Laurie Tieman works at Wild Birds Unlimited during the day, but this animal lover proved she considers protecting our feathered friends a full-time job. Tieman was having lunch in the lovely outside eating area at Timbers Inn recently. She had been enjoying watching an American robin build a nest and then settle in to brood her eggs. On that afternoon she saw a man treating shrubs near the nest with a chemical insecticide. “I told him about the robin, but he said he’d been instructed to treat all the bushes,” Tieman stated. The owner of the business was in a meeting and couldn’t be interrupted. Tieman had a decision to make. “I stood in front of the nest and crossed my arms and said ‘Go ahead and call the cops. I’m not moving,’” Tieman explained. A tale with a happy ending, the potential conflict was resolved when owner Dean Juth came out after his meeting and told Tieman she did exactly the right thing. “Dean is at peace with nature,” Tieman said. Juth said he welcomes birds to his seating area, and a fountain attracts plenty. He said the setting is very natural, especially when the grasses get tall and provide a cozy backdrop to dining. He is mindful of the benefits of nature and has an herb garden nearby where he grows fresh herbs for use in the restaurant. “We’ve seen eagles back here,” Juth said. Tieman said she looks forward to seeing the robins hatch and hopes others will take care when using pesticides. In this case the tree was treated at the roots, just as effective and with no affect on the bird. Tieman said standing up for the robin is not out of character for her. With co-workers at Outdoor Birds Unlimited, she refers to spring as “turtle rescue season.” Turtles seeking mates and new habitat are notorious for crossing roads in spring and she has rescued plenty. Once she stopped traffic on Northland Drive in front of her store because a duck was leading her brood across the busy street. Hoping to set an example to others, Tieman said people can often help their feathered friends. It is an old wives tale that you can’t touch a baby bird or […]
Wild Birds Unlimited
“Is he trying to kill you?” was one question offered by a youngster during a presentation on bats held at Wild Birds Unlimited, 5426 Northland Drive, Grand Rapids. The question came while youngsters and adults were able to admire first-hand a number of bats at a talk on animal adaptation. Bats are more closely related to humans than rodents “bat man” Dale Smart shared with the audience. Smart came from the Organization for Bat Conservation to enlighten visitors on the beauty, usefulness and necessity of bats in our world. Putting minds at ease over the actions of his hand-held bat (it was looking for a mealworm treat, a “bat carrot”), Smart talked about animals’ ability to adapt as quickly as environments can change. Successful adapters can survive and even flourish in a changing world, while those who fail to adapt die. Bats have proven to be resourceful, and Michigan bats are a good example. Today, in the midst of winter, many of our bats have left town to hibernate through winter. Rather than heading south to caves, many have relocated north to man-made mining caves in the upper peninsula. Bats also make good use of old houses in place of standing dead trees, which humans are making less plentiful. Less successful and thus rarer in our state, loons have not found a way to adapt to less shoreline in Michigan lakes. Because of their legs, they cannot walk on land and require undeveloped waterfront to breed. On the other side of the equation, some creatures are too adaptable. The Emerald Ash Borer beetle is an example of a successfully adapted visitor to Michigan. Bats are more than adaptable, Smart shared. Like us, they have hands, wrists and elbows, and fly with a motion that is the equivalent of a human swimmer’s breaststroke. Vampire bats do not eat human blood, he assured, as human blood gives them gas and diarrhea. The anti-clotting quality of vampire bat saliva is actually a benefit for humans, as it is being used to create clot-busting drugs. “The vampire bat is saving human lives,” Smart stated. “If you were a bat,” Smart said to a small audience member, “you would have to eat 200 pieces of pizza a day.” He pointed […]
A free presentation at Wild Birds Unlimited, 5426 Northland Drive, Saturday, October 3, will have you hearing like a bat. Demonstrations of eco-location—the bat way to navigate in the dark—are among lessons visitors will experience. Dawn Vezina, educational specialist from the Bat Zone at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, said their bat programs evoke a range of responses from people. “People’s attitudes change, often within a couple of minutes,” she said. “They may be apprehensive about bats, but then they get a close look at them, their attitudes change. They usually warm up to them.” Vezina said other animals will be present for the one-hour show, including flying squirrels and sugar gliders. No touching will be allowed, but seeing the animals up close is exciting. In the program, viewers will learn about adaptations animals use to thrive in their environment, big eyes for night vision, whiskers, and more. The real stars will be the bats. Laurie Tiemen, manager of Wild Birds Unlimited, said she is excited to see the fruit bat, the largest bat and not native to the United States. She said bats are important to the ecosystem, and receive a bad rap. “You should be happy if you have bats,” she said. “They can eat up to 6,000 insects a night.” Vezina said among the bats food are not only mosquitos, but agricultural pests. “They are a huge benefit for farmers and gardeners, and that’s a huge benefit for all of us.” Forty percent of all bat species are threatened or endangered, often because of loss of habitat. In the United States, loss of caves is impacting bats, who need them for nursery and hybernation. In Michigan, bats that used to migrate to the southern United States to the caves of Kentucky and other states now migrate north to the upper peninsula where they hibernate in former mine shafts. People can encourage bat populations by putting up bat houses, which simulate their natural homes in cavities in dead and dying trees. Even city-dwellers can accomplish this. Vezina said bat houses can go up on a pole or building. They should be installed fifteen feet off the ground in a sunny location, preferably facing south or southeast. People can also avoid spraying pesticides. These […]
Wildlife researcher Joe Rogers has a lot to say about birds, and kept even the youngest attendees fascinated. Of course, talking while showing off a live raptor keeps things exciting. Rogers visited Wild Birds Unlimited on Northland Drive on Saturday, July 25. He brought live, rescued birds of prey to demonstrate during his educational talk. Included were owls, hawks and a turkey vulture. Rogers shared many reasons our birds are on the decline in Michigan, and told how every resident can do simple things to help our feathered friends thrive. He also told stories along the way. Among his key points is the great importance of providing nesting boxes for birds. Dead wood is often removed in our forests, but they are key habitat for bird families. Rogers said he and volunteers once put up 80 nesting boxes on a property. In the first year, over 60 were occupied. The birds Rogers uses for demonstrations are all rescued birds who cannot be released back into the wild. While showing off a turkey vulture—a very clean bird—he warned onlookers of the birds’ defense. When turkey vultures eat too much they may be unable to fly. If an animal approaches, such as a coyote, the vulture vomits on them. This startles the attacker and makes the bird light enough to fly away.
“Looking an American eagle or great horned owl in the eye is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Laurie Tieman, who manages Wild Birds Unlimited, 5426 Northland Drive. The store will offer a free live bird show on Saturday, July 25 from 2 to 3 p.m. Famed wild bird rescuer Joe Rogers will bring approximately ten live rescued birds. “It’s really almost selfish on my part because I love the look on kids’ faces when they see these birds,” Tieman said. Rogers founded the Wildlife Recovery Association in 1975 and has been rescuing birds since. On his 200-acre farm in Shepherd, Michigan, he helps birds become ready for re-release in the wild. Those who will never be able to survive wild have a home there for life. It is some of these birds Rogers will bring. Rogers passion is wildlife research, radio tracking wolves bears and moose. He said that for 20 years his office has been remote campgrounds in the UP miles and miles from the nearest road. He loves to educate. “You can’t really bring a bear or a moose in for a show,” he joked. The birds are a show-stealer on their own, however. Tieman said children and adults are amazed to see the live creatures so close and there are plenty of photo opportunities, so bring a camera. Rogers said when his Wildlife Recovery was in its heyday they rehabilitated 800 to 900 birds a year. Now volunteers and funds are harder to come by and he has had to limit the number of birds he can save. Education is key in limiting the number of birds that need to be saved, he said. The birds he sees have been bumped by cars, but many are the victims of intentional injury. “Sadly, it seems to me that the first response children have when finding an animal in the wild is to kill it,” he said. He wonders if the violent electronic games kids play make them less compassionate. He also believes youngsters don’t get out in nature like they used to. He hopes seeing and hearing about wildlife will create interest or at least empathy. Nature is good for us, too, Rogers believes. “It’s not controlled, or directed. Being out in nature is […]