Photo image by gareth1953 via Flickr Creative Commons
Bring your backyard to life
As I write, I am listening to the clear, fluted sound of a couple of Black-Capped Chickadees coupled with the metallic chirp of a Northern Cardinal. It’s relaxing, entertaining and satisfying to the nature-lover in me to devote the backyard to the birds. Habitat restoration is vital for wild birds and other wildlife due to commerical and residential infringement on natural areas. Your backyard (or if space is limited – your balcony!) is one place where you can easily make a difference. All you need to do is provide 4 basic elements:
You can help secure a food supply for birds by planting shrubs and trees that produce seeds, fruits, nuts and nectar. This is a sure fire way to make your yard attractive to birds for years to come. Here’s a list to give you planting ideas. Bird feeders (seed, nectar, suet) make it super easy to provide a helping hand to the birds throughout the year. Plus, you can position a feeder in a prime spot for bird watching. Just be sure to place it near a tree or shrub – birds like cover from predators while feeding and a place to perch while waiting for a turn at the feeder.
Water is an important part of your backyard habitat. A pedestal bird bath or shallow water dish placed at ground level will provide the necessary water for drinking and bathing. Replace the water every few days to keep it fresh and clean. Although this is a bit of extra work, it is well worth it. A water source can dramatically increase the number and type of wild birds that visit your yard. Plus it is totally entertaining to watch birds splash around in the water. Be sure to place the bird bath where you can view it from indoors. For more tips on supplying water, click here.
Shelter will turn your yard from a place where birds visit to a place where birds live. Birds need places to hide from predators and the weather. Plant evergreen trees and shrubs that provide year round cover. Large rocks, stumps, ground cover and brush piles offer a welcome haven for ground feeding birds.
PLACE TO RAISE THEIR YOUNG
With more and more destruction of natural habitats, birds are having trouble finding nesting and roosting sites. Bluebirds, purple martins and woodpeckers are struggling to find places to raise their young. Go here to find specifications for birdhouses that will suit the birds you wish to attract. You can put birdhouses up any time of the year; when not in use for nesting, many birds will use them for a place to sleep in cold weather.
Now that you’re a bird nerd…
Once you have your backyard habitat established, treat yourself to a field guide or mobile app (I use iBird) to help you learn about and identify your new feathered friends. You can also participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count to help scientists create a real-time snapshot of where birds are across the continent. On Twitter? Search #birdnerd to see what other bird watchers are tweeting.
Special thanks to my friend, Stephanie, a fellow bird nerd, for the post idea.
Which birds frequent YOUR backyard? Let’s compare birding notes (include your State in the comment to make it more interesting)!
Better late than never
My mind is continously wrapped around chocolate and species conservation. It’s my job and I love it. And you’d THINK that I’d be totally keyed in to all the conservation-minded holidays out there – but they always sneak up on me. Usually, I become aware of these obscure observances the day after the fact. Like World Water Day (March 22) and International Migratory Bird Day (May 14). And wouldn’t you know it – World Turtle Day was May 23rd. I’ve given up too many good writing ideas for fear of being untimely. Watch me now as I bravely and belatedly post about World Turtle Day!
Soft spot for hard-shelled creatures
Turtles and tortoises have been around for more than 200 million years. They obviously are creatures that are meant to stand the test of time. However, over the past 20 years, almost 50% of all turtle species have been listed as threatened. And six out of seven species of sea turtles are threatened or endangered. Since learning these deporable facts, I aim to seek out ways to help.
SEE Turtles saves sea turtles
Combining conservation tourism and volunteerism, SEE Turtles works in Costa Rica, Baja California Sur and Trinidad – vital nessting habitats for endangered sea turtles – to support community-based turtle protection efforts.
You can get involved in a small, meaningful way by purchasing Endangered Species Chocolate’s Save the Sea Turtle Gift Pack. Or you can go big and plan an adventure vacation with SEE Turtles and have a hands on sea turtle saving experience!
Be aware of baby turtles
The U.S. Humane Society urges people to beware of fairs, carnivals, flea markets and pet shops that sell baby turtles. In 1975, FDA’s Public Health and Services Act banned the sale/distribution of turtles less than four inches in length. Despite the ban, baby turtles continue to be sold – an illegal practice that is destructive to both turtles and humans. A practice I recently witnessed at a tourist shop while on a beach getaway weekend. You can bet when I return to the beach this month, I am going to be asking the store owner some hard questions and reporting them. Click here to learn how to report these types of violations to the FDA.
Many turtle species are declining due to the pet trade. Children often lose interest in pet animals obtained on impulse and parents may not be prepared to care for a turtle who can live for decades and grow to be a foot long. Turtles need proper light and temperature, a water filtration system and room to grow. Countless pet turtles die from being kept in inadequate conditions.
Humans, especially young children, are also put at risk by close contact with pet turtles. A major Salmonella outbreak in 2007 that sickened 107 people (mostly children) in 37 states was attributed to pet turtles.
World Turtle Day
May is a busy time for turtles (yes, yes…I know it is now JUNE!). Many have recently emerged from winter hibernation and are beginning their search for mates and nesting areas. May 23rd was designated World Turtle Day in 2000 by American Tortoise Rescue. The day is used to highlight the threats to turtles’ survival and educate about what we can do to protect these quiet creatures. Just like this post, caring and spreading the word is better late than never.
Share your turtle stories! Join me in celebrating a belated World Turtle Day by commenting below.
Mark your calendar. Friday, May 20th marks the 6th year of national Endangered Species Day. This day presents an opportunity to really focus on the importance of protecting plant and animal life. From the downright adorable to the wonderfully weird, each species has a place and purpose on our planet. Thousands of plant and animal species across the world are endangered and on the brink of extinction. Over the years, the Endangered Species Act has provided a much needed helping hand to our natural neighbors.
America enacted the Endangered Species Act in 1973, one of dozens of U.S. environmental laws that were passed in the 1970s. The Act was designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction – to protect and nurture populations back to full health. It is not a perfect law but it has been hugely successful to many species on the brink. Critical habitats are given a fighting chance under the Act too. Millions of acres of ancient forests, wild beaches, open meadows and sparkling rivers – treasured places that would have otherwise been long since logged out, paved over or built up had it not been for the Endangered Species Act.
Put endangered species and conservation groups in the forefront of your mind this month. Extinction is forever. Protecting our world’s disappearing wildlife and open spaces is a responsibility that needs our focus, compassion and action.
Which endangered species speaks to your heart the most? Let us know by sharing the species you are most passionate about my commenting below.
Have you happened across our new Endangered Species Chocolate ads yet? You’d remember if you did because they are STELLAR! (Me, biased? Never!) The animal photography featured in our “Indulge in a Cause” ads was captured by the camera of Eric Isselée. We were not only drawn to the powerful presence of his images, we were also captivated by his philanthopic mission and compassionate approach.
Eric Isselée’s project, Life on White, aims to document Earth’s endangered animals and insects. Over the past four years, his series of wildlife set against pure white backgrounds has grown to over 10,000 photos of over 450 animal species. Images this special shine a spotlight on these species, thereby raising their public profile and ultimately, helping to ensure their conservation. In addition to capturing images for future generations, Life on White donates generously to animal charities and sanctuaries.
Eric’s team travels worldwide to get their shots. The team insists on the animals being photographed in their own environment (mostly sanctuaries and zoos) so animals don’t suffer any undue stress linked to transport or unknown environments. You can watch for yourself by clicking on Life on White’s “Making Of…” videos. Imagine patiently waiting 72+ hours for a peacock to strut his stuff for your lens. Or clicking away as mischievous monkeys cavort across your portable white backdrop.
This work results in stunning photos that show each animal’s beauty, emotion and personality. Images this vivid and artistic bond the viewer to the animal and create compassion. We love supporting and sharing this work.
Name some of your favorite wildlife/conservation photographers. Have you ever photographed wildlife – what challenges did you face? Share what inspires you visually by commenting below.
Some stories just get inside your head and don’t let go. African Wildlife Foundation’s January announcement of the birth of two white rhinos really grabbed me. Maybe it was the incredibly cute baby calf photo album on Facebook or perhaps I’ve just read the inside of our Dark Chocolate with Hazelnut Toffee Rhino Bar wrapper one too many times. In any case, I was compelled to learn more.
Starting the New Year off on a bright note, two white rhino calves were born in Mosi-Oa-Tunya Park, an incredibly beautiful Zambian widlife refuge. African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) assisted in placing the mothers in the park over a year ago – after all but one of Zambia’s rhinos were killed by poachers. The calves and their mothers are currently under heavy guard by the Zambia Wildlife Authority with support from AWF. When you look at the statistics, it is clear why this protection is imperative:
- 2007 – 13 rhinos killed
- 2008 – 83 rhinos killed
- 2009 – 122 rhinos killed
- 2010 – 333 rhinos killed (Source: Care2)
The disturbing rise in poaching is attributed to increased demand for rhino horn, which has long been prized as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine. The numbers in the chart above astound and dishearten me. I think that’s why the story of the baby rhino births grabbed me and wouldn’t let go – it’s a reminder that conservation can overcome the senseless damage humans inflict on endangered populations.
What gives you hope?
THE TWEET FEED
- Here's why we use @NonGMOProject verified ingredients in our chocolate - "GMO Impact on Wildlife" http://t.co/lntKEmbTIA
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- Love that @newseasons EarthDay #PollinatorPride project benefited @xerces_society - 1 of our 10% GiveBack Partners. TY, Portland shoppers!