Saturday, December 20, 2008

From New Creative

A couple of new items on the horizon from New Creative Enterprises:

This uniquely designed leaf birdbath is made of resin. It makes an exceptional centerpiece in the garden and is still pretty to look at even if there are no birds on it. It will also make a nice decorative platform feeder.

Have a customer who says that bird never use the bird house in their yard? This one is perfect, if no one nests in this house, there are cute birds in the form of a downy woodpecker, black-capped chickadee, and a couple of white-breasted nuthatches on the outside. Look for the resin Birdhouse with Multiple Birds in your next NCE catalog. It is meant to be used as an actual bird house and even has a cleaning hole to clean it out in the fall if it gets used.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Small Business 401K Loan

From Small Business Week comes an article on using your 401K without penalty to get a loan for your small business. Here is a snippet from the article on how the process works:

"Here's how it works. An entrepreneur, aided by the outside adviser, creates a corporation. The newly formed entity starts a 401(k) plan, and an individual rolls over existing retirement funds into the account. Under 401(k) rules, the plan can purchase shares in the corporation—money that can be plowed into a small business that sells a product or service. Those deals are considered investments, which is the key. By investing the money rather than withdrawing it, entrepreneurs avoid triggering a penalty that amounts to 10% of the assets."

Be sure to read the full article here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

MySpace Advertising

From Small Business Week:

Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow, founders of gourmet seasonings maker Bacon Salt, went out on an advertising limb. Typically, the Seattle entrepreneurs used MySpace and Facebook profile pages or small text ads placed next to Google search results to promote their line of seasonings. Then MySpace encouraged them to test a new ad service tailored to businesses like theirs, so Esch and Lefkow shelled out $500 for a trial campaign.

To their surprise, blog buzz about their product picked up, site traffic doubled, and online sales jumped 30% over the past month. "We've seen really good results," Esch says. "This experience taught us there is more that we can do to get word of mouth out there."

MySpace is hoping more small businesses will see the light. On Oct. 13 the social network owned by News Corp. takes the wraps off MyAds, a new approach to advertising that allows small businesses and individuals to create their own banner ads—illustrated messages in fixed places on a Web page. The service, initially available in a test phase, also will let advertisers decide who they want to target on MySpace and then track the results of the campaigns. MySpace is aiming at advertisers who want to spend under $25,000—though marketers can start by laying out as little as $25.

MyAds is an offshoot of Hypertargeting, a service MySpace launched a year ago for Madison Avenue and big advertisers. Hypertargeting sifts through all the information people publish on MySpace, be it age, gender, hometown, or a preference for Coldplay vs. Rhianna. Hypertargeting uses that information to create 1,100 buckets, or target audiences, ranging from basketball fans to people who read Chicken Soup for the Soul books. MyAds puts those and other tools into the hands of individuals. With MyAds, the Bacon Salt founders created a banner ad using their site logo and tagline, "Everything Should Taste Like Bacon." Then they sifted through MySpace's buckets, picking categories such as dining, restaurants, and of course, bacon, and targeting people in cities and states, including Atlanta and Ohio, where Bacon Salt was launching in Kroger (KR) supermarkets.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Retailers In The Community

New Online Retailer:, an online retailer of outdoor bird watching cameras and other bird watching accessories, has announced the debut of an informational blog, The new venue launched in late October 2008.

Founded by Stephanie Norby, was established in September 2008. The site currently contains color video cameras and backyard birdhouses with built in bird cameras. The site's inventory is suitable for both the bird watching novice and the aficionado.

"Birdfeeders are a great way to watch birds in your backyard, but you never get an up close look at their interesting and unique behavior," said Norby. "With these cameras, you see everything in vivid color and detail from the comfort of your home."

As bird watchers are conscientious about maintaining the health and safety of birds, Norby explained the benefits of using a camera found on

Elaborating on the products found on the site, customers and interested birdwatchers can now find informational posts related to the world of bird watching through the site's associated blog.

"The blog will contain small articles and information on anything and everything related to bird watching," said Norby. "From building birdhouses to different techniques to attract birds, the blog will be a great place for customers to get all the information they need."

Established for her customers, the blog is one of many customer service measures taken by

"I stand behind all my products, and everything is guaranteed," said Norby. "I pride myself on having excellent customer service, and part of that is free shipping. No matter your order, everything on my site ships for free."

In other news, a new Wild Bird Center has opened in Canton, OH:

Canton residents and wild bird enthusiasts now have a new place to migrate for all of their wild bird supplies. Richard Hoffman has just opened a new Wild Bird Center franchise in Canton, Ohio.

The Wild Bird Center of Canton is a unique retail business offering customers a wide range of bird feeders, bird seed as well as other backyard birding products. The newest Wild Bird Center franchise opening reflects the rapid growth of the bird feeding and bird watching hobby in North America.

Hoffman is a nature enthusiast who recognizes the potential of owning a business that encompasses more than a hobby. He understands that backyard bird feeding is a way to connect with the outdoors and help nature right outside our back doors. "Backyard bird feeding and watching is a way to enjoy and to give back to nature," states Richard. "I am excited to open a business where I not only share a hobby, but enhance the wild bird interests of my customers and this exciting hobby."

Welcome to the bird retail community!

For The Birds

Sisters Anne Schmauss, Mary Schmauss and Geni Krolick who own Wild Birds Unlimited franchises combined their birding feeding knowledge and created this book/calendar. It goes through the calendar year and lets you know what birds to expect, what feeds work best for the time of year, kids projects, and personal tips from the authors. The best part? The book isn't just for people who live in the eastern half of the US--it works for westerners too!

They realized they were getting a lot of the same questions about attracting birds and they decided it was time to write a book: For The Birds: A Month-by-Month Guide to Attracting Birds to Your Backyard, published in September by Harry N. Abrams Inc.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Check out Snapshot Adventures: Secret of Bird Island

This is an awesome little computer game for PCs let's you find out what it's like to be a bird photographer. The goal is to photograph birds in this cross-country adventure. Armed with nothing but a standard 35mm camera and a field guide, you must capture portraits of birds in close-up, in flight and perched in trees in order to complete your life list - the total list of all the birds you've ever seen - and solve the mysterious disappearance of your grandfather.

The game teaches observation and id skills, fun for kids of any age.

If you go to the company's website, you can download a free 60 minute trial (if you go beyond 60 minutes, they charge you). Once you start playing, you'll be hooked. Also, if you have played it, that will help you sell to customers in your store.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Corn Prices Are Set To Come Down

From Minnesota Public Radio:

The collapse of VeraSun Energy is costing hundreds of Minnesota farmers millions of dollars. The Sioux Falls ethanol company filed for bankruptcy three weeks ago after losing almost $500 million since last summer. Now the company said it will terminate many of the corn contracts it signed with farmers. That's taking revenue away from farms as falling corn prices hurt their ability to make up for lost income.

VeraSun built two ethanol plants in southern Minnesota, but the bankruptcy made it impossible for the company to open the faculties near Janesville and Welcome.

Neither has produced a gallon of ethanol. But, in the months before bankruptcy, the company laid the groundwork to start the plants. VeraSun contracted with nearby farmers to buy millions of bushels of corn.

Now, it's refusing to pay on many of those contracts. Richard Guse said he has a half dozen VeraSun corn contracts. He said if the company breaks them he stands to lose a lot of money.

"I'm going to say my potential loss is two hundred to three hundred thousand dollars," Guse said.

Guse said under the contracts VeraSun agreed to pay him anywhere from about $5.00 per bushel to almost $8.00 a bushel. Since he signed the deals, corn prices have fallen sharply, to just over $3.00 a bushel."

Read or listen to the full article here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making The Most Of Online Sales

Business Week's Small Business Section has two interesting articles on selling merchandise online. From the article Determining Where To Sell Online:

"There's no one-size-fits-all answer, though e-commerce experts tend to agree it's worth listing on multiple sites. The e-commerce market is huge, with $60 billion worth of goods traded on eBay alone in 2007, according to the company. More than 85,000 businesses primarily operated as electronic or mail-order retailers in 2006, according to the latest U.S. Census data, and 77,000 of them had no employees. Finding the best platforms for your company depends on what you sell.

You also need to consider how today's Web has changed since the early days of e-commerce: It's much more social (, 2/20/08). Setting up a storefront alone and listing on marketplaces may not be the most effective way to generate sales. Instead, Amy Joyner, a former eBay seller and author of The Online Millionaire, an e-commerce guide, suggests that those serious about selling online write blogs and comment on others, join social networks, and participate in online communities. "If you're out there and you're delivering content and interesting information, there's no way it can hurt," she says."

You can read the entire article here. Did you catch the link to the Feb. 20, 2008 article about social e-commerce? Here's an excerpt from this interesting article:

"First, a few numbers. There are some 9 million blogs out there, Yes, there were 9 million, but how many of them were active? Probably only a fraction. In early 2008, says Technorati Chairman David Sifry, the search company indexes 112 million blogs, with 120,000 new ones popping up each day. But only 11% of these blogs, he says, have posted within the past two months. That means the active universe is closer to 13 million blogs."

Blogs are different. They evolve with every posting, each one tied to a moment. So if a company can track millions of blogs simultaneously, it gets a heat map of what a growing part of the world is thinking about, minute by minute. E-mail has carried on billions of conversations over the past decade. But those exchanges were private. Most blogs are open to the world. As the bloggers read each other, comment, and link from one page to the next, they create a global conversation.

Picture the blog world as the biggest coffeehouse on Earth. Hunched over their laptops at one table sit six or seven experts in nanotechnology. Right across from them are teenage goths dressed in black and thoroughly pierced. Not too many links between those two tables. But the café goes on and on. Saudi women here, Labradoodle lovers there, a huge table of people fooling around with cell phones. Those are the mobile-photo crowd, busily sending camera-phone pictures up to their blogs.

The racket is deafening. But there's loads of valuable information floating around this cafe. Technorati, PubSub, and others provide the tools to listen. While the traditional Web catalogs what we have learned, the blogs track what's on our minds.

Why does this matter? Think of the implications for businesses of getting an up-to-the-minute read on what the world is thinking. Already, studios are using blogs to see which movies are generating buzz. Advertisers are tracking responses to their campaigns. "I'm amazed people don't get it yet," says Jeff Weiner, Yahoo's senior vice-president who heads up search. "Never in the history of market research has there been a tool like this."

Read the full article on Social Media here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Weed Seeds In Bird Seed Mixes

Be prepared for customers to ask questions about weeds in bird seed.

As mentioned earlier in the blog, the Weed Science Society of America released information that many noxious weed seeds can be found in bird seed mixes--seeds not intended to be ingredients in those mixes.

News organizations and sites are picking up on the story:

The Post-Bulletin
The Christian Science Monitor
The Akron Beakon Journal
The Leader-Telegram

The story is gaining legs and customers will be asking if your bird seed is treated to be non-germination. Be sure to ask you seed distributors what they know about the story, how their seed is treated, do they know if any of their mixes were used in the study. The WSSA is offering tips for preventing weed seeds from growing:

Use a tray attachment under your feeder to keep seeds off the ground. (Because birds like house sparrows never kick seeds around in tray causing them to spill to the ground).

Select foods that won’t sprout, such as sunflower hearts, peanuts, peanut butter, raisins, mealworms, and plain suet cakes.

Buy only treated wild bird food mixtures. Many manufacturers are now baking their products to kill weed seeds, using guidelines established by the US Department of Agriculture. So read product labels carefully to make certain you select a treated brand.

Keep an eye out for weeds under your feeder and pull them before they can flower and spread.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


A new company called ChirpTracker is using the Internet to get buzz about their product generating among birders online.

By just searching for you get a home page asking you to sign up for a newsletter to learn about the product--a way to get some directing marketing to target customers. They do have a "Chirp Chat Blog" giving readers glimpses of this upcoming product.

ChirpTracker has a Twitter Feed. If you are not familiar with Twitter, it is a free social networking site and can serve as a "micro blog." It allows you to send and update of up to 140 characters in length, or a mini blog. Since the character limit is small, users can easily send updates via cell phone through a text message. Updates are displayed on your public profile page and others can subscribe to it. Users can subscribe to other's Twitter feeds and that's how the networking begins.

Twitter is like the popular status updates that comes with having a Facebook account. Facebook is a social networking site where you can have a profile that let's you post photos, play games, write a blog and interact with other users. The status update is a way to let your friends know what you are up to and comment on it. ChirpTracker also has a Facebook fan page and the general public can view it, but members of Facebook and subscribe to it. Readers can learn much more about what this product is all about.

According to the ChirpTracker Facebook fan page, "ChirpTracker is a revolutionary concept that provides technological enhancements to birding hobbyists by birders, for birders. ChirpTracker utilizes the integration of satellite mapping technology with a community-based environment to steer the hobby of birding enjoyed outdoors, into the virtual realm of social media to provide a rich conservational, educational, user, and data driven platform to uncover new bird species locations around the country.

ChirpTracker’s media-rich environment provides the birding community with the capabilities to assist in the plotting of bird sightings geographically, logging and maintainance of life lists, and the sharing of user’s personal profile activities with other birding enthusiasts."

You can read more here.

It's just another way to build some buzz about your product, even in the birding market.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tips From MarketWatch

From The Wall Street Journal Online's Market Watch come 10 tips for surviving the economic downturn. Most are pretty common sense tips, but here are couple that offer some food for thought.

 4. Really get to know your customer. Rip out your answering machine, step up your
service and ask what they need. Understand how your target customer has evolved. In
general, "It's best to target high-end or budget buyers, the middle is gone," Steppe says.
"Do something fast or you're about to go out of business. People will be buying what
they need and cutting back on their wishes and wants."

5. Embrace the current economic reality, Part I. "The bottom of the cycle is a really
good place to start a business," says Wuensch, "because when you start off on an up
cycle, your assumption is that this (level of profitability) is going to go on forever." Those
who have studied the history of business will be comforted by the knowledge that
downturns always eventually go up.

6. Embrace the current economic reality, Part II. Competitors' failed businesses present
an opportunity. "If the fundamental need of their business didn't go away, people who
understand this can exploit it (often by buying the failed company or hiring top
employees left without a job)," Steppe says.

You can read the full list of tips here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Advice Cards

For The Birds, makers of the BirdSong IdentiFlyer, are introducing a unique and memorable way for your customers to say: thanks, I miss you, happy birthday and mother’s day or Merry Christmas. They have created a collection of 8 note/gift cards with each bird enclosed in a 3D globe. These beautiful cards can by used for nearly any occasion:

Rise Early
Spread a little happiness
Keep a song in your heart
Think spring
Be Colorful
Feather your nest with friendships
The sky's the limit!

Your True Nature
also contributed positive, up-beat advice from each bird which adds to it’s appeal. Unlike most note and greeting cards which are opened, read and put in a drawer, these unique WingTips cards will remain openly displayed, leaving a lasting memory of the occasion.

Also available - an easy to set up card display rack!

For more information and a free sample call Terry Allen at 877-261-6556 or email

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hey, What's In Your Seed Mixes?

According to a press release from the Weed Science Society of America, Oregon State University, scientists examined 10 brands of wild bird feed commonly sold in retail stores. The samples contained seeds from more than 50 weed species - including 10 ranked among Oregon's most noxious weeds. Each brand tested contained weed seeds, with six different weed species found in half or more of the samples.

In a short-term study of what happens when stray bird feed drops to the soil, about 30 weed species sprouted in just 28 days. Between three and 17 weed species grew from each of the 10 brands of feed tested. The ten Noxious Weeds Found in the Bird Seed Evaluated in the Oregon Study:

Buffalobur (Solanum rostratum Dunal)
Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare)
Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense)
Common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia)
Dodder (Cuscuta spp.)
Field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)
Jointed goatgrass (Aegilops cylindrica)
Kochia (Kochia scoparia)
Puncturevine (Tribulus terrestris)
Velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti)

When asked what ten brands were tested, Linda Edgerton of Linda Edgerton Communications, representing the Weed Seed Society of America said, "The team purposefully didn't list the brands in the test because they didn't want to single out any one manufacturer. That's because they suspect the problem is industry wide, and it seemed unfair to brand a handful of companies. I can tell you that those in the test ranged from products purchased at high-end retailers (who specialize in birding products) to large discount box stores."

When asked what percentage of bird seed mixes had weed seed, she said that researches found 539 weed seeds in one pound of a particular brand of bird seed and 1489 weed seeds another pound/brand.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tips For Navigating Advertising With The Economic News

Some advertising tips from Steve McKee of Business Week:

Don't Panic

The problem with panic is that it leads to bad decisions. While everybody else is selling, Warren Buffett, the second-richest man in the world (and soon to be the first), is buying. The reason? He always keeps his head. He understands the economic cycle. He knows that while things have gotten way out of whack, the laws of economics have not been repealed, and there are still real companies creating real value out there. While nobody can see a clear way out of these economic straits, acting out of fear will likely make things worse. That's as true of advertising as it is of investing.

Advertising panics usually take one of three forms. The first is cutting back the budget—sometimes to zero. Smart companies are careful about how and where they cut back, so they don't sacrifice the future on the altar of the present (see "Five Don'ts for Marketing in Tough Times" (, 7/11/08). The second is giving away the store, which is almost always a mistake (see "Low Prices Are Not Always Your Friend" (, 4/14/08). The third? Following the politicians down the poisonous path, trying to build yourself up by taking your competition down.

We're already seeing an increase in competitive advertising. Just this weekend I witnessed Burger King (BK) go after McDonald's (MCD), Prestone take aim at its smaller competitors, and Microsoft (MSFT) fight back against Apple (AAPL). The good news is that so far, these companies have resisted the urge to get nasty.

It's Eerie With No Ads

Think about the power of advertising. In the days following September 11, the networks temporarily suspended all commercials, and advertisers only slowly made their way back into the market. Watching television during that time was, in a word, eerie. We may not realize it, but the endless drumbeat of ads that are normally in the background helps assure us that the world of commerce is buzzing along as it should.

A similar phenomenon may happen in the days and weeks to come. Advertising won't stop as it did after 9/11, of course, but its tone could become noticeably more strident. If so, it will send a subtle signal that something isn't right. And will fuel consumers' continuing unease.

If you're considering targeting your competitors or changing your tone, stop and think about it. Consider other ways of accomplishing your goals, including using humor, a terrific way to dispel fear. Be as optimistic as you can. Above all, make sure you're not reacting out of panic.

As an advertiser, you can contribute to the fear or you can help diffuse it. The more consumers perceive you going about your normal course of business, the more normal things will feel to them. And the more quickly we can all get back to normal.

Read the full article here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Now The Bird Calendars Sing Too

Chronicle Books has upped the ante when it comes to birding calendars: The Bird Songs 2009 Calendar.

It not only offers accurate bird illustrations, also a range map, and natural history info--but it offers bird songs too. Here's a video sample:

If you wondered if that last bird was an ivory-billed woodpecker--why yes it was. The calendar will have appeal to hardcore birders and maybe a little less to backyard birders. For example--eastern yellow wagtail is one of the species--unless your store is in western Alaska, not too many customers are going to be seeing that species.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Getting Creative With A Nervous Ecomony

From Market Watch:

KNG announces that when the stock market drops like it did last week, small businesses feel the impact immediately. Sales start to drop after the first internet reports of large losses on the stock market. And sales continue to drop off faster and faster as the stock market losses and the number of articles about the losses increase. "By the end of the day on Monday orders had slowed to a trickle," said Matt McDonagh (Marketing Director for KNG).

The company decided to take advantage of the situation by starting a stock drop discount program. For every 100 point drop in the DOW for the week KNG will give a 1% discount for customers using coupon code ST8918. "We are not able to make up for all the lost sales due to the decrease in consumer confidence, but at least we can make up part of the sales," says McDonagh.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Four Tips For The Holiday Retail Season From Business Weekly

From Business Weekly:

1. In whatever market they're targeting, small retailers need to court their best customers this holiday season. "During the next three months they need to maximize the one-on-one personal relationships that they have with customers," says Daniel Butler, vice-president for retail operations at the National Retail Federation. "That is the secret weapon that small independents have against big national chains. If I'm savvy and communicate with my customers well, I can draw loyal customers into my store before they go into the national chains," Butler says.

One way to do that is through affinity discounts that encourage loyal customers to spend more, rather than trying to attract new business by cutting prices across the board, says the University of San Francisco's Muscat. "They're going to their customer base, and they're mailing out to their best customers targeted discounts to get them into the store. That's a lot smarter than putting a"70% Off" sign in front of your store," he says. Through affinity programs, retailers can strengthen their relationships with their best customers and appeal to those shoppers' bargain-hunting mood at the same time.

2. Beyond customer service, retailers need to keep inventories lean to keep costs down. Butler says store owners should be especially vigilant in refusing late orders and watching for overshipments to avoid having merchandise they won't be able to sell. In addition, small retailers can take a cue from large chains that display as much merchandise as possible on the floor, rather than holding inventory in the stockroom. "National chains don't have any inventory in stockroom," he says. "They want it to be out there where the customer is."

3. Likewise, stores should watch their staffing levels to control costs. "They want to be able to staff to the peak hours as much as they can," Butler says. That means mostly in evenings and weekends, as most two-income families have little time to shop during the day. Businesses might decide to open later in the morning and extend hours at night to reach more customers without needing to staff more hours.

4. Retailers that sell both online and through physical stores should coordinate their Web and brick-and-mortar strategies, especially in anticipation of "Cyber Monday," the post-Thanksgiving shopping day that's been deemed the online equivalent of Black Friday. Many people browse in stores the weekend after Thanksgiving and then make their purchases online. "If you have a Web site and do business online, you want to make sure you're cross-promoting your Web site with your in-store traffic and vice versa," Butler says. Still, retailers may not be able to count on strong Internet sales. While TNS Retail Forward predicts Web sales will grow 9% this year, that's down from 19% in 2007 and the first single-digit growth rate since 1999.

Read the full article here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

2008/2009 Winter Finch Forecast

It's time for Ron Pittaway's winter finch forecast. Here are some highlights:

Pine Grosbeak: A mountain-ash berry specialist in winter, Pine Grosbeaks will stay north of most birders this winter because mountain-ash berries are abundant in northern Ontario. A few normally get south to Algonquin Park, but they are unlikely farther south.

Purple Finch: This finch stays in the north only when most tree species have heavy seed crops. This fall most Purple Finches will migrate south out of the province because overall tree seed crops are too low. A very few may winter in southern Ontario.

Common and Hoary Redpolls: The Common Redpoll is a white birch seed specialist in the boreal forest in winter. White birch crops are poor in the northern two-thirds of the boreal forest, but seed abundance increases southward. In central Ontario, such as Algonquin Park, crops on white and yellow birches range from fair to good. It is uncertain whether the birch crop is large enough to stop the southward movement in central Ontario about latitude 45 degrees. Some redpolls, including a few Hoarys, may get south to Lake Ontario if birch seed supplies run low.

Pine Siskin: A conifer seed specialist in winter, most siskins should leave the province this fall because the spruce cone crop is poor in the boreal forest. It is uncertain whether the huge white pine seed crop will keep some siskins in central and northern Ontario this winter.

Red-breasted Nuthatch: Movements of this nuthatch are linked to cone crop abundance, particularly spruce, white pine and balsam fir in Ontario. Good numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatches should winter in Ontario this year feeding on the bumper white pine seed crop and good spruce/fir crops in many areas such as Algonquin Park.

Blue Jay: Good numbers of jays will winter in central Ontario because the red oak acorn crop is good and beechnut crop is fair in central Ontario. Many other fruits and berries are abundant. Therefore this fall's flight should be average or smaller along the shorelines of Lakes Ontario and Erie.

Evening Grosbeak: A conifer and hardwood seed generalist in winter, Evening Grosbeaks should make a small southward movement this winter because food supplies are probably sufficient in the north. Older birders remember the 1970s when the Evening Grosbeak was a common feeder bird. Their memory is based on the greatly inflated numbers 30 years ago in Eastern Canada due to huge outbreaks of spruce budworm.

The last Algonquin Christmas Bird Count to have high numbers of Evening Grosbeaks was in 1984 with 1474 individuals, which was the North American CBC record that year. A significant decline in grosbeak numbers began in the mid-1980s because the size of annual budworm outbreaks decreased. Ontario's breeding population is currently probably stable, subject to periodic fluctuations in spruce budworm (Hoar 2007 in Atlas of Breeding Birds of Ontario).

White-winged Crossbill: This crossbill wandered widely this past summer searching for extensive spruce cone crops. Reports came from Alaska, Yukon, Hudson Bay Lowlands, Ontario, Quebec and many northern states such as Michigan and New York. Most kept moving but some
stopped and their singing suggested nesting but spruce cone crops are generally not large enough in most areas to support major nestings. The White-winged Crossbill specializes on the small soft cones of black and white spruces and hemlock when bumper in Ontario. This winter they should be widespread in small numbers in traditional areas such as Algonquin Park. However, spruce cone crops are generally low in most of Canada and as seed supplies ar exhausted this fall and winter so a moderate southward irruption is probable, perhaps extending south into the central United States. Watch for them on ornamental spruces and European larch.

Read the full report here and read past Winter Finch Forecasts here.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Urban Bird Resources

Have you checked out the Celebrate Urban Birds site at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology? You can learn about city birds, watch birds for science, get involved in projects to “green” up your community, and increase conservation awareness. The website itself offers resources for identifying birds, lessons plans, resources, and suggestions for attracting birds to urban areas.

One of the resources offered on the site is the Celebrate Urban Birds Kit which includes an introductory letter with 16 drawings of focal urban birds, an urban birds poster with lots of interesting information, a silhouette poster with cool facts, a simple data form for recording your observations, return envelope, and a packet of sunflower seeds to plant in pots and gardens. This s a great resource for home school customers or for your store if you offer bird programs through your store.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sunflower Prices Easing

From the Farm & Ranch Guide:

It was the best of times, and although it's not the worst of times, the sunflower market has seen better days than those of August and September.

Sunflower prices that were soaring earlier this year, have come back down to earth in recent weeks.

Larry Kleingartner, executive director for the National Sunflower Association, said that, according to “Oil World,” world prices of sunflower seed as well as oil and meal have come under considerable price pressure since early July.

Kleingartner stated that warm temperatures and dry conditions in most areas of the region helped the final development of this year's sunflower crop. He also added that much of the sunflower production areas in North and South Dakota and also Minnesota benefitted from a general rain early last week which helped alleviate concerns over dry conditions. However, dryness does persist over a large area of the region.

“Most areas continue to have reasonable levels of soil moisture for this time of year,” he said.

Crop conditions in the region show that 100 percent of the sunflower crop in North Dakota has bloomed, 70 percent has dried ray petals, 19 percent has bracts yellow and 2 percent has bracts brown. In South Dakota, 98 percent of the crop has bloomed, while 45 percent has dried ray petals and 13 percent has bracts yellow.

Kansas' sunflower crop is 85 percent bloomed, 29 percent dried ray petals, and 8 percent has bracts yellow.

The combined good to excellent rating category increased to 58 percent from the previous week's 56 percent rating. The biggest increase occurred in North and South Dakota, while Colorado, Kansas and Minnesota had a slight decrease in crop ratings.

Last year's combined good to excellent rating for the same period was 69 percent.

As of Aug. 31, USDA rated North Dakota's crop at 58 percent good to excellent, 34 percent fair and 8 percent poor to very poor. Minnesota's crop was rated 79 percent good to excellent, 18 percent fair and 3 percent poor to very poor. South Dakota's sunflower crop was 75 percent good to excellent, 22 percent fair and 3 percent poor to very poor.

“At some locations sunflower oil prices have fallen below those of soy oil and rape oil due to increasing selling pressure and sharply higher new crop supplies from the Black Sea region and elsewhere,” Kleingartner said.

One of the most important market factors in the U.S. continues to be Mother Nature and the weather. As a result of the late start this spring, coupled with less than ideal growing conditions this summer, most row crops are behind in development and maturity.

“At the moment there are no frost warnings anticipated in the next two weeks and this has reduced the risk premium that is normally built into oilseed prices at this time of year,” Kleingartner said. “Market forces outside normal supply and demand fundamentals for crops such as crude petroleum prices and the U.S. dollar in foreign currency exchange markets have continued to influence price direction as well.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Things At birdJam Are Hoppin'

Ready to add some frog and toad sounds to your life? You can now add it to your iPod with birdJam Maker for Frogs and Toads. Based upon Lang Elliott's "The Calls of Frogs and Toads" book and CD, birdJam Maker for Frogs & Toads formats and organizes the 42 species found east of the Great Plains. Keeping with what makes their product so popular, they removed that narration and added photos to go along with the sounds. There's a variety of sounds for each species, including advertisement, aggressive, release, rain, distress, warning and hybrid, along with counter singing and mixed species choruses. birdJam Maker for Frogs and Toads retails for $9.99 and Lang's "The Calls of Frogs and Toads" is $19.95.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Sunflower Problems In Kansas

From The Pratt Tribune:

Wild sunflowers have done well this year but their crop counterpart in Pratt County has taken a hard hit from stem borers.

Unlike the state flower that grows wild just about everywhere in the county, crop sunflowers are in just a handful of fields and one farmer, Gary Watson, is getting ready to bring in a harvest that was badly stunted by stem borers.

These pests migrate from soybeans and it’s easy to see which plants have been affected. The plants have turned completely brown and are drying out fast while the healthy plants still have color in their stems. The brown plants will produce few if any seeds and substantially reduce the potential yield.

With harvest just a couple of weeks away Watson is considering not planting sunflowers in 2009. The 180 acres he has this year have not fared well and he is looking at a poor harvest.
“They’re not going to yield too good this year,” Watson said.

Some spots in the field were not hit as hard as others and will still produce a big head of sunflower seeds. The affected heads look good for a while but a lot of effected heads are blank.

Sunflowers are marketed by the hundredweight. In a good year dry land sunflowers can yield from 1,200 to 1,500 pounds per acre while irrigated land can produce from 2,500 to 3,000 pounds per hundredweight. The Tuesday market for sunflowers ranged from $21.90 to $22.60 per hundredweight while the Farm Service Agency PCP price for Tuesday was $22.09 per hundredweight.

Sunflowers provide a good bridge for double cropping and farmers don’t have to summer fallow the ground. They are planted from late April up to early July. Harvest is mid September on the early planting and the crop can go back to wheat if there is enough moisture, Watson said.

Watson plants no-till. Sunflowers have a broadleaf that makes them difficult to cultivate so the plants are sprayed to control pests, diseases and weeds. Weeds have to be sprayed pre emergence while pests are sprayed from an airplane.

One field is particularly weedy because Watson was unable to get it planted soon enough after it was sprayed.

The head moth is a common pest but has done little this year because Watson got a good kill on them. Watson has his own spraying equipment but hires out a plane for head moth.

The big problem has been stem borers that enter the stem, devour the pith and kill the plant.

Sunflowers are planted with a corn planter on 30-inch rows. They are harvested with the same row head used for soybeans or milo. A wheat header can be used with the addition of pans on the platform.

Sunflowers are susceptible to a mosaic disease and insurance companies won’t insure a field that has been planted to sunflowers two years in a row because of mosaic that takes seven to eight years to eliminate once it is established in a field.

“Sunflowers have to be rotated,” Watson said.

Two types of sunflowers are grown as crops. The oil variety that Watson grows is used for cooking oil. Sunflower oil is lower in saturated fats than other vegetable oils and is highly sought, Watson said.

The other commercial type is a confection sunflower that are used for the popular sunflower seeds that are packaged and ready to eat.

Watson has grown sunflowers off and on for 10 of the last 15 years. He takes the seeds to the Kanza Co-op for shipping to a sunflower processing plant in Goodland or the co-op will sell them to birdseed manufacturers.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sunflower News From North Dakota

From KFYR:

Across the state, sunflowers are about a week behind their normal growing schedule.

That`s because it`s been too dry for the crop to grow well. Now, sunflowers need some warm days so they can start growing again.

And the days and weeks ahead until the end of the season are what will really determine the outcome for farmers.

"We really need to hold that frost off until that crop becomes mature, because obviously if we`d have an early frost, that would result in a lower test weight, it would cut back on the oil content, things like that. It would be pretty damaging to the crop," says John Sandbakken, of the National Sunflower Association. "We`d like to see that hold back until the crop is mature."

He says a steady, heavy rain all at once is better than a drizzle over several days, because then the water can soak into the ground without the risk of disease to the

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Texas Butterflies

Looking for a splash of color for the yard, then check out the unique yard accents made by Texas Butterflies.

Made of strong non-yellowing acrylic, there are three styles to chose from: Monarch, Swallowtail, and Lacewing (aka Admiral) in a variety of color combinations. The butterflies come in two sizes, Large have a 21" - 22" wingspan and Smalls have a 12" - 14" wingspan.

The wings are screen-printed with non-fading commercial sign paints and sealed with ultra-violet curing. The bodies are spray-painted with an acrylic enamel paint that will not chip or fade. All parts are specially made to withstand all weather.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Birdola Going For A Record!

From The Grand Rapids Press:

Birdola Products' seed cakes are meant to be hung from trees, but the one made to set a world record is a bit too heavy for that.

To mark the Northwest Side company's 20th anniversary, a 700-pound wildlife seed cake will be unveiled Wednesday at Blandford Nature Center, where birds, squirrels and other critters will do the real celebrating.

"We expect it to last three months," said Kristin Tindall, ecology education coordinator at Blandford, whose desk faces the feeding area where titmice, chickadees and woodpeckers gather with chipmunks and squirrels. "It's like a picture out of 'Snow White' here."

The privately held company's goal is to convince the Guinness World Records to recognize the 5-by-4-foot, 14-inch-thick seed cake in a new category.

Becoming the first seed cake record-holder might be fitting for the company, which says it invented bird seed cakes and now sells more than any other company nationally.

"We've grown considerably in the last 20 years," said President Frank Hoogland, who owns Birdola with Grand Rapids businessmen Dan Pfeiffer and Rich Postma.

"We continue to develop new products and pursue new markets. We hope to keep that trend continuing."

Birdola's employees, who number 30 to 35, have the capacity to manufacture up to 14,000 seed cakes a day at its Broadway Avenue NW plant. And during busy times, it does, Marketing Manager Rick Savino said.

The seeds are held together by a vitamin-laden protein binder the company developed when the founder, the late Don Metz, searched for a way to reduce mess and waste at bird feeders.

Today, truckloads of sunflower seeds come in from the Dakotas, peanuts from Georgia, millet from Colorado and nyjer seed from Pakistan, Myanmar and India.

Cherries and blueberries sometimes come from Michigan, but with prices up "tremendously" for all commodities, Savino said, the company tries to find the lowest prices at the right standards.

"Like anyone else, our margins are squeezed," he said. "Sales are a little bit soft right now."

When it comes to the choice of feeding wild birds or the dog during tough times, Birdola's "bird granola" gets left on the shelf.

But the company sees several hopeful signs.

First, more people are staying home, often gardening, and may pick up bird watching as a way to enjoy their yards. Second, the population is aging, and it is the settled-in segment that feeds birds.

Savino adds it is more important than ever to feed birds because their natural habitats are decreasing.

Meanwhile, large national chains and mom-and-pop stores are carrying Birdola's 45 products. Locally, Meijer, Family Fare and D&W Fresh Markets carry the lines, including the best-selling, 2-pound Birdola Plus Cakes that hold together even when pecked.

National chains that sell their products include Petco, PetSmart, Lowe's and Menards.

Company officials hope a world-record cake will bring a little more attention to their products.

At the very least, the birds will be happy.

"It will give all the birds a feast for the balance of the summer and well into the fall," Hoogland said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bird Vibes

You know how customers come into your store and ask for the latest, the very latest and newest in birding? Well, kids, this is it, something completely new:

Bird Vibes is a deck of 54 meditation cards based on bird species in North America. The birds are grouped by eight chakras according to the bird's color, habitat or other characteristics, with an additional card for each season. Each card shows a different bird through reproductions of paintings commissioned from Ottawa nature painter, Heather Bale. The cards are printed on FSC certified paper (the wood comes from well-managed forests, independently certified in accordance with the rules of the Forest Stewardship Council).

This was originally self-published in Ottawa in May 2007 and then published by Baico in December 2007. The second edition took into account comments from birders and Bird Vibes and is now sold in various book stores and nature gift shops in Canada and the U.S.A. Posters of the artwork are also available.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bird Of Paradise Collection From Audubon

Woodlink's Audubon Brand has a Bird of Paradise Line of poles, bird feeders, and bird baths:

Product Code: NACBATH1

Product Code: NAYHB1

Product Code: NABPFLY

Product Code: NABPO1 (There's even a mealworm feeder...if you are one of the few stores that can still get them during the shortage). Fortunately, this feeder will also work for grape jelly and orange halves as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bill Fenimore Wins ANOTHER Award

Bill Fenimore, owner of a Wild Birds Center in Layton, UT was recognized earlier this summer with an award from the American Birding Association and has now been recognized by the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History.

Fenimore was awarded the Roger Tory Peterson Nature Education Achievement Award that spotlights individuals and their communities to stimulate others to improve and expand the quality of nature education programs across the country. Fenimore conducts seminars and workshops on "Backyard Birding Basics" and "Landscaping for Wildlife". He also leads field trips on nature, with a bird focus through his store.

Congratulations, Bill, and how do you do it all and still run a successful store?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Scotts Sues Avian Advisors

From the Philadelphia Business Journal:

The ownership of bird food isn’t mere bird seed to Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. The Marysville lawn-and-garden products manufacturer is suing Avian Advisors LLC, a Fort Worth, Texas-based bird food development business, and its president, Mario Olmos, alleging breach of contract.

Scotts filed two provisional patent applications with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in June for new bird foods, identifying Olmos as the inventor, according to the lawsuit, which was filed July 30 in U.S. District Court in Columbus. Scotts claims those foods, which weren’t identified, were developed for Scotts while Avian Advisors was a consultant to the company.

Scotts asked Olmos to sign assignment documents, which would transfer the right, title and interest in the products to a Scotts subsidiary. Olmos refused.

Scotts declined to comment on the suit, and Avian Advisors’ lawyer said he expects to suit to be dismissed.

According to the suit, Scotts and Avian Advisors signed a consulting agreement in August 2007 to develop bird foods. The accord stated Scotts would own the patents and intellectual property created for it by Avian Advisors.

They entered a second agreement in April, which also was for the research and development of bird food and also would give Scotts ownership of any inventions. Scotts asked that the assignment documents be signed, but the defendants, through their counsel, “have indicated that other inventions, discoveries or improvements have been developed by Avian Advisors and Olmos during the provision of services to Scotts,” according to the lawsuit.

Scotts is demanding Avian Advisors and Olmos be ordered to carry out their end of the contract and that he sign the assignment documents. The company also wants the two to turn over all inventions, discoveries or improvements, even if they’re not patented. Scotts also is seeking compensatory damages.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Revamped Peterson Bird Guide

Houghton Mifflin has released a new version of the classic Peterson Field Guide to Birds. Some of the changes include:

• 40 new paintings

• Digital updates to Peterson’s original paintings, reflecting the latest knowledge of bird identification

• All new maps for the most up-to-date range information available--also, smaller maps are now on the same page as the bird species description, as well as larger, more detailed maps in the back.

• Text rewritten to cover the U.S. and Canada in one guide

• Contributors include: Michael DiGiorgio, Jeff Gordon, Paul Lehman, Michael O’Brien, Larry Rosche, and Bill Thompson III

• Includes URL to register for access to video podcasts

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Soda Bottle Watering Well

WaterWell1-cropped-Hi Res

McNaughton Inc
brings out the Soda Bottle Watering Well turns an empty plastic soda bottle into a "drinking fountain" for wild birds. Birds love water! Offering a source of water can increase the number of wild birds you attract to your yard. Kit includes Watering Tray, Net, and Hanger (you provide the bottle).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Some Answers To The Mealworm Shortage

From The Reptile Channel:

Nationwide, major companies producing or selling Tenebrio molitor are limiting new orders or halting them altogether. It’s creating a pinch some herpkeepers are feeling online and at the local pet store.

Production issues appear to be main culprit. Fred Rhyme, owner of Rainbow Mealworms, said his worms have been dying when they’re young. Once the chitinous insects get big, however, they do fine.

In business for more than 50 years, Rhyme said it’s the first time he’s encountered this problem. Unsure what is causing his mealworms to die, he said it might be the grain in which he keeps the insects. “We’re testing everything,” he said. “I’m trying different grains from different granaries.”

Whatever the cause, Rhyme said he’s more than 200 million worms behind in his orders, yet he hoped production would be back to normal by late July. “We’d better,” he said, “or I’m out of business.”

You can read the full story here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A new edition of Birdwatch Radio has just been posted on-line. This program features an interview with author and bird store owner, Mike O'Connor.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Earth, Sun, Moon, Peace, and Bluebird Advice

Earth Sun Moon Trading Co. is pleased to announce the release of two much anticipated designs: Advice from a Bluebird and Squirrels for Peace.

The newest addition to the bestselling Advice from NatureTM series, Advice from a Bluebird was among the most often requested designs. Beginning with Advice from a Tree® in 2003, the Advice from NatureTM line of T-shirts, sweatshirts and hats has expanded to over 30 designs, with around six new designs being introduced each year. Advice from NatureTM products continue to be bestsellers for state and national parks, nature centers, zoos, aquariums, wild bird shops, museum stores, garden centers, pet stores and specialty gift shops across the country. As Cheryl Zalik, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Erie, Pa., says, "The Advice from T-shirts from Earth Sun Moon Trading Company have been great sellers for our store. The designs appeal to a wide variety of interests and the advice given on each shirt is catchy and makes customers smile. Once read, the shirts really sell themselves!"

Also on the roster of new releases is the latest installment of Earth Sun Moon’s popular Peace Tees series, Squirrels for Peace. Artist Tom Griffin has done it again, creating a delightful, humorous and heartwarming design with just the right balance of realism and whimsy. The shirt depicts a gray squirrel, red squirrel, black squirrel and flying squirrel, all hilariously giving the peace sign. With the popularity of “squirrelly” stuff among backyard birdwatchers, this design is sure to be a hit. Other favorites among the Peace Tees series are Bears for Peace, Dogs for Peace, Cats for Peace and Primates for Peace.

For further information, contact Leo Glenn, Wholesale Marketing Director at Earth Sun Moon (Tel: 888-458-1687 x331, email: or check out the website.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Young Birder's Guide

One of the hottest books hitting the shelves is The Young Birder's Guide for easter North America by Bill Thompson III the editor of Bird Watcher's Digest. Thompson used his kids and his daughter's fourth grade class for input on what kind of bird guide they would like.

The end result is a book of 200 common species with information on habitat (note above photo), "wow" facts on all the bird species, photos, Julie Zickefoose illustrations and range maps. Even though the book is geared for kids, many adults are finding it a handy tool as well, it's especially useful for someone who is looking for something more than a Stan Tekiela guide but not ready for a Sibley guide. Customers can also download a companion to the guide from birdJam--songs, calls notes and photographs for 160 species to your iPod to ratchet up your birding knowledge and fun.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mealworm Shortage

Have you been able to get any mealworms lately?

You're not alone, most of the country from reptile owners, to wildlife rehabbers, to hardcore bluebird trail monitors are having a tough time finding live mealworms. So what happened?

Rita Smith of New York Worms answered, "It is because many of the larger growers had crop failures this spring and there is just not enough to go around now."

When asked to clarify what caused the crop failure with the "larger growers" no answer was given. I contacted The Bug Company in Minnesota, the representative said that their supplier in California who produces 70% of the mealworms for mealworm companies across the country is unable to grow them. The supplier starts them and then all the mealworms die. At this point the supplier isn't sure what the cause is for the failure to grow. Is it the bran that they are grown in? Is it a virus? No one seems to know at this point. I asked the representative for the name of the supplier and the Bug Company rep said that she was unable to give it out but would pass my questions and contact info on to their supplier to contact me.

Like many in the birding industry, I'm still waiting for an answer.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

George Petrides Honored

George Petrides, Sr., founder and chairman of Wild Bird Centers of America, Inc. recently received a Citizens Award for Exceptional Service by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

This prestigious award recognizes private citizens and organizations for their significant contributions to the mission and goals of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Petrides was honored for his assistance in improving the Service's bird watching and conservation programs throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS). In a letter announcing his award, H. Dale Hall, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, thanked Petrides for helping the Fish and Wildlife Service forge new partnerships, for giving generously of his time, talents, and insights to make the refuges more birder-friendly while helping birders to better understand the roles of national wildlife refuges. Hall continued, "Because of Petrides' contribution, the public is more aware of birds and their habitats, and conservation issues that are central to the mission of the Service."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Duncraft Window Feeders

Duncraft, a leader in innovative bird feeding, has created three new window feeders designed to let you see birds closer than ever, the One Way Mirror Window Feeders line.

One-way mirror film is laminated to the back of the feeder. The bird sees only a reflection of itself and doesn’t see inside the house. Get as close to the window as you’d like and observe every tiny movement and detail. The bird dines totally unaware and undisturbed.

Duncraft introduces three One Way Mirror Window Feeders, all easily attached to the outside of a window with heavy duty suction cups:

The Cardinal One Way Window Feeder is a covered platform tray for offering a variety of foods.

The Songbird One Way Window Feeder and a larger version, The Super Songbird One Way Feeder (pictured above) both feature two hoppers for offering different types of seeds which flow into the center tray—right where you’ll get the best view of the bird.

All of Duncraft’s One Way Mirror Window Feeders are handmade of durable, 1/8” clear polypropylene, at the Duncraft factory in Concord, NH.

This fits right in with the current trend of the "Stay-cation." Customers are not traveling as much with the higher fuel costs and looking to be entertained at home. Attracting birds can be a big part of that enjoyment.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Looking For A Way To Add News To Your Site?

The Bird News Network, produced by American Bird Conservancy, provides the latest news and information about birds and bird conservation in the form of articles, press releases, and videocasts. It is broadcast as an “RSS” feed that you can subscribe to by clicking here.

You also have the opportunity to syndicate this feed to add fresh, frequently changing, bird-related content directly to your site. All you need to do is add some simple code to display the feed on any page. Each time ABC sends out a news item, the headline will automatically appear. You don't need to do anything! You can even customize how the feed appears, so it fits with your site’s style. Visitors to your site just click on the headline to read the full article or view the video that is housed on ABC’s site. There is no charge for BNN syndication.

If you would like to add the BNN feed to your site, please email and we’ll send you the code to copy and paste onto your page along with simple instructions.

Additionally, we encourage you to link to American Bird Conservancy ( from your Website. With over 1,300 pages of information on every issue affecting birds in the Americas, it is bound to be a useful resource for your readers.

We hope you will consider syndicating BNN and look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Farm Bill News From The Bird Community E-Bulletin


The five-year, nearly $310-billion 2008 Farm Bill has finally been hammered out after months of extensions and negotiations in multiple open and closed meetings, chiefly among farm-state lawmakers.

The mainstream media watched the House and Senate pass the bill in early May, only to have it vetoed by President Bush, and then overridden by Congress. Most of the media’s focus was on the level of subsidies to large farmers, the perception (and reality) of “pork,” a new “permanent disaster” program, and nutrition elements. Conservation elements within the Farm Bill were given little serious attention.

That was unfortunate, since the status of the conservation features of the Farm Bill is particularly important for grassland and wetland birds and other wildlife. At the end of this process, the conservation elements for birds were mixed.

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) proposed acreage will be lowered from the previous Farm Bill's 39.2 million acres to approximately 32 million acres. This loss is not a positive development for grassland bird conservation, but neither is the fact that CRP has to compete for cropland at a disadvantage in the face of remarkably high commodity prices.

Both the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) and the newer Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) were renewed, but with smaller amounts than in the previous Farm Bill.

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) focusing on working lands conservation received meaningful increases in funding. Both CSP and EQIP have been beneficial, but not as proficient in delivering direct benefits to birds and wildlife as some of the other Farm Bill conservation programs.

A creative new Chesapeake Bay Program targeting conservation for the Chesapeake Bay was authorized at $372 million.

There was a two-year extension to tax-deduction incentives for conservation easements on private lands.

And a small Open Fields program to help states enroll private land in programs to public access for wildlife-dependent recreation was authorized at $50 million.

The new “permanent disaster” program, costing an estimated $3.8 billion is expected to encourage farmers to plow marginal lands.

Most disappointing, however, in terms of an innovative suggestion that failed to pass unscathed, was the “Sodsaver” proposal. As we’ve described previously in the E-bulletin, Sodsaver was intended to remove taxpayer financed incentives to cultivate crops on virgin native grasslands. The provisions were originally planned to be mandatory nationwide. Changes to the bill altered the language to apply only to parts of five Prairie Pothole states (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota), and the provisions were further weakened in that they are applicable only at the option of those states' individual governors. At least an almost toothless Sodsaver is now on the books, hopefully available for strengthening in future versions of the Farm Bill.

A number of conservation organizations backed final passage of the Farm Bill, sometimes almost grudgingly, while other organizations were neutral, seemingly without a position pro or con. Among the more traditional conservation organizations, the National Wildlife Federation, which had originally supported the bill because it had increased conservation funding, urged its ultimate defeat after seeing changes to grassland and wetland protections that were made behind closed doors, and because of the implications for increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Heartwood's Green Pledge

Heartwood Inc. would like you to know that they mean green. They have released the following pledge to their customers:

"At Heartwood, when we say we’re green, we mean it. Heartwood doesn’t cut corners, and we don’t cut trees. Ever. We keep our carbon footprint small, and because all our manufacturing is done right here in America, you can be sure our paint and materials are 100% safe for wildlife. Today, global warming and deforestation have put migratory songbirds in dire peril. At Heartwood, we’re committed to creating safe sanctuaries, with our homes and with green manufacturing that helps make the whole world safer and more eco-friendly for the earth’s most precious creatures.

"Most of our competitors construct houses from western red cedar or eastern white pine, both of which must be cut and hauled from Canada thousands of miles away. But at Heartwood, our ingenious manufacturing process is “wood wise” and low carbon, utilizing short pieces of cypress and mahogany that would otherwise be discarded or used to fire kilns. Our lumber suppliers are within a 2-hour drive, providing jobs here at home while keeping our carbon footprint minimal. And as a domestic manufacturer, we keep all our shipping right here in the U.S.

"In addition to boasting a beautiful grain and coloring, cypress is naturally rot and decay-resistant, as well as naturally regenerating. When a tree is harvested, the stump automatically regenerates a new sapling; saplings also sprout from the root system of a healthy adult tree. While this helps protect cypress from over cutting, we take the extra step of purchasing only cypress that has been harvested in accordance with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) guidelines. Most importantly, we use only short pieces of lumber, 4-6’ long, which would otherwise be chipped and burned. These pieces are all kiln-dried and NHLA inspected and certified. Even the chips and sawdust we produce as waste go into garden mulch, to deteriorate naturally and add nutrients to the soil.

"Everyone appreciates the beauty and durability of mahogany furniture, but behind that beauty is an impossible standard of perfection: normal manufacturing requires that 16’ boards be completely free of defects. That means a lot of rejects, which in turn meant an opportunity for Heartwood when we were able to purchase a substantial supply of salvage stock. Today, Heartwood mahogany homes are the only mahogany birdhouses in the world, yet we didn’t cut a single tree. That’s true beauty!

"Heartwood paint is 100% acrylic latex, which is completely non-toxic, and with our manufacturing process right here at our headquarters in Mississippi, you can be sure of our consistent eco-quality. In fact, we even transform mistakes into green opportunities, using our local paint store’s stock of mis-tinted paint to create our own medium gray, the color that results naturally from mixing all colors together.

"Working with a local box factory, Heartwood is able to use box over runs made from post consumer fiber, rather than having new boxes manufactured. While this means a lawnmower advertisement may cover one side of the Heartwood box, we think our customers appreciate the savings in costs—and trees—especially since these containers are recyclable and sturdy, with double-wall corrugation and handholds for ease and durability. Inside, our homes are packed with clean and recyclable unprinted newsprint salvaged from a large daily paper.

Whether it’s materials, manufacturing or shipping, at Heartwood we’re always alert for new ways to help save our birds and the world they live in."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dead Birds Reported In Minnesota In April

Late April was a tricky weather month in Minnesota for birds. Cold temperatures and heavy snows created harsh feeding conditions for insectivores just arriving from migration. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

The Minnesota DNR received numerous reports of dead swallows, bluebirds, sparrows, robins and warblers. Because of the cold spring, migrating songbirds found few insects when they arrived. Then the late-April snow hit in northern Minnesota. Birds that eat insects couldn't find food, and some starved.

In Brainerd, 19 dead swallows were found in nine different nest boxes. There were 27 more swallows and two bluebirds found dead in nest boxes at Crow Wing State Park,

“Citizens can help by putting out meal worms for bluebirds and other worm-eating birds. Unfortunately, there isn't anything we can do for the swallows that rely on flying insects for their main food source,” Henderson said. “Temperatures above 60 for a period of two to three days should produce enough insects to revive birds currently in peril.“

Conrad Christiansen, retired DNR biologist, said migrating birds are always pushing the snowline.

“Birds such as woodcock return about mid March,” Christiansen said. “If we experience a heavy, late snowfall some birds will suffer.“

However, some remained skeptical, according to an article in the River Valley Outdoors:

I still remain puzzled by the report. Gaylord Perry, co-owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Onalaska, WI, agrees the DNR may be jumping to conclusion with out looking at all the facts.

Perry agrees it may be a possibility the birds are dying from starvation, but is quick to point out that most insect-eating birds will also eat seed and fruit.

“They not only eat insects, but will eat seed as long as it’s out of the shell,” he said. “They’re also fruit eaters.”

Perry said he was skeptical about bluebirds eating seeds until one of his customer brought in a photo to prove it.

“When I asked them what they were feeding the bluebirds, the customer said our garden mix,” Perry said. “Sure, everything is out of the shell in that mix.”

Rather than starvation, could the birds found in the nest boxes have died from exposure from the cold, or from predation?

Perry says those are certainly possibilities and that’s why he remains very skeptical about the report.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Farm Bill Information

From The Birding Community E-Bulletin:

House-Senate negotiators reached a tentative agreement on the long-awaited Farm Bill on Friday, 25 April. The provisional agreement on a new five-year Farm Bill was approached after another round of spending and tax cuts, and the establishment of new customs fees to meet budget rules and to win over Republicans’ support in the Senate.

Conservation measures in the Farm Bill are deemed crucial to bird-and-wildlife protection. Native prairie, certainly one of this country’s most endangered ecosystems, is suffering a heavy loss, since incentives remain in place encouraging conversion to cropland. (e.g., more than half a million acres of native prairie were lost nationwide in 2007.) A proposed provision called Sodsaver is part of the new Farm Bill. It is aimed at discouraging this destruction by removing crop insurance eligibility and other subsidies. Even the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), long considered the centerpiece of Farm Bill conservation, is suffering as rental rates for the program are being outstripped by commodity prices (e.g., rental rates in the Prairie Pothole Region on CRP land average $31 per acre, while commodity crops are bringing in more than $150 per acre).

Details are still pending, and although refinements on some policy issues are still being made, the optimistic expectation is that Congress can complete the bill by mid-May.

We hope to have a more thorough report in the June E-bulletin.