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Posts Tagged ‘Tina Mitchell’

Hummingbird Feeders

Feeding hummingbirds can be simple and inexpensive.  Here’s a time- and hummer-tested recipe. Use a 1-to-4 ratio of white table sugar to water (for example, ¼ cup of sugar to 1 cup of water).  Don’t use honey, brown sugar, organic cane sugar, artificial sweeteners—just table sugar. Heat the water in the microwave; in my microwave,…

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It Takes a Village: San Diego’s Acorn Woodpecker

In the 1920s, an American ornithologist called this bird “our native aristocrat—unruffled by the operations of the human plebs…”   In that same decade, an avian researcher proclaimed that these birds practiced communism. More recently, their social behavior has been likened to a noisy avian Keystone Cops routine, featuring loud calling, bobbing, wing displaying, and jockeying…

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In Living Color: Black-headed Grosbeaks are Back in Town

Just before my shift started, I walked into the baby bird room at the wildlife rehabilitation center. A distinctive sound ringing through the room—”WEE-urrr, WEE-urrr”—transported me back more than five years and 1,000 miles. The soundtrack of late summer in the pinyon-juniper habitat of our previous home in the Colorado mountains—baby Black-headed Grosbeaks were in…

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Avian Architects Setting Up Shop

They typically nest in large colonies, occasionally numbering in the thousands.  Within these noisy, chattering colonies, they push “neighborliness” to the limit, laying eggs in or even moving their eggs into their neighbors’ nests.  They recognize the voices of their offspring even among thousands of other kids squawking to be fed.  They spy on their…

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Familiar Friend The Lesser Goldfinch

Naming a species a “least” this-or-that or a “lesser” such-and-such smacks a bit of disparagement.  The bird exists only in relationship to a larger/greater/“better” bird.  The Lesser Goldfinch’s comparator is its Spinus congener, the American Goldfinch.  In this context, the Lesser Goldfinch comes up short in several ways.  It measures ½” (10%) shorter and weighs…

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Tripping the Light Fantastic

When I set out to write about a species, I start with “What is interesting about this species?”  With hummingbirds, though, what isn’t interesting about them?  The smallest of all birds, most of the hummingbirds seen in California weigh between 0.1 and 0.3 ounces (~2.5 – 4 grams) or less than 5 original M&Ms.  Probably…

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Uncommonly Intelligent – Ravens at the Top of the Class

Call a despicable person “pond scum” and I take offense on behalf of pond scum everywhere.  Scoop up a handful of pond scum and you might actually be looking at diminutive, individual aquatic plants or even blue-green algae such as spirulina, which some health food fans herald.  Think someone is, um, “bat-guano crazy?”  Bats the…

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California Gnatcatcher: Hero of the Coastal Sage Scrub Habitat

Heading down the trail from the San Elijo Lagoon parking lot, he played a wheezy, kitten-mewing type of call on his phone.  “That’s what we’re listening for.”  This good friend and avid birder from Colorado was on a mission—to find a California Gnatcatcher.  Searing that call into our brains, we followed our ears to find…

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Nest Boxes & Cavity Nesting Birds

Birdhouses come in all shapes, sizes, and styles.  They can be eye-catching pieces of art that delight humans.  Or they can be very plain boxes that focus solely on what a bird might want, with little concern for what a human might think.  And they can fall anywhere between those two extremes.  But a very…

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Who’s Awake? The story of the Great Horned Owl

Who’s awake?  Me too!  Who’s awake?  Me too! This series of five rhythmic, muffled, slightly eerie hoots—all on one pitch—wafts through the darkness this time of year.  The sentinel taking attendance is the Great Horned Owl.  Measuring nearly two feet from head to tail, the Great Horned is the largest and most widespread owl in…

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