Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ovenbird is “hot” at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast

The ovenbird is a warbler that looks like a small speckled thrush. Thus deep forest bird only thrives where forest remain in large blocks, probably because if clearings are nearby, there are more nest predators and parasitic brown-headed cowbirds. Although spotting the forest dwelling ovenbird takes patience, the bird’s TEAcher-TEAcher-TEAcher-TEAcher song is distinctive and rings through the woods in spring and summer. A good look at the ovenbirds head will help you differentiate it from larger thrushes and same-sized water thrushes. The wide, white eye ring is the first clue. The water thrushes lack this, having instead a white stripe running from above the eye to the back of the head. Several species of brown-backed thrushes have eye rings that are not as pronounced. Thrushes hop and feed at one moment still, then dashing; the oven bird walks methodically. The ovenbird has neat “stripes” or spots running down its breast, while the thrushes are more randomly speckled underneath.
While not always visible, the ovenbird’s black-bordered, orange crown patch is diagnostic field mark.
 Ovenbirds nest in mature deciduous or mixed deciduous and pine forests, but they can appear in any habitat during spring and fall migration. Most winter in Mexico and Central America and on the Caribbean Islands. Forests that host nesting ovenbirds have a thick layer of dry leaf litter beneath them, providing the birds with feeding and nesting opportunities. The ovenbird quietly chugs along the leafy forest floor, walking and looking for insects, spiders, and other invertebrates, such as earthworms and snails, among the leaves littering the ground. This bird is named for its domed nest, which usually sits on the ground, and is so well camouflaged with dead leaves that you can easily walk past with out noticing it. Although leaves help conceal the nest, the female ovenbird constructs the nest structure using grassed, bark and other materials. There is a side entrance for stealthy exit and entry. Inside, the female lays four or five eggs and incubates them for up to two weeks. Both parents, feed the young. They leave the nest after about a week, but they are still fed by the adults for about two weeks afterward.
If you have a well-treed backyard with ample leaf litter, you may spot a foraging ovenbird walking your woods during migration. If you hear the ovenbird’s loud song, watch for it on a low to mid-height perch or foraging on the ground. You will hear the teacher teacher teacher of the oven bird resounding through the woods here at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast Inn and Spa.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Here at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast Inn and Spa, a Valparaiso, IN B&B, you will experience the thrill of viewing baby bluebirds in their nesting boxes. The eastern bluebird is our most famous thrush, even more popular than it’s cousin the American robin. It’s beauty, it’s song and it’s willingness to live close to us has inspired many poets, songwriters, artists, and bird watchers. Bluebirds, according the Audubon Society, will be attracted to your property if you have a large open lawn, especially if you provide housing. Thanks to a concerted effort by bluebird lovers, as we are, the boxes are built  and posted and therefore, the eastern bluebird has rebounded from it’s low population in the 1960s. The sky-blue and rusty breast of the make bluebird are echoed in the females’ more muted tones. There are three bluebird species in North America, but only the eastern in commonly found east of the Mississippi. We see the bluebird here at our Valparaiso B&B all year long.
Bluebirds are often seen perched along fence posts here in Northwest Indiana. They also can be found on wires or high in trees. They may appear all dark in bright sunlight, so many observers miss seeing them. During spring courtship, paired bluebirds can be seen fluttering their wings near a prospective nesting site in the front of the Inn. They utter a song turalee turalay saying, give me some more mealworms please. If I haven’t put them out they will flutter up and down in front of the windows so I will see them, and give them their tasty treat. The two habitat requirements of bluebirds are large, open grassy areas for foraging and cavities for roosting and nesting. In harsh winter weather, bluebirds may migrate short distances to find food or shelter. The bluebirds eat insects and fruits and berries when insects are scarce. Bluebirds visit feeders for mealworms, berries and suet or suet dough.  Here at Songbird Prairie, in Northwest Indiana, we supply nesting boxes. The female bluebird builds the nest inside the cavity using bark strips, grass and hair. The female lays four to six eggs and incubates them for 12-16 days. Both parents care for the nestlings until fledging occurs after 14-18 days.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Drink your TEA sings the towhee throughout the brushy woodlands here in Valparaiso, Indiana at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast Inn and Spa.
Formerly called the rufous sided towhee this 8 1/2 inch long sparrow is boldly patterned and spends nearly all it’s time on the ground scratching among the leaf litter, looking for food. The name towhee comes from the bird’s call, which has also been translated as chewink. Many people know this bird as the chewink instead of the towhee. This is one of the favorites here at Songbird Prairie. Clean, flashy colors have given the towhee the nickname “Hollywood robin” In flight, the bird’s white wing and tail spots are just beautiful. Female eastern towhees replace the male’s black plumage areas with chocolate brown. Towhees preference for thick cover and brushy habitat make them harder to see than other common species. But not here at Songbird Prairie, you will see them come right up to the feeders, a rare occurrence indeed!

The loud scratching of a foraging towhee sounds like a large animal walking through dry leaves; this is often your first clue to a towhee’s presence. Towhees eat just about anything found on the woodland floor, including insects, seeds, fruits, and even snails, spiders, and millipedes. They prefer to scratch the ground under feeding stations for mixed seeds, cracked corn and sunflower seeds. They nest near the ground in a well-concealed spot. The female weaves a cup-shaped nest out of rootlets, bark strips and grass. She also handles all the incubation duty, which typically lasts about 12 days. Normal clutch size is three to four eggs; young towhees fledge in about 10 days. Both towhee parents feed the youngsters, which allows the female to start a second and sometimes third brood. This is one of my very favorite summer birds. Some and see the towhees at our Inn.

 Activities for the Dunes National Lakeshore Chesterton IN    

April 9            Friends Native Plant Sale

 May 5-8        Indiana Dunes Birding Festival*

 May 9            Mercury Transit Event

 June 3-5       Glamping/Vintage Camper

Rally Weekend

June 11         J.D. Marshall 100th Anniversary

June 30         Fireworks on the Lakefront!

July 9             19th Annual Sand Sculpture Contest

August 12     S’mores Day Fun!

August 13     10th Annual Perseid Meteor Stargaze

Sept 17          Singing Sands Stargaze

Oct 17            NWI Storytelling Festival

Oct 29           “Howl”oween in the Dunes

Dec 24           Christmas Eve Morning Stroll


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What a beautiful spring day here at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast Inn and Spa. There was a male red-bellied woodpecker at the suet feeder this morning and he brought his mate. I don’t usually see her except in the spring when she is feeding her young.  He has a bill to nape bright orange-red head.  She has only a small portion of red on her head.  9 1/4 ” long, the red-bellied has a chisel-shaped bill and zebra pattern of black and white horizontal stripes on the back. The red-bellied woodpecker is named for a feature which is rarely seen by birders, a light wash of pink or red on it’s belly. However, here at Songbird Prairie, when they come frequently to the feeders, we see the belly often. The courtship starts with the male drumming on a tree trunk or branch to attract the female’s attention. Both male and female excavate the nest cavity, which is usually located in a dead tree below an overhanging branch. The 8-12 ” deep cavity will accommodate four eggs. Incubation duties are shared and last about 12 days. Nestlings are fed in the nest cavity by both parents for almost a month before they fledge, afterward, they remain near the nest and are fed by the parents for several more weeks. The nestlings have no red on them. This is for their protection. We often see the parents bringing the nestlings to the feeders. When the feeders are empty, the male’s long ringing calls are telling me to “get breakfast on the table”.  Many birds are migrating to the nearby Dunes National Lakeshore.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The black-capped chickadee travels in noisy little bands and draws attention to themselves with their frequent scolding chatter. The black-capped have black feathers that look like a cap on their head and under their beak, as well as white check patches, gray back, wings and tails and pale under parts with buff-colored flanks. The bill is tiny and dark and the legs and feet are black. Males and females are alike and there are no seasonal differences in plumage.  Their size is 5 1/4 inches lone vocal hues can be helpful. One of their two notes are fee-bee and the common call is chick-a-dee-dee-dee call. Here at Songbird Prairie in Northwest Indiana, we see the chickadee all year long.  Most of their diet is insects, such as aphids, ants, moths, and leaf hoppers. They also eat spiders, weed seeds and the seeds and small fruits of many trees and vines. At feeders they are partial to sunflower seed, suet and peanuts. They take their time in selecting just the right seed at the feeders here at Songbird Prairie. They seek out natural holes in woodland trees, often adapting old woodpecker holes. They readily accept nesting boxes. One year I found a clutch in a bluebird box. Looking in as I always do with the baby bluebird, I opened the box to find the female chickadee had made her nest with moss and the baby chickadees spilled out like water since the moss had almost disintegrated. I picked them up and poked them back into the hole and never opened it until they fledged. One side of the nest is built up higher that the other and can be pulled down like a flap to cover the young when both parents are away. As many as eight eggs are laid and incubated by the female for 11-13 days; both parents then share the feeding of the young until they fledge after two weeks. Come and hear their cheery chick-a dee-dee-dee While you enjoy our artfully presented breakfast here at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast Inn and Spa here in Valparaiso, Indiana.

Friday, March 18, 2016

At Songbird Prairie, one of our guests most favorite birds is the white-breasted nuthatch. I think it is because they are universally known as the “upside down birds” because the forage by probing the bark of tree trunks with their heads downward. During their journeys down the trunk of a tree, they often stop, and then raise their head so that it is parallel to the ground. This is an absolutely unique posture among birds.  At nearly 6″ in length, the white-breasted nuthatch is the largest of its species. Males have gray backs with black caps, white under parts and a beady black eye on a white face. Females are similar but wear gray not black on their heads. White-breasted’s are thick necked and short tailed with a  stocky appearance. White breasted nuthatches calls- uttered frequently in all seasons are nasal and repetitive ank-ank.
White-breasted nuthatches prefer deciduous woods, but are also found in large parks and leafy backyards. Here in Northwest Indiana, our coniferous woods, also host the red-breasted nuthatch, which are much smaller in size.
The nuthatch eats both insects and seeds. We see them here at Songbird Prairie daily throughout the year. Insects make up nearly 100% of their diet and seeds are added treats. Autumn’s extra seeds and nuts are sometimes stashed or “hatched away” in tree bark crevices, to be retrieved later. This habit is what has given these birds their name. At Songbird Prairie Inn and Spa they come to the feeders and suet displaying a show for all our guests to see. Nuthatches maintain their pair bond and territory all year long. The nest is placed in a natural cavity, old woodpecker hole, or more rarely a nest box. Built by the female, it is a cup of grassed, bark strips, and twigs and is lined with hair. When the nest is finished, the nuthatches “sweep” the entrance with their bill, rubbing a crushed insect against the wood. The chemicals released may aid in repelling predators. The female incubates a clutch of eight eggs for two weeks. Both parents feed the young for at least two weeks until fledging.
In woodlands, listen for the nasal call anytime. Male and female always forage near each other and in winter with other species in a mixed flock. Come anytime of the year to see these characters who will serenade and entertain you.
The daffodils are in bloom along with the scilla, crocus, snowdropsand many more bulbs and wildflowers.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

It’s a sure sign of spring now that the killdeer have returned. They are a large, double-banded plover that screams its name across farm fields and other grass and dirt covered habitats. If you see an orange-tailed, stripe-winged bird calling kill-deee, kill-deee, you can be assured that it’s this plover. Many killdeer were shot during the late 1800’s, along with a wide range of other shorebirds. These species are now protected from harm by federal and state laws. On its white breast, two black bands stand out. Killdeer are wet-sand brown above and clear white below, with white around the front of the face and eye. A farmer’s friend, the killdeer spends its foraging time searching for beetles, grasshoppers, caterpillars and other insects. Crayfish centipedes, spiders and other invertebrates are also eaten as well as some seeds. There will be more on the killdeer, since they are so interesting Efrain and Barbara Rivera, your hosts at Songbird Prairie, want to keep you informed of the beauty of nature here at the Prairie in Valparaiso, Indiana. We have blogged this near the Dunes National Lakeshore. Come and leave your footprints in the sand.

Unlike most other plovers, killdeer often forage or nest far from water. You may find them at ball fields, airport runways, pastures, farm fields as well as on mudflats. They are found through North America, but northern birds head south for the winter. During the summer, you will find them at the Dunes National Lakeshore and Songbird Prairie, our Valparaiso Inn and Spa near Valparaiso University. A simple scrape in the dirt or gravel will do for a killdeer pair, although they sometimes add embellishments, such as a lining of pebbles, grass or other small materials. Females lay three to five blotched eggs, which both parents incubate for just less than a month. Nesting in exposed habitats, killdeer rely on camouflage and deception to keep their eggs and chicks safe. If an intruder approaches the nest, an adult killdeer may feign injury, dragging a wing as if it is broken and exposing it’s bright tail; then lure the person or predator away from the nest. Adults watch over their hatchlings, little puffballs that can run and find food by themselves shortly after hatching. They fly before they reach 1 month. Come to Songbird Prairie B&B for a Chicago romantic getaway, just 45 minutes away. Hear the cry of the Killdeer, come away for that Romantic Getaway.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Near Chicago, Songbird Prairie is located in Valparaiso, Indiana and is the destination spa in the Great Lakes Region of the Midwest. Songbird Prairie offers a menu of massages, reflexology, botanical body treatments and facials to enhance your health and wellness. With a combined 75 years of experience, our therapists will leave you in a state of complete relaxation. Songbird Prairie’s variety of services offers customized treatments designed to manage stress levels by balancing your nervous system. Songbird Prairie is both private and has serene surroundings located on six acres of woodlands and prairie.
Songbird Spa therapists use the finest quality products, which are botanically based, gentle products proven to provide the ultimate sensual experience. Using essential oils and aromas, we customize spa services adding to your physiological and psychological wellness.

Songbird Spa services will lead you to a blissful state of mind. Our customized massages begin with an aroma sensory journey and include, but are not limited to Swedish, Lomi-lomi, Deep Tissue, Reflexology and Mom2B Massage. Our treatments will relieve tension and stress throughout the body and promote emotional calm, removing toxins from the body, improving sleep and elevating your immune system. Thoroughly trained professionals will consult with each guest to match their health and energy goals with the most beneficial treatment.
From $99.00 Couples massage $198