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November is for the (Song) Birds By Myrna Pearman

November 8, 2022 Written by Audra Cooper

As winter weather starts to descend upon us this month, backyard bird feeding enthusiasts focus their attention on our avian neighbours. The birds of summer have long migrated south, and those resident species that live year-round in our northern climates can benefit from the provision of habitat (space within which creatures can find food, water and shelter).

Having access to high-calorie birdseed is critically important to help them survive our harsh prairie winters, and Mother Nature’s Songbird Mix is an excellent mixture to offer them during the dark cold winter months. This carefully crafted blend contains a wide variety of seeds that will appeal to all our winter feeder birds.

Songbird Mix has a 50% base of sunflower seeds, both black oil and striped. Sunflower seeds are the most popular of all feeder fare and will be eagerly devoured by a wide variety of species ranging from the larger jays and grosbeaks to the mid-sized woodpeckers and finches and to the smaller chickadees and nuthatches.

The sunflowers in this blend are complemented by other high-quality seeds: the canola and canary grass will be eaten by finches (including redpolls); the millet will be dined on by many sparrow species as well as doves, blackbirds and finches; and the cracked corn will be relished by grouse and jays as well as some sparrow, finch and blackbird species.

Songbird mix can be served from different styles of feeders. During the spring and fall, when native sparrows and blackbirds are migrating through, small quantities can be spread on the ground. But to reduce waste and protect the seeds from getting wet or snowed on, it is advisable to dispense this blend from tube feeders, hopper feeders and/or covered tray feeders. If possible, place the feeders in a sunny, sheltered location away from harsh prevailing winds.

Complement this excellent mix with some suet, which can be served raw (directly from the butcher), melted and mixed with other ingredients, or in the form of commercial suet cakes. Suet cakes consist of suet blended with small seeds and other ingredients. Choose a brand that has a high protein content. These suet cakes, which fit into small wire dispensers, make offering suet easy and mess-free.

Offering a water source will also help both feeder and non-feeder bird species, especially during the late fall before there is sufficient snowfall. A small pan or water will suffice, or a commercial heated bird bath will keep the water open even during cold temperatures.

How Can We Help Our Feathered Friends?

By Myrna Pearman, Naturalist & Backyard Bird Feeding Expert

 Setting out backyard bird feeding stations is one way that we can help birds in winter. Bringing birds into our yards and gardens can also liven up our cold prairie winters.

 There are two main types of bird food that can be offered in the winter: seeds (including nuts) and suet.

Seeds: Although there are different types of bird seed on the market, the most popular are sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds come in two varieties, black oil and striped, and can be served shelled or unshelled. Although the shelled seeds (often called chips) are more expensive, they are becoming increasingly popular because they leave less waste and the smaller species (e.g., redpolls and siskins) prefer them.

Winter birds will also readily dine on corn (e.g., jays, sparrows and grouse) and nyger seed (e.g., finches). Other seeds include canary grass seed, canola, millet, safflower and vegetable and fruit seeds.  The seeds to avoid are the cheap mixes that contain cereal grains, red milo or other filler seeds, none of which are favored by northern birds.

Nuts: Many birds (e.g, jays, woodpeckers, chickadees and nuthatches) will eat nuts, with shelled and unshelled peanuts being the most popular. Other nuts, including walnuts, cashews, pecans etc. can also be served. 

Seeds and nuts can be dispensed in a variety of ways, from simply scattering on the ground to being served from tray, hopper and tube feeders. Feeder designs continue to improve, and a wide variety of styles are available at garden, farm and hardware stores. 

Suet: Suet (the fat found around the hearts of cattle and sheep) can be served raw or rendered and mixed with seeds, cornmeal and other ingredients, and is relished by most insect-eating birds (e.g., woodpeckers, kinglets, chickadees and nuthatches). Lard (pig fat) can also be used instead of pure suet. Retailers that carry bird seed also sell packaged suet cakes that can be slipped into special plastic-coated cages, a combination that minimizes fuss and mess.

Water

While all birds require water, even in the winter, resident (year-round) species are adapted to obtaining moisture by eating snow. However, since birds will avail themselves of open water if it is available, a heated bird bath is an easy way to provide water for the birds all winter long. There are many styles of heated bird baths on the market.

Whether you live in the country or in an urban condominium complex, sharing your outdoor living space with the birds is guaranteed to bring hours of entertainment, education and enjoyment.

115th Anniversary Celebration

July 8, 2022 Written by Audra Cooper

Early's has been in business since 1907! To celebrate 115 years of serving Saskatoon we will be holding a customer appreciation celebration in store at both locations on September 10th 2022

Come visit us for a chance to win some cool prizes, enter some draws, and enjoy some cake!

WANAR- We All Need A Rescue will be having a BBQ fundraiser at our Lorne Ave location, so expect to see some adorable dogs looking for a new home!

98 Cool will also be out in the afternoon at Lorne Ave promoting the event, and providing some giveaways as well.

Stay tuned to our event page and website for updates on our celebration!

 Follow us on Instragram to see prizes as they arrive (Check out our story highlights)

RSVP on Facebook so we know your coming! 

Expert Advice: Create the Habitat & They Will Come

June 8, 2022 Written by Audra Cooper

By Myrna Pearman

Create the Habitat and They Will Come

People who enjoy feeding backyard birds often have wider interests in nature and are engaged in a range of outdoor activities, from gardening and hiking to birding and wildlife photography. In many cases, backyard birds have sparked an interest in these other pursuits.  

Backyard bird feeding enthusiasts are also cognizant that feeding birds is just one of the many ways individual landowners can support biodiversity and encourage wildlife to share our yards and gardens. The most effective—and rewarding—way to attract birds (and other wildlife!) is to create suitable habitats.

Creating habitat entails providing space within which birds can find the necessities of life, namely foodwater , and shelter. While the food, water, and shelter components of habitat are easily described, the concept of space is less often considered. Most folks view space in the two-dimension—the square footage of a yard, balcony, water feature etc. But habitat is three-dimensional, with creatures occupying space from as high in the sky as birds migrate to as deep in the soil as microbial activity takes place.  When considered thus, substantial volumes of habitat can be offered, even in relatively small backyards.

Creating habitat can be as basic as eschewing cosmetic pesticides, then planting trees/shrubs, and setting out nestboxes, feeding stations and/or bird baths. A more ambitious and multifaceted undertaking would be to replace expanses of lawn with appropriate plantings of wildlife-attracting trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and ground covers, allow sections of your yard to support underbrush, and to offer additional water features and structural attractants (rockpiles, brush piles, etc.).

Properties that are located adjacent to wetlands, parks or other natural areas will more quickly attract a greater diversity of wildlife species than those located in new subdivisions. But be patient—it doesn’t take long for trees and shrubs to grow, and if you and your neighbours get together to create a larger and more complex tapestry of habitat, you will all soon have yards that are alive with bird song and activity.

Before you race off to start creating your bird-friendly yard, be sure to take the time to carefully plan, and break down your project into manageable chunks so that you can see the fruits of your labour without being overwhelmed. 

If you are keen on transforming some of your yard into lush and vibrant habitat, there are many online resources available that can help.

MicroClover

May 31, 2022 Written by Audra Cooper

Clover

Clover seed has become very popular as a lawn seed additive or replacement over the last few years. An easy to care for and low maintenance lawn is most likely to contain some form of clover. At Early’s we have a few varieties of clover available, but our most popular clover is MicroClover.

MicroClover

This unique clover was developed by DLF International. This seed provides a dense healthy turf in areas that require low maintenance. Not only is this plant self feeding (fixing atmospheric nitrogen into a usable form of nitrogen), but it also provides a canopy within your grasses to prevent weeds from establishing. This seed is also unattractive to white grubs, preventing damages to your lawn. MicroClover is also drought resistant, staying green and lush much longer during dry conditions that other traditional grass seeds, also doing well in shady areas, and has a low growth height. Finally, clover naturally will fill in bare or thin spots that other grasses may struggle to grow in.

For more info on our MicroClover – check out our brochure & tech sheet

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Ladybugs Spring 2022

May 18, 2022 Written by Audra Cooper

Ladybugs are by far the most sot after biological control for aphids, spider mites, leafhoppers, mealybugs and so much more. It is almost a daily occurrence at Early’s we receive an inquiry on availability. Many growers use them for indoor as well as outdoors garden spaces. In the past we were able to source ladybugs in quantities of 30,000 exclusively for commercial use. Most recently we had been getting packages of ladybugs for domestic yard and gardens, in groups of 250 or 1000. However, they have not been available since 2020!

Why are they currently unavailable? The short answer is, there is not enough to be had. Unlike our other biological controls, that are mass produced in large facilities, ladybugs seem to be difficult to “farm”. They typically only thrive & reproduce on ideal conditions with an appropriate food source, making it hard to mimic these conditions artificially. For this reason, many suppliers “collect or pick” wild ladybugs from their natural habitats. Sadly, due to very dry conditions & wildfires in the western states where most of our ladybugs are collected from, many of the natural habitats have been disrupted.

In the meantime, it is not impossible to collect your own ladybugs, just a bit time consuming. So far this spring I have seen more ladybugs roaming around in Saskatchewan that I have in the last two years, so hopefully the conditions continue to be favourable for their return.  There are other biological controls available to special order, and they can take 1-2 weeks to have in stock. Most bios are sold in fairly large quantities for commercial use; however, some may be suitable for your growing conditions. Our experts would be happy to chat with you about the options available and discuss whether using biological controls would be beneficial for your situation. Stay tuned to our website and social media for updates on availability in the near future!

Ladybug FAQ’s

-Audra – Early’s Bio Expert. 

Spotlight on CTV - Tick Season May 2022

May 11, 2022 Written by Audra Cooper

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Expert Audra chat's with CTV about tick control for yard this spring. 

Mosquito Barrier - recently registered for ticks, is a great natural solution for repelling blood sucking insects from high traffic areas. When mixed with vegetable oil and liquid dish soap this product can last in your lawn and yard for up to 4 weeks. Reapply as necessary. Safe for children, and pets! Available in an easy attach & spray option, or concentrate solution. The strong garlic aroma only lasts for a few hours after application. Learn more here. 

Trounce - Kills ticks dead! Spray onto lawns and turf with this easy attach and spray applicator. This bottle covers between 100-200 square meters depending on how heavily it is applied and severity of pest problem. Learn more here. 

 

 

 

 

Starting Seeds & Germination

May 7, 2022 Written by Audra Cooper

Starting Seeds & Germination

Starting seeds is usually the first sign that spring is on its way! After a long winter, it is nice to think about the possibility of some fresh green plants and vegetables starting to grow. However, it is also very disappointing when your seeds do not germinate properly, leaving you in a time crunch to re-plant before it is to late in the season!

There are several reasons why seeds may not germinate successfully. While every seed has different requirements during the starting & germinating process the most common reasons for failure include temperature, seed depth, type of soil, irrigation, mis-use of fertilizer, over & underwatering. As well soil quality, pH and consistency can be a contributing factor to poor germination. If any one of these variables are off even by the slightest amount, this can cause a significant drop in germination yield. Some seeds only take a few days to sprout, while others can take several weeks! For best results it is always best to consult the seed packaging for specific starting instructions.

Rest assured at Early’s all our seeds come from our suppliers with 100% germination rate testing. As well our experts regularly test varieties in house to ensure seed remains viable. Starting seeds can be very difficult, and our experts know this firsthand. With their vast experience growing each seed variety we have available; we are sure to help you identify possible issues & troubleshoot solutions to successfully start your seeds this season.

Questions? Call 306-931-1982 – Ask for the garden seed department!

Or email inquiries and pictures to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Early’s Expert’s top 3 most difficult seeds to start:

  1. Lavender – Can take up to 30+ days to germinate
  2. Petunias (all varieties) – Very small seeds and require lots of light to grow properly
  3. Ground cherry – Can take 2-3 weeks to germinate, and need good heat to start

Interested in doing your own germination testing? Here is what you will need:

  1. A tray
  2. A humidity dome to retain moisture
  3. Damp/wet paper towels
  4. A sunny spot with lots of heat, or heat mat
  5. Tweezers may be necessary to separate very small seeds, just be sure not to crush seeds
  6. Pen & paper to track progress
  7. Time! Most seeds take several days to germinate, be patient and make sure to check your paper towels to ensure they have enough moisture to further germination.

Backyard Bird Feeding & Avian Flu

May 6, 2022 Written by Audra Cooper

The H5N1 subtype of Avian Influenza virus is spreading in Canada. It is causing severe illness and mortality in domestic poultry flocks and has been detected in waterfowl and birds of prey. It is not currently considered a disease threat to songbirds, including species that frequent backyard feeders.

As of April 27, 2022, Environment and Climate Change Canada advises that the use of bird feeders is still safe on properties without domestic poultry. Since the situation is ever-changing, check out their webpage for the latest information and directives. https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/migratory-game-bird-hunting/avian-influenza-wild-birds.html

To Minimize Risk:

  1. Prevent over-crowding at feeding stations: It is quite easy to minimize over-crowding at this time of year because Common Redpolls, which are the most common and widespread flock species in Alberta & Saskatchewan, have departed for their northern breeding grounds. The only other species that tend to flock in large numbers at this time of year are the non-native House Sparrows. To encourage resident House Sparrows to disperse (at least until the situation has stabilized), avoid offering mixes that contain millet, corn and milo. Instead, offer suet mixtures, peanut butter mixtures, and/or sunflower chips from tube feeders that have small portals. Even better use upside down tube feeders because House Sparrows cannot access the seeds from an upside-down position.

The other way to prevent over-crowding is to place feeders farther apart around your yard. Wide spacing of feeders will enable the less dominant birds to feed (reducing their wait times at crowded feeders, thus resulting in fewer concentrated droppings) and will result in fewer birds at each feeder.  If possible, move the feeders to new locations each week to minimize waste accumulating on the ground.

  1. Sanitation: Diseases spread between feeder birds through direct contact and via contaminated feces and saliva. Replacing tray feeders with tube and hopper feeders will reduce the risk of birds contacting each other and will prevent fecal contamination.

It is also important to keep feeding stations clean by washing them (including the perches) once a week with hot soapy water and/or a diluted bleach solution (1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Air dry them before adding more seed.

Cleaning the area under feeding stations is also important. While many ground-feeding birds, especially migrating native sparrows, prefer to feed on the ground, it is important to rake up the detritus that has accumulated over the winter. To reduce further accumulation, serve sunflower chips or “no mess” mixes containing only shelled seeds.

If you observe sick or dead birds. There is little you can do to help a bird once it has become ill. If feasible, stay with the bird (so it doesn’t disappear) and call your local wildlife rehabilitation center (see links below). Wildlife rehabbers follow strict protocols that have been provided to them by the Canadian Wildlife Service. Never touch a sick bird with your bare hands. If the bird has died, use rubber gloves to place it in a plastic bag. Place it in a second bag and dispose of it with household garbage. Sick and dead birds can also be reported to the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative information line at 1-800-567-2033 or by using their online reporting tool.

  • Be proactive! The most significant contribution that individual landowners can make to supporting and conserving birds and other native wildlife is to provide habitat. High quality habitat (space within which wild creatures can find food, water and shelter) can be offered, even in small yards and gardens. Now is the perfect time to plan and start transforming your yard into a safe and healthy haven for our wild neighbors!

Wildlife Hotline in Saskatchewan:

https://www.savt.ca/2019/09/10/wildlife-rehabilitation-society-of-saskatchewan/

Resource for Updated Information: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/avian-influenza-outbreak-should-you-take-down-your-bird-feeders/

 

-Written by Myrna Pearman

 

 

 

April Migration - Myrna Pearman

April 26, 2022 Written by Audra Cooper

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April Migration

Spring is officially here! Some of the early migrants have already arrived while most species will be arriving and/or moving through the province throughout the month and into early May.

Spring migration is fraught with many challenges. Birds face harsh weather conditions, especially extreme spring storms, as well as such human-caused hazards such as habitat destruction, night-lit buildings, power lines and wind turbines.  The birds need to arrive early enough to claim a good territory, but not so early that their food supply isn’t yet available. 

There isn’t much we can do to help the early arriving insect-eating birds, but we can assist the seed eaters by keeping our backyard bird feeding stations topped up. The spring arrivals that show up in our yards and gardens can be hungry, so supplemental food will help boost their energy reserves. 

The most common early spring seed eaters that show up across the Canadian prairies are the American Tree Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. These species are followed by Purple Finches as well as other native sparrow species, especially Chipping Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Lincoln’s Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows and White-crowned Sparrows. Spring is a great time to pay attention to these native sparrows, as they are in breeding plumage and—although their coloration is not as striking as more brightly attired birds—they each have their own beauty and can be easily identified with careful observation.

April is the month when most bird feeding enthusiasts make an effort to clean up the mess of sunflower husks that have accumulated under their feeding stations all winter. Since sunflowers take a long time to degrade and contain allelochemicals (chemicals that suppress the growth of other plants), there is some controversy about whether sunflower hulls should be composted. The general consensus is that small quantities can be safely added to a compost pile, especially if it is actively maintained.  I rake up all the accumulations under my feeder each spring and scatter it in the nearby woods. 

Sunflowers and sunflower chips are excellent choices for both your regular feeder patrons as well as the seed-eating spring migrants. While I don’t usually recommend millet as a bird feeding staple, I highly recommend it at this time of year. Most of the migrating sparrows eagerly devour millet, so any of the Mother Nature’s products that contain millet can be used. Excellent blends include Epic, Songbird, Gourmet Feeder and Wildbird Premium. Once the Purple Finches show up, Finch Blend can be added.

While Purple Finches prefer tube or hopper feeders, native sparrows prefer to feed on the ground and tend to be quite shy. To accommodate these spring visitors, I recommend scattering small quantities of seed at a time in various places around your yard, especially near shrubs and under coniferous trees.  Observe which species come in and where they prefer to feed. Adjust quantities and feeding schedule accordingly.

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