Birdscaping is a Thing


Staff & Wire Reports

This Aug. 21, 2015 photo shows a Goldfinch searching for insects on a tall plant in a Langley, Wash., garden. Native plants should be the primary element in any Birdscaping project since they provide such a large food supply — especially insects that have co-evolved with them. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

This Aug. 21, 2015 photo shows a Goldfinch searching for insects on a tall plant in a Langley, Wash., garden. Native plants should be the primary element in any Birdscaping project since they provide such a large food supply — especially insects that have co-evolved with them. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

This photo taken Sept. 23, 2016, near Langley, Wash., shows blackbirds feeding from sunflower seed pods in a residential garden. A variety of landscape plants are important when creating wildlife habitat. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

Attract more birds to your yard by ‘birdscaping’


Associated Press

Tuesday, October 2

Food, water and shelter are the basic requirements for attracting birds to your yard. But you can boost the number and variety of species that visit by taking an additional landscaping step: learning the birds’ preferences.

“Birdscaping” plants should be chosen to provide food and shelter year round, said Leonard Perry, horticulture professor emeritus with the University of Vermont.

“Native plants should be a major component, as they provide a huge food source for birds, especially insects which have co-evolved with them,” Perry said. “Ninety-six percent of terrestrial bird species depend on insects — and lots of them.”

Many landscapes now contain relatively few native plants, perhaps no more than 25 percent, he said.

“A goal of gardeners should be to increase this percent, to perhaps as high as 75 percent native plants to 25 percent introduced plants,” Perry said. “Even a modest increase in the number of native plant species in a landscape can increase greatly the number of bird species and overall numbers of birds.”

A variety of landscape plants is important when creating wildlife habitat.

“Diversity breeds diversity, and it is a bigger relationship than just between bird and plant,” said Rhiannon Crain, project leader of The Habitat Network for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “It is a ‘love triangle’ of sorts between plants, insects and birds.”

Many migrating songbirds primarily eat insects, she said. That’s why they migrate; insect populations disappear during the cold months, so birds must move south to places where insects are always available.

“That means the more of those kinds of plants you have around, the more likely you are to have a diversity of insects that specialize on them,” Crain said. “And more insects mean more kinds of food for more kinds of birds.”

Plants supplying cover include dense varieties with many twigs providing nesting sites, plants of various heights, and groups of conifers for roosting and protection from chill winter winds.

“Anything evergreen provides good shelter, but if it has a berry on it, all the better,” said Julie Janoski, plant clinic manager at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, about 25 miles west of Chicago.

“For example, juniper berries are a favorite of cedar waxwings,” she said. “Many plants, such as juniper, crabapple and serviceberry, will attract a wide variety of birds.”

And don’t forget the accessories. Birds also need water and protected places to live, especially in urban areas where such surroundings may be lacking.

Water fixtures, feeders, deadfalls and snags, small brush piles and tree groves will keep birds in the vicinity.

“Adding water, especially moving water, to a landscape is the fastest way to increase the diversity of birds you see out in the open in your yard,” Crain said. “Species that won’t come to a feeder will come to water.”

Birds look for safe stopping spots as they migrate through, she said.

“An individual yard prepared with thoughtfulness and care can make the difference to an exhausted bird who needs a safe place to rest,” Crain said.

Online: For more about creating wildlife habitat in your yard, see this fact sheet from Virginia Cooperative Extension:

You can contact Dean Fosdick at

The Conversation

Heat is a serious threat to dairy cows – we’re finding innovative ways to keep them cool

October 2, 2018


Alycia Drwencke

Graduate Student, University of California, Davis

Cassandra Tucker

Professor of Animal Science, University of California, Davis

Theresa Pistochini

Engineering Manager, Western Cooling Efficiency Center, University of California, Davis

Disclosure statement

Alycia Drwencke receives funding from the California Energy Commission. Cassandra Tucker receives funding from the California Energy Commission. Theresa Pistochini receives funding from the California Energy Commission.


University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

California is the nation’s top milk-producing state and home to nearly 1.8 million dairy cows. California is also hot, especially for cows, which have trouble keeping cool when the weather gets warm. And when cows get too hot, their milk production decreases. Severe overheating can threaten cows’ health and their ability to get pregnant and carry calves to term.

Dairy farmers use fans and sprayers to cool cows in their barns, but there is a substantial need for better options. Existing systems use a lot of energy and water, which is costly for farmers. And climate change is raising temperatures and stressing California’s water supplies.

With funding from the California Energy Commission, we are among the animal scientists and engineers collaborating at UC Davis to test new innovations and measure how they affect electricity and water consumption, as well as cows’ health and behavior. We are also evaluating the cost of these technologies and their potential for large-scale adoption in commercial dairies in California.

The threat of heat

Daytime temperatures are regularly over 72 degrees Fahrenheit for more than five months of the year in California’s Central Valley, the state’s main dairy region. Above this threshold, cows start to feel the heat. Cows are particularly sensitive to hot weather: Their body temperature is 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, three degrees higher than humans, and they create a large amount of heat as they break down feed in their stomachs and produce milk.

When outdoor temperatures rise, it becomes increasingly difficult for cows to dissipate body heat to the outdoor environment. As they try to regulate their body temperature, their respiration rates begin to increase. Then they start to drool and breathe with their mouths open, much like dogs panting. If they cannot cool themselves, their body temperature will increase. These are all considered signs of heat stress. Once it sets in, cows will produce less milk. They may have trouble getting and staying pregnant, and in severe cases may die.

When summer heat skyrockets, humans can jump into a swimming pool or retreat indoors under the air conditioning and feel relief, at least until we see our electrical bills. Dairy cows do not have these luxuries. To cool cows, dairy farmers use a combination of shade, fans and water, usually when cows are in their barns. The cows are gently sprayed while they eat, usually for four to five hours per day, and while they wait to be milked.

These strategies help cows regulate their body temperature, but use large quantities of water and electricity. The average California dairy farm spends US$140,000 annually on utilities.

Furthermore, these systems may be insufficient during extreme heat waves. During one stretch in 2017, temperatures in the Central Valley of California reached highs above 90 degrees Fahrenheit for 53 days in a row. Extended hot spells like this increase the instances of heat stress in dairy cattle.

Other ways to cool with water

Our study is comparing four different systems for cooling cows. Two of them utilize evaporative cooling processes, which take advantage of the fact that when water changes from a liquid to a gas, it absorbs a lot of heat. This process produces cooler, more humid air, but can also be used to cool liquid water.

When water evaporates, it absorbs energy from the surrounding air, cooling the air. Evaporative cooling systems are commonly used in dry environments, where water readily evaporates.

Our first cooling technology uses mats buried approximately 4 inches underneath the sand bedding where cows lie down. Water flows through the mats and absorbs heat from the cows through conduction. The heated water then flows to a device called a Sub-Wet Bulb Evaporative Chiller, where it is cooled using a high-efficiency evaporative cooling process and returned to the mats to absorb more heat from the cows. Because the chiller produces cool water using evaporation, it is ideally suited for hot and dry climates like California.

The second technology uses targeted direct evaporative cooling, sometimes referred to as a “swamp cooler,” and fabric ducts to blow cool air on the cows in the areas where cows eat and rest. Swamp coolers are simple systems that work by passing hot, dry air over water to cool it down.

For comparison, we also are testing two cooling systems that use traditional spray water and fans, similar to current technology on most California dairy farms. However, with one system we are working to reduce water use and improve cooling by moving the fan closer to the spray water to promote evaporation from cows’ bodies. As water evaporates off of the cows, it takes heat with it. To conserve water, we also are testing spraying the water for a shorter period of time.

During our first test phase, we tested all four treatments on 32 cows at UC Davis and collected data on their respiration rates, body temperature, milk yield and behavior, as well as weather, water use and energy use. Data analysis is underway. We anticipate that we will identify at least one option that will cool cows as effectively as current options, but will also save water, energy or both. Next summer we will test the most effective and efficient technology against the traditional spray and fan approach on a Central Valley dairy farm.

Finding better ways to keep dairy cows cool is a high priority for this industry, as well as for cows’ welfare. We hope our findings can help California dairies improve their productivity and keep cows safe and cool, while helping California meet its energy and climate goals.


Ira More

The mat conduction cooling is more of a fundamental change then the other two and may have implications beyond the dairy industry. Could similar technology be used in a computer server facility with the mats installed in the ceiling instead of the floor?

It is valuable to find new ways to cool cattle however there is intellectual dishonesty in the articles verbiage. Heat is not a “serious threat to dairy cows,” it is a serious threat to the dairy industry. The dairy industry is a serious threat to cows. Also, as empathetic human beings you may convince yourselves that you are doing this work for “cows’ welfare” and to “keep cows safe.” But intellectually you probably know better.

Jon Richfield

Seems to me that one approach might be to dry air by cooling it to condense the water it contains. The condensed water could be recycled, while the drier (and cooler) air blowing over the (possibly damp) cattle could cool them more efficiently than blowing moist cool air over them.

How about cold, heat-absorbing radiators as partitions between the cows’ stalls? More efficient than air cooling, and should act as de-humidifiers. Some more efficient purpose-designed refrigeration strategies might be possible too, given the small preferred temperatures under consideration.

Also, some cow breeds (mostly some of the beef breeds, but that could be changed in a couple of generations) are perfectly comfortable at temperatures that would kill some of the breeds adapted to cold-temperate climates. Other genetic modifications also should be possible, like cows with heat-radiating tails, ears, nostrils and horns.

ODNR Cautions Residents during Fall Wildfire Season

COLUMBUS, OH – The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) reminds Ohioans to take necessary precautions if they are planning to burn debris this fall and to know the state’s outdoor burning regulations.

Ohio law states outdoor debris burning is prohibited from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. through the end of November. Burning is limited in the fall due to the abundance of dry fuel on the ground in the form of grasses, crops and crop debris, weeds and fallen leaves. Winds can make a seemingly safe fire burn more intensely and escape control.

If a fire does escape control, immediately contact the local fire department. An escaped wildfire, even one burning in grass or weeds, is dangerous. Violators of Ohio’s burning regulations are subject to citations and fines. Residents should also check the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regulations, which include the restriction that fires must be more than 1,000 feet from neighbors’ inhabited buildings, and consult with local fire officials about burning conditions.

The ODNR Division of Forestry offers these safety tips for burning debris outdoors:

Consider using a 55-gallon drum with a weighted screen lid to provide an enclosed incinerator.

Know current and future weather conditions, have tools on hand and never leave a debris burn unattended.

Be informed about state and local burning regulations.

Consult the local fire department for additional information and safety considerations.

Visit and for more information and tips on protecting a home and community.

Remember: “Only you can prevent wildfires!”

Ohioans should also remember that food waste, dead animals and materials containing rubber, grease, asphalt or petroleum should never be burned.

Follow us on Instagram at @odnrforestry (


Powell, OH—Columbus Zoo and Aquarium team members are looking forward to welcoming Lee, an 18-year-old male polar bear, who will be arriving from Denver Zoo later this fall.

The move was recommended as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan® (SSP), a cooperatively managed program designed to maximize the genetic diversity and increase the population sustainability of threatened and endangered species in human care. Currently, there are only 44 polar bears in North American zoos, and the species is facing increasing threats in their native range. After completing a mandatory quarantine period upon his arrival, Lee will be introduced to 11-year-old twin sisters, Aurora and Anana, for potential breeding.

The Columbus Zoo has been successful in its polar bear breeding program with four surviving cubs born since the Zoo’s Polar Frontier region opened in 2010: Nora (female, born on Nov. 6, 2015 to mother, Aurora, and father, Nanuq, and now lives at Utah’s Hogle Zoo); Amelia Gray (female, born on Nov. 8, 2016 to mother, Anana, and father, Nanuq); and twins, Neva (female) and Nuniq (male), born on Nov. 14 to Aurora and Nanuq. At over 650 pounds, Nuniq already outweighed his mother and recently moved to the Henry Vilas Zoo in Madison, Wis. Amelia Gray and Neva are set to move to The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore soon. By moving the weaned bears to other AZA-accredited facilities as per SSP recommendations, this allows for the opportunity for Lee to be introduced to Anana and Aurora. Since the passing of the twin sisters’ former mate, Nanuq in 2017, this new breeding recommendation could potentially result in the births of cubs in the future. These births are important to the survival of this species, which in 2008 became the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened primarily due to climate change.

“Not only is Lee sure to be beloved within our Central Ohio community, but we know and appreciate that he is an important ambassador for polar bears in their native range. We are proud to soon welcome Lee and continue working toward protecting the future of this threatened species,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President and CEO Tom Stalf.

Polar bears are native to the circumpolar north, including the United States (Alaska), Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (Greenland). They are at the top of the Arctic food chain and primarily eat seals. Polar bear populations are declining due to the disappearance of sea ice, and experts estimate that only 20,000-25,000 polar bears are left in their native range. Some scientists believe if the warming trend continues, two-thirds of the polar bear population could disappear by the year 2050.

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is dedicated to conserving polar bear populations in their native range. Since 2008, the Zoo has contributed more than $250,000 to research benefiting polar bears in the Arctic. The Zoo is also designated as an Arctic Ambassador Center by Polar Bears International (PBI). At the Columbus Zoo, visitors are encouraged to do their part to save this amazing species by turning off lights when leaving a room, minimizing their use of heating and cooling units, and other ways to reduce energy consumption.

For the latest news about the Zoo’s polar bears, follow the Columbus Zoo on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For more information about the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, please visit

About the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium

Home to more than 10,000 animals representing over 600 species from around the globe, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium leads and inspires by connecting people and wildlife. The Zoo complex is a recreational and education destination that includes the 22-acre Zoombezi Bay water park and 18-hole Safari Golf Course. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium also manages The Wilds, a 10,000-acre conservation center and safari park located in southeastern Ohio. The Zoo is a regional attraction with global impact; annually contributing more than $4 million of privately raised funds to support conservation projects worldwide. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the Columbus Zoo has earned Charity Navigator’s prestigious 4-star rating.

Newly-Renovated Shooting Ranges Open at Zaleski State Forest

COLUMBUS, OH – Renovations at the popular shooting ranges at Zaleski State Forest have been completed, and the ranges are now open, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

“The renovations at the Zaleski State Forest target ranges were needed to provide visitors with a more enjoyable experience while providing easier access for participants,” said Robert Boyles, state forester and chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. “We hope that hunters and shooting enthusiasts will enjoy the new features while practicing and improving their skills.”

The newly-renovated area now features a 50-yard range, which has six shooting lanes, and a 90-yard range with four shooting lanes. Weapons and ammunition permitted for legal hunting in Ohio are permitted at the ranges.

Both ranges are Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-accessible, and there is an ADA-accessible restroom available. Both ranges are paper target only, and users must supply their own targets. The 50-yard range has movable target holders so users can move their target from 10 to 50 yards. Users must register at the kiosk on-site. The parking lot has also been greatly expanded to provide more parking for visitors.

The ODNR Division of Forestry works to promote the wise use and sustainable management of Ohio’s public and private woodlands. To learn more about Ohio’s woodlands, visit

ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at

RIGHT AT HOME: Heavy metal in the kitchen


Associated Press

Cast iron, once a common material for pots and pans, has tended in recent years to be used most visibly by either pro chefs or campers. Now it’s trending again in this fall’s kitchenware product previews.

Options range from basic skillets to grill pans to pots both diminutive (for sauces) and expansive (for stews and soups).

Chef Kevin Korman is about to open his new restaurant, Whitebird, in the Edwin Hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee. On his menu: fondue, baked eggs and a savory Dutch pancake, all prepared using cast iron pans.

“Our cuisine is defined as Progressive Appalachian,” Korman says, “and cast-iron cooking played a large role in the history of Appalachia.”

The Tennessee Valley is rich in iron ore, so companies like Lodge Cast Iron set up home there. Korman will be using Lodge products in his kitchens, but aside from supporting a local maker, the material’s performance is what he cares about.

“Not only does cast iron retain heat better than anything else, the distribution of heat is really what makes it a winner,” Korman says. “Every part of the pan gives off an equal amount, so you don’t end up with certain areas that burn while others are still waiting to get some color. This was a big consideration when we were developing dishes for the menu.”

Korman recalls meals prepared on cast iron at his grandmother’s house, and he has carried on the tradition with his own family.

“I have several sizes that I use daily at home for just about everything,” he says. “Both of my daughters love to help me cook, so I hope to hand the pans down to them as they get older.”

Beyond durability, cast iron’s big selling point is the heat retention that Korman mentioned. But bear in mind that it doesn’t heat evenly initially, so always let the pan come to the needed temperature on the burner before adding ingredients. That way, you’ll get a nice crisp sear and a consistent cook with your cast iron.

New finishing methods are improving the wearability and performance of cast iron.

Today, makers like Finex in Portland, Oregon smooth and polish the pans’ interiors so that eggs and sauces don’t stick. An ergonomically designed, coiled-spring, wrapped-steel handle stays cooler than traditional handles, and the skillets are octagonal, making pouring and stirring easier. Cast-iron lids provide a flavor seal for steaming, simmering and braising.

The Museum of Modern Art’s gift shop has a cast-iron item this season: the Railway Dutch Oven, made in Holland out of recycled iron railway ties. A built-in thermometer helps monitor cooking progress, and the tool can be used stovetop or oven.

Williams-Sonoma stocks the French brand Staub: There’s a red or blue-enameled two-handled skillet that goes nicely from stovetop or oven to table, and a glass-lidded braiser in black, grenadine or sapphire. Also at the retailer: a little iron saucepot with a platform base, designed to use on grills. It comes with a silicone-handled, mop-headed basting brush for glazing barbecued foods.

Seasoning is key to optimizing cast iron’s performance; it helps “cure” the iron so food doesn’t stick, and over time helps impart layers of flavor.

To season a new pan yourself, lightly wash it as directed, then add a tablespoon of oil and massage it thoroughly into the iron, wiping any excess with a paper towel. Place the pan in an oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and let it “bake” for about an hour. Remove and wipe off any excess oil before using or storing.

You can buy pre-seasoned pans, which just need a little refresh once in a while.

Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table and Crate & Barrel all carry several of Lodge’s pre-seasoned cast-iron pieces.

But it’s still a good idea to refresh the seasoning if you use your pans often. It can even be done stovetop: Heat the pan until it’s hot, swab some oil into it, then let it cool.

While some people prefer not to use soap and water to clean cast iron, thinking it removes the oil coating, Serious Eats’ chief culinary consultant Kenji Lopez-Alt says it’s fine to do so.

“The one thing you shouldn’t do? Let it soak in the sink,” he says. “Try to minimize the time it takes from when you start cleaning to when you dry and re-season your pan.”

This Aug. 21, 2015 photo shows a Goldfinch searching for insects on a tall plant in a Langley, Wash., garden. Native plants should be the primary element in any Birdscaping project since they provide such a large food supply — especially insects that have co-evolved with them. (Dean Fosdick via AP) Aug. 21, 2015 photo shows a Goldfinch searching for insects on a tall plant in a Langley, Wash., garden. Native plants should be the primary element in any Birdscaping project since they provide such a large food supply — especially insects that have co-evolved with them. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

This photo taken Sept. 23, 2016, near Langley, Wash., shows blackbirds feeding from sunflower seed pods in a residential garden. A variety of landscape plants are important when creating wildlife habitat. (Dean Fosdick via AP) photo taken Sept. 23, 2016, near Langley, Wash., shows blackbirds feeding from sunflower seed pods in a residential garden. A variety of landscape plants are important when creating wildlife habitat. (Dean Fosdick via AP)

Staff & Wire Reports