Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter is for the Birds

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

Winter is for the Birds

We’ve been very lucky so far, because the winter weather has been mild. Of course, that can and probably will change at any time. Just like the children’s fairytale about the grasshopper and the ant who stores food for the winter, we should plan for the future.

For those of us who are nature lovers, that means preparing to feed the birds in our yards. Bird watching is one of the best ways to chase away the doldrums that come in January, February and March. For a few dollars’ worth of birdseed and a simple feeder, you can be entertained and educated at the same time.

Making your yard hospitable to the little creatures includes not only providing food, but also shelter from a wide variety of shrubs and trees of different sizes and shapes. Conifers like pine, fir, cedar and cypress which are plentiful in our area and provide both winter shelter and summer nesting sites.

Water for drinking and preening their feathers, an activity which provides good insulation, is needed year-round. You can buy heaters for birdbaths in order to ensure a constant supply.

If you want to get really involved and become a citizen scientist, you might want to take part in the 15th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) on February 17-20, 2012. This worldwide event is led by the CornellLab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada and sponsorship from Wild Birds Unlimited.

Visit and learn all about the four day event. There is a special part of the site devoted to kids to encourage them to participate. Basically, observers watch birds for a 15 minute or more period and report the species that they see to

As the information begins to accumulate, a real time picture of where the birds are located is developed. The observations, gathered by thousands of bird enthusiasts, enable the scientists to recognize patterns and to answer in depth questions.

What is the diversity found in any given area? Are specific species declining and in need of conservation? Why do some species appear in large numbers during some years and seem to disappear in others? How do snow and cold temperatures seem to affect bird populations?

The site reports that during the 2011 count 92,000 were submitted from across the United States and Canada. Bird watchers identified 596 species and 11.4 million total birds were observed.

Among the things discovered were increased reports of Evening Grosbeaks, a species that has been declining. A small movement of winter finches farther south in their search for food was detected. Who knows what might be observed this winter?

In our area cardinals, mocking birds, chickadees, brown thrushes, robins, vultures, wrens, starlings, towhees, and American goldfinches should be the most evident.

If you decide to participate in the GBBC, you’ll be rewarded by connecting with birds and nature in a meaningful way.

Watch the video below to learn more about the Great Backyard Bird Count and how you can take part!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...