I enjoy looking after the birds out back. Even out front, as the Virginia creeper produced berries that the starlings raided one day. Enough berries remain that the house sparrows come and get some from time to time.
It’s good to have plants that produce food for birds, and also a water source. Since September, pairs and trios of chickadees come by, and I’ve seen many different warblers come and have a prolonged drink in my pond. My pond is what makes my backyard home to so many creatures, besides myself.
So today, I heard a bird out there that sounded unusual, but I couldn’t see it. I’m reasonably sure it was a Northern Cardinal again, but if it was a Downy Woodpecker, as has happened before, I hope he or she comes back. I hope some Dark-eyed Juncos and some Common Redpolls visit, or at least a White-throated Sparrow, as one stayed at my feeder for a week a couple of winters ago.
One year in the fall, I had a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk visit. It was morning, and I was in the kitchen getting coffee, when I saw a big bird sitting on my back fence. I called my roommate to keep her attention on it – she had the name for it in German, which I can’t remember now – while I went to get my glasses and my camera. When I got back, it had moved from the fence to the lilac tree. It stayed there up until I went to work – so more than half an hour.
Winter is bird feeder season, and The Great Backyard Bird Count is on. The GBBC went global in 2012, so readers anywhere in the world have been contributing to this citizen-science initiative ever since. How? Counting birds, and reporting data on the website. This helps scientists know where the birds are, where they go, and where they pass through on the way. In turn, this has positive, fact-based information to protect and conserve bird habitat. To us, that means forests, meadows, marshes, and shorelines.
Water is just as important as food in the winter. Birds don’t do as well as dogs and humans at eating snow for water, so solarium roofs are great for melting snow, and giving you a real view of the birds that drink from it. Bird baths are also good, but they have to be liquid water. Put them at ground level if possible, and use a heater underneath it. Or, you can rig up a lightbulb-in-a-can and put the bath tray on top of the can.
I put out a dish outside the patio door, where I already feed my house sparrows. I clean and refill it when needed. Here is a picture of one using it:
I’m very happy to report that, while he was absent for a week, the sparrow with the broken leg is still around, and he got his share of the food yesterday.
If you want to know more about attracting birds to your yard, look no further than the All About Birds site. Actually, do look further – there are so many good bird websites on the web. The Habitat Network is another.
Also published on Medium.