Watching, Counting Birds

January 26, 2017

Watching... and COUNTING... Birds!

            Now I’m not complaining about the weather, but the open winter we’ve had most of the time hasn’t been great for birdwatching. They don’t seem to come to our feeders when the weather is nice. But my wife and I noticed an increase in activity any time we get an inch or two of snow on the ground. We enjoy being able to sit at the dining room table and see all the different birds that come to the feeders.

            Based on our experiences, here are a few suggestions if you are feeding our feathered friends. Anyone who feeds birds knows how easy it is for seed to turn moldy in feeders. Moisture from snow or rain can leak into feeders and turn bird seed into potential sources of illness for birds. You should keep feeders clean to help prevent the spread of disease to backyard birds.

            Clean and disinfect feeders on a regular basis, taking care to scrape out old moldy seed that collects in corners. Wash feeders in warm water with dish soap and rinse. Disinfect with a solution of one part liquid chlorine bleach to nine parts warm water. Make sure feeders are completely dry before refilling with seeds.

            It’s important to keep feeding birds once you start so they don’t become dependent on you as a food source, only to run out of food during periods of severe weather like we usually get some time over winter. You know, the kind of days you really don’t want to go outside to fill the bird feeders.

            Also, if possible, provide water for birds. This is extremely important during the winter because other sources of water may not be available. It seems chilly, but birds regularly use our heated bird baths. Besides water to drink, they use it to help keep their feathers clean which makes them, for lack of a better term, fluffier, which gives them better insulation against bitter cold temperatures.

            Now for anyone who really enjoys bird watching, there’s an event in February you won’t want to miss ...and you can take part from the comfort of your own home. The 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count will be held on February 17–20. Participants are needed to count birds in their yards, neighborhoods, or other locations. Simply tally birds for at least 15 minutes on any day of the count, then go to and enter the highest number of each species you observe at any one time.

            This program is conducted across the United States and Canada. Coordinated by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon, and Bird Studies Canada, the count provides an instant snapshot of birdlife around the world. Organizers hope to receive more than 160,000 checklists during the event. Also, you can watch as the tallies come in at

            Whether you observe birds in your backyard, a parks, or a wilderness area, the Great Backyard Bird Count is an opportunity to share their results at It’s fun and rewarding for people of all ages and skill levels--and it gets people outside... or you can watch from inside, too!

            Information from the Great Backyard Bird Count participants is even more valuable as scientists  try to learn how birds are affected by environmental changes. The information you send in can provide the first sign that individual species may be increasing or declining from year to year. It shows how a species’ range expands or shrinks over time. A big change, noted consistently over a period of years, is an indication that something is happening in the environment that is affecting the birds and that should be followed up on.

            So, to take part in this activity for the birds, go to for online instructions and tally sheets... then enjoy our feathered friends. My wife and I participated for many years... it’s easy and it’s fun! Just go to for all the information you will need.


Private Pesticide Applicator Training

            First, I want to apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced by my cancellation of the private pesticide applicator training session in Lyons last Tuesday, January 24. I knew if I cancelled it, the weather would be just fine….and sure enough it was. However, when they were calling for several inches of snow by evening, I decided that morning that  I didn’t want to get anyone out in conditions like that. For those that needed an evening session, or anyone else needing to be certified or recertified as a private applicator, I’d like to pass along several training sessions in the near future.

            Wednesday, February 1, 1:30 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. – Pender – Firehall

            Thursday, February 2, 1:30 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. – Pender – Firehall

            Thursday, March 2, 1:30 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. – West Point – Nielsen Community Center