Thursday, February 28, 2008

Squirrel for Breakfast

This morning while cleaning the snapping turtle tank, I looked out the window of the nature center and, to my surprise, saw something tunneling under the snow towards me. All of a sudden, a little brown head popped out of the snow- it was a mink! The mink jumped out of the snow and ran along the side of the nature center into some bushes across from the bird feeders. At this time there were two squirrels on the feeder eating, and one on the ground cleaning up scraps. Suddenly, the mink bounded from the bushes towards the squirrel on the ground. The mink pounced on the squirrel and began wrestling with it. The two flopped around in the snow for about a minute, until the mink had the squirrel's neck firmly held with its jaws. The mink trotted back toward the bushes and ran alongside the nature center with its kill, until it was out of sight. During the battle in the snow I had enough time to grab the camera. The shots are a little grainy, but you can make them out.

Wrestling in the snow. You can see the dark colored mink grabbing the gray squirrel.

Mink running off with squirrel

The tunnel the mink made as it burrowed through the snow

The view through the nature center window. You can see where something was burrowing under the snow!

The hideout spot in the bushes. You can see the tracks the mink made as it left

Minks are carnivores whose diet consists of small mammals, birds, eggs, frogs, crayfish, and fish. They are mostly nocturnal and solitary. They prefer habitats close to water and will den along streams or lake banks.

Want to see a mink up close, or feel its fur? Stop by the Hansen Nature Center where you can do both!
Mark your calendar!

There are many exciting events coming up at the Tinker Nature Park. Make sure to register early so you don't miss out. Hope to see you there!

Victorian Easter

Saturday, March 15th
Registration is required, limited space available.
Call Henrietta Recreation at 359-2540 to register.
Egg hunt begins at 1:00pm sharp!
Visit the Tinker Homestead decorated for a Victorian Easter.
Butterfly and Hummingbird Gardening

Saturday, April 12th
Learn how to attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, and take home some plants and seeds to start.
Registration required, call 359-7044.

Lunar Ski

Even with very little snow, this year's lunar ski was a success! Most took advantage of the park's late hours to enjoy a lunar walk, while a few strapped on skis and snowshoes to explore the trails. After their outdoor adventures people came inside to feast upon chili made and served by the Friends of Tinker Nature Park.

Enjoying the warmth of the nature center

Friends member Trish Robinson serving chili to hungry guests

After warming up with chili it was time for an owl walk. Armed with owl calls and flashlights, Friends member Bob Hodge and I led the excited group around the nature trail. We played calls from the screech owl, great horned owl, and even barred owl, but didn't hear or see any responses. Maybe next time!

A big thank you to the Friends of Tinker Nature park for all of your help with this event! We wouldn't be able to do it without you!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Edible Bird Feeders

Last Saturday the Tinker Nature Park hosted our "edible bird feeder" class. The Hansen Nature Center filled with people ready to learn what seed attracts what birds, and how to make their own feeders using seed and suet. We used multiple types of seed and suet to make seed wreaths and balls, hanging suet feeders, and more! Different feeders were made to attract different types of birds.

Hard at work making bagel feeders with nyjer

Time for more seed!

Showing off a pinecone feeder and hanging suet feeder

Father and daughter making a seed ball

It can get messy!

Just a few of the feeders made

Proudly displaying her feeders

Don't know what type of seed to put out for your birds?
Black Oil Sunflower will get you the best diversity of birds. Cardinals, chickadees, Jays, Finches, Sparrows, Nuthatches and Grosbeaks are only some of the birds you will get with black oil sunflower.
Millet will attract sparrows, doves, juncos, and other ground feeders.
Nyjer (or thistle) attracts finches, redpolls, and pine siskins.
Sunflower and Peanut Hearts are great if you are sick of the waste from seed shells in your lawn. These offer just the meat of the seed and the birds love it!
Cracked Corn will attract most songbirds, along with ducks, turkeys, and quail when spread on the ground.
Safflower is great if you're having squirrel problems. Squirrels won't eat safflower, but cardinals, grosbeaks, woodpeckers, and other songbirds will!
Suet will be eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, and chickadees. Be careful though, because starlings, sparrows and squirrels will also eat it. Try an "upside down" suet feeder that has feeding openings only on the bottom. Woodpeckers, nuthatches and chickadees will be able to eat from it, but others will not.
Seed mixes are great if you don't want to stick to one type of seed. Be sure to pay close attention to what is in the mix you are buying. Many companies fill their mixes with a lot of millet and cracked corn. This can result in a feeder being dominated by house sparrows, and not much else. Also, birds will throw the seed they do not like (usually millet) all over the ground to get to the seeds in the mix they like (sunflower). There are a lot of great "cardinal", "chickadee", and "woodpecker" mixes that I would recommend.