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.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wild Bird Feeding Industry Update

Are you a member of the Wild Bird Feeding Industry? If not, you may not get their E-News Updates. Highlights from the current issue include updates on the sunflower and Nyjer crop:

"The sunflower planting intentions released on March 30, 2008 by the US Department of Agriculture are up by 4-5% over last year.

Since the report was issued on March 30, soybeans (which showed an 18% increase in acres in the report) have steadily increased in price.

There is a larger than normal soybean crop in Argentina, and the Argentine government has put tariffs on ag commodity exports in order to keep enough food in their country. This has caused the Chinese to buy more from the U.S. and kept prices firm on both Sunflower and Soybeans.

Corn is also going up in order to steal acres from soybeans. With the wet weather down south, farmers are having some trouble planting their corn, so corn prices are firm as well.

To sum it up, the planting intentions report is intentions only, and there are still alot of changes going on at the farm level. Growers have not made up their minds yet, and some farmers are experiencing conditions that are either too wet to plant what they intended or too dry. It is very dry in a large part of North and South Dakota, as well as many other parts of the US.

For current market reports, visit the National Sunflower Association website.

Markets of Nyjer® are calmer but still very high priced. Supplies at origins are adequate but under pressure of internal local oil crushing and speculation. Most importers and exporters see a significant decrease in USA imports in 2008 due to the current high prices."

Also, the WBFI will be having their annual conference November 12 - 15, 2008 in San Antonio, TX.