Winter Bird Watching
I enjoy backyard bird watching, and the fall and winter months are the best time. There is a flurry of migration activity with the season change. With fewer varieties of birds during the winter, it’s easier to practice identifying the different species. Colder temperatures also mean the birds seek out feeders more often. This is a perfect time to add birdwatching to our nature studies.
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I only keep a single feeder out during the summer months. Living in the country there is more activity in some overgrown wild blackberries than at my feeder. My first sign to get out the winter feeders is seeing a Great Blue Heron in our fields. I can confirm gophers are on their diet! There’s a story behind my knowledge, but I warn you the images are not for the faint of heart.
Preparing for winter:
It’s important to prepare feeders for winter, and kids can help as age-appropriate. Inspect the feeders for any damage. Clean feeders are essential for bird health, so scrub them with soap and water. I use Dawn dishsoap to clean mine. Make sure to remove any debris. A soak in a diluted bleach mix will help remove bacteria. Rinse and allow the feeder to dry completely before filling.
Black oil sunflower seed is probably the best food to offer birds during any season. It’s a staple in my feeders. They have higher oil content than other sunflowers making them more nutritious. They attract a wide range of birds, and fit well in a hopper feeder or spread on a platform feeder.
I have added wild bird seed blends to my black oil sunflower seed during the busy winter months. Most mixes contain a larger amount of millet which attracts ground feeders like the junco, sparrows, and doves. I have also added scratch grains normally used for my chickens. Living in the country I see a lot of larger wild birds that enjoy corn and wheat. Scratch grains from my local feed store is an inexpensive way to stretch the birdfeed.
Suet offers birds higher calories which makes it a great winter feed. Although it will attract a variety of birds, I find woodpeckers most frequently at my suet feeders.
Some people like to add peanuts to their feeders to attract jays. I have enough problems discouraging the local squirrels so have avoided the enticing treat.
It was several years ago when my kids and I began bird watching. We continue to love this activity and are getting better at quickly identifying species. When we first began I purchased a Peterson field guide for young naturalist Backyard Birds. It was a great starter guide. As my kids have gotten older and continue to enjoy birding, I’ve picked up many more at different book sales. When given a book on Birds of Oregon by Sten Tekiela, we decided his field guides are our top favorite and he has guides available for many locations.
Winter birdwatching is a fun homeschool nature lesson. My daughter will be using Audubon’s Birds coloring book and Local Bird Research notebooking pages from My Teaching Library to create her own field guide while learning more about local birds.
As fall is in full splendor on our property, we are excited to see our feathered friends coming back to the feeders. It’s exciting to look out the window in the morning to a flutter of activity. I’m not a huge fan of cold winter weather, but looking at the pictures of visiting birds of years past reminds me of the beauty they will bring. My feeders are filled and ready for a great season of winter bird watching.