March 15, 2022
| Anna’s Hummingbird by Jessica McConahay |
For the sixth season in a row, Project FeederWatch and our sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited are rewarding registered FeederWatchers with the chance to win prizes. After entering bird counts (data) into the FeederWatch website, participants have the opportunity to share a story, memory, or tip by clicking the “Enter to Win” button on the Count Summary page. This year, we’re randomly selecting two winners per prompt. Our fourth Data Entry contest prompt was:
There are many ways to improve habitat for wildlife. What do you do to make your backyard a haven for your avian friends?
Congratulations to our winners, Linda Taylor and Laura Lane!
To improve wildlife habitat in our backyard, we have tried to provide for the basic needs of wildlife. We maintain birdbaths and feeders and have planted a shrub understory under our many trees. We try to plant native species and have a number of pollinator plants in our gardens. Equally important, though, are the things we don’t do. We don’t get rid of all of the branches that come down during storms and instead throw them onto a pile near the garden shed. We don’t rake up all the leaves in the fall but instead blow them into piles under the trees to be used as mulch in the summer. We let things grow a little wild around the edges of our property rather than keeping everything neat and tidy. The result of our “not doing” wouldn’t win any landscape prizes, but the look is natural and woodsy. We have found turtles and snakes in the leaf litter and a flying squirrel in a bird box as well as many species of birds that come to the feeders and the perennials that we leave standing through the winter. In planning a wildlife friendly backyard it is important to consider what to stop doing, as well as what to do.
Nothing provides an easier or more dependable food supply than “birdscaping” your yard with native vegetation. Growing plants that bloom in different seasons can provide food sources for birds throughout the year. Find tips for landscaping for birds here.
My backyard borders a marshy area with cattails, jewel weed, skunk cabbage and wetland shrubs. We have left this great habitat alone except for trying to remove some invasives that have crept in. A seasonal stream runs through the area and the birds love to bathe in the water. The one thing we did add was a “Swamp Maple” on the edge. This tree has become a perching area for the birds coming to my feeders. They grab a seed and fly to the tree to crack and/or eat their snack. Some years there is even a nest in the upper branches!
This time of year is a great time to think about providing nesting space for birds. NestWatch, another citizen science project here at the Cornell Lab, has several resources that can help. Check out their Right Bird, Right House tool to find nest box construction plans. You can use the filters on this tool to find species that live in your location and habitat, then click on the species page to learn about their specific nesting preferences, download a construction plan, and find tips on where and how to install the box. You can also find tips for installing nest boxes here. We also recommend reading their blog post about the dos and don’ts for putting out nesting materials for birds. If you do put up a nest box, consider monitoring it for NestWatch!
Thanks to everyone who participated and shared their stories – we wish we could share them all! We will pick our final two winners in April. Check out the contest page after you submit your count on FeederWatch.org to view the next story prompt, and stay tuned for the announcement of the next winners on Tuesday, April 12th, 2022! Using the app? You can access the Count Summary page, which contains the link to the contest, by signing in to our website, clicking “View or Edit Previous Counts,” clicking “Actions” and then “View” for a count that has already been submitted. Email email@example.com with questions.
Interested in becoming a FeederWatcher? Join the fun now!