Spiders on drugs

Effect of drugs on spider web constructionImage via Wikipedia
Natural insecticides alone or in combination with other compounds, may be useful in insect control. Zoologist H. M. Peters perturbed by the webs of garden spiders in the early morning asked colleague Dr. Peter Witt to do research on what effects various chemicals have on spiders and their webs.

Witt tested spiders with a range of psychoactive drugs, including amphetamine, marijuana, alcohol, LSD and caffeine, and found that the drugs affect the size and shape of the web rather than the time when it is built. The more toxic the chemical, the more deformed the web.

NASA researchers think that with help from a computer program, spiders could replace other animals in testing the toxicity of chemicals.
Not your average nature video...
Related Articles:
Effect of psychoactive drugs on animals From Wikipedi
and Spiders on Drugs

View Full PG-13 Version : Hinterland Who's Who - Spiders on Drugs
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What is No-Mess Bird Seed?

My landscaper told me about your website. He says he uses a “NO MESS” bird seed from Wild Birds Unlimited and after he cleans up our yard, I should use it too. Can you tell me more about this? Do you sell this at your store? ~ Grand Rapids, Michigan

Well thank your landscaper very much for the recommendation. Wild Birds Unlimited No-Mess Blend bird seed is our #1 selling blend.

Our unique No-Mess Blend features seeds that have had their shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. No hulls on the seeds make for a tidier feeding area, since there's no debris on the ground to clean up. Pound for pound, our No-Mess Blend offers the best value because you do not pay for the shells. The birds eat everything.

For the East Lansing  Wild Birds Unlimited store, customers’ preference by far is WBU No-Mess Blend.

Thank you for your prompt answer. We’re getting some major landscaping done right now. As soon as the yard is cleaned up I’ll stop by. I love the birds and this seed blend sounds ideal!

There is also an earlier post you might also find helpful: Time to Try Tidy Dining http://sheabirdno1.blogspot.com/2010/09/time-to-try-tidy-dining.html

How can I get rid of Red Squirrels?

How can we get rid of red squirrels in our yard.  They are destructive and tear up things to use for nests. - Bath MI area

I’m sorry I can’t be of much help. Please don’t live trap them. They are taking care of babies now and shouldn’t be separated from their young. Wild Birds Unlimited has feeders and houses with lifetime guarantees against squirrel damage. We’ll fix or replace any feeder with the guarantee. We also have poles and baffles that can stop squirrels.

You probably don't want to put up a squirrel house. Or maybe you do. The red squirrel is a very solitary little creature. In fact, each female takes it upon herself to defend a territory that ranges in between two and five acres. Not only do they defend their territory from other red squirrels, they also defend it from other species of squirrels.

A two weeks old squirrel baby (Sciurus vulgaris).
Two week old Red Squirrel
They breed from March until May, and then again from July until September. Their gestation period lasts for forty days, and then they give live birth to a litter of three to six baby squirrels. They are helpless and hairless when they are born and stay with their mothers through the summer.

I know certain wildlife can be a problem. We have bunnies in the yard that go around lopping the heads off our crocus. Our squirrels dig up plants, attack feeders, and destroy bird houses. The chipmunks dig in the garden and steal lots of bird food. Raccoons are the classic night-burglars and can cause lots of problems in the yard. But I love them all, even the occasional and sometime not so occasional stinky skunk.

They all have purpose. Bunnies can be prey for other animals and trim vegetation. Squirrels and chipmunks are also prey for hawks and other animals as well as seed spreaders. Skunks and raccoons are predators in their ecosystems and play a significant role in controlling lawn pests.

I’m sorry the squirrels are being so destructive in your yard. Michigan is a beautiful green place to live with lots of nature to observe. I have found that it is much easier to learn to coexist with nature rather than trying constantly to fight it.

I think we have to keep in mind that humans cleared their sheltering forests, cut down the dead trees they nest in, removed many of their natural food sources as well as natural predators, and otherwise upset the balance of their native environments.

The next time a Red Squirrel comes clambering around your home looking for nesting material or in search of food or shelter, try to see things from their point of view. They always seem to be angry about something. I wonder if they’re thinking “How can we get rid of those humans in our yard. They are destructive and tear up things to build their houses.”
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Angry Birds Cause a Flap: Why do Birds Fight?

I just broke up two sparrows fighting on my back porch. They looked like they were going to kill each other. What can I do to stop the bird fights in my backyard? ~Indianapolis, Indiana

There are varied signs of spring: migrating birds passing through, new songs in the air, and the earth slowly waking up from its long winter nap. And there is another sign that is just as predictable which you’ve noticed, the bird battles.

The testosterone levels in male birds is up in the spring, territories are being determined, and battles break out. Two house sparrows in a seemingly endless wrestling match is not uncommon. It’s usually a bloodless battle that ends when they are distracted or one bird taps out.

Impression of bird fight left in snow
Male House Sparrows have a patch of black feathers at the throat and chest called a "bib" or a "badge". This patch of feathers increases in size with age. Usually a darker/larger bib signals a higher social status or fitness that will have the younger setting up challenges. My recommendation is to just let them do battle. If it goes on too long for your comfort, it’s OK to interrupt them with a loud shout.

Even though the house sparrows are known for being pugnacious birds, other bird species also make themselves conspicuous with their springtime actions. I’m getting ready for calls to come in about cardinals and robins attacking their reflection in the window. This is also a territorial behavior.

stoopid birdImage by abradyb via Flickr
When some birds see their reflection they believe it’s an intruder just their size so they’re not intimidated. For these birds, the battle seems even and they will continue to attack until something intervenes, and the sooner the better.

This domineering behavior should be curbed before it becomes just a bad habit. The objective is to shock the bird out of its pattern of territoriality. Most birds do stop after a couple weeks of window pounding in the spring, but it's better to try and deter the birds just in case it turns out to be an action that is performed so often that it becomes almost an involuntary response.

Some tips to deter bird window attacks:

• Cover the window with screens
• Shut the blinds on your windows when you are not at home and at night.
• Rub the window with a bar of soap to decrease the reflection.
• Hang balloons or Flutter Scare tape.* Anything that moves and repels the bird from that area will be effective.
• Post a hawk silhouette outside a window.* Hawks prey on birds, so their images will keep birds from flying towards your window.
• Install a window feeder.* This breaks the reflection and other birds interrupt the birds battles with himself.

*Available at Wild Birds Unlimited - East Lansing, MI
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Fresh Flavour of Wilderness in Boudh District: Mahanadi Wildlife Division

Mahanadi Wildlife Division spreads over an area of 440 sq kms and comprises of Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary & Baisipalli Sanctuary. While Kusanga and Chamundia ranges are part of Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary, Banigocha (East) and Banigochha (West) are part of Baisipalli Sanctuary. Spread over two Districts of Nayagarh and Boudh, Mahanadi Wildlife Division is headquartered at Nayagarh. Kusanga is one of the entry points from the North Side of the Sanctuary and is barely 10kms from the starting point of great gorge of Satkosia. Binikia (in name of the deity “Maa Binikei”) is situated right opposite on the other side of the river in Angul District.

Having spend 2 days at Kuanria in Nayagarh, it was time for us to move to Kusanga Forest Range office in Boudh District. Previous evening already Trinatha Bhaina (caretaker of Kuanria FRH) had informed Panda Babu, the Forester at Kusanga about our visit to Kusanga. Panda babu was generous enough and had assured us that he will be there when we arrive at Kusanga. Behera babu , the Forester from Kuanria range was to accompany us for the trip. At 4 in the morning, someone knocked the Doors. Half asleep, I opened the door to find Behera Babu covered in shawl and a fluorescent Orange monkey cap adorning his bald head. Had that big trademark forester torch and stick not been in his hand, I would have fainted in doubt of seeing a ghost. It was freezing outside and I was amazed by his commitment of awaking us early in the December morning. Trinath Bhaina was ready with hot piping black tea. By 5 we were out in our Jeep for Kusanga. It is around two and half hours from Kuanria. Early breeze and haze had reduced the visibility to almost 10 meters. This road actually connects Nayagarh with Boudh and Northern Orissa and travels through the Baisipalli Forests. Behera babu had a great demand for another cup of warm tea. We stopped at Madhapura Chaka where few roadside tea stalls were already doing brisk business because of busses coming from Phulbani which is situated hardly 30kms away. Left diversion takes you to Phulbani and if you drive straight, you can reach Boudh. We were joined by two persons at the stall who humbly asked us if they can take a lift till Charichak ( Charichhaka) about half an hour drive from the place. This was another opportunity provided on our pallet for knowing the local issues and ask if they have ever seen Tiger in the region. Both of them were Carpenters by profession and they travel daily from Khajuripada , a small hamlet in Phulbani to Charichaka in Boudh. Life is hard. Every day in the morning around 4 o clock they would leave their homes in Khajuripada, get down at Madhapura Chaka, take another bus to Charichak .Day would end when they reach back home for the supper. By that time everybody else in family would be dozing off. When asked if they have ever seen Tigers in the region, they frankly admitted that Tigers were only to be heard in stories. They have never seen one but also were very firm that its not because of poaching that Tiger have been wiped out of Phulbani and surrounding areas. It is because of reduction in Forest area that has brought in this fate for Tigers. Tree felling still goes on illegally though not rampant. Poachers are active in some areas but it is more towards killing of Wild Boars and Cheetals. Agriculture has been the other reason for the reduction in the forest area.
Sun rays striking their way through the engulfed mist was creating a superb sight on the road and the drive had become pleasant. Road was devoid of any traffic. Warm cup of tea in the morning had made its mark and effects were already showing after barely 15 minutes of drive. Behera babu smilingly ordered driver Jagu to look out for a roadside ravine. As soon as the vehicle came to a halt, Behera Babu vanished from the spot with an empty can. Idea of this short irresistible trip to heaven motivated Jagu to join Behera Babu behind the bushes. A tree nearby was sounding a busy place and was bustling with the sound of chirping birds. Starting from Small Minivet, Scarlet Minivet, Rose Ringed Parakeets we could spot various flycatchers. What a great way Boudh (Boudh) had welcomed us. After the ride to heaven both our fellow companions came out of the bush with big smiles on their face.

On a Cool Winter Morning of November....Blissful

We reached Charichak around 7:30 and stopped for our breakfast. Our carpenter friends from Khajuripada bid us good bye and left for their workplace. After getting wonderful snaps of birds, I was least interested in the breakfast out of excitement. But this small one room thatched eatery had other things in store that was going to add to the excitement. Sight of hot pooris being lifted from the hot oil pan with dripping drips of hot oil from the edges and being thrown on the big aluminum plate by the cook with lot of pride of having made crispy, brownie pooris is a sight that can evoke hunger in a dead man.The colour of the pallet would be made more vibrant with stewed potato curry ( aloo dum) served alongside the brown pooris. That’s the way breakfast has always been served in traditional Indian homes, hot and fresh. I wonder our next generation is missing so much by living in cities with parents who are busy in making their respective careers in corporate world. Those few minutes that I did spend in that small eatery brought back memories of the days when I would accompany my grandfather to the nearest sweet stall beside the railway station in the winter mornings to grab a bite of Singhara (Samosa) and Chenapoda (steamed, sweetened cottage cheese). Standing under the tree with the group of adults and sipping tea from Grandpa’s cup, I would behave like a grown up one. Topics ranging from politics to local crime to illegal mining would be discussed and debated. More reinforcements of Samosa, Wada and Aloo Chops would come in frequently benefiting Sahoo Mausa , the hotel owner. Those winter mornings are to be missed these days. But I was happy that Charichak had made me feel nostalgic. After relishing the food and eating till brim, we left for Kusanga about half an hour’s drive from Charichaka.
The day being chada khai, an Oriya festival on which Kartika month’s fasting of non vegetarian food is broken with grand feast of mutton, chicken and fish dishes; small market of Kusanga was buzzing with people. At Kusanga Range Office, Laksmi Narayan Panda, the Forest official was waiting for us. Panda babu and Sethi babu ( another forest official) had planned our visit to the sanctuary. Being chada khai, our courteous friends arranged for Mutton to be prepared and ready for us by the time we return in the afternoon from the sanctuary. While passing through the Kusanga market, Panda babu pointed out that situation was tense some days back after a fight broke out between the forest officials and the locals over a petty issue. But reason was something else. Poaching and tree felling has reduced after forest officials have tightened the screw on the activity. Some people with proven track record of being poachers are being closely watched. Satkosia has been declared a Tiger Sanctuary under Project Tiger. Already relocation work has started though not in full throttle but at least some initial ground work is being done. It has not been digested easily by some people who are mostly dependent on Forest, both legally and illegally. There are many revenue villages inside the sanctuary and relocating them is going to create more tension in the area. Situation is even worse in the other part of the sanctuary in Angul. There are more number of revenue villages and also quite sizeable. But it is not all gloomy. Just the day before a Sambar deer had died under suspicious circumstances. There was no exact reason that was getting apparent. Hence a forensic expert had also come to collect sample blood and do the post mortem. This sort of news gives hope and reinforces our belief in the department. They are doing there best in protecting our animals. People like Panda Babu and Sethi Babu have left their family in towns like Daspalla ( Dasapala) and Nayagarh and are doing their duty in these remote forests. On weekends they would go back for a day or two and see their kids play football or help them solve trigonometry. But the enthusiasm with which each of them told about the various conservation efforts being rendered was so delighting to hear. When asked about presence of tigers in the combined area of Baisipalli and Satkosia (Nayagarh Side), they had very clear number in mind, which was around 7-8 and not more than that. I mean their logic was also simple. Area itself cannot support more than that as prey base is limited and also there are no grasslands and meadows present as in Kanha or Bandhavgarh.Same logic I had heard earlier also from one of the forest guards of Banigocha. But these numbers have not reduced over the years. He promised us to show the plaster of paris imprints of Tiger Pugmarks on our return to the range office in the afternoon. We reached the Kusanga Check gate where I could recognize a familiar looking face. Mallick, the forest guard whom I had met last year at Chamundia range office came out with a register for taking our signatures. When I reminded him about our meeting last year, he could immediately recall that. He has been transferred to Kusanga range from Chamundia Range.
In few minutes of drive, great gorge became visible. We stopped at a point to look at the Binikei Temple on the other side of the gorge. On the western flanks of Binikei Temple lies the Athamallick ( Athamalik) Subdivision. There were a couple of Brahminy Shellducks also on the banks. Moving ahead along the gorge on the forest road, we crossed the anti poaching camp at Sitalapani where an Inspection Bunglow of Irrigation department is also there. No one stays in it after people complained that it had turned into a haunted house. People say that years back Chowkidar of the bunglow had died because of suffocation and his spirit still moves inside the Bunglow. I just pitied our friendly forest guard who came to open the check gate. We were inside the core part of Satkosia gorge Sanctuary. Plan was to move inside the sanctuary, take snaps of Indian Grey Hornbills( which we were told by Sethi babu are in abundance in Satkosia) and cross the gorge at Tikarpada, meet the forest officials of Tikarpada Range office and if possible get a Launch from them for the boat ride in the gorge.

Binikei Temple on Athmallik Side

Crossing the great Mahanadi at Tikarpada on small rickety boat was an experience. Boatman Naria was in his late 50s. Looking at our frightened eyes, he assured us of a safe journey after all he has been ferrying people since ages.

Great Gorge of Satkosia at Tikarpada

Defying the strong currents of Mahanadi

After reaching Tikarpada we went to the Range office and had a chat with the officials over there. Seeing one of the dead leopard skin, I asked one of the officials about the incident. We were told that a poacher had been caught with the skin some months back. But all the efforts of department went in vain as the poacher got the bail the subsequent day. Laws of the land are not strict enough to put the poachers behind bars. In 2009 I had been in Satkosia and had stayed at Tikarpada. But there has been many changes in between. Fear of Naxals has increased , population and number of Houses inside the sanctuary has gone up, tourist Inflow has shooted up but not a single news of Tiger Numbers inflating in the region is to be heard off. Eco Tourism Camp at Tikarpada might be doing well but not necessarily the Project Tiger efforts in the region. Forests have been shrinking rapidly so are the tiger habitats. More than that prey base had reduced drastically. To make the things worse , we heard from the localities that a local brewery has started inside the sanctuary area at Purunakot. I mean how can that sort of permit be given inside a sanctuary area? Last year I had an opportunity to visit Kandhaida. This year same may not be possible because of presence of Naxals in the area. We cannot have a Tiger Conservation project being tagged as successful until and unless relocation of these villages takes place quickly. But at the same time utmost care should be taken for providing proper compensation packages combined with other social support for the villagers who had been staying in this place since ages. We could sense that moral of the forest guards and officials is not that high and encouraging. A lot of bureaucracy in the hierarchy itself is killing the system slowly. There are so many associations in the department and for every small issue there is always ego clash between the associations. Being understaffed its always not possible to control poaching or any untoward incident regarding man animal conflict. But its always the people in lower rungs that suffer the wrath of politicians or IFS officers. They were unhappy with one of their colleagues being suspended over an issue of Elephant being electrocuted in Kendujhar division. It was just to satisfy the ministers and to show off to protesting people that the forest guards were suspended. “Being so much understaffed how can the department look into each and every issue involving the protection of wild animals?, said one of the staffs”. On an urgent basis these posts need to be filled in if at all state government is serious about the wildlife protection. It may go on denying that tiger numbers are reducing in the state, but matter of fact is that the big cat’s number are very few and unsustainable on a longer run. If special Tiger Protection forces are not created for Similipal, Satkosia and Sunabeda then the game would get over very soon. Launch could not be arranged as driver was not there and had gone on a duty inside the core area of Kandhaida .

Malabar Giant Squirrel in these forests are more in number compared to Malabar Coast

Feeling quite hungry we decided to return to Kusanga. Again our good friend Naria ferried us back to the Nayagarh side. Sethi Babu on the way back told us to stop at a particular place. Getting down there proved lucky for us as I clicked some wonderful picks of Grey Hornbills that we present in quite a number. We reached back Kusanga by 3 in the afternoon where our friends at the Range office were waiting for us with the awesome Mutton curry. What a way to celebrate Chadakhai !! The lunch was so filling.

Grey Hornbills on the banks of Mahanadi in Satkosia

Hopeful of seeing them in Camera Traps one day

Around six o clock in the evening we decided to leave Kusanga. Sethi babu was to accompany us till DFOs office in Nayagarh where he was supposed to submit some data and reports regarding the construction work going on inside the sanctuary. It was good to see the forest department people have been now trained on GPS tools. Modern technology is being used to track down exactly the position of Forest properties and the topography. We reached back Kusanga around 7 in the evening where Behera Babu got down and bid us good bye. Then it was turn of Sethi Babu to leave us at Nayagarh. With a warm hug we parted our ways and assuring that we would be back again in Baisipalli. I could not go to my ancestral house in Lenkudipada this time. On the way back to Bhubaneswar, tired Siddhu was dozing off and there was complete silence except for occasional honking sound by the passing by trucks. Was some what sad and at the same time hopeful about these forests that I have been wandering around to get a glimpse of the Big Cat. Baisipalli and Satkosia had left a tremendous impression on me. These are wonderful patch of forests where very less focus has been given. It can work wonders for Tiger population if proper care is taken in terms of rehabilitation, optimum staffing of forest department, conducting scientific study of the flora and fauna in the area, creating anti poaching task forces and last but not the least an overall congruent and synchronized efforts of NGOs, Local Villagers & Forest Department. Tiger conservation efforts are doing well in most of the states but Orissa. In fact latest census of 2011 that has come shows tiger number at 33, down from 45. Sunabeda is gone. Similpal is on the way and fate of Baisipalli-Satkosia is unknown. On an urgent basis if people don’t accept that Tigers are on their way of getting vanished, they will really vanish. I wish that I never get a chance to utter “Once upon a time in the state of Odisha (Orissa ) there used to be tigers......”.

In Search of Last Tigers of Baisipalli Sanctuary

Thick Forests in the Core Area of Baisipalli

Very few Sanctuaries in Orissa are as complete from every aspect as Baisipalli. I had travelled to Chamundia last year along with Bubun thinking that Chamundia is present in Baisipalli. But actually Chamundia is in Satkosia Gorge Sanctuary but part of Mahanadi Wildlife Division. There I had come to know that Baisipalli is different from Satkosia gorge Sanctuary. Forest officials of Mahanadi Wildlife Division have been always kind with me in granting permissions in visiting their Sanctuary and arranging for accommodation in the Guest Houses. This time we planned to stay at Kuanria FRH. But companion has changed this time. My good friend Siddhu as always instantly agreed to come on this trip to Orissa. We planned for 2 days at Baisipalli ,2 days at Kuldiha and final day was for Mangaljodi, a birding Pardise. Till this trip I didn’t have much idea on birds and had studied a lot on Tigers. At the end of this trip, when I am travelling back to Pune, The Book of Indian Birds by Dr Salim Ali is lying beside me. In search of Tigers we have found a wide variety of innocent and colourful birds. For Siddhu it was a surprise as he never expected to see so many variety of birds within just 5 days in Orissa. For me this new developed passion is keeping me busy. I had booked the Kuanria Guest House by sending a letter to the DFO, Mahanadi Wildlife Division. They were gracious enough to allot us a room.
Siddhu joined me at the Pune Station and we left for exploring the wilder shade of Orissa. On the winter mornings of November, we landed at Bhubaneswar. A Bolero was ready at the station courtesy Dasa. Kuanria is about 140 kms from Bhubaneswar and one has to take take the road to Phulbani passing through Nayagarh and Daspalla. Just after crossing Daspalla for about 10 minutes, one reaches Kuanria. It was again happy moment for me to see the FRH in a secluded place amidst the shady canopy of Sal and Tamarind Trees. For Siddhu it was first time experience in a Govt run Forest Guest house and I already had build up a lot of expectation regarding the aura and hospitality of these Guest Houses, some of which are almost century old and have been existing since British rule in India. Was little anxious to see the locked Guest House. But soon saw Trinatha, the 50 year old care taker coming in a cycle. Some one had informed him that Sahebs are waiting at the Gate. He was feeling extremely sorry for being late. Trinatha, a pot bellied man with a round face and big bulging eyes would have been a hit character amongst his grandchildren I am sure.We calmed him down and told that we are no Sahebs and also not from any NGO. For these poor care takers people from Forest Dept and NGOs are Sahebs. There is no one except these Sahebs who visit these remote and unheard places. Trinath was more than humble to bring in Vegetables and Rice for afternoon lunch. We in the mean time took a walk around the Kuanria FRH and clicked some amazing pics of birds, some being very rare like Chloropsis. There is also a deer park near the Guest House. More than these things I was engrossed in the setting of the Guest House. This is not Ranthambore or Bandhavgarh where hoards of Tourists come in. You get the loneliness of the Forests, the chirping of birds which create sweet vibrations in your ear drums like a strings of Sitar, the fresh air filled with scent of Mahua flowers, the silence in which one can even hear the sound of Sal leaves falling from trees and hitting the ground, the desi chicken curries and fresh catch from rivers and of course the tiger stories of forest guards like Trinatha mausa who have spent their whole life guarding the forests and taking care of these guest houses.

A Sambar Deer -Near Kuanria Forest Rest House

As Dalma was getting prepared, we went to the nearby Kuanria Dam for doing some more photography and try to find out some more birds. In the evening it was planned that we would go to Buguda and enter the Baisipalli Sanctuary from that entry point. Ranger Patnaik Sir was kind enough to ask Behera Babu , one of the forest guards to accompany us to Buguda. Kuanria Dam is just 2 kms from the Kuanria FRH and is funded by World Bank. We didn’t find much birds as it was afternoon and the sweeties were taking a nap. A cowherd, Madha who was busy taking the goats for grazing told that there are huge pythons that roam about in the area and often prey on the small goats. Apart from this little excitement on hearing about the presence of Pythons in the area, we didn’t do much and came back to the Bunglow where Trinatha mausa was waiting for us with Dalma and some boiled rice.

Holding on to the Ground

Backwaters of Kuanria Dam- Can be developed for Angling Purpose

Meanwhile Behera babu, the forest guard had arrived and advised us that we leave early for Buguda as being winters sun sets in quickly. Buguda is around 10kms from Kuanria on the SH 1. After reaching the Buguda forest Beat house, we were joined by Laxmidhar a forest watcher. Time for us to venture in to the core area of Baisipalli Sanctuary. Laxmidhar sounded quite interesting and looking at our excitement played a well judged plot ( which infact is a fact about Baiaipalli Sanctuary). “ This summer , I saw a couple of RBTs moving and roaring with pride near a waterhole. The roar was so furious that we ran towards the nearest watch tower and remained hidden for almost an hour”. Signs that Baisipalli can truly become a heaven for conservation programme if properly funded and managed under Project Tiger. It is also geographically located in such a way that managing it from Anti Poaching point of view is little bit easier. Satkosia Gorge spanning almost 25 kms lies on the northern part of the Sanctuary and down below the road to Phulbani and Boudh acts as a boundary clearly demarcating the core area from buffer area. Why we are crying so much regarding the dwindling numbers of the Royal animal is just because we are focussing so much on few number of Sanctuaries which anyways are drawing in so much fund out of Tourism and other agencies. Sanctuaries like Baisipalli and Sunabeda is what one needs to focus on if our coming generations want to see the Big Cats roaring in forests. Both these sanctuaries face different kind of challenges. While Baisipalli is lagging behind because of lack of focus and funding, situation in Sunabeda is already bleak and saddening because of presence of red brigade. A lot has already been written so many times about the fate of Similipal. Unheard sanctuaries like Baisipalli still survive and will remain to do so because of the will power of people like Laxmidhara, Behera Babu and Trinath Mausa who honestly love the animals and forests as such. Walking for miles in the forest canopies with a stick in hand , highly underpaid and unrecognised , these is sheer will power that motivates those mentioned in the article to keep our forest conserved for our future generations. None of the NGO Sahebs ( barring very few whom I have come across) or Travellers like me will march ahead without any penny in pocket to the remotest of the places, highly infested with Malaria and more importantly with ever growing threat of the Naxals. Laxmidhar may be illiterate and might not have read research articles on Tigers , but has some logics to tell why Tiger numbers are not increasing in Baisipalli and have hovered over 4-5 over last 10 years. According to him Tigers have a tremendous power to regulate and control their numbers based on the population of prey and area over which they can move in freely. Since Baisipallis area is somewhat around 166 sq kms, Tiger numbers are getting confined to very less number.

Make your Own Way-- Inside the Sanctuary

One of the Major Forest Product- Sal Resin (Jhuna)

While Tiger stories were being discussed we reached a place that was basically a huge surface of rock. The place is called Bichar Pathar or the “Judgement Rock”. There is a particular anecdote that is attached to the naming of this rock. During the mid 19th Century, local tribes of Daspalla region gathered at this rock and decided to revolt against the then king of Dashpalla after his atrocities against the poor increased day by day. We moved ahead and reached the end of the forest Trail at Sapapathar, a small waterfall. Again a story is behind the naming of this place. Its amazing how illiterates who have never read Panchatantra or never seen Television in their lifetime have been good story tellers over the years. Today we find it hard to tell a story to our kids which actually should be the base for building moral values and culture, or else our kids would end up Twitting the same language in social networking sites. Sapapathar gets its name from Sapa or Snake. The rock over which the small stream flows is just like the Body and Tail of a Snake. Long time back a local Kondh was grazing his cattle inside the forest. His wife was preparing food over chullah and small kid of theirs was sleeping nearby under the shed of the Tamarind tree. Suddenly the Kondh heard his wife shouting. When he ran to the place where his son was sleeping, he saw a Huge King Cobra with fully expanded Hood spreading the shadow of death over the sleeping kid. With one wave of his axe, Kondh separated the Hood of the Snake from the tail. Tail remained over there in the form of Sapapathar where as Head moved downstream along with the flowing stream. The tail infact leads to a place over the top of hill where a local deity, Mani Naga gets worshipped. Before going on any anti poaching round or census project the watchers and forest guards worship Mani Naga and then move ahead. We also did the same.

Near Sapapathar

The forests in Baiaipalli are full of various species of Birds like Coppersmith Barbets, Golden fronted Leaf birds, Nuthatchs etc. Parakettes kept on moving around us and never left the forest silent. We took a stroll towards the salt lick present near the Bicharpathar. Some one had once said to me that never completely trust a forest and always expect some unexpected. I recalled the sentence when a fully grown adult Bison at its prime jumped in front of us from nowhere and vanished in a fraction of second. The whole gang remained stand still and could not believe that Bison was sleeping just some meters away from us. Siddhu and me kept pondering that we could not take the snap. But as its said that always thank the forest for whatever they provide. At least we didn’t come back to Kuanria without sighting any wild animal.

Chestnut Headed Bee Eaters near Bicharpathar

Golden Fronted Leaf Bird- Chloropsis

An Infant Golden Oriole

That night we were told by Laxmidhar that a night patrolling would take place from Buguda till Banigochha about 20 kms away from Buguda. This was planned keeping in view the Chadakhai festival that was coming up next day. Chadakhai is celebrated to mark the ending of Kartika month where in Meat Dishes are simply “No No” in the pallet. There are some Oriyas like me who don’t follow Chadakhai when Desi Chicken is part of your dinner. We returned to Kuanria Guest house and picked up some dinner stuff including a desi chicken. As usual amazing preparation of Chicken was done by Trinatha mausa and non stop gulping of the curry and rice made us feel tired.
Night in forests is the most beautiful thing that one comes across. Sitting down on the perch of the Guest House we looked at the hundreds of fireflies that had lit the garden. Behera Babu, Siddhu and me had surrounded the story teller of the night, Trinatha Mausa. Trinatha still remembers those days when people would confide to their huts by evening in fear of the Tigers. He remembers how a huge RBT was shot by a local gunman and how the animal was carried on a bullock cart to the panchayat house. Trinath had run as kid that time behind the Bullock cart , smiling and grinning at the sight of the dead animal. Today he runs in the forest to protect the animal upon which he had laughed once. His legs might have become weak, his energy level might have come low but spirits are more stronger. This is the reason I always keep on telling to others that for people like Trinatha, forests of Orissa are safe.

Sharing some lighter moments with Trinatha

By the time his stories came to an end it was almost 11 in the night. There was crackling sound of the night insects. How different is night when there is no honking by vehicles, when there is no ringing of mobiles, when there is no excel sheet to be prepared for calculation of never ending EMIs. I just love this and afraid that all these soon may vanish with growing city limits and population and pollution. One day who knows that we all may be there back at Baisipalli, sitting at Bicharpathar , plotting the revolt to pull down the kingdom of poachers and timber mafias and bring back the lost pride of the real king, the Tiger.

Mallard Nesting Behavior: Can I move the nest?

The green head and yellow bill of the male Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a familiar sight to many people living in the Northern hemisphere. The female duck is brownish all over with mottled streaking of buff, white, and dark brown feathers. And right now you’ll see a lot of ducks around Lansing in twos. Momma and Poppa mallards are sticking close to each other as they look for safe areas to nest.

Mallards choose their mates in the fall but do not begin to breed until late March or early April. They typically nest on the ground, in tall grass and shrubs. There doesn’t have to be any water nearby and sometimes the nest site seems very inappropriate.

So how long do you have to wait for momma mallard to move on? The female typically lays one egg per day until she has accumulated a full clutch which averages 9-12 eggs. She lays an egg a day but doesn’t incubate the eggs until there is a full clutch. The first few eggs are laid in a shallow "scrape" in the ground. As laying progresses, the hen will add grass, twigs, and lots of her own down feathers to the nest, resulting in a well insulated and surprisingly well camouflaged nest bowl.

Once her clutch is complete she begins to incubate the eggs for 25-29 days. The male “drake” has probably lost interest by now and abandoned the female to join up with other males. During this time the hen leaves her nest for only about an hour in the morning and evening to feed.

After about a month all the viable eggs hatch within a 24 hour period. Then the hen marches her brood proudly to the nearest wetland to learn how to feed on gastropods, invertebrates, crustaceans, worms, many varieties of seeds, plant matter, roots and tubers.
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Go Wild at Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary in Balasore

This write up is dedicated to my friend Prabal who keeps pushing me to update the blog and for all the encouragements.


There was a special reason for being in Kuldiha and I had waited for the day when I would write on it. Nilagiri Range is where my Grandpa had been posted as Asst Conservator of Forests during late 60s. My dad had studied here for couple of years and still has some good old friends. Sitting in has lap as a kid and listening to the stories of Nilagiri was one of my favourite pastimes and after 25 odd years , here I was standing in front of the office of Nilagiri Range office collecting the entry permit for Kuldiha.
After taking a 4 hour train journey on Howrah bound Jan Shatabdi from Bhubaneswar, me and Siddhu reached Balasore. I had arranged a Tavera over in Balasore. We quickly made a move towards Kuldiha present near Nilagiri and Sajanagarh. But Driver Tuna was looking little bit tense. When asked about exact reason for his look, he answered “ we may not get a permit to get in Kuldiha. Because of 90 odd elephants creating menace in the region, Sujanpur villagers had stopped some vehicles from going to Kuldiha as a mark of protest.”.Soon we reached Nilagiri. The scene was actually looking tense with police platoons present everywhere. I became sceptical about getting our permission for entering Kuldiha, though our bookings in the Guest House of Kuldiha had already been done. Kuldiha because of its closeness to Kolkata draws a huge chunk of Bengali tourists and one needs to book the Guest House well in advance to get confirmed accommodation in the sanctuary. Luckily I had done that. There are infact 2 guest houses inside the Sanctuary, Kuldiha and Jodachua. Kuldiha FRH is better of Jodachua because of its location. There is an artificial salt lick near the Kuldiha FRH and also facilities are better in Kuldiha. But if you are in need of some solitude and really want to enjoy the silence of nature, go for Jodachua FRH. At Kuldiha you will find so many tourists who only come for making noise and have fun. We had bad luck in having such a kind of group as our companion for the day. Coming back to Nilagiri, we reached the office and same story of elephant menace and people protesting against it was the buzz. This man animal conflict really is a sad story. In the first place we have spreaded tentacles into their homes and now when they get into our fields we complain. But yes some of the policies regarding the compensation packages of the Govt and Dept of Forests is dubious and sometimes laughable. Per acre of crop damage, Government pays a paltry sum to the farmers and that too after a lot of investigation, report filings , persuasion by the local politicians and running from pillar to post by the poor farmers. More importantly these particular herd of Elephants had actually wandered across from neighbouring Jharkhand. Until and unless huge Elephant Reserves are not notified by State Governments , this sort of man animal conflict is going to persist. Poor Elephants have been moving across these specified forest corridors over the years and suddenly these have been broken because of agriculture and of course timber mafia. The continuous forest patch starting from Palamu , passing through Saranda patch( once famed as Largest Sal Forest patch in Asia) , Similpal, Keonjhar, Angul, Dhenkanal, Central Orissa Districts of Nayagarh,Kandhamal,Kalahandi, Southern Orissa District of Undivided Koraput and ending at Southern part of Chattisgarh is now present in patches and is discontinuos. Dams, Canals, Highways, Mines and Agriculture is to be blamed.One cannot stop civilisation from shaping up but what can be done is saving those few patches of good forests that is already present. Of 32 Elephant Reserves in India, only five await notification. All five lie in mining areas: two (Mahanadi ER and South Orissa ER) reserves in Orissa , Two in Chattisgarh and one in Meghalaya. While Central govt has already declared and approved these Five undeclared Elephant reserves, state govt are reluctant because of strong Mining Lobby prevalent in these states (barring Meghalaya). Now who is to be blamed for Pachyderms spreading havoc in these areas, Human Beings with higher ratio of Grey Matter or Elephants?
At Kuldiha Range Office in Nilagiri while we waited to collect the necessary papers, I looked at the bunch of old files and dust laden leaflets. May be these have been lying over in those rickety shelves since ages. May be there would be some files and papers where signature of my grandfather would be there. Soon we bid bye to the lady officer and landed in the Nilagiri Haat to collect basic grocery, some eggs and spices for our two day stay at Kuldiha. Passing through Sajnapur we soon entered Kuldiha through the main gate. Soon the vegetation became denser and green canopy welcomed us with open arms. Serpentine road made twists and turns through the forest. Kuldiha is famous for its good density of Bisons and Elephants and at times RBTs have been sighted. Similipal is connected by a very thin green corridor with Kuldiha. Hadagarh (Hadgarh / Hadagad)Sanctuary in Kendujhar District serves as this corridor. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Tigers may be using this strip as their path to move into Kuldiha from Southern range of Similipal. If proper conservation plans are drawn for Hadagarh Sanctuary , this can work wonders for Kuldiha. Already Hadagarh is shrinking because of rampant mining going around the limits of the sanctuary and if necessary actions are not taken the whole sanctuary would become a barren patch of deforested land. Hadagarh offers a complete Biosphora from Elephant and Big Cat Conservation point of view. You have Hadagarh Dam on Salandi which can serve as major source of water for pachyderms and other animals during the peak summers. It’s very difficult to relocate villages from the vicinity, but if tried and if the plan succeeds then Hadagarh Sanctuary along with Sukhuapada and Nato Hills can act as that missing link between Similipal National Park and Kuldiha Sanctuary.

Kuldiha Forest Rest House

After driving through a small ghat road for 20 minutes we sighted Kuldiha FRH from a distance. Smiling Kedar, strong broad chested Forest Guard in his late twenties greeted us along with the cook and a Forest watcher. As I went in to take a quick shower, Siddhu the shutterbug was infectiously impatient to get in to groove and take snaps of birds. By the time I was back, Siddhu had already struck a chord with Kedar and I could see Kedar learning tricks of bird watching from the veteran Siddhu. Big green on Siddhu’s face was reminiscent of the fact that some birds have been found in the radar and Kuldiha has already shown trailer of what was lying ahead. As hot steaming egg curry was getting prepared in kitchen, I and my good companions went in for a walk enjoying the mysterious silence of Kuldiha. Suddenly the silence was broken by a feeble sound of moving vehicle. In few minutes, the feeble sound turned into a sound enough to disturb the serenity of the place. A group of tourists from Kolkata in a Jeep had arrived and their presence was reinforced by the rise in the decibel level in the whole sanctuary. Later on we came to know from Kedar that they would be our companions for next 2 days. Siddhu looked at me despairingly and I could not stop smiling.

A Tusker at the saltlick near FRH

A Malabar Giant Squirrel

Omnipresent Cheetals

After having a sumptuous lunch of Egg Curry and Rice we sat down with Kedar on the nearby watchtower and stared at the saltlick. Nothing came across our sight. But Kedar had developed a liking for Birds by that time and infact he was a very quick learner. Some crackling sound of dry leaves was coming from the nearby Sal trees. And our good friendly Chitals were more than happy to pose for us. Took some snaps and moved ahead. As evening was setting in we were getting more impatient sitting ideally at the Watch tower. Suddenly and in most of the cases as it happens a huge fully grown tusker appeared from nowhere near the saltlick. Oh god what a wonderful sight I exclaimed! Thats our Elephant told a satisfied Kedar with an expanded chest. That’s not one of the Elephants that have migrated from Jharkhand and caused havoc in the nearby areas, but our Kuldiha’s Tusker. They rarely move out of the sanctuary. Our good friend from kitchen, Hari Bhaina brought in warm cups of tea and some Pakodas. Sitting before a setting sun, looking at the swivelling dried and glistening leaves of nearby Sal trees and munching Pakodas was worth an experience. The forest staff at Kuldiha were so friendly and didn’t miss a single opportunity to serve us in the fullest possible way. We all sat on the Watch Tower and went on chitchatting for almost three hours. The full moon lit night had spread its milky wings on the forest. Added to beauty was the twinkling phosphorous cells of millions of fireflies which were busy spreading the divinity to the Poornima night. I just wanted to get engrossed in the feeling and I suppose so was Siddhu. As night was setting in stories of denizens got on to the table. Let me not solve the mysteries of Forest that have remained sacrosanct over the years but rather boast them with pride. Kedar got one of the mysteries to the discussion table. When asked if they get scared of animals while patrolling on foot inside the sanctuary, Kedar answered that animals recognise the green uniform and the broad steel plated belt. They recognise us as their friends and as saviours. The flow of story was broken by a unusual sound of moving leaves from one of nearby trees. Manu brught in his powerful torch and focussed on the tree from below. Wow!! WoW!! It was a White Rumped Shama perched on one of the branches. “You little beauty” was what Tony Greig inside me wanted to scream. But didn’t want to disturb the sleeping beauty.

White Rumped Shama perched near the Forest Guest House

Hari bhaina was ready with Pabda( one type of Fish) Curry and Rice. Food has been a unifying reason all across the world for centuries and same was the case at Kuldiha. All of us sat on the same dinner table and Pabda became the metaphor for cease fire between the Bengali Group and ourselves. While the former were busy enjoying their evening in their tents in warm company of each other , later were busy trying to prove that they truly respect the silence of forests. But yes one mystery that Siddhu, Me and Kedar never could solve despite full efforts was the relationship status of the Men in the other group and the women accompanying them. We did let the mystery remain as it is and planned about our Night Safari for which I had arranged for a special permission. After gulping down the rice and fish curry till brim, we did start for our Night Venture.

Fish Eyed Owl

A Barking Deer crossing the Road

I have been on so many Night Safaris in many sanctuaries in Orissa and everytime the Jeep starts focusing on the road, expectations that at every turn we would meet a Big Cat rises.
After driving for half an hour Siddhu suddenly screamed to stop and take the Tavera back by 10-15 meters. When we focussed our Torch towards one of the ravines , I could not stop admiring the Fish Eyed Owl that could not guess what exactly was happening. It exactly gave us some 5 seconds and without wasting any bit of these precious moments , I clicked one of the most beautiful snaps of this bird. Still keep admiring it every time I look at my laptop. Then another half kilometre drive, it was the turn of a beautiful Mouse Deer that was crossing the road. Was this the night that would give me an opportunity to take my first snap of the RBT in the wilderness of Orissa or was it going to be another of night safaris was the question that I was asking myself continuously. After driving for almost hour and half and with futile efforts of filming my first tiger in Orissa, we came back to the Rest House. Sighting Tigers or not is immaterial but what is of utmost importance is the experience itself and taking one more step towards being closer to the Mother Nature.
Next morning Haria our cook knocked the doors with hot cup of coffee in hand. What a superb way to start the day? Basking in the glory of winter morning sun with a cup of tea; sitting amidst thick Sal Forests all round; cut off from the agonising world of Reports and Pie Charts & with no network of cell phones to piss you off ,there were lot of questions to be asked to oneself and a lot of self deliberation needed. Some wise man once had told, “Sun is yours, Moon is yours, this whole world and Universe is yours, then why to worry and what else to deposit in your Bank Accounts?”. Sitting for almost an hour absorbing the morning beauty and listening to the chirping of Sun Birds rejuvenated us for the day to come.
We left for the Risia Dam situated on the North West fringe of the sanctuary and excitement had grown because we were told that its a superb place for birding. There is a Guest House of Irrigation department at Risia but its hardly used. There is also a small village over there. Walking along the dyke there were some superb birds that came our way. It was my first sighting of Verditer Fly Catcher which normally migrate from Lower ranges of Himalayas in winters to the Subcontinent. Towards the end of the Dyke there was a whole gang of Common Ioras and Chloropsis’ that were creeping on branches of a Creeper. Our good friend Kedar had remembered some of names which he was repeating with lot of fluency.

Risia Dam inside the Sanctuary

By 11 we were back quite tired at Kuldiha rest house. Haria informed us that he is going to offer his daily rituals in front of Budhi Thakurani , the local deity present near the Guest House. We also joined him in seeking blessings from the Goddess. There is a anecdote attached to the place. There used to live a old couple in this particular place. The old lady after her death got reincarnation and people started worshipping her in form of Budhi Thakurani. People say that King of Nilagiri during earlier days would come on Shikar and first seek blessings from Budhi Thakurani before going on hunting spree. Wild Tuskers would be captured and later on would be domesticated for King’s use. There was so much silence and divinity in the place.

Common Iora

Black Naped Monarch Flycatcher

After 2 days of Hectic but wonderful trip to Kuldiha Sanctuary , it was time to leave that wonderful place. I promised Kedar that I would send him a copy of “The book of Indian Birds” By Late Salim Ali once I reach Pune. I did keep my promise. The copy has been send to him and I am sure our Good Friend would have become an Ornithologist by this time now. Surely would visit Kuldiha and learn some more chapters from Kedar in future.

Fun Facts About European Starlings

European Starling in Summer
•In 1890’s, 100 starlings were released into New York City’s Central Park. It is said that Eugene Schieffelin wanted all of New York to see the birds mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare. Until that time, starlings were not native to North America.

•Since its introduction into North America, European Starling populations have grown to over 200 million birds and they can now be found coast to coast and in Alaska.

•When European Starlings molt their feathers in the fall, the new feathers have white tips, giving the appearance of “stars”. Over the winter, sunlight and weather dulls the speckled look as the tips wear off and the bird becomes uniform dark brown or black.

European Starling in winter
•The European Starling also has a seasonal change in bill color (yellow in the spring, black in the fall).

•European Starlings have a highly adaptable diet and eat a wide variety of foods, such as snails, worms, millipedes, and spiders, in addition to fruits, berries, grains, and seeds.

•To glean insects and invertebrates, you can watch starlings poking their beaks into the ground, opening wide to spread the soil and then picking out exposed larvae and earthworms.

• Baby starlings almost look like a different species. They are a dark gray and then start to grow a black and white spotted vest. Eventually they get their adult feathers before winter.

A juvenile European Starling (also known as Co...Image via Wikipedia
Juvenile European Starling
•In Starlings, the length of the intestinal tract actually varies depending on the season. It is shorter in the summertime when birds are mainly eating protein-rich insects and larger in wintertime when they are mainly eating seeds, which are rich in carboyhydrates.

•Starlings, as members of the Sturnidae family, are cousins to the Mynah bird and are outstanding mimics. Individuals have been known to mimic many calls and can even mimic human speech.

•Bird banding records show the longest known life-span for a Starling in North America to be over 15 years old.

• A group of starlings has many collective nouns, including a "constellation", "filth", "murmuration", "scourge", and "vulgarity" of starlings.
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5 Tips to Attract Birds to Nest in your Bird Houses

It is entertaining and educational to watch birds as they go through the many stages of their lives, including choosing a nest site, making the nest, laying eggs, feeding their hatchlings, and then, watching the fledglings as they venture out on their own.

Many people are choosing to bring this experience up close by placing nesting boxes (bird houses) around their backyards to house some of the many birds that would normally be looking for a hollow tree cavity. The following are a few tips to help you have a successful nesting season.

1. Bird House Specifications - Things to look for when choosing a house:
• Designed for the bird’s size and nesting requirements.
• Ventilation holes to provide a release for heat build-up.
• Easily cleaned.
• Easily mounted or hung.
• Durable to withstand several seasons of use.
• Drainage holes in the bottom of the house.

2. Bird House Nesting Materials
Birds use a variety of materials to construct their nests. The wren starts his nest with a bundle of sticks, the chickadee likes lots of soft fluff on top of a moss base, the bluebird uses grasses and pine needles, and the tree swallow gathers large bird feathers to line a shallow nest of grass and roots. Usually there is no lack of these materials in the wild, but we have encouraged birds to use our houses by placing Birdie Bell nesting materials near the boxes.

Another trick is to stuff chickadee and woodpecker bird houses with cedar chips. They prefer birdhouses with something to excavate.

3. Bird House Direction
In the northern states like Michigan the birds prefer the early morning sun coming in the front of the house as it faces the east. Put the houses where you can view them, but bird houses facing in easterly directions fledge more young than houses facing in other directions.

4. Bird House Location
Remember not all birds use bird houses. Cardinals, goldfinches, doves, jays, hummingbirds and orioles would never use a house because they build their own nests. Cavity nesters like chickadees and wrens like their bird houses placed 5 to 10 feet high in the cover of a bush or small tree.

Bluebirds and Tree swallows choose fairly open areas interspersed with trees and shrubs. Experts recommend that bluebird boxes be 5 feet high and spaced at least 300' apart.

To reduce the competition between bluebirds and swallows for houses it is recommended to pair houses. Setting up a pair of houses, with each house no more than 5-10 feet apart every 300 feet, is one proven technique that allows both songbirds to nest together successfully.

5. Bird House Protection
Wild Birds Unlimited has metal portal protectors that you can add to most houses to prevent squirrels from chewing the entrances larger.

To protect the nest inside the house from unwanted predators reaching in and stealing eggs, attach the Screw Mount Birdhouse Guardian. These will prevent squirrels, raccoons, opossum and cats from bending their arms to reach the resident birds. Crows, Blue Jays and grackles can't get their bodies through the guardian and are also deterred.

We also have baffles you can add to our Wild Birds Unlimited bird house poles or wood 4x4” poles. This will stop all squirrels and raccoons from climbing to the house.

If a bluebird family has already started to make a house and sparrows are harassing them put up a sparrow spooker. Basically once the bluebirds are committed to a nesting site you can hang shiny flutter ribbon above the birdhouse (you can find this "scare tape" at our stores). Studies have shown that certain bird species, including house sparrows, will not fly under the ribbon. For more detailed plans to make your own sparrow spooker, click HERE or visit: http://www.sialis.org/sparrowspooker.htm

Happy birding!