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  SUMMER 2014


Monarchs - Needing Your Help to Survive


INCREDIBLE. That's the word that comes to mind when we think about the monarch butterfly. An insect with a body the size and weight of a paper clip can migrate 1,500 miles or more. Not once, but twice in its lifetime. First in autumn, when it flies to a specific overwintering site in Mexico — a trip it has never taken before. And again in spring, when it returns north to reproduce. Just incredible.

These miraculous creatures are in trouble. Though monarch populations have been declining during the past decade, they've seen sharp declines in the last few years. Scientists now believe this is a long-term trend, rather than a short-term phenomenon possibly caused by specific weather events, such as droughtb99195390z_1_20140131222013_000_g014kahq_1-1.jpg or hurricanes.

In 1991 about 70% of these wintering mo
narchs in Mexico froze to death as a result of three days of rain and sub- freezing conditions. This was an enormous tragedy for the monarch and they have not been seen again in many northern regions. But many also think there’s another factor: The butterfly is starving to death. The relentless spraying of herbicides in North America is wiping out once-plentiful milkweed, the only plant that monarch caterpillars can eat. Small-scale illegal logging also is destroying the fir forest canopy in Mexico that the butterflies use as their wintering grounds in the states of Mexico and Michoacan.

This contributing loss of habitat in the summer breeding grounds in North America is staggering. We are losing 6,000 acres of potential monarch/pollinator habitat a day in the United Stated due to development (2.2 million acres per year). Because we are eating healthier, the losses of habitat due the adoption of glyphosate tolerant corn and soybeans in the last 10 years amount to at least 100 million acres. The conversion of 7 million acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land to crops for the production of biofuels adds to the total. In all, we estimate the loss of habitat to be 147 million acres since Monarch Watch was started in 1992 – an area 4 times the state of Illinois

8588-monarch-butterfly-on-tithonia.jpgAddressing habitat loss to save a species is often difficult. Fortunately, monarchs do not use specialized habitats; rather, they use open spaces, fly great distances, and can find the resources they need – milkweeds, nectar sources, and shelter – if they are present.  This type of habitat must be protected now, before we see the day when the monarch is just a memory.

We all need to do our best to provide the monarchs with food and shelter.  Think about developing a butterfly garden in your backyard.  We have butterfly houses, feeders and nectar to help you help the monarch.

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Bats - Your Backyard Friends

a-little-brown-bat-myotis-007.jpgBats are some of the most unique and ecologically beneficial animals in the world. They are the only mammals to have evolved true flight and there are over 1,200 species found worldwide; Wisconsin has seven or eight species of bats, all of which are insectivorous.  Bats are not rodents. They are in fact more related to primates than to rodents, eating fruit, pollen, insects and other invertebrates, frogs, fish and even blood. In North America, bats are the primary predators of night-flying insects. 

Got Mosquitoes?  They are pretty abundant in our backyard this summer, probably yours as well.  Mounting a bat house in your yard may be the answer to eliminate the numbers of those pesky mosquitoes, changing the nightly ritual of mosquitoes eating you to bats eating the mosquitoes. Bats are environmentally safe and won’t bother any daytime activities.  

Select the right bat house design

Be sure to select a bat house that has been designed properly for roosts. Bat houses should be no less than 24 inches tall, 13 inchesimages.jpg wide and 3 inches deep. The narrow opening should be about 3/4-1 inch wide. Caulk the bat house to keep heat in and rain out. There should be a 1/4 inch air vent about 6 inches above the entrance. And there needs to be a good roosting surface, such as 1/8 polyethylene plastic mesh or horizontal grooves cut 1/4 inch apart.

Choose a suitable location

imagescawrkkn0.jpgPlace your bat house at least 15 feet high, facing south to southeast, where it will be 6-8 hours of direct sun. If you do not get 6-8 hours of direct sun, you may want to paint your bat house black to help it absorb more heat. The best location is on a pole or the side of a building with no obstructions blocking the view of the bat house or the flight path. An open space of about 20 feet in front of the bat house is recommended. Try to avoid placing the bat house in a living tree nless there is ample space around the house, as tree limbs often shade the bat house and limbs may also hide the entrance. 

Plant a night garden

Since bats eat night-flying insects, you will want to plant flowers that bloom late in the day or are night-scented in order to attract food for the bats.  Popular choices include:  Evening Primrose, Phlox, Milkweeds, Goldenrod, Salvia and Butterfly Bush.  Native plants to our area are best so check with a local nursery.

Check out the array of Bat Houses at Wildbird & Backyard.  Let’s make it a great summer to be outdoors, mosquito free!

More Birds, Different Housing Needs

In America's tidy neighborhoods, as homeowners and townships trim away dead trees and large limbs, good owl nesting sites can be hard to find. The same goes for the wood duck and woodpeckers.

Human-made nest boxes can make up for any shortage of natural nesting cavities, enabling these other birds a place to live, where they might otherwise be absent.

owl and kestrel.bmpOwls may spend their days sleeping in sense foliage or sitting next to tree trunks. More often they will be inside a cavity of some sort - a hollow limb, a large woodpecker hole, hidden away from the sharp eyes of small songbirds. A good cavity becomes more essential during the nesting season. It's important to place the man-made box correctly. The natural cavities that owls choose are typically 12 to 20 feet above the ground and in deep shade. Place an inch or so of dried leaves in the bottom of the box and hang it up on the trunk of a large tree.

Wood Ducks

Wood ducks also nest in natural tree cavities, often abandoned woodpecker nests. These natural cavities are scarce and the wood duck wood duck.bmpwill readily use a man-made box. They nest close to rivers, wetlands and other suitable aquatic habitats. Cavities located 30 feet or more above the ground are preferred, but the height can vary from near ground level to 65 feet. They prefer nesting over water so the young have a soft landing, but will nest up to 150 yards from the shoreline.

Purple Martins

Purple Martins spend the non-breeding season in Brazil then migrate to North America to nest. East of the Rockies they are totally purple.jpgdependent on human-supplied housing. Most "would-be" martin landlords rush to get their martin housing opened up for the arrival of martin "scouts" in their area. Contrary to popular folklore, "scouts" are not looking for new breeding sites for their flocks. Scouts are simply the first martins to arrive in, or pass through an area on their way back to their previous year's nesting site. These martins aren't likely to switch to new housing. Landlords of active sites can leave their housing completely closed up until the martins return and land on the housing, usually around April 15 in our area. Purple Martins exhibit a very high level of site fidelity. Once they have bred successfully at a specific location, the same birds return there year after year Houses and gourds should be painted white, or a light pastel color; trim can be any color. White housing reflects the heat of the sun, keeping nestlings cooler.


Woodpeckers often return to the same nesting area every year of their adult life. They prefer a nest box with a roughened interior and a woodpecker.bmpfloor covered with a two-inch layer of wood chips or coarse sawdust. For best results, place woodpecker houses high up on a tree trunk exposed to direct sunlight. Although the woodpeckers would prefer to nest in a vacant decaying tree, such tree is not always available to them. Help Mother Nature and provide a suitable house for the woodpecker.

Summer Essentials

Essential products that are designed with summer in mind:

  • 94725_jpg_w180h360.jpgBirdbath, Birdhouse and Birdbath Cleaners:  Soy based cleaners that are easy to use and safe for the environment, no toxic ingredients that are harmful to the birds or other backyard visitors.  These products are concentrated and a little goes a long way.  We know the summer heat will contribute to the build up of algea in our bird baths; the baths should be cleaned periodically to keep water clean and safe.  Houses and feeders need periodic cleanings and these products will make that chore easier.  We have a selection of several different soy-based, non toxic cleaning products to choose from....find one that works best for you.

    Plant Saver:  A proven formula deters animals from eating your plants.  Developed right here in Wisconsin with natural ingredients, no foul order, endorsed by the National Gardeners Association.  One application lasts a full growing season when applied around garden plants.  This product can be sprinkled around your plants or use the muslin bags included to hang this deterant from bush/tree branches.  We've carried this repellent from many years and have customers that swear it's the only product that will work in their backyard.  

    seed.jpgSeed and Hull Digester
    :  Attach this concentrated product right to your garden hose and every other week spray lightly around the base of your bird feeders.  This cleaner will help decompose any seed hulls under your feeder, is non-toxic to the birds and other animals and will help destroy bacteria.  Safe and easy to use.  Being environmentally friendly, this can be used freely to tidy up your backyard.

    Drippers, Misters and Recirculating Rocks
    :  Attach or place these drippers, misters or rocks into your bird bath to either introduce clean, fresh water and/or todripper.jpg keep the water circulating and moving.  We have a selection of different models that either include hosing to attach to your water faucet or cords thatplug into an electrical outlet and use electricity to work.  The moving water will help attract  birds to your baths and by moving your water  you are also eliminating the stagnant water that aids mosquito reproduction.  Double results!

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    Water Wiggler
    :  Using the power of 2 batteries, the Water Wiggler will keep the water in your birdbath moving, attracting more birds and preventing mosquito eggwiggler.jpg from developing.  No faucet or electricity needed with this unit.  Just place this unit into your bird bath and you'll see the continuous ripples of water, just enough to gain the attention of your backyard birds.

    Amazon Lights:  Amazon Lights offers garden incense candles and sticks made from all natural ingredients to deter insects from attacking you amazon.jpgwhile you enjoy your summer days outside.  The sticks can be lit and will offer about  2.5 hours of insect protection.  These have proven to be great at our house when picking weeds from the flower beds.  I just light a stick and keep moving it with me as I make my rounds. They are also easy to place several around an outdoor sitting area - no noxious fumes - this incense is made from natural oils from the Amazon area; andiroba oil, citronella, thyme, rosemary and more, on a bamboo stick.  Or choose the candles; each in a metal container, easy to light and same natural oil formula.  Amazon Lights products contain 300% to 500% more essential oils than the majority of competitive products available.

Mikes Message

I hope I’m not going out on a limb here, but I declare winter is finally over!!  Summer’s heat is around the corner – it’s been a strange year.  Unfortunately, the heat of summer brings out the seasonal issues with the dreaded Indian Meal Moth.  This tiny moth, about 3/8 inches long and a wing span of about 5/8 inches can be found in any grain product not meant for human consumption (bird seed and other pet foods).  The female moths lay their eggs in the food, about 40-350 eggs.  After hatching, the small caterpillars begin spinning silken threads within the food – this is the first sign that a problem has begun.  They will feed for about 2 weeks while they become full grown.  They then crawl to the surface of the food and pupate within a cocoon.  The new adult emerges in about 30 days and they have a lifespan of 1 to 2 weeks.  This entire cycle requires about six weeks and there are 4 to 6 generations per year.  The warm weather aids this life cycle of the meal moth and we deal with it every year….it’s a fact of nature.

If we can’t avoid this meal moth, what can we do to minimize any problems?  We suggest, first of all, purchasing your seed in smaller quantities over the summer, allowing us to keep you supplied with the freshest food.  Store your seed at home in metal containers and, if possible, in a cool spot.  Freezing the seed for a day or so will also help as the freezing temperatures will kill the moths.  Likewise, I adjust my seed orders to make sure I don’t purchase too much seed and have it lingering too long in the store.  Please bear with us over the summer if we happen to run out of a certain seed while adjusting our inventory.   I cannot see into the bags of seed so if you open your bag and it is filled with the moths, please bring it back to the store with your receipt and we’ll it exchange it for you.  I cannot however exchange your seed it you’ve had it stored for several weeks in the heat.  Remember, birds eat moth and other insects.  So if your seed is infected it will probably bother you more than it bothers the birds.  The only problem is that infected and webby seed can clog some feeders. 

Pat and I will be visiting our son and family in Honolulu in July (daughter and family will be there too).  It’ll be a vacation like none other for us.  Our staff is stepping up to the plate and will be handling the store in my absence.  Let me thank them in advance and publicly. 

Thanks again for your continued patronage and have a GREAT summer. 

                         Happy Birding, Mike


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