Saturday, August 28, 2010

Yard Vermin..... bird feeding gone wrong

This is the first in a series of entries I'm planning to blog, about the more common yard pest vermin, that has plagued my yard and environment, and the people that think they are doing good things by feeding them , and attracting them. This is not so much to critique the people that feed them, but to better educate them.... and present the facts, so that they can maybe (hopefully) make better choices, so we can all enjoy a greater variety of the wildlife, that is constantly around us, while not allowing our property to be contaminated and damaged, by over populations of these pest species. People can possibly get sick and ill from this problem. Just because they haven't yet, doesn't mean it can't happen. For all we could have happened, already(?)
Let's talk about a species, the House Sparrow (or English Sparrow) that is an invasive species here in N. America, and has caused great problems, and devastated native song bird populations. Here in New York, it has greatly reduced the population and former range of our State bird, the Eastern Bluebird. These House Sparrows (or puttz's...called by many NYers) are cavity nesters (like the Bluebirds), but are much more aggressive by nature, and have 3-4 broods of young each season, to the Bluebirds 1, or 2 broods.
When I lived at my former residence on the western NY lake plains, near L. Ontario...the first several years I lived there, I saw no Bluebirds. I did my research and talked to some knowledgable folks, and joined the NY State Bluebird Society. I began building nest boxes, and placing them in pairs, on my property, and on State lands (where I had permission). I also took measures, to guard against the House Sparrows, by trapping them in the boxes, and in large cage traps, on my property.
Within 2 years...I'm pleased to say, that I had nesting Bluebirds, and these areas were no longer dominated by the non native (and unprotected) House Sparrows. There were farms nearby, so this was a constant battle. The invasive Sparrows, flourish on farms, due to the grain feed that supports them, and ample nesting opportunities. The farmer has no time, to deal with this problem...thus, the farm hopping spread of this species marched across the entire continent...from a few pairs that were released in NY City (brought over from England), around the turn of the century. If those well meaning folks...had only realized what they were really doing, and the consequences that would come of it !
To prove something to myself, I leg banded several of the trapped sparrows, and released least 10 miles away from my property. The same year, I spotted one of the individuals again, and eventually re-trapped it. This time, I destroyed it, and all of the other ones I trapped...which numbered in the thousands, over the years I lived there. While monitoring my nest boxes, I personally witnessed cases, where House Sparrows had pecked to death, the little bluebird fledglings, and sometimes, the parents...and had constructed their new nest (in the newly taken over box), right over the top of the dead bluebirds...and began to mate and lay eggs. This long as I have breath in my lungs, will never breed on any property where I live or reside on.
Let's look at the facts on what else can happen, when large flocks of this species are fed, and allowed to breed and flourish. First, ask yourself...what happens when over populations of humans or any species tales place...without the needed sanitary facilities or means to accommodate them ?
Here's what's happening in our yards, from a large pole feeder that is constantly supplied with cracked corn-millet cheaper spread feed:
There are large flocks of up to hundreds of these birds (I've counted over 400), that are in the trees, roofs, and sitting on the fences , gates, and walkways...that are a white wash of fecal matter. These flocks often go into our open garage, where I find the fecal droppings on the floor, and everywhere else...where I frequent, and where my little daughter plays and my family walks. I have to restrict my daughter from going to the area near the feeder (on the border of the yards), because of the constant mess and activity there. I tried to put out a kiddie wading pool for my daughter, last year. Changing the water daily, was not I saw these flocks of birds drinking and crapping, on and in the pool...constantly. This summer, I only set up a sprinkler for her to run through in the yard, and had to decide...that having a little pool for her, is not a good idea.
Ok, here are the facts on the diseases and problems that these birds are known to cause:

Makes me wonder on the recent bed bug outbreaks, this hot summer...around the country. So..who likes bed bugs?
Does anyone that reads this, and Now knows the facts...really want their family, a neighbors family or visitors, sitting around in this kind of outdoor environment, getting this fecal matter on their shoes, clothes and hands...and then coming into the house (it can enter, by many means...including your window fans and air conditioner) ?? How about the innocents (like my daughter) that just want to play out in the yard ? The problem is (again) the large flocks of these birds, that are always around, producing this filth. A bird feeder that has a moderate population of birds that visit, does not present this problem, and any fecal matter.... is localized, and easy cleaned up... on or around the feeder. This is much more than just my opinions or angry ramblings....these are indeed, the facts.
We all enjoy feeding birds, and watching the feeders. Yes, I do also....and I want my neighbors and relatives to continue to enjoy it, as well.
There are things that can be done, to help prevent this from happening, and still be able to enjoy the same feeder watching pleasure...without, the large unchecked flocks of vermin, disease ridden invasive birds, that Are polluting your yard, and your neighbors yards.
First, make a change on what you are offering at the feeder. The cheaper cracked corn, millet small seed feed the main problem. Instead of putting this in the large hanging feeders where people walk, close to the house, put this feed (if you really must) in a platform feeder...Well away from the houses , near the very back of the yard. Refill your hanging (close to house) feeders, with Safflower seed:

Thistle seed is great also, but more expensive.
You will get the same birds you enjoy seeing, but far less of the flocks of House Sparrows, and other pest birds (grackles, blackbirds, cowbirds) that you've been feeding with the millet seed.
I've learned from this info, also...and I am going to make adjustments. I have been putting out black oil sunflower seeds for years...but now realize that House Sparrows will eat them, readily...just as soon as the millet-cracked corn seed runs out, next door. Here's a little more info on what is best to put out, and what is not:

What people don't know, can hurt them, and others close ways we never considered before. I post this... as a solution to help my neighbors, my family, and for anyone else that chooses to read this blog. Thanks for reading, and for considering these facts, and the information that I've gathered.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting lost in the forest.... it's not hard

Since this blog is mainly focused on my field experiences and outings, I thought I would write about this very humbling experience, that happened to me back in the spring of 2001.
I was at an all time low, concerning my home life and first marriage situation, and really needed to get away for the weekend. In fact, I decided to leave a day early and head for the Adirondacks, after throwing together (hastily) some food and belongings, and my outdoor gear. I took a quick look at a topo map, and decided I would backpack from the Moose River Plains recreation area, and take a foot trail into the depths of the West Canada Wilderness. This would certainly get me away from it all, for a couple days. I was somewhat prepared... gear wise, and wasn't in bad physical shape. Mentally though, I was kind of a mess at that time in my life, due to the stress of a marriage gone bad and an unbearable home life. I can say this with all seriousness... that your mental state should be normal and clear, before deciding to venture into any unfamiliar wilderness, alone. It effects everything you do, including your attitude, common sense, and decision making process.
When I arrived, late that Friday morning, I crammed everything I thought necessary into my large Kelty backpack...accept for the means to spend the night...the first bad decision. I actually thought more of packing my film camera, bulky lenses and minidisc sound recorder.. over a sleeping bag, thermarest mat, and little bivy tent (which I forgot to bring, and left at home)... a terrible decision. I actually thought I could make it back before dark, and be sleeping at a campsite, where my vehicle was parked. I only packed one flashlight, an old headlamp... another bad decision. I packed enough food for a day, but enough water for several...well, only half bad.
I was taught better while out in the field.. training, in my youth.. but didn't seem to heed that knowledge at all, and thought that I would have no problem sleeping anywhere, and would certainly come across a lean-to, to crash, if I really needed to... you know, it was the Adirondacks. I fancied myself as a pretty good outdoorsman, ready for any of it... or so I thought.
I had my trusty Garmin Emap GPS unit with fresh, how could I get lost, or go down the wrong path ?
Leaving too late in the morning, was my first mistake. I thought I was going to walk a ways in, and walk back out.. and get out by dark. About seven miles into the hike, I realized I had better turn around, if I was going to make it out by dark. I had a headlamp and a flashlight for backup, but this trail was quite overgrown, being it still the spring and before Memorial Day, and it didn't look like there was much maintenance done at all. The deeper I walked in, the more narrow and hard to navigate, the trail was. The trail markers became harder to spot, and the forest became very thick, with many more mature trees that blotted out the sky.
I could see there was a pond through a clearing in the trees, and decided.. I would walk around it, and do some exploring, grab a quick bite to eat out of the pack, and then head back to the vehicle. The walking was slow and difficult, and I had to stop frequently to drink. It was somewhere on the far side of the pond.. while blazing, that I got turned around. Not only could I not backtrack, but I couldn't even find the damn pond. I must have stomped around for an hour looking for the reference marks I thought I had down pat, until the fear first came over me. I could not get a reading through the forest canopy with the GPS, to head me back toward the waypoint I recorded.. where I started to blaze off the trail, near the clearing. I spent the next hour or two, trying to get a GPS reading (in a bit of a hurry up panic), and find a decent clear spot to do it.. but it just didn't happen. It got thicker and thicker, and harder to navigate through. I was really pissed at myself at that time, and my emotions went from being mad, to feeling sorry for myself.. to the realization that I was losing the daylight behind the trees, and I was ... lost. Yes, me.. lost. It was really hard to admit that to myself, and I wasted a lot of valuable daylight time, not admitting it.
Finally, I dropped my gear in a clear spot near some pines, and started to gather some dry wood. I was going to be spending the night there, and should have accepted that fact, hours ago. I had no sleeping bag, but did have several emergency reflective cheapo blanket packets. I got a poor, smokey fire going, with some kindling, but the larger wood was quite wet, and did not burn at all. I had to keep gathering what smaller dry stuff, I could, and gathered a good pile of it. As darkness set in, the temps dropped. It was a day in the high 60s, but the temps were soon in the 40s, and falling, as it was the Adirondacks. I assessed what I had in my pack, for food and water. Enough water for several days, and enough food for a day. My headlamp crapped out in about 4 hours, and was down to the mag lite. I looked at the map and found my compass, and asked myself.. why I didn't use it sooner, and just walk east, to intersect the trail. I thought, that I might have been doing this, and thought I was.. by memory, and might have walked right by the poorly groomed trail, and maybe in between the trail markers. All kinds of awful thoughts popped into my head that night. Finally, I decided to save the flashlight, and had a little snack and drink, took a pee.. and then unwrapped the thin emergency blanket, and wrapped it around me. I took my pistol, flashlight, GPS, and water bottle, and crawled under the pine with the lowest branches. I said a prayer to God, for the first time in many months, and asked him to guide me out, somehow. If he did, I would do things different, next time out.. and share my experience and mistakes, with others.
During the night, I woke up many times.. only to realize where I was, and relive how a got there. I could hear a pack of coyotes howling and yipping, and it seemed like they were getting closer. My mouth was very dry, and it was really cold now. I guessed it was near freezing, and I could see a few stars though a gap in the pine, looking straight out from my forest floor bed of pine needles. I woke up, to hear something moving around me on the ground, and the hoots of a Great Horned.. that seemed to be mocking me, in my tired and unpleasant state of mind. The movement was an animal, but not something too big. After I didn't hear it anymore, I went back to sleep.. with my hand on the loaded pistol, for that false sense.. of some kind of security.
I awoke to the sounds of birds, with dew dripping down through the trees around me. The pine kept me dry, and probably prevented me (along with the reflective emergency blanket, and my chamois flannel shirt.. from getting hypothermia).
I crawled out, got the fire going, and looked at the map again.. and got a bearing with the compass, to head east - northeast. I felt a little better, but still knew my situation was dire, and that I had to make the right choices today, and stick to the compass heading.. keep moving slow and steady, conserve my food and water, and hope I could intersect the trail, and find it.
I felt like I was walking in circles, and would swear (literally) that I came upon the same trees, and rocks, and small creeks and markers.. I had before in the day, or yesterday. I felt like it was a scene from the Blair Witch Project movie, but nothing was after me.. accept the forest.. would not let me out. A haunting song by a band that I love, took over my thoughts, at this time.. while persisting to blaze through thick pines and dense thicket tangles, at the same compass heading I had promised myself, I would not vary away from :

Finally, after becoming very discouraged (but not letting myself sink into panic and dispair... like the late afternoon before)... I found a decent sized clearing where I would try the GPS again, and hope the batteries were still ok, after the very cold night. I was smart enough, to keep it inside the blanket, wrapped against my body.
I cryed out, in happiness.. when I got a position reading, right after the Garmin fired up. I had the area topo on the Garmin, and I was still in the area of the pond, and about a half mile east of the trail, and not far from the main intersection of the Northville - Placid main trail. Not more than a half hour of hard hiking later, I had the pond in view, and than came upon what I thought was the trail.. nope, not yet. It turned out to be a game trail, that finally lead me to the narrow foot trail, and I saw a very relieving site.. a trail marker on a tree. God did listen to me, and must have felt it was not my time yet, and gave me the inspiration to walk myself out of.. being .. good and damn lost. It was 2 PM, the next day from the morning I started out. I let out more breaths of relief, mumbling stuff to myself, and ate my last meal.. left, and drank up. It took another six hours to walk out, and back to my waiting vehicle.. just as dusk was settling in, again. Was never so glad.. to see that Ford F-150. I took a nap in the back of the truck, laying on the pad, and in the sleeping bag I didn't bring. I left.. well after dark, and had no bad feeling about going home to the ugly marriage I ran away from.. because I was alive, and unharmed. Just freaked out, and a little scratched up from ducking through briers and thickets, and as sore as I'd been in years, from the long hike.
I never told anyone where I was going, and knew that was dumb, and thought about how long I would have been gone and lost, before my soon to be ex-wife or teenage son, would have reported me missing, and / or someone found my vehicle near the trail head.
Years later, I read an article in Adirondack Life magazine.. about how the area I was in, had swallowed up many a hiker. Some were found, and others were never found. All of them in the "lost hikers" article, did not live to tell the tale I'm telling.. and the others like me, probably held off on telling it, until a moment like now came along.. and they decided to share their experience with others, about what they did wrong, and most important.. what they did right.. to be able to walk out, and not become one of the names in that article.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A witness sighting from the Philippines .... that can now be seen

In 1985, my wife (then a 10 year old girl) was walking home, taking a short cut through a large abandon lot that bordered a cemetery, that was surrounded by thick concrete walls. There was a very large and old tamarind tree in the corner of the lot. As she walked past the tree, she smelled what she thought was tobacco smoke . When she paused, turned, and looked back, she saw a large, dark, hairy figure sitting on a limb of the tamarind tree. The creature (she calls "Agta") was already staring down at her. She was able to see enough detail, to implant this fearful childhood image in her memory. I won't go into any further detail about the incident, because it can be read about.... here, on a post and write up I did a while back on several forums (the NESRA forum, an information inquiry and write up on the BFRO forum) :

I have spent quite a bit of time gathering all the information and details from my wife, about this incident. It was an emotional and somewhat terrifying experience for her. She agreed (at first, reluctantly) to share the details, and have a witness sketch done of the creature.
Getting someone willing to work with her (via myself as the middle man, to relay the info and details) on a sketch, has also taken some time. I was hoping that this could somehow be accomplished through the internet. I was lucky enough to hook up with several artists (recently) that were interested, on the "Search for Bigfoot" forum. I think that this helps to demonstrate, how these BF forums can be used in a positive manner, to help folks meet up with each other, that might have otherwise.... never done so, and now have opportunities, to work together.
One gentleman, was quite backlogged with folks waiting for his services ( that are well worth the wait).... but still, kindly offered to do a portrait, and work with myself and my wife.
Another gentleman also offered his assistance, and wanted the chance to work with an eyewitness, and see if he could be of help. I'm very pleased that we gave this person the chance. I provided all the details of the encounter, and some comparison sketches that we had looked through on another site (The Painted Cave), that my wife thought looked somewhat similar to what she witnessed, as this was a good starting point.
After a few email exchanges on information, the artist ( screen name - "Knuckledragger") sent me a very well done sketch, for my wife to review and critique. I was impressed by the artistic talent and accurate detail (based on the information given) in this portrait. I was even more amazed, by the reaction of my wife... that I noticed from the second she laid eyes on it... was emotional, wide eyed, and a bit fearful, from seeing this image on the monitor. I asked her to please look at it again (when she could), and tell me if it needed any changes, and what they were. She told me that it was all accurate, in regards to what she remembers seeing... but in a more "close up" way, than the wider field of her actual vision. I asked her many times...until she got mad at me (yes, this happens sometimes... lol) , and she concluded that there were only several details that needed to be changed in the portrait.
I think, that between my wife's implanted memory of the incident, my many hours of talking to her about details, and putting this down in written form, and finally... "Knuck's" portrait drawing talents, and understanding of the information provided .... made this come together, more quickly than any of us had expected.
So, what does the creature in the portrait look like ? In my opinion, it has the characteristics of many described eyewitness reports of sasquatch-like creatures and/or hominids around the world. I think there are more things human-like to observe in the portrait, than pongid. That said, I still can't come to any accurate conclusions, of what this is... maybe in a class all by itself (?) It has a very close resemblance (in Knuck's first sketch) to another drawing, from a book I have (The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates) by Coleman/Huyghe... page 123. The creature in that drawing ( Nguoi rung, or " forest people") has been seen by many, in Vietnam. To my knowledge, the artist had never seen the drawing in the book, until I sent him a scanned image of it, for comparison. By her say so...the creature my wife saw, did not have an upturned nose... but a wider, flatter one. What she also estimated, was a larger creature than the 6' tall Nguoi rung described in the book.
I think that Knuck has a great future as an artist, and helping out eyewitnesses transform their sightings, into a portrait, for all to see... if he should choose to do so, of course.
I'm glad that this has finally been accomplished, as I've been trying for almost two years, to get it done. My sincere Thanks, go out to everyone that was involved in the process. I'll be happy to share this with my friends, family and contacts in the Philippines, as well as any folks that might be interested in the N. American and International BF communities (researchers/investigators or enthusiasts) .
I have attached an image of the first sketch, and the finished painted portrait. I have blotted out the artist's real signed name on the portraits, to protect his identity.
As I've mentioned elsewhere, I'm always looking for more info out of the Philippines, and to hear about other peoples experiences in the RP (both Pinoys and foreigners) . I plan to personally field investigate... into the mystery of this creature, in the future. The question on whether it's still out there, and where to find physical evidence of it... is what my goals will be. I'm uncertain if this can be accomplished or not, but plan on... at least trying.
Since this involves my wife, and the artist (and not just me)... I'm very serious on making sure, that these portrait images do not end up on forums or blogs, that search out and import other's materials and past communications, for their entertainment and/or ridicule purposes . The artist, has copyrighted his portraits and images. Respectful opinions and comments (including skeptical ones) , are always welcome. Thanks for reading, and understanding.