[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
October 19
1945 - Acton Hotel, est. 1890, burns down; arson is suspected [story]

Let's Go Outside | Commentary by Evelyne Vandersande
| Thursday, Oct 24, 2013

evelynevandersande_mugFall has started. I know it is hard to notice in Southern California, but even if the days are still warm, you might have to put a blanket on your bed because the nights are much colder.

It’s time to get back in the habit of refilling your bird feeders with seeds. In the summertime, the food supply is plentiful, but the cold weather is just around the corner.

These early fall weeks are when you can observe migratory birds in your backyard, birds you might catch on their way down south where they will spend the winter. They are glad to have some extra food to fuel their migration.

Remember that if we have frost in Santa Clarita valley, it is often during the weeks around Christmas, not in January or February when hopefully we will get some rain – and again, with cold weather the birds welcome extra energy they can get without too much effort. Then as spring comes, you can enjoy unusual visitors only for a short period at the end of April and May, as those same birds you saw in the fall make their way back north. Remember, any time of the year, if there is food, water and shelter, they will come.

white-crowned_sparrow_bathing-55135525So as the weather cools down, wash your bird feeder, fill it up and keep watching. If you have many squirrels, carefully choose both your feeder and the location you will place it. Sometimes, having it on top of a post is the only answer. If you cannot find something in your local stores to foil those squirrels, there are many sites on the internet that address the “squirrel problem.”

In our warm climate, I have found that having a bird bath is a delightful way to attract birds to my backyard and to have many interesting visitors.

I was really excited to see a gorgeous red bird in my bird bath recently. It was my first summer tanager, a sight I won’t soon forget. If you know the red cardinal that you see on many Christmas cards, imagine the same vivid red – that is something you notice!

Birds bathe with such happiness and delight, it is a joy to see. What fun to watch 15 cedar waxwings piling up like crazy in the bird bath and sounding like school children. Or a hawk, checking over its shoulder all the time, but finally sitting with obvious relief in the water – that is a pleasure to observe.

A bird bath should not be too deep, with some flat area on the side so the birds can drink. If yours is too deep, add some medium-sized stones on the bottom so they have a stable resting platform. It should be clean and filled up all the time. That is not too hard to do if you put it in a place reached by your sprinklers and you hose it off regularly.

For birds, being clean is important for their survival. Feathers are their protection from heat and cold, as well as allowing them to fly away quickly in case of danger. If their feathers are dirty, they won’t do their job, and this is why you can observe birds spending many hours preening themselves.

robin splashingHow do they do that? They slide each feather through their beak, removing any dirt or parasites they can find. Then they realign their feathers in the best position, the same way we comb our hair. They also distribute the oil found in the uripydial gland at the base of the tail to waterproof their feathers.

Some birds do not have this gland, including owls, pigeons, parrots and hawks. They have special feathers that disintegrate into a powder that replaces the preening oil.

How do birds take baths? That seems an easy answer: They go in the water, fluff up their feathers while being very careful not to become prey at this vulnerable stage, then they shake their feathers and take off.

What about dust bathing? Hundreds of bird species have been observed taking regular dust baths, including the sparrow, California quail, ring necked pheasant, grouse, wild turkey, greater roadrunner; some species of kestrel will take regular dust baths. They are also part of plumage maintenance. The birds get close to the ground and vigorously wriggle their bodies and flap their wings. That makes a little indentation in the loose soil; the birds then spread both wings so the material falls between the feathers and reaches the skin. They also rub their head in the soil.

The dust bath is followed by shaking the body, ruffling the feathers and careful preening. The dust helps to dislodge parasites and absorb the preening oil that was previously on the feathers so a new coat can be carefully applied.

What else? Sunning helps birds control body parasites and feather mites by moving these pests to different parts of the body where they can be nibbled away.

Any other techniques?



Yes, but I am going on my tippy toes about this one because the scientists are still baffled by it and cannot quite decide why it is done. The birds do it, so it certainly has a purpose, but the humans are still scratching their heads. That interesting habit is called “anting.”

What is anting? More than 250 species of birds have been known to ant. They rub insects on their feathers, usually ants. The current thought is that the birds understand that the fluid in the ants is useful – and we know it contains formic acid. Some scientific experiments have been done where the formic acid was removed from the ants and the birds would not ant.

Formic acid is an insecticide, a fungicide and after using the acid on their feathers, the birds have the added bonus to be able to eat the ants. Some birds have also used millipedes or puss moth caterpillars, and those are also known to release powerful chemicals.

antingSome birds will sit on an ant hill and let the ants crawl all over their body, hoping the formic acid produced by the ants will eliminate the parasites in their feathers.

Somehow, I think we humans have it a little bit easier by taking a shower, scrubbing our body with soap and washing our hair with shampoo. But keeping clean is not only a matter of aesthetics. I remember learning that our local native Americans, the Tataviam, were bathing on a regular basis and washing their hair with saponic plants to make sure they would be free of parasites. However, when they were moved to the missions where water was scarce and the idea of “modesty” was introduced to them, bathing was not possible and epidemics ravaged the population.

Birds found many answers for keeping clean using water, dust and ants. Survival is an important force to make you creative.

Remember to help out our local and migratory birds by putting out your feeders and filling your bird bath.


Evelyne Vandersande has been a docent at the Placerita Canyon Nature Center for 27 years. She lives in Newhall.



Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Tuesday, Oct 10, 2017
It was 10 years ago this fall semester that we opened the Canyon Country Campus on Sierra Highway. We are celebrating a decade of academic excellence and community impact. What a difference a decade makes.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
The Trump budget proposes decreasing funding to the Department of the Interior by $1.5 billion. Trump is calling for more drilling in national parks and monuments. He plans to open BLM land to drilling and fracking.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
We are quickly approaching the culmination of the year-long celebration of our city’s 30th anniversary. It is truly a time to celebrate all the hard work, dedication, perseverance and passion that took our City from being a tiny portion of Los Angeles County to the thriving third largest city in the county.
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2017
This month marks an exciting milestone for the premier arts and entertainment district in Santa Clarita.
Friday, Sep 29, 2017
Kaepernick has never spoken of personally experiencing any negative interactions with the police. Appearances are he had a pretty nice life provided by people with white skin while living in a country that presented him with obvious, mind-boggling opportunities.
Thursday, Sep 28, 2017
Despite its close proximity to the city of Barstow, Rainbow Basin remains virtually undiscovered. It is well worth a visit. Visitors to the area can find scenic opportunities for hiking, rock scrambling, camping, photography, sightseeing and horseback riding.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
CHESTERFIELD, MO — NewGround, a St. Louis-based experiential design-build firm, recently teamed up with Logix Federal Credit Union to work on a large scale facility project, a new corporate headquarters building for the full-service credit union in the Burbank, California area.
Valencia Will Soon be Home to Logix Federal Credit Union Headquarters
The CSUN women's volleyball team (10-9, 4-3 Big West) opens the second half of the Big West season this week as the Matadors head up the coast this week for road tests at No. 23 Cal Poly (17-2, 7-0 Big West) and UC Santa Barbara (4-15, 3-4 Big West). CSUN, coming off a tough five-set loss to Hawai'i at home, is 3-4 in seven road matches this season but has won two of three Big West road contests.
Matadors Volleyball Testing Their Skills on the Road
No. 5 College of the Canyons defeated L.A. Mission College 3-0 on Wednesday to earn its eighth consecutive match and fifth straight sweep. Set scores were 25-15, 25-11, and 25-20.
Cougars Volleyball Earns Fifth Straight Sweep
CSUN Women's Soccer (7-4-5, 3-1-1 BWC) looks to move up in the Big West standings this week as it hosts UC Irvine on Thursday at 7:00 p.m.
Matadors Get Ready for Big West Matchups
Behind Julio Rubio's goal in the 11th minute CSUN defeated UC Riverside 1-0 in Big West Conference men's soccer action Wednesday night.
Matadors Lone Goal Enough to Hold Off UC Riverside
Northridge, CA – CSUN Athletics officially opened its new satellite athletic training facility on Thursday at an event featuring Athletic Director Dr. Brandon Martin, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer Steven Grech, student-athletes, coaches, staff and campus partners.
Matadors Student-Athletes Welcome New Training Facility
Want unique gifts and a shopping experience unlike any other?
Nov. 18-19: City’s Annual Two-Day Fine Craft Show
City officials gathered Wednesday for the Grand Opening of "Three Oaks," the first 100 percent affordable family development in Santa Clarita.
Affordable Housing Comes to Santa Clarita
The Gibbon Conservation Center will celebrate Halloween for the first time on Saturday, Oct. 28 from 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Oct. 28: Gibbon Conservation Center Celebrates First Halloween
California State University, Northridge is partnering with the California State University Entertainment Alliance to host a morning of workshops designed to offer students and members of the public advice on building successful careers in the entertainment industry.
Oct. 23: CSUN Workshop; Succeeding in Entertainment Industry
Spotlight Arts Center, a local non-profit that provides free performing and visual arts classes to children in the Santa Clarita Valley, will hold its Fall Festival, Sunday, Oct. 22 from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Oct. 22: Fall Festival Spotlight Arts Center
The College of the Canyons Athletics department is inviting all players, coaches and cheerleaders associated with a Santa Clarita Valley youth sports league or cheer organization to attend Saturday's Cougar football game free of charge.
Oct. 21: SCV Youth Teams Invited to Free COC Football Game
College of the Canyons freshmen Joanna Roecker and Cassandra Lee both turned in scores of 79 to lead the Cougars to a second place team finish at the Western State Conference (WSC) event hosted by Glendale College at Brookside Golf Course on Monday.
COC Falls Short at WSC Glendale
Beginning Monday, October 23, 2017, the city of Santa Clarita will increase the frequency of street sweeping throughout all areas of the City.
Oct. 23: City Begins Increased Street Sweeping Frequency
In a battle for Western State Conference, East Division supremacy, it was College of the Canyons that came out on top Tuesday night, as the Cougars scored two second half goals to secure a 2-0 win against visiting Antelope Valley College. Justine Hoeft and Jennifer Roney collected goals for the Cougars (11-2, 2-0).
COC Secures Win Against AVC With Two Second-Half Goals
The upcoming 10-year anniversary of the Buckweed Fires offers Santa Clarita residents a reminder of the ever-present fire danger in Los Angeles County, as blazes ravage the northern half of the state, as well.
County, City Officials Reflect on 10-Year Anniversary of Buckweed Fires
Deputies from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station, with help from a Smartphone GPS system, were able to locate a lost hiker Wednesday night at Towsley Canyon.
Smartphone GPS Locates Lost Towsley Canyon Hiker
Dreamation Craft Guild will be hosting a boutique at Canyon High School, Nov. 18, from 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to benefit the family of John Phippen, the Santa Clarita resident who was killed in the Las Vegas shooting.
Nov. 18: Holiday Marketplace Benefiting John Phippen Family
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – To ensure drivers, passengers, and children are properly restrained while traveling California’s roadways, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) has partnered with the California Office of Traffic Safety on a new traffic safety campaign entitled, “California Restraint Safety Education And Training” (CARSEAT).
CHP’s New Traffic Safety Campaign Focuses on Saving Lives, Reducing Injuries
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Speed and aggressive driving, the main causes of traffic collisions in California, will be the focus of a year-long education and enforcement campaign by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) that started Oct. 1, 2017.
CHP Grant Aims to Reduce Fatalities, Traffic Injuries; Addresses Street Racing
1945 - Acton Hotel, est. 1890, burns down; arson is suspected [story]
The fall 2017 Star Party at College of the Canyons' Canyon Country campus on Friday, Oct. 27 will focus on the pathways to space exploration that exist for star-gazers who are captivated by the many mysteries of the universe.
Oct. 27: Star Party at COC Canyon Country Campus
Determined to transform the deeply troubled Los Angeles County Probation Department, the Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to consider an independent entity that would provide guidance, oversight and accountability.
Supes Consider Entity for Probation Reform Guidance, Oversight, Accountability
Alexia Cina of Canyon Country was arrested Wednesday in connection with the death of a mother of six children in a head-on crash on Golden Valley Road on October 6.
Woman Charged with Manslaughter, DUI in Death of Mother of 6
The 22nd annual Santa Clarita Marathon is scheduled for Sunday, November 5, 2017, following the Santa Clarita Health and Fitness Expo on Saturday.
Nov. 4-5: 22nd Annual Santa Clarita Marathon Events
The Los Angeles Dodgers jumped to a 3-0 lead in the best of seven series following Tuesday night’s 6-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs in Game 3 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field.
Dodgers Out to Sweep Cubs in NLCS Game 4
The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department's 2017 Medal of Valor Awards were held Tuesday in Los Angeles, and SCV Sheriff's Station Deputy Dmitry Barkon was recognized for his bravery and heroic actions.
SCV Sheriff’s Deputy Dmitry Barkon Earns Medal of Valor
Now is the time for all good college-bound high school seniors to join the 'Race to Submit' applications for FAFSA and CADAA grants to help cover college expenses.
High School Seniors: ‘Race to Submit’ is on for 2018 College Financial Aid
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies interrupted a smash-and-grab burglary on The Old Road early Friday morning, arresting one suspect and seeking two alleged accomplices still at large.
SCV Deputies Catch Window-Smash Burglars in the Act
Pukúu Cultural Community Services, founded in 1971 by members of the local Fernandeno-Tataviam Band of Mission Indians, will host its 13th Annual scholarship gala fundraiser, "Night with the Stars," in Sunland on Saturday, November 4 starting at 6 p.m.
Nov. 4: Local Tribe Honors 3, Celebrates Native American Heritage Month
California's Attorney General today filed a motion to compel the federal government to follow the law and pay the subsidies that millions of Americans rely on to lower the out-of-pocket costs in their insurance plans.
California AG Fights to Keep ACA Cost-Sharing Subsidies
Santa Clarita business owners are encouraged to take the city's broadband feasibility study online survey and participate in the next phase of the study -- in-person focus groups scheduled for October 30.
Oct. 30: Focus Groups in Next Phase of City Broadband Study
The $17 billion "California WaterFix" project reached a tipping point Tuesday after a Silicon Valley water district voted against Gov. Jerry Brown’s approach in favor of a less expensive, scaled-back version.
Silicon Valley Water Board Wants Delta Tunnels Downsized
Maryama, a band led by CalArts alumna Maryama Mirbagheri (Music MFA 17), was recently nominated for a 2017 Hollywood Music in Media Award in the World Music category.
Maryama Nominated for Hollywood Music in Media Award