By Bobbi Calkins
Winter has been mild so far this season. This has left many of the snow activities on hold until we get the white stuff. But there is still one activity that I enjoy more in the winter than in the summer – bird watching.
I enjoy watching the birds in the backyard. The joy of all the flutter. I know it sounds corny but it is fun to see the cardinals fly in and the nuthatches to fly out.
All of the birds are a source of entertainment to our greyhounds. Gracie, newly rescued from the race tracks, is enthralled by them and runs out to join them at the feeder every morning. Of course, they don’t like to hang out with her but she keeps hoping.
Did you know that according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service 48 million Americans are identified as bird watchers? That now includes two greyhounds.
There are many reasons to begin bird watching in the winter:
Now is the time to provide extra food for the birds.
“A good feeder to start with is a cage tube feeder filled with black oilier sunflower seeds. This will attract a variety of birds to your back yard,” said Tom Pentoney of Wayside Gardens of Greenville, which has a large selection of bird feeders and bird seed.
Now is a good time to plan this spring’s garden or landscaping project that welcomes songbirds and butterflies.
Your backyard needs food, cover and water to attract them. This may mean adding a few evergreens that can be taller than a cat can jump. This can also provide protection from the wind and snow.
Many small ornamental trees and shrubs offer berries that birds love – a serviceberry tree works well and has beautiful flowers in the spring, for example.
Perennials offer food in the form of seeds. An example is the purple cone flower. Just don’t deadhead after the bloom is spent and the gold finches will be jumping head to head snacking.
Another nice addition is a bird bath heater to keep open water for the birds. My parents looked out one late winter afternoon to find their heated birdbath full of bluebirds. Oh, what a glorious site!
Robbins Booklist in Greenville has many books available to help you plant a garden for the birds.
The 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will be held Feb. 17-20. This can take place in your own backyard or as you walk your through neighborhood.
This is brought together by the Audubon Society, Cornell University and Birdsource.org.
Birdsource.org has information, how-to tips and a great checklist for the birds in our region. You can mail or email your results into the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
I know this sounds very high profile but it is easy and fun. It takes about 15 minutes one day or all four days. Just sit by your window and count the birds you see at one time. It may take a bird book to identify a newcomer but the library, internet or Robbins Booklist can help with books and/or pictures.
Birdsource.org is a good place to visit to view past years’ results and some of the pictures people took of their birds. I have to tell you when I got on the Birdsource site and looked up last year’s results for our zip code I had to look up a few birds I had not heard of before.
Another place for more information on the GBBC and helping your children or grandchildren take part is on the Audubon.org website.
Again, bird watching is fun – warm inside while it snows outside.
There is still plenty of time to get a feeder up and give the birds a few weeks to find it so you can be part of the bird count. I also hope this inspires you just to look out the window a little more often to view the activity outside. Maybe start a new hobby and lastly to enjoy nature.