrush, American redstart, chestnut sided warbler, Nashville warbler, Canada warbler, Baltimore oriole, Blackburnian warbler and Swainsons thrush. Unfortunately, bird populations are declining around the world due to a myriad of factors.
In Guatemala deforestation is the main threat to the ecosystem since the local custom is to slash and burn vegetation in the areas to be farmed. In addition, monocultures are expanding rapidly in Guatemala due to the need to produce more efficiently to be able to compete in big export markets. As we know from our invasive species problems here on Long Island, monocultures crowd out native species, threatening ecological health and diversity. In addition, communities face many other challenges, including the lack of education, illiteracy, economic and social marginalization, extreme poverty, and runaway population growth.
With this in mind, reaching out to the younger generation is crucial in preserving local habitats. Instilling a pride and love of the forest, as well as providing sustainable agricultural methods will help preserve the cloud forest. More than a just an average scholarship, this program allows students to learn human nutrition, soil conservation, organic fertilizer production, integrated pest management, basic garden ecology, vegetable production, propagation of traditional crops, fruit tree management, production planning as well as family planning. Students learn to produce healthy food in harmony with the environment and participate in reforestation projects. Young women receiving work study scholarships come from the villages that border the cloud forest. As they work and learn on the school's agroecology campus, they recognize and appreciate the beauty and value of the forest that surrounds them and become committed to conservation.
There are many things that can be done to alleviate poverty and protect cloud forests, but in undeveloped countries such as Guatemala, education is of paramount importance. Education changes lives and transforms communities. For most young women, school beyond the sixth grade is out of reach. Faced with limited resources, parents are more likely to send their male children to classes. Girls then feel they have no choice but to marry at a very young age and start producing children, thereby adding to the overpopulation of these areas.
It has been proven around the world that by empowering women, you enrich and strengthen entire communities. These scholarships provide an option that these girls otherwise would not have. This benefits humans, but at the end of the day, it benefits the birds of the forests because a thriving and healthy indigenous people will protect and conserve their natural resources.
As you feed your Baltimore oriole an orange slice, or head out for warbler madness during migration, it is very easy to forget that these birds actually spend most of their time in the tropics. While it is vital that natural areas are preserved in the tropics, it is not enough to just set aside land. We must ensure that the local people who call that land their home are given knowledge and tools needed to protect the natural resources surrounding them. Habitat can be set aside, but without the cooperation of neighboring communities, these preserves will not be protected by those who are in the best position to act as stewards. Forests will still be cut down, wildlife killed for food, land degraded and its beauty ravished by non sustainable agricultural practices. Sending children to school in order to provide them with a better life and teaching them to cherish, protect and sustain their surroundings is a vital step in the process. In conservation, like links on a necklace, every component fits together.
Migrant birds travel thousands of miles to reach their breeding grounds, making stops along the way, acting as traveling ambassadors for conservation. By helping to provide youths in Guatemala with the tools needed to farm sustainably while instilling in them a sense of pride in their land, we are working to ensure that birds are protected and have a bright future. It is all connected. We are all connected. Investing in these young women in Guatemala is investing in conservation of birds. The Baltimore oriole in your yard today might winging its way back to Guatemala tomorrow. We need to protect birds, not just on a local level, but in their winter homes, stopover sites during migration, and breeding grounds. Conservation of birds is a global effort and we hope you will support us as we do our part to protect our feathered friends in every step of their journey!
Sunday, April 8, 2012
We all know we should be exercising. We have all been told countless times that it is good for us to engage in a fitness routine; but perhaps the thought of running on a treadmill, like the proverbial hamster on a wheel, has all the appeal of watching paint dry. Or, maybe you feel you ARE that hamster on the wheel…morning after morning…watching the clock, waiting for your 30 minutes to finally be up so you can hop off and get on with your day. Well, allow me to inform you of how you can not only enhance your exercise regimen, but do it in a way that will stimulate your mind, strengthen your body and nourish your soul. It is time to take working out to the great outdoors.
Let’s talk about the benefits of exercise. You have been told it will help you burn calories and stay trim. This is true. I am sure that we have all seen the articles, headlines and news shows. Daily physical activity not only will help you maintain an ideal weight, it is vital to your health. Working out will help fend off heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and slow the aging process. Weight bearing exercises, such as walking, have been proven to help prevent osteoporosis. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help alleviate mild depression as well as antidepressants do. Exercise literally can extend and perhaps even save your life.
Hiking is an ideal exercise. The reasons are simple. It is fun, and it works. Based on research, a 150 pound person, walking at just 2 miles per hour, can burn 240 calories an hour. Add on a backpack and you are getting a terrific cardiovascular workout, while strengthening your muscles. These muscles are engaged much more than they would be while walking on a treadmill or street due to the uneven surface of trails. Add uphill climbs into the hike and you are really working those quads, glutes and abs. Hiking uphill is an incredible calorie blaster!
In addition to the physical benefits, you can also help keep your mind sharp with the addition of an activity such as birding or identifying plants and wildflowers. Studies have shown that engaging in intellectually stimulating activities can keep your brain functioning at a much sharper level. Why not try to engage your brain while you are at it? There is also an added bonus: the possibility of wildlife sightings, especially if you hike near dawn or dusk, which lends an air of excitement to your walk down the trail.
The final benefit of hiking is the sense of peace that nature brings. Connecting with the natural world is a way to retain your sanity, a way to forget, for a few hours, about the everyday stresses of life. Standing at the summit of a mountain, the edge of a wildflower filled meadow or the shoreline of a shimmering lake can fill you with a sense of awe and accomplishment. Not something you typically feel as you hop off the treadmill I bet!
It is simple to get started. As always, you should consult your physician before engaging in any new exercise program. You will need to find out what equipment is needed. Proper footwear and a backpack are essential, especially on longer or more rugged trails. Always have more water and food than you think you will need before you head out. Now, you just need to decide where to go!
The tri-state area is filled with state parks, preserves and national wildlife refuges. Long Island abounds with nature preserves and parks. The Catskill, Adirondack and Shawangunk Mountains are all within a day’s drive of Long Island. Numerous other nature preserves and parks are scattered throughout the metro New York area. It is just a matter of doing some research. Hiking can be as easy as a simple ramble through a small preserve near your home, or as strenuous as climbing the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. There are trails to be found for every fitness level.
If you are apprehensive about venturing out on your own, there are plenty of ways to participate with like minded people. Hiking clubs such as the Adirondack and Appalachian Mountain Clubs offer hikes for every fitness level. Environmental and conservation organizations, such as The National Audubon Society, Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy offer group hikes, along with birding and botany walks. Check online and see what these clubs and organizations have to offer. Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon offers a wide array of outdoor activities, ranging from bird walks to hikes to paddling trips (another fun calorie blaster). Many of you are probably not even aware of the abundance of resources and natural areas that are within a short driving distance, perhaps even in your own neighborhood.
Hiking is truly a full body experience as well as outstanding workout. Your fitness level, intellectual health and even your emotional health can all benefit from taking a walk in the woods.
The next time someone says to you, “Go take a hike!” take them up on it! It just might prolong and enhance your life.
The summit of Crane Mountain, the Adirondacks, NY