By Sara Eisenhauer, VINS Wildlife Keeper and Educator
Birding is a passion of mine. From early childhood to adulthood, it has never faltered. Hearing the sweet call of the song sparrow in spring or the chattering of a black-capped chickadee in the winter warms my heart. Birding in winter, however, can be a challenge. Once the first snowfall occurs, many birds have migrated south. So who is still around? How can we find these winter residents? One of the best ways to enjoy our winter fauna is to create a bird-friendly habitat.
Downy woodpecker at suet feeder. Photo by John J. Mosesso.
I placed my feeders outside in December. I stocked up on black-oil sunflower seed and thistle. I added a suet cake to the collection. Then I waited… and waited… and waited! It can take a few weeks before birds will realize the bounty you have laid out. Black-capped chickadees were the first on the scene, taking one seed at a time, hanging upside down from the feeders: typical chickadee-style. Tufted titmice came next. American goldfinches flocked to the thistle, dressed in their olive-green winter attire. Blue jays would fly in like missiles; grab a beak-full of seed, then fly off to stash their bounty for later consumption. White-breasted nuthatches, tree sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, and mourning doves dined as well. To my delight, I had established a winter birding haven, right outside my kitchen windows.
Bringing birds to your own backyard is easy, if you create a safe habitat for them and supply the right foods. From homemade suet cakes to pine cone feeders, there are a lot of possibilities! Learn all about your options for attracting backyard birds at VINS, February 13 and 14, as we celebrate the Great Backyard Bird Count. Become a citizen scientist by partaking in this international event, and learn about feeding birds in your own backyard, tips on creating your own feeders and suet, what food birds prefer, and more. Please visit our web site at www.vinsweb.org for details on this special event.