Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We Want Answers!

Oh my! It seems as though it's been quite some time since I have written... Readers are demanding to know why. Plus there are Name that Bird answers to reveal and winners to announce. In this blog post I will attempt to answer these questions, and quell any worries that the Grapevine may be disappearing.

Fear not! I am still here, only there is a little more of me now... apparently there is a little bun baking inside my oven that has been demanding even more of my time and energy than my loyal readers!

Unfortunately, this means my photography and art have been severely neglected. Crafting time has been replaced with all things Baby-- doctor visits, reading pregnancy and nutrition books, preparing the nursery, etc. I did have one last, very successful craft fair in July; and I may still find the time to list some new items before the holidays, and before the bambino arrives (which happen to be around the same time). I'm not promising any sort of regularity, but I will also make an attempt to keep the Grapevine active.

Now for the fun stuff. The last online version of Name that Bird was all the way back in May! This one was a straight up bird identification with a video and photo of the "mystery" bird. This is not one of your common backyard birds or a cartoon, so it was a little more challenging than some of the other contests. The bird in question is a Purple Martin.

If you couldn't identify this bird by it's physical features, another clue would be the gourd-shaped nest boxes. Purple Martins are a type of swallow that migrate north from South America during the breeding season, and nest in secondary cavities, such as old tree hollows or cliff ledges. On the East coast and in the Pacific Northwest, they have become dependent on human-provided nest boxes, usually in the form of a gourd or multi-compartment wood or metal house. The gourd style houses are usually man-made, but were originally made from actual gourds that were dried and hollowed out by Native Americans.

In other parts of the county, including the mountainous regions of the west, and along the California coast, the birds have not taken to the artificial nest boxes, and still use natural crevices of trees and cliffs to breed and raise their young. For more detailed information about Purple Martin migration and breeding, you should check out the Purple Martin Conservation Association. Congratulations to Sarah W. for correctly identifying the mystery swallow, and winning one of my handmade recycled photo tiles!

In July, I also held an in-person Name that Bird contest, at the Wedgwood Art Festival. Up for grabs this time was a copy of "A Spring Without Bees" by Michael Schacker. Rather than a handmade goodie, the prize was a little different this time, as a tribute to my dog, Lily, who passed away one year ago on July 7th. You are probably wondering what the connection is between bees and my dog. More specifically, it is the disappearance of the bees, and the cause of their disappearance that makes the connection. Lily died from cancer, which I believe may have been caused from the use of chemical-based flea medications. Despite my better judgment, and my usual adherence to natural remedies and an overall healthy alternative lifestyle, I did sometimes resort to these types of treatments to deal with those pervasive pests. While we can never know for certain what caused the cancer in the first place, it is known that some chemicals found in these flea remedies are carcinogenic, and coincidentally, the same chemicals found in the agricultural pesticides that are responsible for the disappearance of the bees!!

If you think this is a stretch, I encourage you to read the book. In addition to shedding light on the "mystery" of Colony Collapse Disorder, this book has strengthened my resolve to stick to organics and natural products even more so than before.

If you are Matthew K. from Wedgwood, then you get the chance to read it for free! Lots of people correctly identified the Cedar Waxwing from a photo display at my booth, but Matthew was the lucky one this time. Congratulations, Matthew!

Cedar Waxwings can be identified by their prominent black mask, slight tufted light-brown crest (sometimes more apparent than others), pale yellowish bellies, bright yellow tips on the tail feathers, and sometimes-hard-to-see brilliant red "wax droplets" on the wing tips.

They are a big fan of berries, so look for them in forested areas with lots of fruiting trees or flying over water, where they also like to feast on flying insects.

Another type of waxwing, which may cause some identity crisis, is the Bohemian Waxwing. The two are very similar in many ways, such as the black mask and yellow tail tip, but also have some specific differences that you can look for when trying to distinguish between the two:

The Bohemian Waxwing has a reddish brown head, and no white above the mask. Bellies are gray, rather than yellow, and the body is grayer overall. The under tail is reddish brown, rather than gray.

For more detailed information, photos, and voice identification, check out the Cornell Lab of Ornithology "All About Birds".


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