Yard Cleaning Day

I don’t know about other people, but fixing up the yard is one of my favorite ways to spend the day. It makes me feel happy about my surroundings and it also helps me to add structure to my routine. In my neighborhood, it often seems like there is a “competition” in terms of who has the most attractive yard. When we had a warm day recently, I spent the entire day in my yard doing various things.

house

I started off by mowing the lawn with my Black & Decker electric mower, which I managed to get for a reasonable price online! This was my first time using it, so I was excited but apprehensive. I was really happy with the results because it was easy to use and did such an amazing job. It seemed to cut the grass even shorter than I had it previously, which made everything look even tidier. It was also quicker than my last mower, which was a plus because I had lots to get done on this day! After mowing the lawn, I stored the mower away in the shed. It was surprisingly light and I actually cannot wait to use it again.

I then got on with fixing up the rest of the yard. My two small grandchildren visit and regularly play out here, so this meant there were a few toys that they had forgotten about that I had to pick up. Next I decided to plant some flowers. I already had a few rose bushes that were now in full bloom but I decided to add some lillies. There was a spare patch of land towards the back of my yard which made the perfect spot. This particular section always gets plenty of sunlight and I know if they are watered regularly, they will grow beautifully.

roses

Once my yard was clean and looking quite pretty, I decided to spend the rest of my day outside watching the birds! I set up a few bird feeders and baths, which I always do in the warmer months of the year. This makes the birds flock to my yard and I particularly like watching them feed and play together. Once all the hard work was done, I grabbed a beer before sitting on the porch to relax and bird watch! There were Blue Jays, Sparrows and even a woodpecker! I usually see mockingbirds too but not on that day. The way that the creatures interact with each other really is amazing and it always makes me smile.

blue jays

I had such a lovely day decorating the yard and when my wife got home from work, she was really pleased with the results. I told her I’m only going to use electric lawn mowers from now on since they are so easy to use and I don’t have to smell gas the whole time. Getting tasks done makes me feel like I’m doing something productive with my day and if it’s a sunny, it really is not a chore at all. Spending time with nature, even when it’s just outside my front door, really puts me in a better mood.

The Shoebill Bird

The shoebill is an endangered bird which usually lives in large swamps from Sudan to Zamibia. It can also be found in tropical east Africa. The bird is also known as shoe-billed stork or whalehead, and it derives its name from its big shoe-shaped beak. The shoebill can be easily identified based on this feature, but when it’s in flight, it can be mistaken for a stork or a condor. This bird is known from the ancient times, with both Egyptians and Arabs mentioning it. However, it didn’t start being observed by the scientific community until the 19th Century. During the past few years, the shoebill has been very vulnerable and now it’s classified as an endangered species.

1) Identification

The shoebill can be considered a relatively tall bird, and its typical height ranges from 110 to 140 cm (43 to 55 inches). It weighs 4 to 7 kg and the males are usually heavier than the females. This bird can be mainly identified based on its enormous beak, with its irregular grey color. The feathering of the shoebill is also distinctive. An adult bird will have a blue-grey plumage and its flight-feathers are usually grey. Its legs are incredibly long, and this helps the shoebill hunt while standing on aquatic vegetation. The bird can also be identified by its flight pattern. Its wings are held flat when hovering and it flies with its neck retracted.

shoebill bird

2) Endangered status

The shoebill is currently at the limit of extinction, mostly caused by the destruction of their natural habitat. People are turning their swamp habitat into farmland, leaving these birds without shelter and food. Today, the shoebill population is estimated at between 5000 and 8000 and is constantly declining. They can be found in big numbers in Congo, Zamibia and on the wetlands of Tanzania. The BirdLife International Association classified the shoebill as a vulnerable species. The main threats to this bird are destruction of natural habitat, hunting and disturbance.

3) Feeding

Shoebills are mostly classified as piscivorous birds but they also hunt a wide range of wetland vertebrates. It mainly feeds on marbled lungfish, Senegal bichir or catfish. They also feed on wetland specimens like water snakes, frogs, Nile monitors or even baby crocodiles. Sometimes, the shoebills are seen hunting snails, turtles or rodents. Considering their enormous beak, they can hunt even larger prey. Their “hunting strategy” mainly consists of standing above the water and waiting for its prey to get in range. When its target is nearby, the bird sinks into the water and simply picks it up with a fast move.

shoebill hunting

4) Behavior

The Shoebill normally comes out from its nest at night when it goes hunting. It usually swallows its prey and then drinks some water. However, if it has babies, the female will usually shred its prey into small pieces and carry it to the nest. Besides the breeding season, the shoebill is a solitary bird. However, they often gather in big groups when the food resources are concentrated in a certain area. The birds are very territorial and they usually set their perimeter at several square miles from their nest. They will usually attack any other animal or bird that crosses their territory. The shoebill is not a migratory bird and it usually moves depending on the available food resources.

wings shoebill

5) Conservation

The future of the shoebill is uncertain. The continuous destruction of their natural habitat is expected to drastically diminish their number in the following years. However, the Zambian, Tanzanian and Ugandan government took a series of measures in order to protect these birds. The Tanzanian Moyokosi site hosts a few hundreds individuals in a natural reservation type of habitat. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands has the sole purpose of preserving their natural habitat. Uganda values these birds, as they are an important attraction for ecotourism. The injured birds or the ones confiscated from the trappers are usually taken to the Kampala Zoo.

the shoebill

The shoebill is a very unusual and special type of bird. Without special efforts from the authorities, this bird might become extinct in a matter of years. That’s why it’s important to raise awareness and make people understand the importance of these birds and not to hunt them either.