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Summer 2010

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We've waited many long, dark weeks for summer to once again arrive in Wisconsin.  After being confined to our houses for months, why is it the mosquito seems to lessen the fun of being outside, making us retreat back indoors?  You may not want to spread your skin with oily, scented repellant and you may not want to spread toxic sprays over your backyard.  Well, Mother Nature has a ton of ways to get rid of these insects so you can better enjoy the beauty of summer in Wisconsin.

First, let's talk about mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes go through four stages of their life cycle:  egg, larva, pupa and adult.  The first three stages are aquatic and last 5-14 days.  Adult females lay their eggs in water, which can be a lake, puddle, natural reservoir on a plant or any small amount of water, such as the bottom of a pail.  They don't need much water.  Both male and female feed on nectar and other sources of sugar, the females also require a blood meal (you and me) for protein and iron for the development of her eggs.  There are many methods used for mosquito control: source reduction, insecticides, habitat modification and natural predators.  We'll address the last two methods. 

Habitat Modification

aad413r.jpgEliminate stagnant water.  If the first 3 stages of new mosquito populations depend on water, let's eliminate their breeding ground.  We can't remove rain puddles but we are able to check our yards for low spots or areas that collect water.  This could mean items such as watering cans, planter reservoirs and yes, birdbaths.  If the water in your birdbath was moving, those mosquito eggs would not be able to develop.  The use of a bath mister, dripper, or Water Wiggler could help keep your water in motion and kill the eggs.  Also remember to clean your bath and change the water regularly.  Stop the cycle of the needed 5-14 days to become adults.  If you have a pond there are fish that consume mosquito larvae.  Circulate your pond water or use a dripper or mister in there also.

Natural Predators

pm.jpgBirds are one of the best natural enemies to insects.  However, not all birds are insect eaters.  So, you'll want to attract a variety of birds to your backyard.  The best insect-eating birds are the common nighthawk, purple martin, owls, starlings, warblers, whip-poor-wills, chickadees, catbirds, mockingbirds, and wrens.  Some birds, like the purple martin actually catch insects while in the air.  Put up houses for them, have food available (seed, suet and fruit), and let them all eat insects to their satisfaction in your backyard.



untitled.bmpDragonflies, also an insect, are valuable predators that eat mosquitoes and other small insects like flies, bees and ants.  They are usually found around lakes, ponds, streams and wetlands because their larvae, like the mosquito, are aquatic.




imagescaei4k3c.jpgBats have the capability of consuming over 1000 insects in a single hour. This means that each night one bat will consume thousands of insects, including mosquitoes.  So forget the misconception that bats fly into people’s hair.  They are nocturnal, active at twilight and after, and will feed on all your backyard mosquitoes, not on you.  Attracting bats to your yard is as simple as placing a bat house.  These houses need to receive at least 6 hours of sunlight each day.  Some suggest you place bat houses, back to back, on a pole about 20 feet off the ground.  Just one house may be all you need in your yard.  As a side note, bats' dung, or guano, is so rich in nutrients that it is mined from caves, bagged and used by farmers to fertilize their crops.  Could be beneficial in your yard as well.  Click here to see a selection of bat houses.


imagesca5bnlf0.jpgToads also consume insects.  Besides helping eliminate the mosquito population they also are valued in the garden, eating other insects, grubs, slugs and worms.  They are nocturnal, resting during the day in burrows in trees, under leaves or in toad houses you provide.





bk4.jpgBelted Kingfishers are easy to identity with their large head, bushy crest and large black bill.  They are stocky, noisy fishing birds, 11 to 14.5 inches in length.  Their plummage is blue gray above with a large white collar, a broad gray breast and a small white spot by each eye.  Females have a rusty band that goes across the breast and down the sides making Kingfishers one of the few birds where the female is more colorful than the male.  Belted Kingfishers range extends across North America, found around bodies of water such as rivers, streams, ponds, lakes or coast line.  Northern populations migrate south, as far as northern South America for the winters.

Kingfishers are often seen hovering in the air with rapid beating wings as they prepare to dive into the water for a fish.  They give a loud high rattle sound as they take off to prepare to dive.  In flight, they can be recognized by their deep uneven wing beats.  Their diet is fish, supplemented with other aquatic life such as frogs, crayfish, small mammals, snails, tadpoles and insects.  Kingfishers hover or perch prominently on trees, posts, or other suitable "watch points" over open water, watching for prey. Once prey is sighted, they dive headfirst into the water and seize it with their bills. Typically prey is taken near the surface and the birds do not submerge themselves completely.  They are highly territorial and vigorously defend their territories.

After the male establishes a territory he sings mewing songs to attract a mate. During courtship he will catch fish to feed her.  Pairs once formed are monogamous. A typical nest is a burrow or horizontal tunnel in a river bank excavated by both sexes. In addition to their large bill, they are aided in their digging by two of their toes that are fused together providing them with a built in shovel.  During excavation the two birds will constantly rattle to each other.  The burrow will slope uphill, leaving an air pocket in the elevated end of the tunnel for the young to survive in case of flooding.  These tunnel nests range from 1 to 8 feet in length.  Females usually lay 5 to 8 white eggs which are incubated by both birds for about 3 weeks.  Both adults take care of the young birds, feeding them regurgitated fish, and they will fledge in about 4 weeks. The young birds will stay with and be fed by the parents for about 3 more weeks.


Thank You

We want to thank you for "going green" with us by purchasing and using our Wildbird & Backyard reusable totes in the store. Little by little, penny by nickel, we accumulated a total of $50 and very happily presented Heckrodt Wetland Reserve with a $50 Gift Card. helps to keep our landfills cleaner, it's good for Mother Earth and it's good for Heckrodt.  Everyone wins.  Please continue to use these reusable bags.  Remember, every time you buy or use a "resusable bag" for your purchases we will add to the local Nature Center Fund.  The next $50 will go to Mosquito Hill Nature Center.

From Tracy Koenig, Heckrodt Wetland Reserve:

Dear Mike and friends:

Heckrodt Wetland Reserve is most grateful to receive your grant for tokens collected representing use of re-useable bags by customers of Wild Bird and Backyard. This grant is meaningful us in two very important ways:

1. As a certified member of Travel Green Wisconsin, Heckrodt Wetland Reserve encourages the use of re-useable bags over plastic and paper. Tokens collected toward this grant represented commitment by many Wild Bird and Backyard customers to reuse of important resources and keeping waste packaging out of landfills.

2. The grant itself will be used to support feeding of wild birds at the Nature Center in an area used for environmental education. We are proud to teach more than 10,000 people each year about the importance of our environmental resources in naturalist-led programs. In addition, more than 50,000 visitors each year enjoy self-led excursions on our trails and in the Nature Center. The bird feeders are a favorite stop for many.

Thank you again for designating this first grant to HWR. We appreciate the partnership of the Wild Bird and Backyard and its many customers in supporting the environmental resources of the Fox Valley.


Tracey Koenig
Executive Director

New Arrival--NutraSaff Seed

NutraSaff, an amazing new hybrid bird seed, has just recently been made available for sale as an alternative to Safflower seed.  Wildbird & Backyard is pleased to be able to offer this new seed to you and your backyard birds. This new seed has been accepted by birds who normally enjoy Safflower and it still reduces the problems of Grackles and squirrels at the feeder. The pictures here represent Safflower on the left and NutraSaff on the right. You will notice the NutraSaff has a golden brown appearance compared to the Safflower. That is because it has an extremely thin outer hull (40% thinner than traditional safflower), making it easier for the birds to digest and extract the meal.  Comparing NutraSaff to Safflower, NutraSaff also has 15% more oil content, 25% more protein, 30% higher fat content (energy), is organic and chemical-free.  Because of the thinner hull there should be less growth under the feeder. NutraSaff is grown in the United States and Canada and is used as a nutritional seed supplement for beef and dairy cattle, poultry, fish and the wild bird food market.  Midwest grown!



Featured Products:  Other Insect Repellants, Bee and Wasp Traps, All Natural  Plant Saver

Sometimes you need just a little more help to keep those pesty critters, of all sizes, away from you.  Customers have told us "Plant Saver" has worked well in their yards, protecting their plants from deer, rabbits and mice. It's organic content will provide up to 6 months protection, regardless of rain, with no unpleasant odor. Made right here in Wisconsin.  Bees?  Wasps?  Try a glass trap. Put some sweet liquid in the base.  Bees and wasps will be attracted to the sweet smell inside yet won't be able to find their way back out--TRAPPED!  We have a variety of sizes and colors, a pretty accent to your outside festivities.  Perfect to give you added protection from mosquitoes, all natural insect repellent by "Amazon Lights" is available in sticks, cones and candles.  They are a concentrated mixture of citronella, rosemary, thyme and Andrioba oil.  The Andrioba oil is processed from the seeds and nuts of the Amazonian Rainforest tree of the same name.  Click for more product informationon Amazon Lights or Plant Saver.


Mike's Message

The grackles are here!  The starlings are here!!  The red-winged blackbirds are here!!!  Yes, it's that time of the year again.

The most frequently asked question in the store this year is, "Why are there so many more grackles, starlings and blackbirds and how can I stop them from emptying my feeders?"  I don't have an answer as to why so many but I know it can be so very discouraging to fill your feeders and have them emptied in nano seconds by a billion undesirable birds.  They certainly take some of the enjoyment out of feeding backyard birds.

I do have three suggestions.  Number one (I hate this solution) is to stop feeding.  Give the undesirable birds time to find other food sources.  When they've been gone for a while, start filling your feeders again and eventually the songbirds will be back.  Secondly, put out only safflower.  Normally the undesirables will avoid safflower and loose interest in your feeders. The safflower will still attract cardinals, chickadees, house finches and doves.  Squirrels resist safflower, chipmunks love to bury it in your backyard.  Our new seed, NutraSaff, will all but eliminate the safflower growth because the shell is so thin and germination will be difficult.  I have been using NutraSaff for about a month and it seems to work.  I saw a lot of the birds on the feeder that we want and none that we don't want.  I still leave a feeder filled with other seed so the grackles/starlings are happy to leave the safflower feeder alone. 

Thirdly, a feeder designed to keep the "heavy birds" off.  Now the uglies cannot feed at the feeder and are reduced to feeding off the ground.  There is enough on the ground to keep them from acquiring a taste for safflower (NutraSaff). The feeders are not inexpensive but they do work, have lifetime warranties and will pay for themselves in time because you'll be spending less on seed to feed the intruding birds.

I can't begin to tell you how excited we are to have Jim Flood, President of Bovano, return to our store.  (Bovano creates those beautiful artworks on the wall behind the counter).  Jim is a fun, delightful gentleman and he always brings many new creations with him for the event.  Save the date--Saturday, October 9th.  He'll be anxious to talk to you and will autograph pieces. Discounts on Bovano, drawings, think Christmas.  Finally, a special thank you to all who entered our photo contest.  Your photos were great and it was difficult to only pick out 2 winners.  First Place Winner is Barb Bezzi-Madill and Second Place Winner is Madalyn Long.  Everyone checking out admires and compliments your photographic talents.

Remember, July and August we change our Sunday hours to 10am-2pm.

                                                                            Happy Birding, Mike


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