Friday, October 3, 2008

A Chill in the Air

The season is rapidly changing: nights are growing more cold than cool, the rainbow of autumnal colors is giving way to dingier browns and bare branches, and many species of birds are migrating and disappearing from the backyards where they have been honored guests all summer. For birders, this does not mean the end of backyard birdwatching, however.

Transitional regions have the delight this time of year of being visited by many migratory birds as they pass from summer homes to winter getaways, flitting briefly to bring life to autumn feeders. In all areas, many adult birds have shed their worn summer feathers and now sport fresh, brilliant colors and crisp feather patterns. Fledglings and juvenile birds are growing more confident about their abilities and appear more frequently, while some species, particularly jays, are vigorously caching food against the coming cold.

It is because that cold is coming, however, that birders must change their habits just as their avian guests change theirs. Now is the time to do several things to ensure happy, healthy birdfeeding throughout the winter months.
  1. Clean all feeders thoroughly so they do not have the dust and debris from the summer clogging feeding ports or seed flow.
  2. Put away feeders that will not be used during the winter months; nectar feeders, for instance, or duplicate feeders that are not needed for smaller bird populations.
  3. Stock up on seed while suppliers have fall clearance sales; many general retailers will only carry a limited variety and supply during winter months.
  4. Clean underneath feeders thoroughly and discard seed shells, decaying mulch, and other debris.
  5. Clean birdbaths thoroughly and change to winter, heated models if necessary.
  6. Move feeders and baths closer to sheltered areas gradually, allowing for easy refilling and care in harsh weather.

The further north your backyard, the earlier you will need to take these steps to prepare for a winter of backyard birding. Here in Utah, the first substantial snowfall is predicted for the mountains this weekend, and it is only a matter of time before my backyard is again covered in white. With a bit of preparation, however, it will also be covered with winter visitors all the same.

Don't forget to vote in the October poll, a new monthly feature of Backyard Birds Utah!


Josephine- said...

No snow in my future this year. I can't take the poll as I don't have a bird feeder but I am considering one.

Any ideas what a good all around feeder might be for a little apartment in the subtropical South?

Melissa said...

Hi Josephine, good to see you around. If you can hang a feeder, I'd suggest a nice hopper style with clear sides so the seed is visible to birds. If you can't hang one, You can get a platform or dish feeder that stands alone or can be attached to a railing. An inexpensive plastic birdbath can easily be used for a feeder too. Happy birding!