Monthly Archives: August 2021

Press release: Dining Facilities reopen at Backyard Wildlife College

Backyard Wildlife College catering and housing services is pleased to announce we have the green light from the state Game Commission to reopen our all our dining and bathing facilities for feathered creatures! On Friday, August 13, restrictions on bird feeders and bird baths were lifted in Pennsylvania, where our small but cute campus is located.

We are excited to bring all feathered creatures our usual weekend spread of Supreme seeds, in the tube feeder by the backdoor and at the window feeders, as of this morning.

male House Finch and female American Goldfinch at a tube feeder
Mr. House Finch and Lady Goldfinch at the feeder, in the Birds’ before Times (April 2021), sharing sunflower hearts and saffron seeds.

We are trying out a new location for the bird bath, closer to the human property but more sheltered from view than the parking lot. We know they will visit when the humans are not present. It will also prepare them for the winter set-up, when the heating goes on and the bath needs to be near an electric outlet.

We congratulate all birds on successfully navigating through these difficult weeks, a big feather in their cap! In early July, health and safety concerns for feathered faculty and students at the college forced our hand, with compulsory social distancing measures leading to the closure of the dining and bathing facilities for all feathered friends in multiple states. Although the exact cause of the mystery disease has not yet been identified, the R-number has decreased sufficiently, and it appears that feeders and baths play no role in transmission. We are grateful to all affected birds for their patience and cooperation during this unprecedented health emergency. We remain, of course, saddened by the loss of so many birds, and hope that scientists may soon find an answer to the questions that remain.

We also note that the press release from the Game Commission points to the good work done by the local communities of humans in responding to emergency and health situations among wildlife, and we couldn’t agree more. From contributing to pollinator pathways and providing service stops for migrating hummingbirds, to being peanut purveyors for squirrels and now responding to the mystery disease, many humans help the wildlife in their immediate environment. Now make sure to tell the humans to get their feeders and birdbath up and running again, because the birds are back!

For the eagle-eyed among you (though no eagles attend our college at the moment), we reassure you we are observing the recommended hygiene rules and cleaning tips for our facilities.

Stay alert, save lives:

All feathered creatures should remain on guard for the feral cat prowling the campus grounds, because it is a known bird hunter. Our groundskeeper/campus safety officer tries to keep it off campus, but unfortunately the open nature of our grounds makes that very difficult. Please use your alert calls to attract attention; campus safety will respond if on the premises. (Look, it’s a one-human part-time job, we do the best we can with the funds we have!)

Back from my jollies

I’m back from my little trip! Did you miss me? Of course you did!

It was a three night camping trip at Gifford Woods State Park in Vermont, followed by a visit to a friend in Brattleboro, where I was kindly allowed to stay the night, and then another visit to a friend in Hartford, CT, where I also spent the night.

Conditions were not optimal for the fair-weather campers among us. Fortunately, I am not one of them. But I do know my limits! The first night, a few hours after pitching my tent, darkness was approaching, and so was a massive storm. I tucked everything away inside my spiffy new tent (it comes with a rainfly, still under 1kg!) or in the car and zipped myself up for the night. But within minutes, the lightning was so close and continuous I wondered if I had mistakenly checked into a nightclub instead of a camping ground. I decided that I was pitched uncomfortably close to a tall tree and it would be far safer to be inside the car than inside the tent for the duration of this thunderstorm. Just twenty minutes later I could return to my tent, which had survived its first big storm without problem. Little did I know more trials were to follow…

After an uneventful night, accompanied by the endless pitter-patter of raindrops falling on the tent canvas, an early morning beckoned. I had a little stove and gas cannister, and a bialetti, so nothing stood between me and a cup of coffee!

cartoon image of a coffee mug. Text says: Instant human: just add coffee

Except I accidentally bought coffee beans instead of ground coffee when I shopped for camping groceries earlier in the weekend 🤦🏼‍♀️ Tea it was, until I I got into nearby Killington’s little supermarket for some much needed ground-up black gold.

That afternoon, I went for a “walk by car” in the wider area, because the heavens opened up again, and tested my tent’s waterproof claims once again. The tent is fab.

The inside of a tent, with rain drops on the outside of a translucent cover, and a small maple leaf stuck on the outside of the tent
A very familiar view before the end of my camping trip: the inside of the tent, the outside speckled with little raindrops

When I got back, I built a comfortable little nest and dove into my stack of books. I hoped that the rain would dispel the smoke from the Canadian wildfires that caused air pollution and covered the green hills with a greyish haze, but every day it came back.

On Wednesday, no rain! I tried to go for a short hike in the woods a bit further from the campsite. Map, compass, everything to navigate. The only thing I did not have was phone reception (generally not a problem). About a mile into the path, something brown and furry, but lower than an average coffee table, turned around on the path in front of me and ran off. I couldn’t quite see what it was, but we had been told there are bears in the state park and the State Forest it’s attached to. Was this a (black) bear cub? Highly unlikely, especially at that size for the time of year. But then I am not familiar with bears, I only caught a glimpse of the furry thing, and IF (admittedly a big if) it was a cub, a mama bear would be around.

A landscape, depicting a river with rocks and boulders, surrounded on both banks by lush green trees
Bear-free picture, but not entirely bear-free woods.

However unlikely that scenario was, I’d rather not run into that while out on my own without connectivity to the rest of humanity, so I turned back, and explored the area around the camping site instead. I was told by people who know what they’re doing Vermont-wise that this was the right decision.

Because of the rain, Vermont is not only the Green Mountain State, but also full of mushrooms:

(If anybody can help to identify these various fungi/mushroom things, please drop a note in the comments! Click on the pictures to see the larger view.)

There was also a pond nearby for fishing. Looks like it would be great for downhill waterskiing if only they’d allow it:

Panorama stretch picture of a body of water, but with a mistake in the rendering, so the water flows uphill
Oops. Something went wrong with the Panorama function on my phone!

Overall, despite the rain and the near encounter of the furry kind, I had a great time. I do enjoy being out in the quiet of the woods, even when the weather isn’t that great (minus thunder and lightning). So I already booked another weekend away here in PA, to make sure I get my dose of vitamin O(utdoor), and to make sure the tent feels loved. How are you recharging your batteries?

Landscape of green meadows framed by trees, in the distance green wooded hills. In the center a horse is grazing.
Green “mountains” of Vermont
Big wooden barn, against a dramatic sky
Barn on a farm on a small road off VT-100