Where, oh, where are all my birds this winter?
Bluebirds seldom nibble on the freeze-dried meal worms, while woodpeckers and bluejays practically ignore the chopped nuts.
I faithfully check the feeders, but they seldom need replenishing. During past colder winters, I've had to fill them often, sometimes daily.
Maybe I need to spend time with local birder Jane Frigo, who discusses how to attract birds to your yard during an hour-long workshop at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at Ken Matthews Garden Center on Route 17 in York County. Jane, a birdwatcher since 1997, is a past president of the Hampton Roads Bird Club. Her Newport News yard is a bird haven with plants that provide food and nesting sites. The event is free; register in advance at 898-7799.
Jane will discuss the role plants play in a bird habitat. For instance, wax myrtle provides several benefits, including evergreen shelter from predators, late-season berries for food and sturdy branches for nests. Native grasses and perennial wildflowers produce seeds for birds in fall and winter.
While a hedge of wax myrtles is beneficial, a backyard wildlife habitat really needs an assortment of plants that are placed in layers – low-growing perennials and shrubs under taller shrubs and trees. If you watch birds in a natural setting, you'll see how they love to hop along the branches of trees and then down into lower shrubs where they can easily find seeds or insects.
Even if you are a novice birder, you may also want to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count Feb. 17-20. It tells scientists a lot about bird health and migration.
"When thousands of people all tell us what they're seeing, we can detect patterns in how birds are faring from year to year," says Janis Dickinson, director Citizen Science at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which sponsors the annual count with the National Audubon Society.
Volunteers are asked to watch and count birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count; you can participate in your yard, nearby park, nature center or favorite trail. During last year's count, Williamsburg and Newport News ranked among the highest in the state with 89 species sited. The count, which includes Canada and the United States, brought in 92,000 bird checklists identifying 596 species with 11.4 million bird observations. Learn more at http://www.birdcount.org and http://www.audubon.org.
To learn how to ID birds, join members of the Hampton Roads Bird Club for meetings or outings. Michael Lowry discusses "Birds of Newport News Park" at 7 p.m. Feb. 9 at Sandy Bottom Nature Park, Hampton, where the club regularly meets. Sunday walks in Newport News Park happen at 7 a.m. the first and third Sunday monthly in the parking lot behind the ranger station. A bird walk explores the Yorktown Battlefield at 7:30 a.m. Feb. 11. Find club events and birding tips at http://www.hamptonroadsbirdclub.org. – Contact Kathy at email@example.com
Kathy's blog at roomandyard.com/diggin
Room and yard at roomandyard.com