In this issue: our new featured site is to be the focus of a feature film, plus how to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count.

The Dirt: News from YardMap
Joining together to break new ground for birds

February 2013

Blueberry the hen at Deauville Farm.
Blueberry is ready for her closeup at Deauville Farm. Photo © 2010 Kathryn Pasternak.

Our New Featured Site is to be the Focus of a Feature Film

Gail Rose may be a new YardMapper, but she has been the owner of Deauville Farms for about 16 years, where her stewardship is an ongoing process. By employing organic practices on her farm, Gail aims to build a healthier soil environment for microbes and up the food chain to birds and people. But earning a living on a small organic farm in rural Virginia is not easy, and Gail has faced both personal and professional challenges along the way. From surviving breast cancer to realizing that her beloved fallow deer were putting too much pressure on the landscape, Gail has maintained a keen sense of humor and wonder at the natural world.

Gail is a rare bird herself, the kind of person who appreciates the Turkey Vulture as nature's recycler. She related the following story to us:

"Recently I went to open my hen house in the morning and discovered I had a visitor. The chickens always come rushing outside. After they left and I started to put out their feed, out of the corner of my eye I noticed a very large 'something' still sitting on the roost. Clearly too big to be a chicken, I suddenly realized it was a Turkey Vulture. Without thinking, I went to pick him up (like I would a chicken) and he turned his head to me as if to say, 'Just try it, lady.' He was enormous and behaved as though he belonged there. I couldn't believe how big his beak was, so I stopped and left him sitting there, hoping he'd leave when he was ready.

Eventually some customers arrived who wanted to collect their own eggs. I said, 'Well, I don't want to disturb the Turkey Vulture roosting in the hen house.' They were so excited at the prospect of seeing the bird up close that we all went inside–I realized it was an opportunity to have some assistance ushering the bird back outside. We just clapped our hands and moved him toward the door. The vulture walked out and then climbed the vines on a fence post at the corner of the chicken yard. He stood there for a time and then spread his wings once–at which point we noticed that he had some feather damage–but he still attempted to fly away while we all watched, mesmerized. I named him Richard. He comes back regularly these days, and I see him sitting in my cedar tree or on the fence near my pumpkin patch. I learned that they like rotting pumpkins, which must be the reason he keeps returning. Soon my farm became a regular hangout for Turkey Vultures. Watching them circle in the sky and roost in my trees is a rush."

Gail's struggle to make her organic farm sustainable attracted the attention of filmmaker Kathryn Pasternak, who is now producing a documentary feature film about the farm. According to Pasternak, her film, Doeville, will "follow farmer Gail Rose through five difficult seasons, from late summer one year through to fall the next year. No one can predict how Gail’s story will end…but the journey is sure to be one full of spirit, determination, courage, passionate devotion, heartache and hard work…and with any luck, a good share of victory." Doeville will be completed as a feature documentary in December 2013. Watch the website for more details of when and where you can see the finished film. Read the full Deauville Farm Featured Site here.
Common Redpoll by Norm Dougan
A Common Redpoll gets counted. Photo by Norm Dougan.

Count for Conservation

Please consider taking part in the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) February 15-18. The count is being integrated with the eBird online checklist system—which means that the count will be global for the first time. Anyone, anywhere, with Internet access can take part in the count. Because you already participate in YardMap, you will not need to create a new account for the GBBC. If you’re watching birds that weekend, simply enter your checklists at You’ll be prompted to enter your existing login information.

Participating is easy. Simply watch birds for at least 15 minutes at the location(s) of your choice on one or more of the count days. Estimate the number of birds you see for each species you can identify. You’ll select your location on a map, answer a few questions, enter your tallies, and then submit your data to share your sightings with others around the world. When you are finished, your GBBC counts will show up in your YardMap if you have linked it with eBird.

Please consider participating in this free, fun, late-winter bird count! And if you count birds somewhere that you haven't yardmapped yet, please consider mapping that count site as well. The more data you provide, the better we can understand the relationships of birds and their habitats. Make your observations count for conservation!

Good Clean Fun

Downy Woodpecker at feeder.
Does your feeder pass inspection? Photo by Bob Baker via Birdshare.
It's time for a new challenge, YardMappers. Who among you will accept our invitation to clean up their act? Here's the challenge: with so many birds at our feeders this time of year, we need to provide a clean and safe feeding environment. When birds congregate at a food source, there is the potential for disease to spread from bird-to-bird through contaminated feeders and seed. According to our friends at Project FeederWatch, sick birds may seek out easy meals, like those at feeders, and we should all clean our feeders even when there is no sign of disease. Here's what the FeederWatch staff have to say:

"Birds can become ill from leftover bits of seeds and hulls that become moldy, as well as from bird droppings that accumulate on feeder trays. Therefore, you should clean your feeders about once every two weeks, more often during times of heavy use. For best results, wash your feeder thoroughly in warm soapy water. Dry the feeder thoroughly before refilling. Hummingbird feeders should be cleaned every time you refill the nectar, which should be every three to five days.

Also remember to rake the ground below your feeder to prevent accumulation of waste. Moldy or spoiled food is unhealthy not only for birds but for your outside pets. Bird food scattered on the ground also can attract rodents. Consider moving your feeders periodically to limit the accumulation of waste."

If you think about it, you wouldn't want to eat at a restaurant that didn't pass the health inspection. Won't you rise to the challenge and plunge your bird feeders in some suds today? If you're keeping it clean, post a picture of your happy feeder birds to our Challenges blog today and boost your squeaky clean reputation!
The new vine icon in YardMap.
There's a new icon in town, and it's de-vine!

Announcing a New Icon

We've added a new icon to YardMap based on your suggestions: the vine. Vines can grow along the ground, or vertically climb up plants and other structures. Use the new vine icon to indicate where your vines are, what food sources they provide, and other characteristics that describe them. Tell us the species, or attach a photo and leave a comment about it to encourage other YardMappers to help you identify it. Now, go yardmap your vines and tell us what you think!


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