Thursday, May 26, 2016

 

                   See the Quilt Gardens and stay at Songbird Prairie

See the Quilt Gardens and stay at Songbird Prairie. Make your reservation now for your guest room and plan your trip to visit the quilt gardens. 18 super-sized quilt inspired gardens from May 30 to Oct 1. Songbird Prairie is just a short 45 minute day trip away to Amish country. Take along a picnic lunch to enjoy as you stroll the gardens. The quilt gardens tour is a free, self-guided tour that takes visitors to 16 locations throughout Elkhart County. Gardens range in size from about 80′ by 80′ and can include more than 80,000 blooms. Along the way you will find 16 large-format murals painted in patch-work quilt designs on the sides of buildings. Get more information on the Quilt Gardens Tour, including directions and maps at quiltgardenstour.com When you return back to the Inn, you may relax in a whirlpool with chromotherapy after your day visiting the quilt gardens. This northern Indiana getaway will charm you with their gardens and native prairie also.
Bring your glass of lemonade and relax while watching and hearing many species of birds and small animals. We provide the binoculars and guide-book. You can just sit back, relax and watch the sun set. http://www.songbirdprairie.com      877-766-4273
 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

                    Songbird Prairie’s neon bright bird/Scarlet Tanager



It's a fight for the oranges, jelly and hummingbird food! All of the Tanagers and Orioles are competing for position on the feeders!
The male scarlet tanager in spring plumage ranks among the most stunningly beautiful birds in North America. One glance at his neon-bight plumage can turn even the most disinterested person into a confirmed bird watcher. Oddly, this dazzling bird’s song has been compared to”a robin with a bad cold” A distinctive chick-burr call is often the first clue of a scarlet tanager. As I am writing this I am hearing the drink your tea of a towhee back in the woods here, at Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa.
The male scarlet tanager in spring plumage has a solid-red-body and jet black wings and tail with a black-button eye and bone-gray bill. The female is dull olive above with dark wings and pale yellow underparts. Immature’s resemble females, and in late summer the adult males take on the muted olive-yellow plumage. In all plumage’s, the scarlet tanager’s wings are darker than those of the summer tanager. At just 7 inches long, scarlet tanagers are the smallest of the four North American tanager species.
Preferring deciduous forests with oaks, maples, and beeches, scarlet tanagers generally inhabit areas farther north. They arrive in April or May and depart by mid autumn. Flocks of early migrants are sometimes decimated by sudden late spring snowfalls or ice storms which cause them to starve or freeze to death. Sometimes being the early bird is not such a good idea. Basically insectivorous, the scarlet tanager moves quietly about in the upper canopy of deciduous trees in searching of prey. Small summer fruits, such as blueberries and mulberries are also taken as are fall staples such as poison ivy berries and sumac fruits. Scarlet tanagers occasionally engage in fly catching, or hovering behavior to obtain food. Early or late in the season, cold weather may force them to the ground for forage for bugs in sheltered microhabitats.
Typically the scarlet tanager nests in a large, unbroken, wooded tract and high in a deciduous tree often but not always an oak. It will be situated well out from the trunk on a horizontal limb. Made by the female alone, it is shallow and loosely constructed of twigs, rootlets, weeds, and other plant material. Three to five eggs are laid and the female incubates them for up to two weeks until hatching. Both parents feed the young during the 9-14 day nestling period and for two weeks more after fledging. Scarlet tanagers are not common at bird feeders,  Except here at Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa! ;but they do on occasion-respond to offerings of bread, doughnuts, orange halves, or a peanut butter, cornmeal mixture. They will also eat small fruits and in fall migration may be a regular sight along tangled hedgerows overrun by poison ivy or mulitflora rose which is so abundant here at Songbird Prairie.

Friday, May 13, 2016



                                                                  

My favorite singer in the woods is the wood thrush. The Wood Thrush's loud, flute-clear ee-oh-lay song rings through the deciduous forests of Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa in summer. You'll likely hear the Wood Thrush before you see it. This reclusive bird's cinnamon brown upperparts are good camouflage as it scrabbles for leaf-litter invertebrates deep in our woods, though it pops upright frequently to peer about, revealing a boldly spotted white breast. Juveniles show a somewhat muted version of the same pattern. All have a bold, white eye ring. Though still numerous, its rapidly declining numbers may be due in part to cowbird nest parasitism at the edges of fragmenting habitat and to acid rain's depletion of its insect prey.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

                  




 

                      Songbird Prairie’s dive bombers

                                     the Barn Swallow

Mowing the lawn here at Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa can sometimes cause me alarm. As I stir up the bugs hiding out in the tall grass, the barn swallows descend with grace, darting after insects and chattering incessantly. One early naturalist estimated that a barn swallow that lived 10 years would fly more than two million miles, enough to travel 87 times around the earth. This species seems to define what it means to be at home in the air, and it has been compared to an albatross in its ability to stay effortlessly aloft. One of the most familiar and beloved birds in rural America, the barn swallow is welcomed everywhere as a sign of spring. Here at Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa, you won’t miss them in constant flight as you approach the meadow. Glossy blue-black above and orange below, the barn swallow is the only American swallow that has a true “swallow trail”, with an elongated outer pair of tail feathers. Males and females are similar, but females are not quite as glossy or highly colored, and the fork in their tails is not quite as pronounced. Like all swallows, they have short legs and rather weak feet used for perching, and not walking. A bird of rural areas and farmlands, Like the terrain at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast here in Northwest Indiana, the barn swallow may be found over any open area, such as pastured, fields, and golf courses as well as lakes, ponds, and rivers. Basically anywhere they can fly unencumbered and where there is abundant insects. It has adapted well to humans and is not shy of people, nesting close to settled areas as long as it has open space for feeding. Barn swallows travel in great flocks during migrations, often in company with other swallow species. They arrive in most of their U.S. range in April and leave in early to midfall. Foraging almost entirely on the wing the barn swallow takes a variety of insect prey, from flies and locusts to moths, grasshoppers, bees, and wasps. YES! So they won’t sting me. Nothing says “country” more than a pair of barn swallows zipping in and out of the open doors of a working barn. Sometimes two or three pairs will share a favored site. The nest itself is a cup of mud and grass, lined with feathers and placed on a rafter or glued under an eave. Besides barns, barn swallows may use other open buildings, covered porches, or the undersides of bridges or docks. During second nestings, immatures from the first brood help feed and care for their younger siblings. During breeding season, you may bring barn swallows into close range by throwing feathers into the air near a flock of soaring birds; the graceful fliers will swoop in to snatch them up for nest linings. Barn swallows also enjoy eating bits of baked eggshells (crumble them first) during breeding season.



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Baltimore Oriole

Back today at Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa

[Bright orange bird with black head]© Gerhard Hofmann

Bird of Coffee and Chocolate

Sitting on the post waiting for me to put out the nectar, the Baltimore oriole is perhaps the most famous neotropical migratory bird. Its brilliant orange and black plumage is reminiscent of the crest of Lord Baltimore, an important figure in Maryland’s history, and the bird has become the mascot of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.
But our story begins in the tropics, from Mexico to northern South America, where Baltimore orioles spend most of the year. Here they inhabit lush, tropical forests and feed on nectar, pollen, fruit, and insects. They especially favor coffee and cacao (the plant that chocolate comes from) plantations where these crops are grown in the traditional manner, the coffee and cacao shrubs flourishing under a shady canopy of natural forest trees.
Pairs of males and females form flocks of about 10 individuals, although sometimes as many as 30 or 40 are in a single flock. Apart from members of a few warbler species, Baltimore orioles are often the most common migratory bird in these agricultural forests. The birds favor the tops of trees, especially those in the genusInga, where they forage among the numerous blossoms for nectar and pollen. Orioles have a special tongue, which resembles a brush, for lapping up nectar.
Shade grown coffee plantation, winter habitat of the Baltimore oriole.
By April, most Baltimore orioles have begun the journey north to their breeding grounds in North America, which span most of the eastern United States and into southern Canada. Here they eschew the dense forests that so many other migratory birds favor, instead preferring open forests such as those along rivers and even in city parks.
Females build an unusual grassy hanging nest that is suspended like a sack from the end of a branch. The shape of the nest may help deter predators from eating the eggs or young because the eggs and young are hidden from view and the entrance to the nest is difficult to access. The nest is often built in an elm, sycamore, or cottonwood tree. In the video clip below you can see a nest.
Because these orioles spend much of their time in the tops of trees, they are often heard before they are seen. The male has a lovely warbling song and both males and females utter a variety of chatters and short call notes.
The female lays 4 to 5 eggs in late spring or early summer and incubates them alone. Then, both the male and the female feed the young. Pairs make only one nesting attempt per year. And by August or early September, most orioles are on their way back to the neotropics. by Gregory Gough


Saturday, April 30, 2016

       

       Hummingbirds have returned to

                           Songbird Prairie




The arrival of the ruby throated hummingbird enlivens many gardens and yards with it’s presence.  An Indiana Inn and Spa, Songbird Prairie sited the first arrival on April 29th. Males are fiercely combative and will defend a single nectar source against all comers. Spectacular flights, constant chittering, the the low hum of beating wings, and the occasional smack of tiny bodies colliding is familiar to anyone staying here at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast, Valparaiso IN.
Seen in direct sunlight, the male’s ruby throat patch dazzles. Both male and female are iridescent green above. The female’s underparts are white, and she sports white spots on her rounded tail. Males appear smaller and darker overall with grayish-olive underparts and a slightly forked all dark tail. A squeaky chip is uttered constantly while feeding. It’s almost like the male is talking, “this is my nectar feeder, find your own”.  Males sing a seldom heard, monotonous song from exposed perches at daybreak.
Rubythroats prefer mixed deciduous woodlands with clearings, where wildflowers and abundant small insects can be found. They’re fairly common in forested areas across the entire eastern US, falling off abruptly at the great plains. Virtually all rubythroats leave for the winter, many making the arduous nonstop flight across the Gulf of Mexico on fat reserves alone. Ruby throats winter in Central America.
Though they are usually regarded as wholly insectivorous, ruby throats take a great number of small insects, which they catch by gleaning or in aerial pursuit. They may even rob spider webs of their catch. They are strongly attracted to red or orange flowers, but rubythroats will take nectar from flowers of any color. They hover and probe rapidly, often perching to feed.
Here at Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa in Northwest Indiana, you will see them perching all the time as they feed on the various nectar feeders.
Once a male rubythroat has mated, his investment in the offspring is over. The female constructs a walnut-sized, thick-walled cup of plant down and spider silk, bound tightly with elastic spider web and encrusted with lichens. This well-insulated nest protects the two lentil-sized eggs when she must leave to forage. The young hatch after about 13 days and remain in the nest for about 21 days. The female regurgitates small insects and nectar into their crops. They are fed for at least a week or longer after fledging.
Attract rubythroats with a 1:4 solution of white table sugar and water that is boiled for 2 minutes. Wash feeders with hot soapy water and rinse well every few days. Artificial coloring in unnecessary. To thwart a bullying male, hang several feeders within a few feet of each other he’ll be unable to defend them all.
Come to Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa

in Northwest Indiana to watch the male attempt to drive out his rivals.

Friday, April 29, 2016

See bluebirds at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast

A bluebird checks out Karen Beatty's yard in Hunt Club Forest, Virginia Beach
As soon as the bluebirds start their fluttering up and down in front of the picture windows in the sunroom of our Bed and Breakfast, we hurry out to serve them their ” live” breakfast of  mealworms. You can almost hear them chirp back “thank you”. The feeder is about 10 feet from their nesting box and we installed a video cam to watch them.
We have so many understory trees native to our woodlands, including wild plum, sassafras, oak , sycamore and hickory. We have planted the bluebird’s favorite tree, the redbud, with those tasty berries. We look forward to the sometimes 3 broods of bluebirds in our boxes.  The songbirds perform their daily operas from dawn till dusk, loudly proclaiming their treetop territories. Many winged sopranos-meadowlark ,warbler, wren, robin, thrush, swallow, purple martin, oriole, and red-winged blackbird can be heard through our microphones in the sunroom.
We have 5 eggs in the front box and 4 in the box in the back meadow and 5 in the garden box. The non-migratory birds blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, and goldfinches who toughed it out through the frozen months are now singing with joy for spring is in the air. Be sure to bring your binoculars and birding books, along with your camera. There are many great photo opts. See you soon! Make your reservation today.    For reservations call 877-766-4273 or book on-line at www.songbirdprairie.com