Happy Hummer Season! Welcoming, Helping, and Attracting Hummingbirds In Your Neighborhood

Happy Hummer Season!  Soon the buzzing and whirring sounds of rapidly beating wings and flashes of color will be filling the air in our backyards once again. The hummingbirds return!

My earliest memories of hummingbirds from many years ago recall the stern admonition and warning from my Mother, taking a page from the ‘Mother’s Guide to Eyes & BB Guns’ — “Don’t go anywhere near the hummingbirds or bother them. They’ll poke your eye out with that bill of theirs!” 

This has always seemed out of character with my Mother’s deep love for all things ‘nature’, but she nevertheless firmly stood by it all thru the years. Maybe she knew someone from her past that had an unfortunate run-in with a disgruntled hummingbird. But I tend to doubt it.

Despite the “Eye Poke” warning, we planted a never-ending stream of flowers and butterfly bushes over the years to attract them, and it was always a special time celebrating new arrivals each Spring. It seemed that Summer would not really be Summer without Hummingbirds buzzing around our flower gardens!

Hummingbirds are a joy to observe in the backyard as they hover, flit and fly about, and will very soon be arriving back to summer homes in North America from winter stays in Southern Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and other regions of Central America. Hanging a nectar feeder to greet their arrival in Spring will help immensely as they arrive thirsty and in quick need of nourishment following their long migrations northward.

To find out when to expect the arrival of regional hummingbirds in your area, check out the Audubon Guide.  Residents in the South and along the Gulf shores should expect them first and have feeders out, available, and at the ready. When the tiny hummingbirds arrive after long journeys across the Gulf of Mexico from Central and South America they are famished, exhausted, and in need of quick energy resupply!


Providing a hummingbird feeder in your yard helps to renourish the little hummers quickly and get them off to a healthier start for the coming breeding season after their arduous travels northward, and can be both a source of entertainment and a healthy learning experience for the children in your family as they learn more about nature.

If unprepared in the Spring, not to worry. It is never too late during the season to put your first feeder out for hummingbirds, and extra feeders in the fall are very important for both local birds to prepare for southern migrations and for those passing thru from up north on their way south. It’s never too late to start.

Hummingbirds need to consume several times their body weight in food intake each day and are necessarily always on the lookout for flowering plants to quench their thirst and maintain energy.  Flowering plants for the hummingbirds are much more numerous and available during the summer months, so providing an early supplementary food source with a hummingbird feeder can help them get thru leaner spells in springtime when flowers and natural food sources are not yet as numerous.

There is no need to worry about supplementing their diet with a feeder and distracting hummingbirds from natural food sources, as they will continue to seek out and consume plant nectar, small insects, and tree saps to prepare for the breeding season, and then later feeding their young in the nest. And later still, preparing for fall southern migrations back to their winter homes.


To select the best feeder, choose one that can be easily cleaned on the inside to prevent contamination and illness for the birds, and one that is brightly colored with lots of red to get their attention and attract them to your feeder.

If you have few hummingbirds in your area, completely filling the feeder is not necessary, to not waste the nectar mixture. As the season progresses, filling the feeder to the brim may be more advisable as the birds will be visiting more often to drink and the feeders will probably be even busier with greater numbers in the summer heat and growing families.

If there are a large number of hummers in your area, a larger feeder with a greater number of feeding ports can help to reduce territorial conflicts brought about by the hummingbirds’ natural territoriality and competitiveness to guard the feeding source by allowing more birds to access the feeder. Everyone enjoys a little elbow room.

Feeders can be inexpensive and plain, or very decorative and ornamental.  The hummingbirds only care about the nectar and happily leave design and decor choices to the humans’ personal tastes.  But it is important for any feeder to contain a good deal of bright red coloration.  Hummingbirds are naturally attracted to brightly colored flowers, including yellows, oranges, pinks, and purples, but are drawn to the color red much more than any other color as it signals a food source to the tiny bird, so they naturally associate the color red with food.

Wearing a bright red shirt one hot day last summer, a hummingbird approached and examined me closely before sadly moving on, clearly disappointed after determining that the giant flower he thought he had joyfully discovered was not in fact, a flower.


There is no need to purchase pre-packaged hummingbird food mixes in the store, as a perfect nectar mix can be easily and inexpensively prepared in your home kitchen using only sugar and water as the ingredients.

It is important to prepare the nectar supplement mixture using only Refined White Sugar, as honey can promote dangerous and harmful fungal growth and should never be used. In addition, organic, natural and raw sugars may all contain excessive levels of iron which can be harmful to the birds. Plain, white refined sugar is sucrose, which when mixed with water comes the closest to matching the chemical composition of naturally occurring nectar in the wild.

With a brightly colored red feeder, there is no need to add red food coloring to the nectar mixture, as the chemicals in food coloring can be harmful to the hummingbirds.


To prepare the nectar mixture, simply mix 1/4 Cup of Refined White Sugar in 1 Cup of Boiling Water until the sugar is all dissolved, or a ratio of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water if preparing a larger amount. Let the mixture cool and then fill the feeder and hang it outside for the birds. Simple as that.


For best results, hang the feeders preferably about head high so you do not need a ladder to reach it for cleaning and refilling, and also in the shade to keep the nectar from spoiling as quickly as it would in the full sun.  The nectar will serve as a healthy and beneficial supplement to the birds’ natural nectar diet in springtime, and then all summer long as well, providing the birds with an extra and welcome energy boost at the end of long, hot, and dry summer days.


Keeping the feeders freshly filled and available for the birds when fall arrives and having the extra nectar nourishment available will help your little neighborhood hummingbirds restrengthen after the breeding season is finished, boosting energy and helping them to prepare for their long migration back to southern wintering grounds.

Autumn feeders will also provide welcome and needed nourishment to migrating birds passing thru on their way south. Because of the influx and numbers of migrating birds, putting additional hummingbird feeders out in the fall can actually be very helpful in providing needed migration energy for all.

Extra nectar mix may be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks in a clean glass or plastic container.  If the mix in the feeder becomes cloudy or mucky, it should be discarded and the feeder cleaned.  The feeder should be cleaned regularly every few days, especially during hot weather to keep it free from mold and mildew, as nectar is a food and will spoil. We usually clean ours every other day just to be safe.

Feeders can be cleaned using various sized bottle brushes and by soaking them in a mixture of 1 part plain white vinegar and two parts hot water, then thoroughly rinsing to keep the birds healthy.

If black mold is detected, soaking for an hour in a bleach mixture of 1/4 cup bleach to a gallon of water can be done, followed by a very thorough rinsing. Mold should not be an issue if the feeders are cleaned regularly.

To control and keep away uninvited wasps and bees which may visit hummingbird feeders, avoid choosing a feeder with the color yellow on it, as yellow is known to attract them.  Some feeders have built-in water moats which protect against ants contaminating the nectar, and some have screens over openings which only allow the hummingbird’s long tongue to enter, keeping bees and other insects out.

For additional tips to prevent the problem of unwanted insect visitors,  visit Control All Insects On Nectar Feeders.  In years of feeding hummingbirds with different types of feeders, we have never really had a problem with either mold or uninvited guests.


Hummingbirds can be territorial, especially during breeding season, so there is no harm in hanging out more than one feeder, which may result in even more visitors to your yard.  If possible and for the best results, hang additional feeders out of the line of sight from one to another to attract more birds and to diminish conflicts over territory.

Adding native plants for your regional area and growing them in your garden and yard will also help the hummingbirds by providing natural shelter and food, including a healthy environment for insects. Many are surprised to learn that insects provide an important part of the hummingbird’s diet, especially during the breeding season.

For help in selecting the best native plants for not only hummingbirds but all birds, a great resource to check out is Audubon’s Native Plant Database. Simply enter your zip code to find the recommendations of local experts in your area for your yard. Then you can narrow down the search by the type of birds and/or plants you have in mind.


So, happy Hummer Season!  Little Red Bear and I hope this guide to helping the hummingbirds was helpful, and that both you and your family are able to experience the joys and delights of watching the amazing aerial displays and acrobatics of hummingbirds all summer long. Teaching children about the wonders of Mother Nature can never begin too early, and hummingbirds are fascinating and captivating to watch for all ages.

Likes, Comments, and Shares are always appreciated to help spread the word to others about Mother Nature and helping to make the world a better place for everyone.

Thanks as always for visiting and spending part of your day with us.  Join us in the “Smile & Compliment” club and help brighten someone’s life today!  — Jim (and Red!)


“Kindness is the sunshine in which virtue grows.” — Robert Green Ingersoll

~ Every Day is Earth Day.   Think Globally — Act Locally. ~


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

                   “The woods hold not such another gem as the nest of the hummingbird.                   The finding of one is an event.” – John Burroughs


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.

Because together we can do so much!


“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” — Vincent van Gogh

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the Earth are never alone or weary of life.” – Rachel Carson


 

Happy Spring! — On Singing Birds, Baby Rabbits, and Our New Video “Springtime in Little Red Bear Land!”

Happy Spring!  Long awaited, Spring seems to have finally arrived here in the Central Midwest, while other areas to the north are still being buffeted by Winter-like storms.  Two days in the past week reached 80F degrees and doggone it the calendar says April 15th, so with all due respect to Jack Frost and Ol’ Man Winter, Little Red Bear and I are firmly declaring “Welcome Spring!”

As I write this, the windows are open and two Cardinals are singing lustily back and forth in the front of my home, while a House Finch sings for his enchanted in the back. An untold number of English Sparrows are embroiled in loud and urgent arguments over prime nesting spots behind outdoor lamp fixtures around the building.

Robins have been hopping along on the grass for a few weeks now, and I was blessed to see the arrival of a pair of Goldfinches yesterday morning, the first seen this year. The House Wrens have yet to arrive in my neighborhood, but they are usually among the last to arrive, along with the Hummingbirds.

Birds are dashing here and there hurriedly weaving and constructing new nests, while bear cubs, fox kits, and other babies are emerging from dens. A good time to remind to please be careful when driving or out and about with activities, to please be watchful for Mother Nature’s sometimes clumsy and careless new youngsters scurrying about, and to be mindful of spring families and nesting sites, including nesting shorebirds if visiting the beaches.

Because — Spring has arrived!


Little Red Bear has been hard at work on a new video celebrating “Springtime in Little Red Bear Land” and decided it was time to share it with everyone. As the Director of our videos, Little Red Bear has added a new wrinkle to this one, incorporating mini videos within the primary video.  Please let us know if you like our new mini “videos-in-a-video” approach because Red’s always trying new things to make them better and more entertaining for everyone.

Very special “Thank You’s!” to our dear photographer friends Adele Barger Wilson, Marilyn Schroeder, Matt and Delia of M&D Hills Photography, and Sallie J. Woodring Photography for the generous use of their images to create this video, along with images and video inserts from Pixabay.

Our hope is that even though some areas may still be held in Winter’s icy grip, Little Red Bear’s video will help bring warming thoughts of Spring to arrive soon.

We hope you enjoy Little Red Bear’s new video, and if so would truly appreciate a “Thumbs-Up” on YouTube to help other people find their way to it. Likes, Comments, and Shares are always appreciated! Happy Springtime!

When Spring arrives in your backyard — Open the windows! Listen to the songbirds! Watch the baby animals bouncing around! Walk barefoot in the new green grass! Plant a garden with some flowers for the bees and pollinators! Get dirty! Jump in a rain puddle! Take a hike and enjoy all of Mother Nature’s Springtime blessings!

If you have Dandelions popping up here and there in your yard this Spring, please check out “Please Don’t Pull The Dandelions — They’re Nature’s Gift!” before cranking up the lawn mower or reaching for the weed puller.


Jeffrey and Jolene are a pair of cottontail rabbits who live with their family beneath Red’s cabin in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories, invited there along with others by Little Red Bear for protection against marauding packs of weasels. But not all rabbit families are so lucky to have a caring and helpful bear in the neighborhood. So, while pushing or riding the lawn mower this Spring, please be watchful to navigate around rabbit nests with babies in your yard.

A quick walk around the yard while picking up winter twigs and debris before mowing, searching for depressions in the ground and grass, can reveal any nests to be easily avoided later when mowing. Be on the lookout for fluffy tufts of the mother rabbit’s fur or for what otherwise may appear to be simply brown patches of dead grass. There may be a nest beneath, and a quick inspection will reveal it.

If you find one, simply leave a six-foot circle of unmowed grass around the nest, and then keep children and pets away for a few weeks. For more information and a quick little video, check out How To Spot A Rabbit Nest Before Mowing Your Lawn from Ontario Wildlife Removal, Inc. The mother rabbit rarely visits the nest during daylight hours (to avoid tipping off the nest’s location to predators), so not seeing any rabbits in your yard is not an indication that there are no nests. Please take a few minutes to simply walk around your yard before mowing to avoid any tragedies.

The baby rabbits only stay in a nest for about three weeks, so while leaving a circle of uncut grass around a nest for a few weeks is not really a big deal for us, it can be a lifesaver for baby rabbits!


If you would like to check out more of our videos, please visit Little Red Bear’s Homespun Videos page to see all that Red has produced to date.

Thanks always for visiting and spending part of your day with us!  Wishing you and your family a very Happy Spring! — Jim (and Red!)


“In spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” –  Margaret Atwood

“To pick a flower is so much more satisfying than just observing it, or photographing it . . .                        So, in later years, I have grown in my garden as many flowers as possible                       for children to pick.” – Anne Scott-James 


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“In springtime, love is carried on the breeze. Watch out for flying passion and kisses whizzing by your head.” –  Emma Racine Defleur


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.

Because together we can do so much!


” Spring is nature’s way of saying — ‘Let’s party!’ ” –  Robin Williams


 

For Daffodils — Cheerful Little Trumpets of Spring!

It has been a prolonged and challenging struggle towards Spring here in this section of the Midwest, with late accumulating snows and unseasonably cold temperatures. Emerging daffodils standing knee-deep in snow, bent over, and huddled for warmth.

Yet, despite it all, the little daffodils in front of my home have stubbornly persisted to send forth their bright and cheerful yellow flowers once again, heralding the pending and long-awaited arrival of Spring.

Here then, for National Poetry Month and our Daffodils, the “Cheerful Little Trumpets of Spring” . . . .


Our cheery little daffodil,

There — blooming on the hill.

Stoutly braving both snow and chill,

Providing us all an early thrill.

Stout-hearted little daffodil,

My heart with Spring’s warmth, you fill.

Brightly courageous little daffodil,

Serene and peaceful, never shrill.

Oh! Our spunky and brave little daffodil,

In shadows and gloom, you inspire me still.


Thank You always for visiting and spending part of your day with us. We each can make a positive difference in the world. Choose to be courageous — to be a cheery, hopeful daffodil in someone’s chilly winter’s day. — Jim  (and Red!)



“Daffodils are yellow trumpets of spring.” — Richard L. Ratliff


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes. Because together we can do so much!


“She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head.
And whispered to her neighbor — ‘Winter is dead.’ ” — A. A. Milne 

“The Legend of the Dogwood”

A weekend drive to attend one of my sons’ weddings in Orlando, Florida could not have been more perfectly timed. Driving thru the scenic mountain country of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia each way revealed beautiful dogwood trees with white and pink flower blossoms on full display in otherwise open woodlands, with the much larger and later emerging hardwoods still bare of leaves to hide them from view. Driving thru the same locations a week earlier or later, and it may well have been a different scene.

Walking thru the woodlands in early springtime with a bit of chill in the air, one of my favorite sights has always been witnessing the annual blooming of the Dogwood Trees in gentle displays of pink and white, scattered over the hillsides.

Along with early arriving songbirds back from winter migrations, the dogwoods each year signal the arrival of spring, with its promise of beauty, hope, and new beginnings.

Being smaller and a spindlier understory tree, the dogwood is one of the very first trees to bloom in warming rays of the early spring sun, before other much larger oak and hardwood tree neighbors have fully leafed out and cover it over in preferred shade like an umbrella, shielding dogwoods then from the blazing sunlight and heat for the remainder of the summer season.

There is a legend told of the Dogwood Tree, perhaps one of the oldest legends of the Christian era, that in the time of Jesus of Nazareth and the crucifixion, the dogwood was the size of mighty oak trees, so strong and firm that it was chosen as the timber for Jesus’ cross.

This story is not to be found in the Bible and the author is unknown, yet generations have told and retold The Legend of the Dogwood so that it has persisted thru time. If not factual, in the least it is interesting that the story of the dogwood has meant so much to so many through the ages, that generations of repetition have served to keep the story and legend alive to this day.

To be used for such a purpose as the crucifixion greatly distressed the tree. Nailed upon it, in His compassion Jesus sensed the sadness, sorrow, and suffering of the tree, and in His mercy assured that it would never be used for such purpose again.

Dense and fine-grained, dogwood timber has been highly prized over the years for small projects, fashioning the wood into such purposeful items as loom shuttles, tool handles, canes, mountain dulcimers, and more. Peeling off the bark and biting the twigs, early pioneers would use dogwoods to scrub and brush their teeth. But the dogwood tree was never again to grow large enough to be used for purposes as it had been that day as a cross for crucifixion, according to the legend.

Even now as a testament to the day, the petals of the Dogwood Tree grow in the shape of a cross, with each petal bearing the reddish stains of blood and a rusty nail, with the crown of thorns in the center, following the legend.


— “The Legend of the Dogwood” —

“And Jesus said . . . . . . . . . 

“Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross . . . .

“Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted, and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross . . . two long and two short petals . . . .

“And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns . . . .

“. . . . and all who see it will remember.”


Thanks as always for visiting and spending part of your day with us. The Dogwood Tree and its blossoms are a beautiful symbol and annual reminder not only of nature’s gentle beauty, but also of mercy, forgiveness, compassion, love, and peace for us all to take to heart and share. Won’t you visit with Mother Nature today?   – Jim (and Red!)


  “Sometimes Mother Nature has the answers when you do not even know the questions.”   – Keith Wynn

“Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life.” – Rachel Carson


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Never does nature say one thing and wisdom another.” – Juvenal


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes. Because together we can do so much!


“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.” – George Washington Carver


Please Don’t Pull The Dandelions — They’re Nature’s Gift!

Oh my gosh!  It’s early Spring and here come the dandelions all over the yard.  What to do?!?

Answer — absolutely nothing.  Relax, have an iced tea, and simply leave them be. We really dig dandelions here, but perhaps not in the way some may imagine.

My father, noted for his dandelions obsession, would have me busy every available free moment years ago it seemed, dandelion puller in hand, sent out to pull and dispatch the lowly yellow flowers out of our burgeoning green lawn.

“Now, get down deep and pull ’em up by the roots or they’ll surely come back on us, son!”

My idea of true technological progress was when my father came home one day with a long-handled dandelion puller newly purchased from the hardware store, one I didn’t have to bend over all day with or crawl around the yard on hands and knees.  Yep, modern science had come a long way. I could pull ’em standing up!

In the suburban sprawl era of the early 60’s with new subdivisions sprouting up everywhere, my father could and did spend hours talking with other men in the neighborhood about — Grass.  Seriously weighing the merits of one variety versus another and how best to care for their lawns. Those out there on the very cutting edge of technology were experimenting with the new Zoysia Grass just becoming available at the time, and “plugging” their lawns with it.  Anybody in their right mind seeded. Everybody knew that.  They were “plugging!”

“Poor Troutman’s lost his mind this year with that Zoysia grass.”

“Gonna have an ugly mess on his hands for sure!”

“That Zoysia stuff turns brown like straw all winter.  A real fire hazard, that!  He’ll be sorry.”

“Well, he’s a young college guy and doesn’t know anything.  He’ll learn.  Ya just can’t beat good ol’ Kentucky Blue Grass.”

“Nah, that stuff burns up in the summer heat.  I’ll stick with my Fescue.”

And on and on it went. Heady stuff, those evening, after-dinner grass meetings on the sidewalk.  We won’t even go into Crabgrass debates.  And what in the world to do about that guy on the corner and his dandelion infested yard, blowing seeds all over the neighborhood?

“Who does Baggett think he is, after all, a Dandelion Farmer? Look at his mess down there! Why doesn’t he get out and pull those dad-gummed weeds?!?”

The beauty of one’s lawn was definitely a status symbol in the subdivision back then, as dandelions in your yard certainly meant that you would be looked down upon by all of the folk meticulously fertilizing, treating, and clipping perfectly manicured lawns, proudly pushing their new, bright green Scotts’ spreaders in front of them while whistling a happy tune, dandelion digger tucked into their belt or back pocket.  And yes, there was a distinction.  Farmers ‘mowed’ down weeds.  Lawn aficionados ‘clipped’.

Folks with dandelions in their yards were judged to be lazy, uncaring, and downright disrespectful because soon those wicked seed puffs would be blowing thru the air on spring breezes and re-infesting all of the honorable and upstanding folks’ yards.

Such was life in the suburbs during the time of manicured lawns and new homeowners aspiring to be featured on the cover of ‘Better Homes & Gardens’ magazine.

But, let’s hold on just a bit and fast forward several decades.

Honeybees, critical to the world’s food supply, have been decimated in recent years from an assortment of maladies —  colony collapse disorder (CCD), global warming, selective industrial crop plantings, insecticide and herbicide poisoning, the uprooting and destruction of native plant species, and so much more.  They sorely need our assistance for the benefit of the planet, and it just so happens that leaving those dandelions in your yard alone for a while is one of the very best things that you can do to help them in early Spring.

When honeybees and other pollinators first emerge in the very first warm days of early Spring, like bears coming out from their dens after a long Winter and having depleted their honey stores which kept them going thru the Winter months, they are hungry and in need of nutrition right away. And just as Mother Nature intended, those bright yellow dandelion flowers in your yard are one of the very first emerging and available food sources for them every year.

Each dandelion flower is composed of up to a hundred individual florets, each one packed with needed nectar and pollen before later emerging flowers and plants bloom and are available.  Dandelions are one of the earliest and best food sources for bees and pollinators each Spring.  They count on dandelions for survival.

Not only honeybees feast on the flowers but also bumblebees, hoverflies, beetles, and butterflies.  Later, goldfinches, house sparrows, and others eat the seeds while raising babies in the nests.

For us, young dandelion leaves make a fine addition to spring salads and are loaded with vitamins and antioxidants, and the flowers (leaving some for the honeybees and wildlife) have been made into Dandelion Wine for ages.  Just be sure the plants have not been treated with chemicals or lawn fertilizers for food safety.

So, if it is necessary to mow the grass, please consider raising the height of the cutting blades to safely pass over the dandelion flowers for the first month or so. It makes mowing thick spring grass easier, anyway. And then sit back with your iced tea on the porch to enjoy the parade of honeybees, butterflies, and other visitors to the dandelion flowers in your yard, confident that you are helping both them and the environment.

And if a well-intentioned neighbor makes a comment, just bring them up to speed about why it is so important to simply leave the dandelions be in early springtime, for the sake of the honeybees and pollinators. Cross-pollination helps at least a third of the world’s food crops and 90% of wild plants to survive.  Without bees to pollinate and spread seeds, many plants, including major food crops that we ourselves depend upon for survival, would die off.  And that is why early spring dandelions are so important. Some have stated that if honeybees disappeared from the Earth, humans would inevitably follow four years later due to lack of food supplies.

Besides, I haven’t met the Mother yet who doesn’t delight in a freshly-picked dandelion bouquet from her four-year-old in the Spring.  And, if the dandelions are all mowed down, pulled out, and tossed away — how could we ever hope to make a wish?

Working together we can do our best with Mother Nature to help the bees and other pollinators.  Thanks always for stopping by to visit with us, and please join us in the “Bee Friends” club and simply sit back to watch the dandelions grow.  — Jim   (and Red!)


Think Globally — Act Locally

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy, Balanced Kids


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

                 “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength                   that will endure as long as life lasts.” – Rachel Carson 


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.

Because together we can do so much!


“How doth the little busy bee, Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day, From every opening flower!”

 – Isaac Watts, ‘Divine and Moral Songs for Children’ 



Getting to Know — Tree Swallows

Tree Swallows are among my favorite birds, always delighting in observing their aerial acrobatics in fast pursuit of insects, rapidly twisting and turning thru the air dashing here, there, and everywhere on late summer afternoons and evenings.

The Tree Swallow (tachycineta bicolor) is one of the most beautiful of the swallow family, with deep-blue, iridescent backs and clean white fronts.  With their steely, bluish-green feathers flashing in the sunlight, Tree Swallows make a most striking appearance and display as they chase thru the air in pursuit of insect food for their families.

Tree Swallows do not build open, free-form nests of dead grass, leaves, sticks and twigs like many birds, but rather only nest inside cavities, such as old woodpecker holes in trees.  With such natural places in limited supply, nesting sites like these are scarce and at a premium in the spring, on a first-come, first-served basis, with intense competition with everyone looking for a home in which to raise a family.  But fortunately, Tree Swallows also adapt readily to nesting boxes.

You can help the Tree Swallows in your neighborhood by putting out nesting boxes in your backyard.  The birds are a great addition to a backyard or field and will reward you, as many birds and bats do, by regularly patrolling and keeping insects under control and at bay all summer long.

The average adult Tree Swallow consumes 2,000 insects each day during the 45 day nesting period, while also catching approximately 6,000 insects per day to feed to their nestlings over their twenty day stay in the nestbox. Overall, this adds up to about 300,000 insects per family over the 45 day span. Since most of their hunting takes place under a height of 39 feet, that is potentially a lot of insects not pestering you in the backyard over the summer.

That is a good return on the purchase, or for a few boards and time invested in building a nest box. And then you and your family will also be able to enjoy observing these beautiful birds going about their business darting and dashing thru the air and raising their young thru the whole season.

For more information on Tree Swallows, please visit the Tree Swallow Nesting Project and Building Nesting Boxes for some easy how-to guides.

Thanks as always for visiting.  If you have stories or experience with these beautiful birds or helping them with nest boxes at your home, please feel free to share with us in the comments.  —  Jim (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

Children + Nature + Outdoors = Happy, Healthy Balanced Kids


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

 

On Fly Fishing — Teach a Bear to Tie a Fly (And You Will Have Accomplished Something!)

Right off the bat, I must admit that the title may be a bit optimistic and premature, because I haven’t accomplished anything quite yet teaching Little Red Bear about tying flies and fly fishing.  But we’ll get back to that in a minute.

One of my favorite uncles, my mother’s youngest brother, was a first class fly fisherman in the day.  One of his best friends was a conservation officer with the Missouri Department of Conservation at the time, and they would spend every chance they got fly fishing the Ozarks streams. Like my mother, he had grown up in the country and was all about nature and the outdoors.  He had served in the Pacific on Iwo Jima and Okinawa among others in WWII not too many years before, and I always figured maybe the peacefulness of fly fishing is what may have so appealed to him after it all.

Uncle Paul firmly maintained that anyone could catch a fish if they hooked up a worm, used bait and fed them, but it was a true challenge and art to catch a fish on a lure that you had made yourself.  So he taught me how to make and tie my own flies and to fly fish as a boy.  He reassured me that the hungrier I got, the better I would get at making them.

I don’t know whose idea it was that I should learn how to tie flies at the age of nine, my mother’s or my uncle’s (it certainly wasn’t my father’s because he was a city kid, thru and thru), but there I was sitting at his kitchen table one Saturday morning learning all about the different kinds of flies and bugs to imitate. Shiny Mylar strips, tinsels, miniature corks, colored wires, hooks of all sizes, chenille stems, horse hairs, bits of assorted furs, spools of thread, and tools and miniature vices I had never seen before all spread out on the table before me.

And all sorts of wondrous feathers — peacock eye feathers, guinea fowl, pheasant, grouse, quail, marabou, ostrich, ducks, roosters, chickens and others.  Feathers from all over the world from birds I had only seen and read about in Encyclopedias!  All a small boy’s imagination could hope for and a whole new world suddenly opened.

As it turned out, fly fishing is the only kind of fishing I ever really enjoyed, to tell the truth.  And now steadfastly agree with my mentor.  Tossing a worm-baited hook into the water is not only lacking in challenge, but also an insult to the intelligence of the fish.  And since they spend so much time in schools, they do tend to take it rather personally.

There is just something about fly fishing.  The excitement and sudden rush of spotting a flash of silver under the water in the distance.  Working and playing out the fly line, back and forth, back and forth in a relaxing zen-like rhythm imitating soft lapping waves along the shoreline, the heavy line artfully arched over your head.  Cast out and land the lure in exactly the right spot where you just saw a riffle on the water, widening circlets across the way. Being at the water’s edge with the songbirds in the background while water ripples around you.  A turtle pops up to say ‘Good morning!’  and forest critters edge cautiously to the shoreline for a drink. Frogs croak their greetings as red-winged blackbirds cheer you on from the nearby reeds. Simply — magical. Nature speaks to you, if you listen. For myself, I just could never find that same joy in any other type of fishing.

I would spend hours on summer afternoons, just as Uncle Paul showed me, fly rod in hand in the backyard practicing to drop a fly inside a hula hoop target laid on the ground at the back of the yard. Eventually the larger hula hoop was replaced with a smaller metal bucket. I always look back on all that, together with the time my uncle spent with me infusing his love of the outdoors and respect for wildlife, as probably where my life-long love of nature and conservation got its start at an early age.  We never know at what precise moment the stars may align and how a few minutes spent with a child may influence their whole life to come.  And there’s a lesson there in itself.

We would visit my uncle’s home regularly thru the year on Saturday mornings, me in the kitchen learning to tie flies at the kitchen table with Uncle Paul, working side by side each of us with our own vise and every time a different type; while my mother visited with Aunt Laura in the living room. Wrapping and making the Wooly Bugger Worm was always my favorite.

It was Uncle Paul who gave me my first hunk of beeswax and taught me to always wax the sewing thread to keep it from tangling while tying the flies.  A trick I still use today when hand sewing teddy bears and things.

Some of the little tools, grips, vices, supplies and books used back then are still with me today.  We made frequent trips to visit the Culver Lures store on Missouri Avenue in south St. Louis at the time. A somewhat dark little store because the two smallish front windows were cluttered with merchandise, with a white wooden store front and wooden floors too, as I recall, overflowing with every fly tying and rod making item imaginable.  Stand at the counter, tell the man smoking the stubby cigar what I needed and he would go find it and ring it all up on the cash register.  Hand over the cash and away we’d go to make more lures. The store is long gone now and remodeled into a condo. A different time.

Used to have an honest-to-goodness fisherman’s straw hat with flies stuck in all over it, too. Don’t know where that might have went over the years, sadly.  I suspect my mother may have pricked her finger on a hook dusting it one too many times when I was away at college and it was shown the door.  But just a guess.  No one ever seemed to recall its whereabouts or fate later, whenever queried.

flies-3

It turns out Uncle Paul was right — there are few thrills in life to compare to catching and landing a fish on a lure that you have handmade yourself.  Marriage and the birth of children are certainly at the top, but that first fish is right up there on the list, too!

And that all brings me to Little Red Bear.  Being an avid fisherman himself with his assortment of bamboo and stick poles and always up for a challenge, Little Red Bear now wants me to teach him how to make his own lures and teach him how to fly fish.

Red has always been a “throw out the bait and wait” type, as he puts it.  Not my thing, as I said.  So I can readily see his wanting to move up the fishing ladder, so to speak.  The only problem is, with those big bear paws of his, I’m not sure that I’m up to the challenge of teaching him.  Showing him how to make biscuits is one thing, and admittedly his are better than mine now (although I still make the best cornbread). But Little Red Bear sitting and tying teeny little fishing flies?  Not so sure.

Still, I’ve yet to see Little Red Bear not accomplish something he sets his mind to, so we’ll see.  There was that time at Perch Lake when he hauled that giant, cantankerous and ill-tempered . . . . .   Well, I really should let you read and enjoy that ‘Sir Snapsalot’ story for yourself.  He even tells folk how to make their own bamboo fishing poles in that one!  Red’s famous for them in these parts.

In the meantime, I wonder what Uncle Paul would think now about the time he spent with a young nephew years ago, teaching him how to tie flies and fish, and who grew up to later write stories about conservation and an uncommonly special bear and his friends in the Ozarks Mountain Country that we visited and fished together ourselves? I like to think he might enjoy them. Time is never wasted when spending it with a child.

Thanks as always for visiting.  I will keep you posted, and we’ll see how this fly tying adventure goes with Little Red Bear, I suppose.  I can’t say ‘no’ to someone looking to learn and try something new.  Even if it seems as though it may be a mighty challenge along the way.  — Jim  (and Red!)

Family Times — Together Times — The Best Times!

~ Children Learn To Read on the Laps of Their Parents ~

Old-fashioned, Family-friendly Stories and Fun for All Ages and Fitness Levels!
About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends.

 

Birds of Prey– What’s the Hurry?

We most often think as the spring months as being the nesting season for birds.  And it is, for the Cardinals, Sparrows, Robins, Finches and such.  But not for the raptors, birds of prey.  Young raptors, because they are much larger, take a much longer time to grow up and need a head start on the season. So raptors nest in winter.

Remember the images of the nesting Eagles dutifully tending their nest and eggs covered over in the snow?  It takes very dedicated parents to go thru an ordeal like that.  Why the rush?  Why start nesting so early before the weather has changed for the better, we wonder?  Most other birds wait until April or later to arrive at their summer breeding grounds and start to build nests.

Turns out, there’s a very good reason.  It’s all about rodent and other prey animal population control and giving the baby birds of prey an easier start in life.  It takes a long time for large raptors to grow big enough to be independent and hunt on their own.  An early start in the nest allows them the required time to grow and develop, while also insuring that when they are fledged and on their own, there will be a plentiful supply of prey animal babies emerging from their nests and running about at the same time to help make the raptors’ initial hunting forays a little easier and more successful.  Nevertheless, 60% to 70% of Red-tailed Hawks, Owls and other raptors do not survive their first year.  Life is hard for young raptors still trying to figure it out, so being ready early gives them the best chance of survival, while also helping to keep the world from being overrun by mice and other voles.

So while the other birds and small animals are just getting started with nest building and babies now, the raptors are already well on their way to being able to greet them when they emerge later.  The early bird gets the, ummm– baby mouse shall we say.  Birds of Prey have a very important role to play in population control and the grand scheme of things as Mother Nature designed, and early nesting gives them the needed head start to make it all work.

Thanks as always for dropping in to visit! — Jim (and Red!)

Red-tailed Hawk with Mouse

Red-tailed Hawk with Mouse

“The Adventures of Little Red Bear” Short Stories Available on Amazon

Old-fashioned Storytelling About An Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends!

Meet “Whistlin’ Will” the Whip-poor-will

Old forests in the Ozarks Mountain Country, where the Little Red Bear stories take place, are home to Eastern Whip-poor-wills, one of my favorite birds.  Strictly nocturnal and calling all thru the night, they have serenaded me to sleep on camping trips on many occasions.

While you may hear the Whip-poor-wills thru the night, finding them in the daylight hours is very difficult as they are largely inactive, hiding on the ground or roosting in the trees.  Their mottled plumage blends perfectly with the grey/brown leaf litter and forest debris where they live, a natural camouflage.

A medium sized bird, the Eastern Whip-poor-will is a member of the Nightjar family of birds, sometimes referred to as Goatsuckers from ancient tales that they sucked milk from goats.  Also in the nightjar family is the Nighthawk, another nocturnal bird, along with another and one the Whip-poor-will is frequently mistaken for– its close relative the Chuck-will’s-widow, which has a similar but lower, slower call.  Both calls are hauntingly beautiful on an otherwise quiet summer night in the woods.

Whip-poor-wills are mentioned frequently in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories, with “Whistlin’ Will” being one of Red’s friends, singing right behind his cabin on Honey Hill each evening.

Here is a recording for you to listen to the beautiful call of the Whip-poor-will.  Like the recording, they go on and on, tirelessly all thru the night, a calming reassurance that all is right in the woods.  Do you hear the “whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will” call for which they were named?

Sadly, as with many species, their numbers are in decline in several areas as open forests are converted for suburbs and agriculture, and as their primary foods- large moths and beetles- are also on the decline due to development.

More information and sound recordings may be found on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology page, and on the Audubon Society page.

If you would like to read more about Whistlin’ Will in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” short stories collection, it is available on Amazon for Kindle and in Paperback.  Just click the link below.

Thanks as always for reading and following! — Jim (and Red!)

Order Your Copy of “The Adventures of Little Red Bear”

 

Image via American Bird Conservancy, by Jacob Spendelow

Image via American Bird Conservancy, by Jacob Spendelow

 

“The Silent Voice of Nature”

There is a deep and ancient wisdom held by the trees, wilderness and nature.   Quiet your mind and be attentive for the voice you can only feel.  Peace and answers await in the stillness.

“Close your eyes so the heart may become your eye,
and with that vision look upon another world.”

Birds- Hummingbird Art via TW, uncredited

“A Moment in Time” by John Kolenberg, available on Fine Art America.com

“There is a voice that does not use words. Listen.”

— Rumi

 

 

Happy Memorial Day Weekend– Sharing Our Seas & Shores!

Wishing everyone a very Happy and Safe Memorial Day weekend!

If heading to the beach, inland waterways, or anywhere out with nature and wildlife, please remember this is nesting and babies season.  Please teach the kids to keep a respectful distance for their own and the wildlife’s safety not to damage any nests, eggs or babies.  When we are out on the beach, in the woods or on the rivers and streams, we are really guests and visitors in someone else’s home.  Here is a link to a great article and advice from the American Bird Conservancy→ Fish, Swim and Play From 50 Yards Away

Birds- Shorebird at Fort De Soto Park, Tampa  Pinterest uncredited

For more information, please visit the National Audubon Society→  Sharing Our Seas & Shores

Image via National Wildlife Federation, by Jim Gray

Image via National Wildlife Federation, by Jim Gray

Hope everyone has a chance to have a picnic, go hiking or biking, play softball, go fishing, splash in the surf, go boating or swimming this weekend and enjoy the great outdoors, fresh air, exercise and the start of the summer season!  Remember to bring the sunscreen.  Stay safe and please keep an eye out for rip currents, pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycles!

Children- Patriotic little girl at the beach

And please pause for a moment to reflect on the real meaning of the weekend.

 “Memorial Day this year is especially important as we are reminded almost daily of the great sacrifices that the men and women of the Armed Services make to defend our way of life.”– Robin Hayes

Little Red Bear always reminds– “Remember when visiting in Mother Nature’s home, leave nothing behind but footprints, take nothing away but memories, and kill nothing but time.”

Have a wonderful weekend and visit back next week for an important update on “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” short stories collection.  Hint- it’s coming very soon!     — Jim (and Red!)

Birds- Little Blue Heron Family at Lowry Park, Pinterest, not photo signature

Little Blue Heron Family, Paul Fernandez Photography

 

Endangered Species Day

Today is “Endangered Species Day”, a day set aside by Congress to bring awareness and attention to the plight of endangered, fragile and threatened species.  Folks of all ages can and are encouraged to learn more about the importance of protecting imperiled species and what they can do through their own actions to help.

For more information and links, please visit The Endangered Species Site.

Here are two other links for great information–

From the Park Advocate Site — Nine Endangered National Park Animals.

Black-footed Ferret in a Colorado conservation center. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Black-footed Ferret in a Colorado conservation center. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

From the wonderful folks at BirdNote, a discussion of Piping Plovers and Golden-cheeked Warblers– BirdNote.

Golden-cheeked Warbler, via BirdNote, photo by Greg Lavaty

Golden-cheeked Warbler, via BirdNote, photo by Greg Lavaty

Please learn more and contact your elected representatives to help support the wildlife and plants struggling so hard to survive faced with oppressive habitat loss, climate change, illegal poaching and other dangers.  And please get the children involved, as it is their future we are talking about, as well.

Thanks as always for stopping by!  — Jim (and Red!)