Saturday, May 1, 2010

Birds on the Bee Farm

The same elements that make for healthy habitat for honey bees also support a number of other forms of wildlife. All wildlife need food, water, adequate space, and protective cover. We try to provide all of these elements at Peace Bee Farm. We consider the presence of wildlife as a good indicator of the health of the environment. Since birds thrive in the same habitats that support healthy populations of honey bees, we have designated large portions of the farm as a bird sanctuary. The birds and the bees are able to move freely among open agricultural fields, grasslands, forests, lakes, marshes, and swamps. This week we were pleased to have Mary Phillips and her long-time friend from Seattle, Washington, Sarah Pierce, come out to look for songbirds. Sarah, a student of ornithology, attended Warren Wilson College with Mary.

They found a number of birds on the farm including blue jays not found around Sarah’s Pacific Northwest home. The blue jay, a member of the American crow family, is making a comeback after its numbers were reduced by West Nile Virus, vectored by mosquitoes. Other bird visitors this week included the colorfully-named bronzed grackle, red-winged blackbird, Eastern bluebird, brown thrasher, great blue heron, and purple martin. More observed visitors were Eurasian ring-necked dove, bob-white quail, Baltimore oriole, Canada goose, mallard, wood duck, and great heron. Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks dropped in to steal domestic poultry. Both bird and honey bee sampling projects are measuring the condition of these environmentally-sensitive creatures. Peace Bee Farm is participating in several sampling studies of honey bees. The Great Sunflower Project reminds us that it is now time to plant seeds. Visit to participate. This study of the effect of bees on garden plants, crops, and wild plants will be useful; as the bees, plants, and the birds are greatly related in the environment. Sarah was interested in learning that the ivory-billed woodpecker, long thought to be extinct, was found in Arkansas’ Cache River basin.

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