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In this issue: nesting tips, YardMap birthday, photo contest, featured site.
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The Dirt: News from YardMap
Joining together to break new ground for birds

Spring 2015: Celebrating Three years of Mapping!

A female Eastern Bluebird using pine needles for nest construction.
Photo: Wayne Bierbaum

Nesting Material for
Fledging Success

One of the best parts of providing habitat for birds in your yard is the possibility of being chosen as a nesting site. The initial excitement of discovering a new nest tucked away in a native shrub or perched up on a ledge is followed by the joy of finding that precious collection of eggs gently nestled within. The fledging success of this clutch will depend on several environmental factors including the location of the nest and the quality of material used to make it.

Nest building and rearing young require intense energy consumption, creating trade-offs among energy spent during building, incubating, and collecting food. Time is energy. Too much time spent looking for nest materials can limit reproductive success. The less time a bird spends looking for materials and building a nest, the more energy is available for other stages of reproduction. By providing a safe location and an abundance of high quality building materials you may be able to facilitate more successful nesting attempts.

Birds use a variety of materials to build a strong nest and hold it in place. You can help by putting out supportive materials such as:

  • Piles of both rigid and flexible sticks of different sizes;
  • Pieces of native grapevine or Virginia Creeper;
  • A collection of coconut fibers or horse hair;
  • Mud in a bowl or small puddle nearby.
Insulation is another very important feature in a well built nest. Heat loss due to wind and wet conditions will cool eggs in a nest during incubation recesses and the parent has to regenerate that heat upon return. You can put out a wide range of materials that birds like to use.
  • Wool from sheep, goat, or alpaca; cotton batting and animal fur;
  • Grass, hay or straw, and leaf mulch can also be easily offered;
  • Undyed crafting feathers are excellent and can be a favorite among Tree Swallows.
For hiding the nest, deterring predators, and for decoration to help attract a mate, offer:
  • Pieces of lichen and moss;
  • Snakeskins and spiderwebs;
  • Green material such as pine needles or sprigs of herbs or shrubs.   
There are numerous ways to offer building materials. We do, however, encourage the use of natural materials to lessen the risk of entanglement in synthetic fibers such as netting, twine, or fishing line. Avoid using animal fur that has been exposed to flea or tick treatments, or dryer lint because it may contain harmful residues. Keeping all of this in mind when offering building materials will help the birds in your yard produce high quality, safe, and secure nests.
YardMap celebrates three years! Explore our data visualization
created by web designer Kevin Ripka

YardMap is Three Years Old

On March 23, 2015, YardMap celebrated another birthday. Our favorite way to celebrate is to analyze our citizen-science data. As a member of our growing community, we enjoy sharing our analysis. Here is a beautiful data visualization depicting our growth over the last three years. In year one we had more than 4,000 maps added. Year two resulted in an additional 2,500 maps. And year three has brought unprecedented growth, nearly doubling our total maps to more than 12,500! Explore this visualization and be proud of the contributions you make to science. The efforts you are documenting to create and maintain habitat for birds and wildlife is crucial. This is your birthday celebration as much as it is ours.  Congratulations!

Striving for Sustainability
in Virginia

Striving on Sustainability
April Featured Site. Photo by Coffeehaus

At YardMap, homeowners often consider how to increase and sustain habitat for wildlife along with any backyard project. The sustainable habitat we create for our human families, however, is equally important. In honor of Earth Day this month and to provide an example of a home incorporating sustainable features, explore this property in Bedford, Virginia. The extensive gardens focus on native species of flowers, shrubs, and trees. An active compost system provides a place to create nutrient-rich soil as well as a feeding ground for insects and other wildlife. To read about the features that benefit the human inhabitants, explore Coffeehaus' site. Read more about how they created their sustainable home by visiting their blog.

Yard of Hope
Native habitat. Photo by Allison Nunn

Yards of Hope:
Photo Contest

In honor of Earth Day 2015, from Wednesday, April 1st through Friday, April 24th, YardMap is hosting a contest for the "most sustainable yard feature."  Submit up to three images of features in your yard that minimize the use of non-renewable resources, support wildlife, and provide your home, community, or the environment with a beneficial service. There will be TWO WINNERS who will receive a generous prize from our sponsor, Bee With Me.  To learn more visit Yards of Hope.

Internet Explorer 11 Now Available

YardMap is now operating on Internet Explorer 11. Thanks to user feedback, we made this a priority.  If you have an older version of Internet Explorer, download the update and join us on the map!

Baby Blue Birds
Nesting Bluebirds from featured site
© Coffeehaus

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a membership institution dedicated to interpreting and conserving the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Visit the Cornell Lab’s website at http://www.birds.cornell.edu.

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