The Northern Cardinal

In my yard one bird that really stands out is the Northern Cardinal. Their great songs and bright colors make them very recognizable. A favorite of many people, Cardinals are the state bird of seven states. There is nothing quite like seeing that bright red bird fly in to the feeder early in the morning after a fresh snow fall. One thing I’ve noticed about cardinals is that they seem a little shyer than many of the other birds around my yard. Sometimes I can almost walk right up to the feeder before a Nuthatch or Chickadee will fly away, but as soon as I open the door the Cardinals fly back to the cover of the thick spruce trees. I think this shyness is one of the reasons I enjoy watching them so much, they like to hide in thick cover so you don’t always get to see them. The Cardinal is one of the only species of songbird where the female sings, usually it’s just the males that we hear all those cheerful notes from.

Northern Cardinals do not migrate, and their range stretches from the east coast of the United States West to about The Great Planes, and South to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Cardinals are found in many areas throughout their range from city parks to the edges of forests. They often nest in thick nasty cover like shrubs and overgrown vines. There are nesting boxes on the market geared toward Cardinals as well. These boxes are generally constructed with three sides and a roof, with the fourth side of the bird house wide open. My version of this type of product will be coming soon, stop by www.wildstewardship.com for these and your other bird house or nest box needs.

The commercial bird feeds available that Cardinals seem to prefer are cracked corn, black oil sunflower seeds, and safflower seeds, or a combination of these. I’ve noticed the cardinals in my yard seem to prefer a feeder with a platform where they can perch and pick through the seed mixture to find their favorites. When asked which of my bird feeders I’d suggest to attract Cardinals, I always recommend my Simple Seed Bird feeder. It has a large enough area in the front for Cardinals to sit, and can be used with any of the preferred seeds individually or as a mixture. You can find out more about my bird feeders and feeding birds in my previous blog “Feed Your Backyard Birds.”

img_3033

Wild Stewardship Simple Seed Bird Feeder

Two New Products from Wild Stewardship

I’m pleased to announce two new products available from Wild Stewardship. For anyone who doesn’t know, I established Wild Stewardship to create and sell bird feeders, bird houses, and bat houses. In the future, I plan to add a variety of other nature related products. All of my products are handmade from high quality materials. If you are interested in purchasing any Wild Stewardship products, they can be found on Ebay, Wild Stewardship’s website www.wildstewardship.com, or through my Facebook shop at www.facebook.com/wildstewardship.

door-closed

Wren/Chickadee House (door closed)

 

 

The first new product I’m rolling out is a hanging Wren or Chickadee house. This birdhouse is constructed of cedar so it will stand up to the elements for many years to come. The hanging Wren/Chickadee house also features a cleanout door on the side. By simply screwing out the hook from the front of the birdhouse, the side door easily opens to allow for easy cleanout. No tools required!

 

 

bat-house

Single Chamber Bat House

The next new product is my Single Chambered Bat House. Putting up a bat house in your yard can help to control mosquito populations. Also made from Cedar, this house will last for many years. The large landing pad at the bottom and rough surface all the way up the inside, allow the bats easy access to climb in and have a safe place live where they are not a nuisance. The open bottom also ensures that there is no buildup of waste in the house.

 

 

Spring is right around the corner, so now is the perfect time to get your bird houses ready for the nesting season of many species. This is also the ideal time to provide homes for the returning bats so they are not temped to live in your attic, behind your siding, or other places that are an inconvenience. Bats are nice to have around the yard to help reduce mosquito populations, as well as the viruses that mosquitos can spread. Go to www.wildstewardship.com and see all the bird houses and feeders we have available.

Ice Age Trail Winter Hike

img_3122Yes! Finally, a weekend without tons of stuff going on, certainly I can find a couple of hours for a hike. I did yesterday! I hiked 6 miles on the Ice Age Trail in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest of Wisconsin. It was a great day to get out for a winter hike. Not too cold at 26° F and lightly snowing when I arrived at the trailhead. Before I started my hike, I helped to free car that was stuck in the snow of the unplowed trailhead parking lot. If you decide to come here be prepared, do not try parking in the lot right at the trailhead if you are driving a car with low ground clearance, I have seen people park on the road directly across Highway P from the trailhead.

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin is not yet complete, with only about 600 miles of blazed trail segments out of the 1200 miles of total length. For more information about the Ice Age Trail, check out the Ice Age Trail Alliance website at www.iceagetrail.org.

img_3121My afternoon hike encompassed only a short piece of this great trail totaling about 6 miles. Walking south from the Highway P Trailhead near Glenbeulah to State Highway 23 and then following the same route back to the truck. This completely wooded section of trail has an elevation gain of about 365 feet. There is no shortage of great views along this hike. The first two miles the trail follows hardwood ridges, with great views overlooking wooded valleys on both sides. The third mile brings you into thick pine stands and the Aspen Reforestation area before coming out of the woods where the trail crosses Highway 23.

img_3105

This is the first time I have done this hike in winter. It is always neat to take in an area during different seasons. In the winter, you notice things that you cannot see in summer when there are leaves on the trees limiting how far you can see. Winter in any woods is special for many reasons; you can easily see the tracks where the wildlife walk and the picturesque views of snow hanging in tree branches is simply awesome. The trail conditions are really nice right now. Snowshoes are not required, but there is just enough snow that they would definitely be helpful.

 

At the end of the day I felt great having finally gotten out for a hike this winter (it’s been way too long). I recommend to anyone getting out and spending some time in nature especially as the winter drags on, there is plenty of natural beauty to cleanse and rejuvenate your body and mind. Don’t forget to Like my Wild Stewardship Facebook page, and check out my website www.wildstewardship.com.map

Chickadee dee dee dee…

In my backyard, here in East-central Wisconsin, Black-capped Chickadees are one of the most common visitors to our bird feeders. These tiny little birds are seemingly full of energy and are fun to watch. They will often fly down to perch on the feeder, quickly grab a sunflower seed and flutter back up into a nearby tree to crack open the shell and eat the nutritious seed inside. As soon as that one is gone it flies right back to the feeder for the next one.

Black-capped Chickadees are easy to identify both visually and by their songs. These small birds have a dark black cap on top of their heads, and a black throat patch under their beaks, with a white stripe running from the sides of their beak across their cheeks to the back of their heads. The Chickadee’s body and wings are primarily a brownish gray. In most of their range their typical song is a two or three note fee-bee. When they become frightened They will give their signature Chickadee-dee-dee-dee call adding more dees as the perceived threat level increases. The Black-capped Chickadee’s range stretches across the Northern half of the United states, into Canada and along the Pacific coast into Alaska. Along the Southern edge of their range they may share habitat with the Carolina Chickadee. Throughout the Rocky Mountains you will also find Mountain Chickadees, and Chestnut-backed Chickadees can be found along the Pacific coast.

Chickadees are curious little birds, even of humans; while sitting still in the woods, I have had them land on my hat, boot, knee, and even my shoulder. They are fun to watch as they dart around looking for insects, seeds and berries. Putting sunflower seed or suet feeders in your yard is a great way to attract Chickadees to your yard, and putting up a Chickadee nest box in the spring may keep these non-migratory birds frequenting your yard all year long. You can find my Wild Stewardship bird feeders and nest boxes at www.wildstewardship.com or search for my Wild Stewardship products on ebay.  Please also like my Wild Stewardship page on Facebook, and check out my shop there as well. Most important of all, get outside and enjoy nature!

Feed your Backyard Birds

Adding a bird feeder or two to your backyard is a great way to help the wild birds in your neighborhood have a consistent food source to help them get through the long cold winter. In wintertime, natural food sources are harder to find for wild birds, and at this time of the year where I live in the upper Midwest, they need plenty of energy to survive the stretches of extreme cold.

Wild bird feeders are available in many shapes and sizes. Feeders can be large, small, plastic, wood, steel, round, rectangular, and the list goes on. Some are designed to offer a wide variety of bird feeds, and some are designed to offer a specific type of seed. Others still are designed to cater to a specific species of bird. At Wild Stewardship, I have come up with a few simple bird feeder designs that will appeal to a wide variety of birds in just about any neighborhood.010517_0146_FeedyourBac1.jpg

My simple cedar sunflower seed feeder is designed to be used with black oil sunflower seeds, considered by many to be the most appealing feed for the largest number of bird species. This feeder is available in three sizes, is constructed primarily of natural cedar with a mesh screen on the front and back to allow the birds to pull the seeds through. I have a plastic wedge at the bottom to force all the seed to the sides so there will be no left overs out of reach of our feathered friends.

As humans, we like to have variety in our meals and certainly there are some foods that we prefer over others. I think to some degree the same can be said for the birds out in nature too. Different seeds and seed blends will be more attractive to one species of bird or another, so it is a good idea to have more than one feeder with more than one type of feed, especially if you want to attract a wide variety of birds.010517_0146_FeedyourBac2.jpg

My suet and seed combo feeder adds variety immediately by having the large chamber for seeds or seed blends, and the suet basket on the back to hold one of a large variety of suet cakes on the market today. Whether you choose my seed feeder with or without the suet basket, this feeder is made primarily of natural cedar, with a clear acrylic window to show how much seed is left. This feeder will work well with just about any of the seed mixtures available, or straight cracked corn or sunflower seeds.

In my yard, it seems that the seed will be attractive to finches, chickadees, blue jays, cardinals, and many other species of birds, and often the suet will bring in several varieties of woodpecker. Make sure you place your feeders where you can see them from your favorite window. Bird watching is an enjoyable pastime on cold winter days for nature enthusiasts of any age. Having bird feeders in your yard is a great way to get children interested in nature and wildlife as well. Give a child a pair of binoculars and play a game with them to see who can identify the most types of birds. Children will also enjoy helping to fill the bird feeders, and afterwards watching the birds come to eat will give them a sense of connection to nature, and hopefully plant the seed of a lifelong love for wildlife and the outdoors, and create future stewards of our natural resources.

Check out my full line of bird feeders and bird houses at www.wildstewardship.com I also have them listed on eBay. More products will be added soon so stop back often. If you have an idea for a custom bird feeder contact me for an estimate and I’ll see what I can do to bring your concept to reality.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Wild Stewardship

picture-for-merry-christmas-blog1It’s two days after Christmas, did you get everything you asked for this year? It’s time to get outside and test out all those new gadgets and gear that got unwrapped in the last few days. Maybe you got a new bird feeder to put out in the yard, or some new hiking socks, a GPS, or trekking poles to test out. No matter what your favorite outdoor gift was this year, make sure you put it to good use and get outside.

Now is also the time to think about New Year’s Resolutions for 2017. To be successful at keeping your resolution, make sure your goal is realistic. It may also help to write it down and put it somewhere visible so it is not forgotten about. Try setting your resolution as a task or reminder in your phone, we all know those go with us everywhere these days. Don’t forget, it is ok to have multiple smaller goals, not just one big one to work toward. In fact, having a list of resolutions can be a benefit because you are more likely to find some success, and crossing goals off your list can motivate you to complete even more. If you don’t get to all of them that is ok too, you can roll the rest of the list over to next year.

Need some help coming up with an outdoor resolution? Here is a short list of ideas to get your wheels turning:

  1. Try hiking a new trail each month. There are many smartphone apps out there to download that will show you the trails near you.
  2. Check out a state or county park that you haven’t visited yet.
  3. Take your running to another level and try trail running. We all know running is great exercise, but getting out in nature will help to boost your state of mind as well.
  4. Teach someone to hunt, fish, or trap. Passing on your knowledge helps to ensure a bright future for these outdoor sports.
  5. Put up a bird house or feeder in your yard. This is not just a good way to give back and help the birds in your area, but also allows for bird watching opportunities. Remember to check out www.wildstewardship.com when shopping for your bird house.
  6. Learn to process your own venison or other game meat this next hunting season. It is a wonderful feeling and connection to nature to know exactly where your food comes from, and what goes into it.
  7. Give kayaking a try. Lakes and rivers are everywhere, get out there and start paddling.
  8. Join a conservation group. There are lots of them ranging from local sportsman’s clubs to state and nation wide organizations.
  9. Plan a backcountry backpacking trip, either near you or out of state.
  10. Plan an out of state hunt. Maybe you are a Midwesterner who has always dreamed of going on a Moose, Elk, or Caribou hunt. Take a step this year toward making it a reality.

Merry Christmas to all, get outside and make your new year an exceptional one!

It’s Snowing Again…Time for Some Wisconsin Winter Fun!

The calendar says it’s a few days before winter officially begins, but here in East Central Wisconsin it already looks and feels a lot like winter. A few short weeks ago, there was no snow on the ground, and temperatures were still in the mid-forties. Then like turning on a light switch, temperatures have dropped, and there is almost a foot of snow on the ground. Many people dread winter, with its short days, cold temperatures, blustery winds, and deep snow, but many others have been waiting all year for the snow to come back. Here in Wisconsin, there is a plethora of outdoor winter activities for enthusiasts to enjoy.

Hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are some of the great ways to get out and enjoy nature in winter. Other than the crunch of the snow under your boots or snowshoes, or the swishing sound your skis make as you glide through the snow, these stealthy modes of transportation allow you to take your time, and enjoy all the sights and sounds that nature has to offer. Quietly trekking through a snow filled woods soon after a fresh snow fall, not only might you see some wildlife but the snow-covered trees make an awesome sight to behold. There are many miles of trails dedicated to these types of winter activities located on public lands throughout Wisconsin.

Snowshoeing or cross country skiing sound a little too slow paced for you? Do not fear, Wisconsin also offers faster paced winter fun too. Although maybe not the most peaceful winter pastime, riding snowmobiles is an excellent way to take in the beautiful snow covered scenery. With many hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails throughout the state you could literally ride for days on end. There are many hotels and resorts in the northern part of Wisconsin that cater to snowmobile enthusiasts. There is also downhill skiing, snowboarding, sledding and tubing, with ski hills located within a couple hours drive for nearly everyone in the state.

For the anglers, Wisconsin has some great ice fishing opportunities. Although the ice in most areas is not yet thick enough, soon many people will be venturing out on the frozen lakes to try and catch some panfish, pike, and walleye. If you prefer going after furbearers rather than fish, hunters and trappers have a few more weeks to fill their tags as many of Wisconsin’s hunting and trapping seasons are open into January and February.

I’ve only touched on a few of the many great winter pursuits that get you outside and help to keep you active during the winter months, and there are many more to choose from. So whatever it is that you enjoy doing in winter, make sure you include some time to get outside and enjoy nature!