Archive for June, 2008

Songbird Prairie Bed & Breakfast

174 North 600 West

Valparaiso, Indiana




The lovely Colonial country home with white-trimmed dormers may attract visitors, but it’s the grounds’ prairie grass, roses, and many trees that lure the namesake songbirds on their way to and from the Indiana Dunes. The four suites—Bluebird, Warbler, Purplefinch, and Cardinal (with bright red walls, of course)—have whirlpool baths and fireplaces, and a three-course breakfast is served in a sunroom that looks onto the bird-filled woods.

Insider Tip: There’s a microphone near one of the hummingbird feeders so guests can hear them “chirp” (a sound that’s actually made by their tails).




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Maryland State Bird – Baltimore Oriole

[photo, Baltimore oriole in full breeding plumage] The Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) is the official Maryland bird (Chapter 54, Acts of 1947; Code State Government Article, sec. 13-302).

The female oriole’s feathers are brownish-olive and dull orange, but the male’s plumage is black and golden orange not unlike colors in the Calvert shield. This similarity led to its early association with the name of the Maryland proprietor. In 1698, “Baltemore Birds” were among the “Beasts of Curiosity” ordered sent from Maryland to grace the royal gardens (Archives of Maryland). In 1894, Baltimore’s major league baseball team was named after the bird. 23: 455-56

Baltimore Oriole in full breeding plumage. Photo by Chandler S. (Chan) Robbins, Senior Ornithologist, Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Maryland made special provisions to protect the Baltimore Oriole in 1882 (Chapter 154, Acts of 1882). Since passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the Baltimore Oriole is protected by federal law covering all migratory bird species, and, since 1975, by the State’s Nongame and Endangered Species Conservation Act (Chapter 27, Acts of 1975).

Despite its special status, since 1966 (and more rapidly after 1980) the number of Baltimore Orioles has been declining. The loss is attributed to destruction of breeding habitat and tropical winter habitat, and toxic pesticides ingested by the insects which constitute the Oriole’s main diet.

In the late 1930s, Hoagy Carmichael composed the song, “Baltimore Oriole,” lyrics by Paul Francis Webster.

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Steep Sand Dunes and Magnificent Lake Views

Experience these sights at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore:
Waves crashing on sandy beaches,
Karner Blue butterflies landing on wild lupines,
Sweaty draft horses working the Chellberg Farm fields,
Peaceful silence lingering along winter trails, and
Bank swallows flying from their nest inside the dunes.

Did You Know?
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has more than 1,135 native plant species distributed over six plant communities. Among all the national parks in the United States, it ranks seventh in plant diversity. This is an amazing feat for 15,000+ acres.

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is a treasure of diverse natural resources located within an urban setting. The national lakeshore features communities that have both scientific and historic significance to the field of ecology. In addition, four National Natural Landmarks and one National Historical Landmark are located within its boundaries.

The park is comprised of over 15,000 acres of dunes, oak savannas, swamps, bogs, marshes, prairies, rivers, and forests. It contains 15 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline spanning the distance from Gary to Michigan City. Lake Michigan is part of the largest complex of freshwater lakes in the world. The national lakeshore’s beaches are the park’s most significant recreational resource.

Immediately inland from the beaches, sand dunes rise to almost 200 feet in a series of ridges, blowouts, and valleys. Extensive wetlands fill many depressions between the dune ridges. The national lakeshore preserves an important remnant of a once vast and unique environment, resulting from the retreat of the last great continental glacier some 14,000 years ago. The park landscape represents at least four major successive stages of historic Lake Michigan shorelines, making it one of the most extensive geologic records of one of the world’s largest, fresh water bodies.

The biological diversity within the national lakeshore is amongst the highest per unit area of all our national parks. Over 1,100 flowering plant species and ferns make their homes here. From predacious bog plants to native prairie grasses and from towering white pines to rare algal species, the plant diversity is rich.

The wildlife is also diverse. A wide variety of habitats coupled with the moderating effects of Lake Michigan make the region an ideal home for hundreds of animal species. The park is renowned for its bird life; more than 350 species have been observed here. Located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, the national lakeshore is an especially important feeding and resting area for migrating land and water birds. One area within the national lakeshore has been set aside especially for its value as a great blue heron rookery.


25 minutes from Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast in Valparaiso, IN http://www.songbirdprairie.com indianabedandbreakfast

Indiana Dunes State Park and Beaches Photos

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How hummingbirds



It’s all in the tail

Friday, February 8, 2008

Christopher Clark went to Strawberry Canyon in Berkeley and got a bad case of poison oak. Then he tried a shoreline park in Albany, where his camera was stolen and sopping-wet dogs covered his field notes with muddy paw prints.
Those were a few of the hurdles that Clark and colleague Teresa Feo overcame to produce a paper, just published in a prestigious British journal, exploring the physics of how birds make sound.

The title of their UC Berkeley study sums it up: “The Anna’s hummingbird chirps with its tail: a new mechanism of sonation in birds.”

Clark and Feo filmed the birds’ plunges and recorded the sound they made at the end of their roughly 50 mph descent from a height of 100 feet or more. High-speed video, at 500 frames per second, showed that the birds started their dives with their tails shut and suddenly spread them at the bottom, for one-twentieth of a second – quicker than a blinking eye.

“Now we have a greater understanding of what’s actually going on in really sophisticated behavior by one of our residents,” said Robert Dudley, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley. “It’s a pretty amazing sort of experiment. It took a lot of initiative, and they put in a huge amount of field time.”

Clark and Feo concluded that the squeaks and beeps made by the dive-bombing birds are not vocal – as some research has asserted – but instead are created by their tail feathers.

“I found it really interesting just because these birds were basically doing mechanical sounds,” said Feo, 22, who played clarinet in the Cal Band for four years. “It sort of speaks to the musician in me.”

Clark, who is finishing his Ph.D. in the department of integrative biology, began the project more than three years ago. He eventually acquired a collaborator in Feo, who graduated in May and is working at Cal’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. They had to obtain an array of permits from agencies ranging from the state Department of Fish & Game to the university’s Animal Care and Use Committee, which ensures that experiments are done ethically.

In the course of the research, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, Clark and Feo encountered many visitors to the Albany Bulb, a former dump that is part of Eastshore State Park.

“We had a lot of people ask what we were doing,” said the 28-year-old Clark, who also met up with any number of curious canines.

Before acquiring a car, he and Feo would take a bus to the Albany Bulb, hauling a duffel bag that held a stuffed hummingbird mounted on a stick and a cage they had made from netting and tent poles.

During the November-to-May breeding season, the Cal students devoted up to four hours at a time, two or three days a week, on the male Anna’s hummingbird – a magenta-splashed creature that looks like something you’d see in New Orleans during Mardi Gras or in San Francisco’s Castro district on Halloween.

Clark and Feo, aided over time by a dozen research assistants, lured the birds into traps, banded them and plucked or trimmed one of their tail feathers, which grow back after about five weeks and are not needed for flight. Then they captured their dives with audio and video equipment.

“It’s a great example of aerial acrobatics,” said Dudley, who is Clark’s graduate adviser. “And what’s really interesting is not only the mechanism of the chirp but also the timing. Everything is so beautifully synchronized. The males are using it to advertise to females.”

He said it’s an occasion where sound, color and movement come together.

“Everyone in the Bay Area can see this in our natural areas and parks,” Dudley said. “We see this on campus, remarkably enough.”

Clark said that people have known birds make sounds with their feathers since before the time of Charles Darwin, who wrote about it in his 1871 book, “The Descent of Man.” However, the physics of how non-vocal sounds are created hasn’t received much attention until recently, he said.

“The first year, I got basically no data,” Clark said. “I was figuring out how to do it.”

After he contracted poison oak in the thick brush of Strawberry Canyon, he relocated to the Albany Bulb because the trees and bushes are short, the birds perch at eye level, and they stand out against the blue sky, making them easier to photograph.

“There were other issues with the Bulb,” said Clark, recalling how he fell flat on his face chasing someone who had purloined his camera. It was all recorded.

“You can hear the crash of me hitting the bush,” said the researcher, who succeeded in catching the thief.

Clark and Feo employed dead birds from the Lindsay Museum in Walnut Creek and live caged birds to lure the male Anna’s hummingbird. The work was slowed by wind, rain and avian confusion.

“A big part of the project was sitting and waiting,” Clark said. “There were short moments when it was exciting.”

The researchers relied on several cameras, including a $50,000 model. They produced sounds from the feathers they’d collected by placing them in front of a jet of air or inside a wind tunnel. They decided, after painstakingly analyzing the male bird’s tail feathers – 10 total, five on each side – that the chirping sound comes from the fluttering of part of the inside edge of the outer feathers.

Clark, a bird-watcher since high school, said he likes to work with hummingbirds because they are common and easy to catch.

“If I didn’t study birds, I’d probably study something else that flies,” he said. “Flight fascinates me. I’m jealous – I wish I could fly.”

Local ornithologists and bird-watchers have long debated the source of the sound made by the diving male Anna’s hummingbird.

In the 1940s, a UC Berkeley graduate student stated in a published paper that he could produce sound by attaching one of the creature’s feathers to a strip of bamboo and whipping it through the air. However, a 1979 paper by the curator of birds at the California Academy of Sciences declared that the sound was vocal. Almost 30 years later, Clark and Feo have countered that argument.

“They’re fascinating little creatures,” Clark said. “And even though the landscape at the Albany Bulb seems kind of devastated, there’s interesting research to do in your own backyard.”



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Rated By: iLoveInns Guests

Guest Reviews: Average rating: 5 hearts
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There are 3 Reviews:

Rating: 5 hearts
Title: Delightful Details
By: Carla – 2008-04-02 15:27:33
From the moment my husband and I arrived we were warmly greeted at the front door by our host Barbara. Our time at Songbird Prairie Inn was enchanting. We stayed in the Bluebird Room, with it’s lovely Bombay influenced decor. There was every attention to detail down to the pristinely ironed lace trimmed sheets and truffles under glass by each bed side. The mornings breakfast did not dissapoint either as we were served beautifully presented poached pears, fresh omelets, crispy bacon and warm apple pie. We will definitely return and have already given glowing reviews to many friends. Thank you Barbara for a wonderful and refreshing stay at your beautiful Inn!
iLoveInns Guest from Battle Ground, IN
Rating: 5 hearts
Title: Wonderful retreat
By: Christina – 2008-04-03 05:15:50
Our stay at the Songbird Prairie was wonderful. Her passion for the B&B really shines through with all the attention to detail. Our room was beautiful and so relaxing with the fireplace and jacuzzi tub. We peaked out the window just in time to see five deer wander through. As we stepped out of our room the next morning we were met with wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen. The breakfast alone was worth the trip, she is such a wonderful cook! We loved watching all the different varieties of birds flying around outside while we ate breakfast! What a wonderful experience! This is the best B&B that we have ever been too!
iLoveInns Guest from Lafayette, IN
Rating: 5 hearts
Title: Very Romantic!!
By: Lea & Craig Hortin – 2008-05-27 19:07:12
My husband and I spent two nights in the Bluebird Suite. Our room was so romantic. Barbara and Efrain have done a wonderful job of creating the perfect romantic getaway. Their property along with our room was simply magnificant. The breakfasts were delicious. It was so wonderful being able to enjoy all of the birds and wildlife while we stayed at this enchanting place. Thanks so much for creating such a magical place for others to stay. We hope to return again in the future.
iLoveInns Guest from Papillion, Nebraska

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Here is what guests had to say…

“Peaceful Escape” 6/2/2008
Stayed On: 5/2008

My husband and I spent our first night as husband and wife in the bluebird suite. We had such a wonderful relaxing time that we were not even that excited anymore to leave the next day on our honeymoon. The grounds are exceptional, the rooms so romantic and could not be cleanier. The breakfast was divine and the birdwatching so peaceful. Barbara and Efrain were so sweet and friendly we can not wait to go back.

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All reviews are the personal opinions of BedandBreakfast.com site users and do not reflect the views of BedandBreakfast.com.

“Very Romantic!!!!” 5/27/2008
Stayed On: 5/2008

My husband and I spent two nights in the Bluebird Suite. Our room was so romantic. Barbara and Efrain have done a wonderful job of creating the perfect romantic getaway. Their property along with our room was simply magnificant. The breakfasts were delicious. It was so wonderful being able to enjoy all of the birds and wildlife while we stayed at this enchanting place. Thanks so much for creating such a magical place for others to stay. We hope to return again in the future.

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Blogs have quotes from the Indiana Bird Watching by Bill Thompson, III and the staff of Bird Watchers digest I want to thank them for their work and beautiful pictures in the guide.

Here at Songbird Prairie Bed and Breakfast we enjoy watching and hearing the serenade of all the birds in the guide.

I will be quoting this book in the future and give all the credit on my blog to the staff of Bird Watchers.

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