Watching birds in the winter can be an unending source of entertainment. There are so many insights you can gain by simply observing with a sense of curiosity. Try these birding activities and you’ll be hooked.
What’s the pecking order?
Black-capped chickadees are common visitors to northern bird feeders. In the winter, they form loose flocks of 4 to12 individuals and cover a territory of 24 acres or more. This winter flock has a distinct social order.
Try to determine who has more social standing. If a chickadee is at the feeder and another arrives, what happens? Does the newcomer alight nearby and move in only after the first has departed? The newcomer has less social standing in this case. Or does the newcomer swoop in and displace the other at the feeder? This newcomer is ranked higher in the social order of the flock.
Where did it Go?
Chickadees, nuthatches and titmice all cache seeds under bark or in lichen for later retrieval.
Watch a bird after it has picked a seed from your feeder. Does it eat the seed right away? Does it take the seed and cache it somewhere? How many hiding places can you identify? What kinds of trees to they tuck the seeds into?
Male or Female?
White-breasted nuthatches join foraging flocks of chickadees and titmice in winter as they can watch out for predators and find food more effectively together. Nuthatches get their name from their habit of taking acorns and other seeds and wedging them into tree bark crevices to hold them while they hammer or “hatch” the nutmeat out. They also store seeds under bark for later consumption.
If a white-breasted nuthatch moves in on another that is feeding, does the first move away or stand its ground? If it moves away, chances are it is a female, as males tend to displace them at feeding stations.
Train Birds to Come to You
Do you have a leftover scarecrow from Halloween? If you have some straw and some old clothes, it may be worth your while to make one. Perhaps just laying a mitten on the railing will do. Experiment with “your” birds.
Take the scarecrow and set it on a chair or bench by your feeder with sunflower seeds, or pieces of nutmeat from peanuts, walnuts, cashews or pecans in its mitten or on the hat. After a few days, curious (and hungry) titmice and chickadees will soon get used to it and come pick the food right off. When the birds have no fear of the stranger anymore and realize it is a ready source of food, remove the scarecrow and replace it with yourself. Put the shirt, hat and mittens on and sit quietly with food in your hand right where the scarecrow sat. Soon, birds will be coming over to eat from your hand.
Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count
For a more intense winter bird activity, get involved in the Christmas Bird Count. This bird census organized by the Audubon Society helps us keep track of bird populations and therefore influence conservation efforts. For some spirited competition grab your binoculars, bird guides, and fellow birders, leave the comfort of your home and chock up as many birds as you can within a 15-mile radius in a 24-hour period. Dates are from December 14th through January 5th, so the census period has already begun. Go here http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count for more information.
Make up your own winter birding activities and let me know your winter bird games. There is so much fun to be had right outside that window.
AllAboutBirds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Do internet searches frustrate you? The first-ranked result just doesn’t give you enough of what you want. Your second choice isn’t as in-depth as what you were hoping for. The next possibility gets you the same information and more advertising. Back and forth you go, to no avail. The real meat of your question eludes you.
NaturePods has been offering a solution to the dilemma of in-depth nature-based information for two years. Today we announce a new partnership that provides this tremendous benefit to hikers.
NaturePods has teamed up with EveryTrail to offer detailed stories and insights for hiking trails across the nation. EveryTrail provides apps for your iPhone or Android of trail descriptions across the globe. Hikes include digital maps, photos of scenes and waypoints, descriptions of the trail, and now, NaturePods is one of the first to also provide audio and video guides. Not only can these guides help you plan hikes to places you’ve never been, but you can also contribute and share your hikes through EveryTrail.
A NaturePod EveryTrail Guide combines that digital map with a selection of our videos. As you hike with your phone by your side, your phone will notify you as you approach specific waypoints. A quick push of a button, and you’re listening to expert insight on the scene before you.
NaturePods has already produced 4 guides for EveryTrail.
The Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park:
To understand the geology and get the most out of your views, download this challenging signature hike. Perhaps you might even catch a glimpse of a peregrine falcon. Your NaturePods EveryTrail Guide will give you the background story of how the National Park Service has brought this magnificent bird back from the brink of extinction.
This hike will take you to one of President Thomas Jefferson’s favorite places. Along the way learn about the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) in developing the park by building roads, trails, and planting thousands of trees. You will be delighted to learn the reason for Mountain Laurel’s complicated flower structure when you see these blossoms by the millions in summer. Winding your way off the ridge, you will become enchanted by this dynamic forest and its residents, from endangered salamanders to black bears.
Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park
Download this guide to explore the depth of the canyon. As one of NaturePod’s satisfied customers once told us, “your guides can make you an instant expert.” Along this scenic and challenging trail, you’ll stop to explore the wildlife of the canyon and the history of some its most wild pioneers.
Check out this guide for a hike in Cades Cove. You’ll enjoy videos covering geology, human history, and the ever-popular black bears of Cades Cove, allowing you to experience the Cove as it is today and as it once was.
As a co-author to the Hiking Trails of the Smokies, and an avid hiker, I know the importance of a good map, trail profile, and accurate description. EveryTrail offers all this plus interpretation and actual trail photos in the convenience of your own pocket device. A paper trail guide would never be able to include all these features and still be portable.
EveryTrail offers these NaturePod Trail Guides for just $1.99 each; a small price for the expertise to enrich your hiking experience. Why not get a few for the hiker on your holiday list? Watch for more guides here.
Copyright © 2009. NaturePods. All Rights Reserved.